I remember a time when all I wanted was to be secure. I wanted to be certain, to the degree possible, that everything would be perfect, now, and in the future. I remember wishing for security, hoping for security, praying for security, planning for security. I’d go so far as to wish on stars, to hold my breath while driving through tunnels, and beg the universe for security. Security was the word I used to describe my resistance to change, my fear of change. Oddly, though, I wanted some change, but only on my terms, according to my overall plan for lasting security; the bigger house, the acreage, the newer car, a bigger paycheck, better performing investments, more clothes, more shoes, a bigger boat, horses, more pets. Happiness. Security.
And I was a prisoner. I was a slave. And I was insecure in my quest, my driving desire, for security. Things went according to plan for so very long, but I wasn’t completely happy, and I didn’t feel secure. There was always a sense of unease, uncertainty, at times, feelings of dread and doom.
As the economy worsened several years ago, my empire fell. The worst I could imagine, happened. Everything was lost. Everything material I’d worked for, for my entire adulthood, lost. The real estate, the acreage, the pets, the horses, the boat, my security, and the means to a secure future. But, in that precise moment when I knew it was all gone, I experienced a sense of peace, of calm, of, dare I say, joy. The burden had been lifted, I was no longer a prisoner, I was no longer a slave. I was, for the first time in my life, free. The shackles of security fell to the ground and I ran. I ran, I danced, I sang, my quest for security replaced with a quest for growth, adventure, uncertainty, and joy.
Since that time, not even a decade later, I’ve left my marriage, I’ve lost a lover, I’ve lost family, I’ve lost friends, children have grown and moved far, far away. Loss is change, and change, is part of life. There is comfort in being comfortable with change, loss, and with insecurity. Life is tenuous, life is exciting, life is not meant to be secure.
Security meant comfort. Comfort meant complacency. Complacency meant a headlong spiral into disaster. Life, now, is moment to moment. Life now is edgy. Life now is adventure and risk. Life now is real. And blissfully insecure. I am happy, almost always.
Oh, sure, I still find myself fretting over potential loss, thinking about “what could go wrong”, what could change in a manner I’m not cool with. And it is only at these moments that unhappiness and discontent seep into my world.
There is something very liberating in losing all the stuff. I look now, with pity, at people burdened with “all the things”, and ever in anguish about not having more. I’ve found so much freedom and joy in being “stuffless”, I often go through my remaining belongings, pulling things off shelves, out of drawers, bundling them up, and sending them away to become other people’s stuff. The sense of relief, with each and every purge, is indescribable.
Yes, there are “things” I want. I want a stand up paddle board right now. Does my life, my happiness, my sense of success, of purpose, depend on it? No. I can rent one any time. And, sure, I’d love for my current relationship to endure, but this is never a certainty. Do I let the uncertainty of permanence poison the beauty and joy I have right now? God, I try not to, I’m wonderfully imperfect, but I try.
In security, we are hopeless. In insecurity, once we understand it and embrace it, we are free and joyful. Security is imperfect. Security is a myth. Insecurity is growth, it is reality, and insecurity, like many good things in life, requires practice and thought, to understand, to embrace. In a blanket of insecurity, we find ourselves, our true selves; our passion, our joy, life. In a blanket of insecurity, we learn to take risks, to accept the present moment, each as they come, with gratitude. We learn to forsake the past, gleaning only the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We learn not to fret about the future, what will come will be right, in that future moment. We are not in control, and we lose control in our attempt. In insecurity, we have the chance to learn to be youthful, adventurous, and joyful. We learn to actually live.
So, like a small child with a ratty, old, blanket, required for comfort, for sleep, for security, there comes a time where it must be tossed into the trash. It must be discarded. When we embrace insecurity, blanket ourselves, instead, with the joy and opportunity in insecurity, we learn to live and we find joy.
I have read, I have learned, I know, I teach; It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters – Epictetus.
This is what happened to me:
I may have had a glass or two too many last night. Yesterday would’ve been my dad’s 93rd birthday. He passed away about a year and a half ago. As you know, Mom was on her own for a year before I moved back home. We have our differences, but, somehow, manage to be close. I’ve been grappling with falling back into a healthy, happy routine this rare week home, and, admittedly, I’ve been a little out of sorts. I knew, yesterday, when she didn’t materialize from her bedroom until almost two hours later than usual that she was moping. She is more a scarcity mindset than I. I think abundance, usually. In other words, I’m the glass half full and she’s the glass half empty. So, last night, I filled two glasses half way, twice, and we had a lovely chat. The day passed without much mention of Dad, until last night. She’d had a glass of her incredibly cheap Robert Mondavi wine she can buy on sale for six bucks. I’d had the last glass of my 2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir I bought at their tasting room, Taste at Oxbow. I’d been to V. Sattui to pick up my wine club selections for September and October on Monday, so I decided to select one to open for my second glass. I offered Mom a glass, too, and, as she loves all the V. Sattui wines she’s tasted thus far, she accepted my offer. We decided it would be a toast to Dad’s birthday. With that in mind, I selected a 125th Anniversary special, the 2010 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, one of Dad’s favorite varietals. Our neighborhood is in the shadow of the Mt. Veeder District. I used to ride ponies from one friend’s house, over the mountain, to another friend’s house. And back. Fond memories, a lovely area, and a fantastic wine. Mom sat at her chair at the kitchen table, I leaned on the kitchen counter by the sink, and we talked for quite a while, about Dad and other things. It was one of the nicer moments we’ve had together this week. I was grateful for that.
After our wine, I stayed up until nearly 2:00 AM, writing. My bad. I forgot that it was Thursday today. Thursday’s are the worst in this neighborhood, on this street, in this house, and, especially in my room. And so, this is what happened to me;
At about 6:00 AM, the neighbor across the street leaves for work. The houses in our neighborhood are almost fifty years old. Most have had windows replaced and have been updated, insulated, central heat and air conditioning installed. Not ours. It is neat as a pin and as original as a stock car from the same era. No after-market parts have been installed. The same old style furnace, no air-conditioning, and the furnace has no filter, just forced air heat coming from some dusty old relic underneath the house. The furnace makes an ominous clunking sound at the end of each cycle. The thermostat is the retro dial style. You can’t program it for different temperatures at different times of the day and night, you actually have to walk into the living room, every time you desire a change in temperature and twist it one direction or the other. The windows, all original, and, I’m certain, several layers thinner than they were new from years and years of being cleaned, inside and out, with drums and drums of Windex. They are the old aluminum slider style, single pane. Napa is a very comfortable climate, most of the time, so central heat and air, dual pane windows and insulation wasn’t considered necessary back in the 1960’s when these homes were built. But, with the insulation and the dual pane windows, not only is efficiency added, but noise is decreased. Like the noise of the neighbor unlocking his car, which goes “beep beep” when he does, every morning, this morning included, at some point before 6:00 AM.
Shortly after that neighbor leaves, his next-door neighbor goes to the gym. Before getting into his car, he walks across the street, collects the local newspaper from behind my car, in the driveway, and puts it up on the porch so my mom won’t have to toddle all the way down the steps and across the driveway in her robe and slippers to retrieve it. And I can hear every footstep. This man’s wife died after a long battle with cancer a few months ago. He has kept her car and, on occasion, drives it to the gym. This was one of those days, I know, because he hasn’t quite figured out how to unlock it with the remote and so, always sets the horn a honking.
Thursday. Garbage day. Garbage day cubed. This is Cali, this is the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, you need an engineering degree, a flowchart and a consultant to figure out which trash receptacle each item from your McDonald’s bag goes into, plastic, paper, paperboard, Styrofoam, plastic utensils and napkins, which, somehow don’t qualify as paper. I’ve actually seen entrepreneurial homeless people assist tourists in appropriately sorting their trash in hopeful exchange for a tip. Kind of like the homeless folks at intersections who will wash your windshield with a spray bottle of something, piss, probably, and a soggy, blurred, newspaper. Napa Recycling and Waste Services is actually a software client of mine. That was a fun week, at the landfill/compost heap. Nice folks, though. So, meanwhile, back on my street; there are no less than three “garbage” trucks, maybe more. One truck collects the contents of the “blue can”, which are mixed recyclables including wine bottles, beer bottles and other stuff I don’t know about. This matter will be sorted out and recycled by type, glass, plastic, cardboard, etc. Another truck collects the contents of the “brown can”, yard waste, which will be composted. The third truck collects the contents of the “gray can”, which is just rubbish, the stuff that can’t be composted or recycled, and so, I assume, goes into the landfill. I don’t know if there is a truck devoted to the new “food scraps” project, which are being added to the compost pile, and, I’m certain, will do nothing in improving the foul wind that blows from the south of town where all this occurs. This household is not yet participating in the “food scraps” for composting project, so I don’t know the finer points and whether trucks are committed to the effort. At any rate, it sounds like there are twenty of them revving up and down the street, from one house to the next, revving again to power the mechanical arm that picks up and upends the containers. And they all have squeaky brakes. This cacophony all begins at about 6:00 AM and lasts half the day.
I mentioned, yesterday, that the City of Napa is replacing the curbs, gutters and sidewalks in front of nearly every home on our street where the city planted Chinese Pistachio trees, now all nearing fifty years old. The elder trees have roots close to the surface that have raised the sidewalks dangerously, broken curbs and even raised the street in places. Beginning at 7:00 AM the very talkative men in orange shirts arrive, they fire up all their dusty yellow tractors (backhoes and dozers, I know my Tonka Trucks), their dump trucks and diesel pickup trucks. One dump truck and one dozer just do laps around the block continuously from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM, with a break around 11:00 AM for lunch, I assume. There are jackhammers and other strange bits of man-propelled power equipment that make an extraordinary amount of noise.
So, by 7:00 AM, between the garbage trucks and the men at work, the noise is fearsome. Then, our gardener arrives. He mows, he blows and he goes. But we have close to a quarter acre here, all lawn and leaves, there’s a lot of mowing and a lot of blowing. I can’t even begin to imagine what decibel rating to attach to the morning I endured this day.
My reaction to just the street repair yesterday was not happy. I walked around the house with clenched teeth and a pissy attitude and I let every little noise just eat at me until my nerves were raw. To add insult to injury, Mom had the TV on louder than usual, so she could hear it over all the other noise. I felt like crawling into a corner, crouching down, holding my hands over my ears and rocking back and forth. I went to the coffee shop downtown, instead, and had a lovely day. I had planned to do the same today. But, for whatever reason, my reaction today was different. After breakfast by the noise of the leaf blower, literally, right outside the sliding glass door off the dining area, I took a nice, long shower and sat down at my desk to listen to a conference call for work. I got busy doing this and that, then I got to working on an article I’ve been trying to pull together for a couple of months and the next thing I knew, it was 3:00 PM and completely silent out front. I reacted very differently to the same stimuli from yesterday to today. Rather than let every little thing get to me, rather than foster the agitation I felt at the first noise and allow it to escalate from there, at some point today, I just chose not to react. I got far more done with a lot less stress. True, I would’ve loved to have gone to the coffee shop, and, in fact, probably will tomorrow, if for no other reason, because the cello player is there on Fridays. But, still, the point is, we can react to what happens to us or we can choose not to. The choice is ours. By choosing not to react to every little thing that happens to us, we are choosing to be in control. We are perfectly capable of controlling our reaction, our response, to everything in life, good and bad. Do you get that? Life doesn’t just happen to us, we get to decide how we are going to react, or not, to each and every situation and event that unfolds in our midst. We can choose to get angry when someone does something we dislike, or we can choose to ignore it and move on with more important things. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything, and, in fact, just makes things worse, in most cases, for us far more than our intended target. Acknowledging the situation, making a few mental notes, as a lesson for the future, and just getting on with our day is a much more peaceful and fruitful reaction and one we are totally capable of and in control of. Isn’t it cool to know you are in control of your emotions, that no one has the power to MAKE you angry or sad or hurt? Only you can make you angry or sad or hurt. You choose. You choose how you are going to react. Or not. Of course, it takes practice. I still get my feelings hurt, I still get mad, I still get sad, but then I stop and I think about it; what does allowing these negative feelings, these reactions really accomplish for me? Bad juju and a derailed day productivity-wise, and it certainly doesn’t change or remove the catalyst or source of those negative feelings, in fact, it further empowers them. The only way to render them powerless is to choose not to react in anger, hurt or sadness. Life is good, we are in control!
I had a two-hour massage tonight, it was amazing. I have the best massage therapist ever. I’ve had several, I know I’ve got a good one. First example; he is silent when he dispenses the massage oil onto his hands. Every other massage therapist I’ve ever had sounds like a guinea pig licking the roller in their water bottle when they dispense the massage oil. Am I right? It detracts from the experience, I’d noticed it, but had never really made note of it until I got this therapist. I’ve never heard him depress the dispenser. Amazing. I know. The rest is just magic, he has very gifted hands, and elbows, and forearms. He is intuitive, asks the right questions and really likes what he does. I know from talking to him a bit that this is sort of a family tradition, his mom was a foot reflexologist, so this guy, his foot massages are divine, nearing orgasmic.
I will admit, I am a rather tense person. My muscles are pretty much flexed at all times. All of them. I do not relax. Ever. I may think I do. I don’t. I’m tough to massage because I am always clenched. I try really hard to relax; I breath deeply and focus on the area that’s being massaged and with every ounce of intention, I try to relax, which is probably the wholly incorrect approach, but it ‘s what I know to do. I have gotten better. I have. But, there is this one spot, mid-back, right along the spine, more on the right side than on the left, when he runs his thumb down that particular area it’s like shock waves. I convulse, totally involuntarily. It’s something between pain and ticklish, but I, like, twitch and spaz out a little, sometimes my leg kicks a little bit and once, I almost farted. That is my involuntary reaction, and though it is certainly unintended, I am a little embarrassed. So, I try really hard to choose my reaction, here, too, just like I do with anger, hurt, or sadness. We may think anger, hurt and sadness and other negative reactions, negative emotions, are involuntary. They are not, we have the power to choose how we react to anything that happens to us. So, tonight, on the massage table, I decided to put this to the ultimate test. I decided that I had the power of presence, the mind control, to overcome this embarrassing, involuntary, spastic, convulsive response to focused massage on that one area that, obviously, needed therapy. It took a time or two, but by the third time he ran his thumb down that sensitive area, I was able to relax enough to not feel like I was being tickled and electrocuted simultaneously. The mind is a very powerful thing and it is open to suggestion. Make a suggestion, they’re yours to make and no one else’s.
I’m home now, obviously, all limber, warm and relaxed. I’ve had a lovely conversation with my man, far, far away, and as I finish up this little letter I am also finishing up that last glass of 2010 V. Sattui Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, the 125th Anniversary Edition. That is how I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my evening. Good night, all.
The day started with a little meditation, written affirmations and gratitude, my “usual” breakfast and a shower. I worked, had a nice little lunch and a nice little chat on the phone with my Sweetie. But in the reverse order, as I think about it. Then I went to the gym for an enthusiastic hour of cardio, came home, showered again, had a quick dinner and got an hour-long massage. I had one glass of wine when I returned home while I prepared for my “club” run tomorrow morning. Seems like I’d be in a good mood. I’m not. I, actually, feel somewhat murderous. My fuse is so short, it couldn’t be lit with an acetylene torch.
I have been letting everything everyone says, or doesn’t say, get to me. Everything everyone does, or doesn’t do, too. All day and half the night. And it’s worse at night.
I’ve been trying to think this through all week, I’ve applied all the wisdom I possess, and dispense, and still feel like Charles Manson, on a Monday morning, running late, caught in traffic, with no coffee, behind a big SUV you can’t see around, whose driver keeps tapping the brakes for no reason whatsoever. Whatever that feels like. I’ve re-read portions of books and blogs I look to for solace, I’ve increased my exercise and decreased my alcohol intake. Nothing has happened to trigger this feeling, that I have identified. It’s no one thing, I think, and it isn’t everything. Generally, I’m quite happy for where I’m at right now in the process of things, in the process of my own, personal “evolution”.
I think I might have caught the “Chicken Little Syndrome”. From my mother, perhaps. I wasn’t aware it was that contagious. I thought, perhaps, I’d been inoculated against it. Maybe not.
The “Chicken Little Syndrome” is fear of stupid things you have no control of. Similar to the “What If Syndrome”, but more violent. With the “What If Syndrome”, you just imagine all the bad shit that could happen may, in fact, happen. With the “Chicken Little Syndrome”, you think all the bad shit that could happen is going to happen for certain and with force, falling from the sky, like a meteor shower.
The irony is, I was just, in complete and total exasperation, explaining to my mom the “worry circle”. It goes like this; you have a worry. Can you fix whatever you’re worried about? If so, then why worry? Or, obviously, if it’s something you can’t fix, then there is certainly no use worrying about it. Right? So even if all the bad shit we could imagine were likely to rain down on us like a meteor shower, worrying about it isn’t going to fix it. Seek shelter and keep whistling your happy tune.
In one of the hundreds of books I’ve read in the past few years, and sadly, I can’t remember which one, it said when we let things get to us, worries, petty grievances, annoyances, anger, sorrow, or any negative feeling, or even people, we are giving control over to that negative force. We are allowing it to control our emotions, our mood, our sleep, our energy level, our productivity, our thoughts, and, eventually, our health as a whole. Heck, our whole life.
We need to be better control freaks. We just need to regain control over our reaction to those things we’ve allowed to come into our lives. It isn’t about whatever is making us feel bad, mad or upset, it’s that we’re letting it make us feel terrible in some way. We just need to decide to not let anything, or anyone, impact us in that manner. We need to decide not to react negatively to those negative stimuli. Easier said than done, granted. But being present, living in the “now” and realizing that in this precise moment, we are fine, we are good, actually, and we are in control of that immediate feeling. Now expand that into the future. Worrying about shit that could happen is thinking about the future and depriving us of the present, in which we are, in fact, okay.
It’s like those folks that go to the amusement park and ride the water ride, then cower and cringe and cover themselves so they won’t get wet. Why bother going on the ride? You should get on the ride, sit in the front, and as the boat heads down the drop towards the deep pool, raise your arms, smile and let the water wash all over you. You’re going to look better in the picture that way, and, you’re going to experience the ride the way it was meant to be. Not miss out. If we let each and every moment, as it occurs, wash over us and experience it fully, we live life as it is intended. If we cower and cringe and cover ourselves up for what might happen in the future, we miss the whole point.
So, a couple of hours later than planned, I am making my chocolate milk and preparing my breakfast for tomorrow. My running watch is tucked into my running shoes, so I won’t forget it and my alarm is set for 4:30 AM. I am ready to head off to a restful night’s sleep, chanting a mantra of “now, now, now” to remind me that, right now, I am in control of my reactions to everything and everyone around me and that right now, I am fine. Splendid, in fact.
I remember, a decade or so ago, when the saying “whatever” became popular. I remember, actually, being quite offended by the saying “whatever”. To me, at that point in time, “whatever” expressed an apathy, a lack of caring, it expressed complacency and all that I stood against. “Whatever”, I feared, was the attitude of an entire generation, and I envisioned a whole segment of society that refused to participate in the political process, who wouldn’t vote or contribute to society in a meaningful manner.
As time passed, I found that my fears were, as usual, unfounded. One of the many reasons I’ve decided to just give up fear altogether. The “whatever” generation is actually quite astute and participatory, contribute wholly, and, in all truthfulness, are probably more serious and less apathetic than my own generation.
Of course, I think as I’ve aged chronologically, I’ve actually become younger in many respects. I find that I identify socially, politically, physically, emotionally, spiritually and attitudinally with the “whatever” generation more than my own. Most of the people I find I have the most in common with are about ten to fifteen years younger than me. This I cannot explain other than I am about ten or fifteen years behind my peers, career-wise, partially because I took a bit longer to graduate from college than most, and partially because I compromised my career for a number of years to work part time while my kids were in school (no regrets). But, most of my career peers are significantly younger than me. Between that, and my physical, mental and emotional activity level, energy and enthusiasm, I think I’ve found the fountain of youth and have digressed a bit age-wise.
For whatever reason, I totally identify with the “whatever” generation now. The person I was a decade ago is long gone and has been replaced with a much more spontaneous, wild, fun, active, outgoing, liberated and moderate, “whatever” kind of girl.
As a matter of fact, I’ve found, recently, in the past year or two, the phrase “whatever” has become a mainstay in my vocabulary. I would give my former self hives with the frequency of the use of the term “whatever”. “Whatever” has become my response to many, many, many things. Tonight, I was crossing a busy New York City street, at a crosswalk, with the appropriate green light. A town car came around the corner, right in front of me, causing me to have to stop and wait for him to cross my path so as not to be struck. Rather than becoming indignant or angry, I just shrugged and said “whatever”. My daughter was with me; she is an English major and is intelligent in every imaginable respect, a delight to converse with. She and I discussed the use of the phrase “whatever”; did it still, in today’s common usage, represent apathy and complacency, or has it evolved, as a saying, into something else? Upon reflection we both agreed that the phrase has evolved to mean, “I agree to disagree”, that I don’t agree, but I am choosing my battles and choose not to pursue an argument on this particular point. I guess, in legal terms, it would mean to plead no contest. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to debate the point, I am willing to let it go.
In further reflection, I think I apply the phrase “whatever” to scenarios and situations beyond my control. I will admit, I am a bit of a control freak, I always have been, but I am recovering. In my effort to evolve into a more grounded, peaceful, happy person, I am learning that control must be relinquished in many areas in order to more effectively focus on others. My verbal acknowledgement of this fact is expressed as “whatever”. It is my white flag, waving in the face of my submission, my choice to not have to control over every aspect of my life and my surroundings. It is liberating to finally realize that I don’t have to be in control of everything, that I can’t possibly be in control of everything, that I can “go with the flow”. And, when the flow is going where I think it shouldn’t, I need to just let it go and adapt. So, whatever.
We just simply cannot possibly control everything in life we would like to. We can either drive ourselves crazy with frustration and unhappiness by trying, in vain, to do so, or we can learn to choose, to prioritize which things in life we can and should control, and which we should just let go of. We need to periodically reevaluate which things in life we choose to control, master and work towards, and which things can be left to follow a course not under our management. These become the “whatever’s” in our life. Once we identify and acknowledge those things we cannot or will not seek to control and let go, we have more energy and more impact on those things we can influence, on those things we choose to attempt to establish or maintain control over. It is one of the most liberating things we can do.
In m experience, and based on everything I’ve learned over the past several years, we can most effectively control a limited number of things; our personal attitude, our individual happiness, our individual health and fitness, and our suitability for a successful relationship. Everything else, and in particular, the attitude, happiness, health and fitness and suitability for a successful relationship of those around us, our significant others, our children, our friends, our parents, our acquaintances, are well beyond our control. To learn to say “whatever” and focus on ourselves is really, not just the best we can do, but the only thing we can do. Realizing this and then focusing on only those things we can influence, is really the most individually empowering action ever.
And so, I invite you, to just simply throw your hands up, smile a little, roll your eyes and exclaim “whatever!” The more attitude, the better.
For as much excellent advice as I have, I do have my own struggles. That’s why my blog is called “an effort to evolve”. I am making an effort, I am figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, for me. I’m sharing what I think, what I figure out, what I find helpful with all of you that you can try it out in your own effort to evolve.
I read, a lot. Sometimes I have more time to read than others, and sometimes, I just have a hard time fitting reading into the whole work, work out, prepare healthy food, attend to important relationships and get enough sleep, routine. But, reading really should have as much a place in my daily routine as waking up in the morning. I find it THAT helpful.
I will admit, I have had some struggles on almost every level lately. Yes, good ideas have still been coming to me, and I have made some progress in my evolution, but there have been some struggles that have been retarding my efforts to evolve. Despite my belief that happiness is something from within, that self confidence is the catalyst for the happiness you find within, and that you, solely, are responsible for your attitude, your actions, your behavior and your evolution, my attitude has been, well, sort of sucky lately. And, on several levels. Ok, on every level.
On the home front, in many of my relationships, with work, with fitness and with my healthful eating habits. I have found myself more prone to negativity and cynicism in conversation with those close to me, and in my thoughts, more prone to anger and frustration while traveling and driving and, well, just getting through the day. This slump has touched every part of my life. So, what gives? I need to shut up.
Shutting up is the key, and I misplaced the key, there, somehow, for a while. Maybe it got lost when I made the move into my mom’s house. Perhaps I mislaid it during the holiday season. Or maybe it got lost in the shuffle in all of my travels for work and my vacations. But, I mislaid this very important key. Shut up.
I found the key yesterday. Right where I left it. Right where I found it in the first place. And since finding the key yesterday, I have discovered it in a few more places. Now, that key is everywhere, like I was meant to find it again. Now, I vow, no matter how busy life gets, no matter if there are moves, or travel, or challenges, that key will be safely in my grasp.
The key is to shut up. Just shut yourself up. Well, no, to clarify, shut your ego up.
To explain. A couple of years ago, I read an excellent and life altering book by Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now”, that’s where I first found the key. After reading his book and employing as much of his teachings as possible, life got really, really good. I had incredible optimism, I had incredible energy, I accomplished tremendous things, I grew outrageously as a person, I achieved highly at work, my relationships were all aglow. I rocked everything in my universe. Then, somehow, somewhere, I forgot about the most important lesson in the book, the key to the whole thing. To shut up.
Yesterday, sitting in one airport after another, one delayed flight after the next, frustrated as hell, I pulled out my Kindle and was accosted with an ad for Audible, an audiobook subscription service through Amazon. I’ve had Audible before and never used it though I paid the monthly fee month after month after month after month and finally ended the service. The “free trial” book they were featuring in the ad on my Kindle yesterday, though, was by Eckhart Tolle, “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”. The title alone made me feel good. And he is absolutely brilliant. I clicked the banner, signed up for my “free month” and my “free trial”. I downloaded the book and started to listen. His voice is as magical as what he writes. In the first chapter he recapped the relationship between us, and our ego. The ego, in a very simple, condensed version, is all the chatter that goes on in your head. All the “think speak” you hear in your mind, the voice you think is you. It isn’t, this is your ego. You are separate from that voice in your head that you listen to 24/7. Once you learn to separate yourself from your ego, all that noise, you learn to just shut up. Think about the constant dialogue in your mind, is it not mostly focused on the past or on the future? Pay attention. It is. Or it’s going on about everything that makes you mad, sad, frustrated, upset, etc. Either way, not much good is going on in that singular dialogue. Cynicism, bitterness, self-criticism. Your inner dialogue batters you, constantly, with self criticism; I’m not smart enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m unhealthy, I can’t, etc., etc., etc. So, basically, you spend every waking moment focusing on the past you can’t change, the future you can’t reach and self-talk that is self-destructive, and, coming from a “reliable” and believable source, you. So just shut up.
Interestingly enough, after listening to a few chapters and picking up that lost key, I instantly felt better. I felt in control. I felt much more positive. Happy. Even though I was still sitting in the deepest, darkest, recesses of San Francisco International Airport, at a gate in a terminal I didn’t even know existed, waiting for a delayed plane. I picked up my Kindle, again started surfing for some books on relationships and found one that piqued my interest. I downloaded it and started reading it after boarding the tiny plane bound for Sacramento. I had plenty of time to read because there was a mechanical issue that required a mountain of paperwork to be completed before we could depart. We were aboard the plane for nearly an hour before we finally took off for the nineteen-minute flight. But, I was happy. Reading. And in the relationship book, everything I’d just heard in Eckhart Tolle’s new audiobook was being echoed, almost eerily, by the author, Marie Forelo (whom I admire and follow). I hadn’t realized she authored the book until I’d read the first chapter or two. But, again, the key, which she outlined foremost in her book, is to shut up. Shut that voice off in your head, or acknowledge it as separate from you and dismiss it. This is the single, most important, vital step to creating your own happiness. By shutting up that egoic voice that focuses on the past and on the future, you can be present in the only time that you can control, influence and live. Now. The present.
This concept was the main thesis of Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”, the book that had such a positive impact on my life a couple of years ago. To find myself haphazardly revisiting this concept in not one, but two, unrelated sources on the one day I probably needed it the most seemed more than just coincidence. A blessing, to say the least.
I am shutting up again. I am acknowledging that egoic drivel in my mind and dismissing it. I am, again, regaining control of my thoughts, working on actually living in the present, not just preaching it, and living in the present, now, with a little more clarity, with the key in hand. I am certain that in very little time, with only minimal effort, I will be back on track in every area of my life. Right where I want to be.
What I hope you’ll take away from this; explore separating yourself from that voice in your head. Learn that you are separate from all that noise. If you are interested in learning more, look up the books I referenced above and devote some time to their well-worded lessons. And, above all else, just shut up.
We are all victims, if not right now, at some point in our lives. Our survival depends on what we do about being victimized.
By survival, I mean our ability, as individuals, to live a life of endless hope and opportunity, to seek fulfillment. A life without limitations where all things are possible. For, without hope, opportunity, and fulfillment, we are limited to a life barely worth living, to merely existing.
Often, I hear people discuss how they were victimized. They lament the situation, retell the story, and, sadly, offer it as an excuse for some limiting behavior. To me, this is more tragic than whatever they suffered when they were victimized.
I firmly believe, and I have said many times before, we are only limited by ourselves. Overcoming our limitations offers us the opportunities life has to offer us. Living with our self-imposed limitations imprisons us from a life we were meant to have.
If we are all victims, why do some of us succumb to victimization more than others? I think many people truly don’t realize that they, alone, hold the power to overcome.
It is your choice, and that’s all there is to it.
If you are in a situation where you continue to be victimized, get out. There is always a way, and, again, only you are in control of whether you stay in that situation, or not. I have a friend, who after many years of abuse at the hands of her husband, after years and years of encouragement from her friends and family, left. She took her kids and went to a shelter, pressed charges, testified against the man she took vows with, and built herself a new life. She left the home she and her husband had built, she left a life with mutual friends, a neighborhood where her children had a school and friends. And she started over. It was hard, admittedly, it took courage, bravery, strength. There were tears, there was guilt, initially. And then, there was freedom, freedom from abuse, from pain, from shame, from fear, from victimization.
To this day, she never uses her past abuse, her past victimization as an excuse for anything. Nor do her children. She took advantage of work training programs that were available to her, she relied on the encouragement of her family and friends, she accepted charity when offered. Now she has a great, steady job with good benefits and retirement. Her children have grown into strong, well-adjusted, independent people. She recently bought her own home and has a long term relationship with a wonderful man who treats her like a goddess. This was all by choice. Hers. Alone. She took control, she walked away and took control of her life, of herself. Her abuser is powerless against her. He is broken. She is whole.
Whether you were a victim of abuse, neglect, or even bullying, as a child, as a spouse or in a close relationship, at work, or at the hands of a complete stranger, whether you were a victim of a violent crime, psychological abuse or identity theft, as a victim, you have been deprived of control over some situation. You remain a victim for as long as you allow yourself to be ashamed, afraid, hurt, scared or angry. Notice the words “allow yourself”. You are in control, you only need to realize it, then exert it.
Again, we have all been victimized in some way, at some point in our lives, and in being victimized, someone has exerted their power and control over us. Don’t you dare let them keep it. Notice the words “let them”. It is your choice. Take control, take back that control. By taking measures to overcome the abuse, violence, neglect, mistreatment, or the situation you were taken advantage in, you regain the power. Your power. And that is your first step to becoming whole, to being healed. To being limitless.
By playing the victim, by coveting your victimization, focussing on it, retelling it, you are first of all, constantly reliving it. You are never free of it and, you are allowing that person to maintain power and control over you. Many forms of victimization are demonstrations of power, and only you can revoke that power from them by reclaiming it for yourself. Then you can draw on that power, your power, to heal yourself.
We all have tremendous capability for strength, courage, bravery and healing, whether physical, emotional or psychological. The key to recovery is within you, find a way to tap into that strength, courage, bravery and healing power. Empower yourself, whether you do so by educating yourself, finding a support group, a therapist, or a sympathetic friend that encourages your reclamation of power.
But you have to make the decision and follow through. This is the hardest step, but once you walk out that door with your suitcase, once you turn your back, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take that first step, the battle is won. You’ll find, once you take that first step, there’s a world ready to greet you, to help you, just ask. You need only take the first step, and your power is restored and it can be put to use fitting the pieces back together, the way they belong.
If you choose to hang on to your victimization, you are really only victimizing yourself. We are capable of overcoming, of moving beyond. To choose otherwise is just that, to choose. Why would you choose to be a victim at your own hands?
Have you ever awakened feeling great? Like everything was going to go according to plan? Well rested and ready to take on another day? That was how I felt this morning when I awoke. Good Chi.
I set out to do my day right! I showered, grabbed my journal and bounded downstairs for my usual healthy, light, well-balanced and nutritious breakfast. I swear I could just feel the sunshine and hear the birds singing outside. My scrambled egg was piping hot and smelled delicious. My oatmeal was perfectly cooked, not too done, not too soupy, not too cold, not too hot, a true Goldilocks moment.I opened up my journal, reached for my pen and was just ready to cheerfully write down my affirmations and the things I am most grateful for, certain that this would keep my “good Chi” going.
Then my son stomped into the kitchen. He wore a murderous expression and went about his morning routine with an air of so much grumpiness that my Chi just fizzled. Conversation ensued and basically, he was just pissed off about everything. It happens to all of us, when you wake up and think, “wow, this is all for shit”. I’ve had mornings like that, and recently, and I admit, I have to make a very concerted effort to talk myself out of those feelings on a fairly regular basis. No one’s life is exactly where we want it at any point in time, but if we make an effort to get a little closer each day, we can usually manage to keep those shit mornings to a minimum. For some of us, it takes some practice.
My son’s mood was so bad, that I had a really hard time focusing on the one word affirmations I wanted to write down. I had to keep cheating and looking back at yesterdays. My Chi was all messed up.
He went on and on about his woes, and I listened, but damn, I was trying to write down all the things I was grateful for, and I couldn’t concentrate. I had to keep cheating, I kept looking back to yesterday’s page to try to remember what I was grateful for yesterday! Certainly I’d still be grateful today for the things I was grateful for yesterday. My Chi was all messed up.
Your affirmations and the things you’re grateful for should just spill out when you focus on them, you should never have to cheat, maybe what I’m grateful for today IS different than yesterday. Maybe what I needed to affirm about myself today was different than yesterday. But I couldn’t focus, I just flipped the page and copied, flipped the page and copied, until today’s page was all filled up with yesterday’s words. My Chi was all messed up.
I glanced out the window and saw that it was gray and gloomy. Another chink in my Chi. I’m a sunshine kind of girl. Gray and dreary makes me gray and dreary. Sigh.
I tried not to let it all get to me, and as the day went on, I was able to put it all behind me and have a fairly successful and productive day. The sun never came out, in fact, it is raining, but I managed to remain sunny enough myself to keep positive.
I thought about my Chi, though. I use the word “Chi” to describe the positive energy flow that acts like a current and pulls me through each day in a manner I am at peace with. I know the actual definition of Chi may be somewhat different, having to do with energy flow as it relates to feng shui, but I like to think I’m in the process of “feng shui-ing” my mind, putting all the elements of thought and self-speak into the desired order so as to achieve positive energy in thought and intention. Does that make sense? Well, it does to me. And that’s what matters.
The thing that distresses me is just how easily my Chi is disrupted. I let the energy that other people put off totally affect me. I’m like a negative energy sponge. I try to battle back with my positive energy, but I feel like in so doing, I am giving away my positive energy and I end up empty.
The slightest thing can turn my Chi to shit. Grumpy people. Dishes in the sink when I come home. Mail on the table. A text or phone call from someone I don’t really want to hear from. Network news on the TV. People quoting network news like it’s the absolute authority, especially when they say “they said …” Little, itty bitty, stupid, insignificant things turn my Chi into shit. And I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not necessarily intolerant, better the dishes be in the sink than on the table, better the mail be on the table than in the sink! I think what it comes down to, for me, at least, is that I have been so completely out of control of so many very big things in my life the past several years that I seek to find peace and solace in the many little things I can control; the tidiness of my house, whether the television is on and what exactly is being viewed, my diet and fitness, etc. When someone invades that small part of the world I can control, I lose my Chi.
I am considering moving in with my mom in the next few months. She is old, she needs help. It will help me save some money, restore my retirement account, build a nest egg. For all practical purposes, it is the right thing to do. My Chi is withering just thinking about it. She is easily worried and frets openly about everything, mostly what “they” said on the news. And the network news is on at a decibel rating so high, I can hear what “they” are saying from the driveway when I get out of my car. The refrigerator and cupboards are full of food like products I wouldn’t even consider handling, let alone eating. There are piles of mail and newspapers and bits of paper with little notes on them on the counter, the table, the desk, the coffee table, and three of the four chairs around the kitchen table. I will be completely out of control of nearly every element of my environment I currently have a grasp on. What will I do without my Chi, for certainly it will die?
I suppose, to look on the bright side, which is a skill I have worked to develop to an art form over the past several years, I will have to learn to build my Chi in an environment that is not mine. I’ve had some practice here, as I do travel a lot for work and stay in hotel rooms, which are not technically “my” environment. But they are fairly benign environments, there is rarely a kitchen, and when there is, it is clean to begin with and I am in control of it until I leave. There is a television, but I am completely in control of it. There is no clutter around to disturb my Chi and I am alone in my hotel room, so the only grumpy people around would be me.
In an environment that has been my mom’s for over forty years, I will have zero control, so I will have to learn how to build up my positive inner energy through other means than keeping my environment exactly the way I like it. I could, I suppose, limit “my environment” to my room, like I did as a kid. That may be a solution, as long as I have noise cancellation headphones for the television downstairs!
I’m not sure of the solution here, but I suppose I shouldn’t worry about the future of my Chi, perhaps the change in environment won’t affect it like I think it will. I should be focussing on my Chi in the present. And right now, it is just fine. Like all things in life, like life itself, it’s all about the present. Live for now. One moment at a time.