Monthly Archives: June 2011

Standards, not expectations.

I have had the hardest time writing this week’s blog because, although I’m writing about something I believe in, I fear it being interpreted as a preaching of sorts, as that is not the vision I have for my blog. If it hadn’t come up in numerous conversations I’ve had with my friends, I probably wouldn’t even consider writing it but here goes…..

I have this theory which I think makes life simpler and aids in decision-making, and that is to live life with standards, not expectations. It is kind of a loaded statement yet simple. I know that people know this but not everyone actually uses it in their everyday life. For me personally, I cannot write about or discuss things which I do not practice, experience or have not been a witness to.

It has been my observation that expectations often lead to feelings of stress and unhappiness because most of the time expectations are not fulfilled (although they usually involve great emotional and/or mental investment). In contrast, I see standards as being more concrete, solid and realistic and often lead to feelings of fulfillment and happiness when they are upheld or maintained. I think that standards are very personal but carry with them responsibility, for as we develop standards for things and people around us, we also have to maintain a standard of our own.

I feel that, in maintaining a personal standard, there is accountability that is quite powerful as it is an accountability to our self we have to fulfill and are thereby responsible for maintaining our own standard. I also think it’s important to remember that there cannot be an expectation of anyone else to keep us on track to maintain any standard we have chosen for ourselves. It sounds complex, right? But actually it’s not.

I have been re-writing this blog for the last week trying to come up with great real-life examples to explain all of this and it’s actually tough as I don’t want to cause a sway of thought in any specific direction for anyone nor use examples of confidential conversations I’ve had with my friends. So instead of discussing a personal story, I will use made-up examples. (WARNING: Stepping out of my box!)

Say you made it your standard to bring your own lunch to work everyday as to avoid eating junk but one day you didn’t get a chance to do groceries and therefore didn’t have a lunch from home to bring. The choice you make on what you eat on the day you don’t bring your lunch to work, is where your accountability really comes into play – are you going to grab a salad or deep-fried Kool-Aid? No one is going to know or care what you eat therefore you only have one person to answer to – YOU! As it applies to this and all situations, you have a choice to maintain your standard.

I think that this idea of maintaining your standards is very useful in its application to bigger decisions in life, such as choosing a partner, a family doctor…really anything which holds importance.

Although I wish that no one has, most people have been in a relationship or two where, although we have deep feelings for someone, somehow it just doesn’t seem right. And it’s not that they’re a bad person or treat you badly, but it’s simply a matter of what it is you want versus what it is they’re offering you. So then in assessing your own standards, you can figure out if this person does or does not meet them, and if they do not meet a certain standard, then you have a choice – to stay and settle for that (people don’t usually change which is why I didn’t say “to stay and work on that”) or simply let go and move on. Now, let’s be clear – I’m not talking about their favourite colour being purple and yours yellow or them being a pescetarian and you a complete vegan as a comparison of standards. I’m talking about something more fundamental like family views and values, goals in life, how they conduct themselves with you, and so on. We all have standards which we require of our partner – some MUST be met, and others are negotiable (ex. Someone could decide: “I’m okay if my partner is not a vegan but they must be honest, loyal, respectful, and have good family values”.)

Another way of looking at this in a different situation… I think that a great doctor is one who listens to each patient and is thorough in the medical assessments he or she makes, in addition to having a great grasp of the medical knowledge and information which he or she may specialize in. But such a doctor made it his or her standard to practice medicine this way. (In my opinion, how you do something is just as important as what you do, and they both can have standards.) On the other hand, as a patient, I cannot expect all doctors to have this standard, but I could make it MY standard to only receive medical care from doctors who do. After all, just like in everything else in life, we also have a choice in our health care and from whom we receive it.

Although our standards are influenced by our experiences and people who we interact with, ultimately we set the standards which we choose for ourselves and the people around us. I do not think there is a definitive right or wrong, but I do think that it’s important to consider and think about it.

“Live life with standards, not expectations.”

I’d love to hear what you think… 🙂

T

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Lifetime…My Reminder

I reflect a lot about the value of now, as in, this moment, right now. There is so much that can be achieved, accomplished, said, felt, thought, decided, experienced….but it was specific things and all things which happened up until right now, which have lead to this moment, shaped this moment, determined everything within this moment, including the way of thought and the perception chosen.

I have always felt an incredible appreciation for life and living, and although one of my favourite songs has served as a reminder of this, my true understanding of trying to make the most out of this lifetime, really came about through experiences during my childhood.

*****

I grew up in Bosnia. My family went through poverty, discrimination and many hardships as a result of the war in the early 1990s. Although I am glad not to have been in the war zone where the fighting happened, what I did experience was being a refugee in part of former Yugoslavia which at the time was the same country. (I still don’t understand how we were refugees in our own country although I was aware that religion played a big role in the war, and was interchanged with nationality.) There is something about having that status of a “refugee” which makes you feel like an outcast. We didn’t have the nicest clothes, or the best quality of food, provided we actually had something to eat. (I remember one day my mom was crying over the stove because she had no food to cook.) We definitely couldn’t afford to buy very many things and it was a struggle to maintain what little we did have.

We were able to receive help after obtaining our “refugee” status. The people at Red Cross were amazing and I’ll be forever grateful to them for all of their help. The trips to Red Cross, to get staples of flour, oil, Spam, sugar, salt, and if luck was on your side, perhaps a ‘new’ used piece of clothing, often left me feeling grateful but small. My parents usually spared us those trips but one visit is enough to stay with you forever.

One thing I remember from the times we went to Red Cross was the crowd – other refugees, in similar or worse situations than my family’s, waiting in line, sweating in the summer months, shivering in the winter months, always asking for a little bit more this time out of need, but unable to get more from the limited supply Red Cross had to ration out. Then there was the walk ‘home’ (for some reason I don’t remember the walk to Red Cross), loaded with precious heavy cargo, with many breaks along the way to catch our breath or rest for a few minutes. I remember holding my head upright and looking straight ahead as I did not want to meet the eyes and gazes of the onlookers (locals) for the fear of seeing pity or anger in their eyes. (Refugees were seen as a burden to some in the parts of former Yugoslavia we were in – from Montenegro to northern Serbia.) I avoided those common looks of judgement because silently they picked at my spirit and jaded my views of the world, lessening the height of my dreams and thoughts. It’s incredible that discrimination causes a 10 year old girl to feel all of that, don’t you think? I doubt that discrimination based on race, religion or sex is any different, and I’m always amazed that it still exists. But I digress…

When my parents moved us to Canada, I felt lost in the beginning. It is a country of people with many different cultural backgrounds and races of which I knew nothing about. (The first time I ever saw a non-white person and interacted with someone in English was a month before leaving for Canada and it was a black man, in a UN vehicle, who was asking for directions.) With time, I realized that I had more in common with people of non-Canadian origin as many of them experienced some type of discrimination either prior to or after moving here.

Very quickly, I also realized that moving to Canada gave us a chance at a new life, a better life, however different it might be. I learned about different cultures, foods, customs and have continued to do so in the last 17 (almost 18) years we’ve lived here. And through the examples set forth by my parents (see my last blog “Be One of My Heroes”), I realized that life truly is what you make it. It is about taking a chance in following your dreams, working on your goals, following your heart, doing what makes you happy and making the most out of each moment (by being and living in the moment). Of course all of this is achieved through very hard work, taking chances, making mistakes, living in this lifetime. Perhaps the very ambitious nature of my character, stems from my very experience, feelings and memories of war.

After moving to Canada, the little girl from Bosnia, who lives in me forever, after experiencing poverty, and discrimination based on a social status, chose to always follow her heart, stay true to it and not limit herself or any of her dreams. But most importantly, that little girl decided to face all of her fears and make the most out of each and every moment, as each moment is a blessing in itself.

Some of the things I’ve done to date: I’ve competed as a fitness model and a figure competitor, modeled, traveled (and will continue to do more), worked different jobs through last few years of high school and all through the 8 years of university (including a retail clothing store, sold knives, worked as a personal trainer, ran a small part of a gym for a little while, worked as a pharmacy technician for many years, helped run a marketing company and a fitness organization, coordinated fashion shows (and did make-up)), completed two university degrees, tried painting, learned how to play alto saxophone, wrote poems, started a blog (!), made many mistakes, got into and out of bad situations, learned from all of those experiences, and took chances!

I wrote all this to make a point –  no matter what you’ve gone through in life, no matter how hard it gets or how much it gets you down if you want to do something so long as YOU believe you can, you really can! Remember that being ‘special’ isn’t exclusive to anyone – everyone has a story. I just chose to share mine. Now let’s get back to the music and my reminder….

*****

Anyone who knows me personally, works with me, is friends with me on Facebook or follows me on twitter* knows that I LOVE music. I listen to any music with realness and a soulful feel. I’m talking about music you can relate to through lyrics which sometimes help with how you’re feeling at the moment or even gives you a different point of view on something you’re struggling with. Of course the actual music – notes, melodies, beats, composition – from which the song and lyrics are born is what speaks to our hearts through our ears and has the ability to lift us and carry us on emotional and spiritual journeys if we listen and feel it. I’ve been very blessed over the years and have accumulated quite a large collection of CDs of soulful, real goodness. (Yes, I still buy CDs!)

Although I loved music since I was very young, I think I really allowed music to take me wherever I needed to go – mentally, emotionally, spiritually – ever since the war and it remains a big part of my life, especially my many growth journeys (that’s another blog topic ;)).

I believe I was formally introduced to the music of Maxwell by my best friend, E. It might have been late 1990s, early 2000 when I REALLY listened to his work. It was soulful, meaningful, and often had me thinking or reflecting on the topic of the song or lyric(s).

I have a very deep appreciation for all of Maxwell’s released work, however, my ALL-TIME favourite is actually a song from the Now album called “Lifetime”. On my portable CD player (I know some of you will remember those – they came out after Walkmans and before mp3 players and iPods!) I used to listen to “Lifetime” over and over on the bus and subway to and from university and before I went to bed.

For those who aren’t familiar, here are some of the lyrics which I felt and thought of as important, but self-explanatory:

I was reborn when I was broken
I wouldn’t believe I wouldn’t believe,
been thru a storm no use in hopin’
that you would come rescue me
somehow your love set me free. And now

 I can let my life pass me by
or I can get down and try
work it all out this lifetime“…

“There was a time when love was unchosen
and now I’m just hopin’ for more
and now I’m just reachin’ out for something better
than I had before“….

I can let it all pass me by
or I can just try and try
I can move to the light
oh if I take it one day at a time
oh spread my love out and fly
I can move to the light
ooh I can just make you understand
that love is not a fairytale in a melody
if you want it you can have it girl
maybe you will see? maybe you will see?”…

I am sure that my interprertation of this song doesn’t match what it was originally written about, but I think that is okay. Every time I listen to “Lifetime”, I let it remind me of what I had learned and believed before hearing it – you really only have this short life to do what you want to do, to be who you want to be, to make the most of your life. THIS LIFE!

Out of nothing, we can create something and we can always do more, do better, if we believe and simply try. I think it’s easier going through life ‘living’ in fear and not trying but I also think that that is the very thing which hurts us. I chose a song as my reminder of this, but a reminder can be someone you look up to, or a poem, a story, a book, a picture, a movie….it could be anything really. My hope for everyone is to remember those reminders for always and make the most out of THIS lifetime.

T

Here is the Youtube link for the video “Lifetime” by Maxwell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMAHTZ2nBvk

*If you choose to follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tamaranikic


Be One of MY Heroes!

Just like an onion, every one of us has many layers and depths. Some, we allow others to see, but many remain hidden and protected from the outside world. The layers include multitudes of talents and skills, our thoughts, ideas, dreams and beliefs. Somewhere in there lies our greatness. We can choose to either hold on to it OR utilize it to realize all of what we want to achieve. I have been thinking about accomplishments, rather people’s accomplishments within their lifetimes.

I took some time to reflect on my own accomplishments and the things I’ve done in my life thus far. Then I thought about my parents’, my friends’, and the achievements of the different people I’ve had the pleasure to know or meet. And I realized one very important thing. We, ALL of us, have many different interests and goals in life that we’d like to be able to explore and achieve. It could be ANYTHING from learning how to play an instrument or a certain dance, obtaining a higher degree of education, writing a book, composing a song, moving to a new place, running your own business, starting a blog….. 😉

Perhaps due to fear (of trying something new or thinking that we can’t), I’ve noticed that often we get “stuck” in the everyday “stuff” of our lives and somehow put aside those dreams and ideas we have. Other times we go through a hardship and then ‘shut down’ so to speak – emotionally or mentally – and don’t move past it. In other circumstances, we choose to settle for the life we DO have, even with the knowledge that we can do more, because we’re happy with where we are. In all of those situations, our thought process rules the outcome of our lives and what we accomplish.

I’d like to make a side note here in regards to “financial limitations” which is the most common ‘reason’ people use to NOT do something. I actually do not consider lack of money to be a limitation in doing anything for if there is a will, there is a way. A prime example are my own parents. After losing everything during the war in Bosnia, my family was in poverty. We literally went from being upper-middle class to having NOTHING. My parents brought us to Canada and started over from NOTHING. And guess what? My parents are part of the middle class now and have achieved success! How? Hard work, and NOT giving up! My dad’s big line when coming to Canada was “I can be a factory worker if all else fails, but I’m going to try to do more first.” and he did (note the thought process). I do not think that there is anything wrong with working any type of job.

I would like to point out that no matter what you choose to do or not do in your life, you’re not being judged by anyone nor are you meant to live up to anyone’s standards or expectations. In fact, I believe that the only standards you should meet and maintain are your own.

As mentioned above I think that, often, through our own thought process, we prevent our greatness to be utilized in working towards realizing our ideas and dreams. (Of course the first step is to realize the greatness within, but that’s a topic of conversation for another blog. 😉 ) And yet we are given so many examples of people growing up in different adversities and still they realize their dreams. I’ll only mention a few – Elvis, Oprah, Marilyn Monroe,  LL Cool J, Madonna, Maya Angelou,  are surely names you’ll recognize (and if you aren’t familiar with their stories, read about them!); but I am sure that you can (as can I!) think of people who you personally know, who aren’t celebrities or in the entertainment industry, but are successful in their own right because they made a decision to work towards something they felt passionate about and achieved it!

In the beginning I wrote that there are many different interests and goals in life that I believe we would all like to attain. However that list can be overwhelming as it is often long and a lot of work! But the thing to remember, in my opinion, is that you don’t have to do everything all at the same time. Start with that which is most suitable to where you are in life right now, give it your best try, and once you’ve achieved it and took a moment to congratulate yourself, move on to your next challenge! We only have this one life, yet time seems to pass us by quickly, so all I am saying is – please use your greatness to live your dreams awake and be one of my heroes! 🙂

T


Bounce and Twinkle

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

I want you to know that one day boys will make you cry.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

The world can be a scary place and many people lie.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will fall many times, no matter what (or how hard) you try.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will question your steps and tear yourself apart.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

Your world will always change as will your eyes.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

Sometimes it will hurt and you will go through hard times.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will grow up fast and it may not make sense right now.

But listen to me now little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

All the hardships you go through will be worth the sweat, tears and your time.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will figure out your standards and which boy will be worth your time.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will see world’s beauty and learn from people who lie.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

Your strength will intensify with every fall as you get up and once again try.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will learn to love and accept yourself for all of your greatness and all that you are.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will embrace, and grow with, change, especially when times are hard.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

Your pain will carry your lessons, elevate your spirit and shape some of who you are.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will gain wisdom and use it to help others, although sometimes it will make them cry.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

You will go many places and you will climb very high.

Because you see, little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

There is nothing you will not be able to do, if you want to and give it your best try.

Little girl, with a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye,

I love you for the person you’ve grown into, for your fearlessness and for your love to soar in the sky and just fly!

T


It’s Different!

You ever wake up in the morning and suddenly your room seems different? Or you notice new things you’ve never noticed before as you’re travelling the same route you’ve been taking to work for years? It’s like, something’s changed….and you’re right! Something DID change-YOU! You chose different and as a result you became aware of things around you which you may have taken for granted or looked at only from a certain angle.

Well, that happened to me yesterday; rather I chose to look at my surroundings differently. Although I have not been attending hot yoga classes as often as I should, I had decided to go that afternoon with the will to make it a great class. As I walked to the studio I consciously chose to simply listen and follow the teacher’s instructions. Often, during the class, I allow my thoughts to follow the hodge podge of randomness that enters my head uncontrollably. Hence, on this day, I chose different.

I had a great class as the focused state of mind I forced myself into, allowed me to approach the poses differently and reach new depths. After the class I walked home via the same route I usually take. I stepped onto the street and started walking. It felt as if I was looking at my surroundings for the very first time.

I looked up at the large church on the corner and noticed the way that the sunlight was casting interesting shadows on it and how blue and clear the sky was as I looked up at it. It was beautiful.

As I walked past the church, I heard music coming from the restaurant across the street (which I also pass by frequently but never paid much attention to) and stopped for a few minutes to listen. It was lovely and I am sure it made for a lovely atmosphere for the people sitting at the restaurant’s patio, enjoying their meals.

On this same route, I pass a park. I noticed the people in it and how much they were enjoying it’s beauty. I saw a man playing his guitar; friends sitting on a bench and talking; people sitting on the ground observing and perhaps even meditating; people walking their pets through the park….all forms of life were in that park and it seemed as if it was a scene out of a movie but more perfect because it was real life and in front of me. Why haven’t I paid attention to all of this before? Why haven’t I sat in the park and been a part of it? Why do I always walk so fast and pay attention to me instead of my surroundings?

I reached the end of the park boundary, and caught scent of what I would describe as joy. It was a bush of the most amazingly fragrant, wonderfully scented lilacs (I think that’s what they are). I had walked passed it but the wonderful fragrance invited me to go back. And guess what? I wasn’t the only one! A gentleman did the exact same thing! He also passed the bush but turned and went back. We exchanged a few words and expressed how beautifully fragrant the flowers were. Although we only really stayed there for a few minutes, it was a very cool interaction. It may have been a small thing but it showed that sometimes looking at things outside of your comfort zone/repetitive doings, and choosing to look at things with a different point of view (or a ‘different set of eyes’), can make your world better than it already is and that we can find happiness and joy in the things which surround us.

If you decided to choose different, share your story!

T


A Little Thing Called….A Smile :)

You ever had one of those days where anyone and everything just makes you mad? Not because they did anything wrong but just because you’re in one of those moods? And then (if you’re a woman or even sometimes a guy!) someone asks you “Is it that time of the month?” and you’re just about ready to scream?

Yeah I figured you knew what I was talking about….;)

We also have the best reasons for those moods – all legitimate of course! – like you overslept or are just tired, people not pulling their weight at work or acting like a team player, you had a bad fight with your significant other or your friend, you feel fat, the weather sucks (it’s too hot or too humid or it’s too wet or too cold), you missed your train or bus, your pet is sick, you forgot your lunch, you ran out of gas, you spilled coffee on your clothes………..Yeah, THOSE ‘reasons’. Of course, everyone has days like those, yours truly included!

I became aware of my feelings and reactions when I was having “one of those days” and decided that I really did not like it! I didn’t like the energy I was putting out into the world nor did I like the energy that I was getting back. (As per my ‘the energy you put out is the energy you get back’ belief, I knew that I had to check myself.) I just felt like it was time to grow up a little bit, you know what I mean? I thought long and hard about how I can improve my energy when I was having “one of those days” because I think that you DO have to “be the change you wish to see in the world” as Gandhi once said and I wholeheartedly agree! And I mean, really, who disagrees with Gandhi?! But that’s besides the point and I digress….

One day, when I was having “one of those days”, I decided to do something different. I looked in the mirror that morning, gave myself that you-know-better-than-to-act-this-way look and decided that no matter how I was feeling on the inside that I would simply smile. Smiling isn’t hard right? I mean especially since I read somewhere that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile (I went ahead and just assumed it to be true because it was helping my own argument in my head.) So I decided that day that I would smile as much as I could and for as long as I could. I would smile at everyone I passed on the street, at everyone I interacted with during my day, at every bbm or text message I got that day, even when I’m on the phone, no matter what the energy of the person or situation will happen to be, I would just smile.

At first, I felt that I was being silly but NO ONE knew that I had that talk with myself that morning nor did they know about my little experiment (well unless they read this of course but even then, they don’t know WHEN I did this…right?!) so I just kept smiling and held myself accountable to myself. I won’t lie to you – it wasn’t easy and I DID have to remind myself to smile every so often, but I kept doing it and as my day went on, I paid close attention to my inner feelings and reactions AND I also paid attention to how people responded to me.

It was funny, but I started feeling better! And I noticed that I wasn’t reacting in a negative way to people nor were they reacting to me in a negative way. So I went “Hmmm there’s something about this smiling business….it’s good stuff!” And then I remembered a quote I read in a cafe when I was in Kochi, India: “You’re never fully dressed until you wear a smile.” I thought “WOW! They were really onto something with that over there in India! I need to do this more often!” So I have and I do!

It could just be all in my head but if you decide to try, using that little thing called A SMILE, when you’re having “one of those days”, please let me know about your experience!

🙂

T


NYC’s Unexpected Find

I wanted to make today’s blog short(er?) and sweet, so here goes!

On my last visit and last day to the Big Apple (New York City ROCKS and I really do heart NYC!), I had some time after checking out of my hotel, to walk around. I had planned on getting a few souvenirs for my brother and my niece and to just take in the city’s energy before I left. After grabbing a salad, I decided to walk around Times Square and browse. I ended up going to a record store which had music scores as well as records, CDs AND cassettes(!), a beauty supply shop which sold way more than just hair products, a clothing store that was going out of business (and after trying on a few pieces, it sort of made sense), and a few souvenir stores. The last souvenir store I went to, I found what I wanted to buy for my brother and niece and before going to the cash register to pay I decided to browse some more. After all, I did have a few more hours before I was to head to the airport. Now I LOVE interesting, funny, thought-provoking or motivational quotes and lines (OK I admit, I have a collection…) so I don’t have to tell you that I was in heaven when I saw them. Cards, magnets, mugs all with interesting, funny, thought-provoking or motivational quotes! I literally spent an hour in that section of the store, inputing them in my phone. I mean I couldn’t buy them all! (Yes, I know. I could have just taken a picture of them but then if I wanted to share it in written form then I’d have to re-write them and if I were to do that on my phone then I’d have to go back and forth between the picture and the forum I was posting it on and…well you get the picture. Besides, I had the time!) 😉 Anyway, there will be more quotes or lines which I will post on this forum but I’ve chosen the following:

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, weather by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! – Emerson

I chose this quote for today as a reminder that life is about living! There will be good and bad times and people in your life but it’s imperative to be who you want to be and live the life you want to live. In all that, remember – you make a difference…should you choose to.

T


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