Insecurity Blanket

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.

Scarlette Begonia

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.

Scarlette Begonia

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.

Scarlette Begonia

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.

Scarlette Begonia

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.

What Once Was Lost Now is Found

I have a confession to make. I lost something. It wasn’t just something, it was a handmade gift. I didn’t lose the whole thing, just one quarter of it, but without that one quarter, it wasn’t just incomplete, it wasn’t whole. I felt terrible. This was so unlike me, I’m quite careful about such things. You could even say compulsive. Perhaps even anal.

I became aware of my loss when my cousin, an artist, last visited. We got onto the topic of skulls as art, and ethnic and tribal art over lunch. I mentioned that my son’s former girlfriend was an artist and had made and given to me, as a gift, four hand etched tiles that, when placed together, made a skull. When we returned to the house, I went upstairs to retrieve the tiles from where they are carefully displayed on my small bookcase by my window to show my cousin. I have them stacked, dead in the center. The bookcase is out of the way and doesn’t get much traffic, so, doesn’t get bumped or knocked. I figured it would be a safe location for the tiles. When I took them downstairs to spread out onto the kitchen table, there were only three tiles. I ran back upstairs and looked and looked and looked for the fourth tile. I looked behind the bookcase, in case the tile had fallen. I looked all around the bookcase and even inside the books to make sure it hadn’t fallen between two, or within one. No tile. My mom was pretty insistent that it must be on the floor behind the bookcase, but I’d looked, and it wasn’t. The tiles are heavy enough that I couldn’t imagine the lace curtain on the window next to the bookcase, even in a hurricane force wind, being capable of knocking a tile off the top of the bookcase. I was certain that, in my move, I’d neglected to unwrap the tile from the U-Haul wrapping paper I buy, by the box, with each and every relocation. I know I’d wrapped the tiles with my other “treasures”, usually the last things to get packed, and after riding in my car or in the front seat of the moving van, they are the first to get unloaded and the first to get unpacked. I rooted through a couple of boxes still lingering around, but found no tile. I was now afraid I’d tossed the tile out with some of the wrapping paper. I felt a little sick.

I considered sending a Facebook message to the artist and giver of the gift, telling her of my loss and asking her if she could recreate the one tile, for which I’d be happy to pay. I delayed. Or procrastinated. Or chickened out. I felt careless. As I said, this is not like me. I’m quite particular about such things, and I have considerable experience moving, I just don’t lose things in the process of moving. I mean, you should see how I pack and label boxes, you’d understand.

The other day, weeks after the discovery of my loss, after wine tasting, so a little buzzed, I was rooting around behind a small, upholstered chair, in my room, near the bookcase I had the tiles on. I was in search of something unrelated. I keep caboodles and other tidy containers of things like hair accessories and gloves, sunglasses and nail polish, under the chairs, out of sight, but close at hand. There, on the floor, behind the chair, upside down, was the missing tile, unbroken. Intact. I was so relieved, I did a little happy dance and reunited the piece with the rest of the set, which had been moved to another location, further from the window. The tiles are now spread out rather than stacked, defeating, or at least mitigating, the force of gravity that apparently displaced the reclaimed tile.

What once was lost, now is found. My tile art pieces are joined together once again.
What once was lost, now is found. My tile art pieces are joined together once again. Artwork by the talented Kayla Verseput.

What other things of value have we lost? Whether out of neglect, carelessness, or just with the passage of time. Are there things in life we’ve lost that we’d dearly love to find, to reclaim, a treasure of some sort? Not knick-knacks or pieces of art, not tangible items, but things more valuable, things that are, perhaps even, priceless. Perhaps our self-confidence, our ability to trust, faith, our health, love, our purpose, our ability to forgive, hope, our energy, enthusiasm, passion, courage, our integrity, our inspiration, motivation, our self-esteem.

Like the tile, we may not even realize what’s missing until we need it, until we go in search of it. The discovery of our loss, though far greater in magnitude than my tile, will cause a sense of panic, of confusion and even sorrow and despair. We will wonder how we could have displaced something of such value, something that money cannot replace.

We will spend time trying to figure out how, or even if, we can possibly regain what has been lost. We may feel despair at the thought, or, in some cases, the certainty, that it cannot. At this point, many falter and resign to the loss. Then, and only then, does the loss become real and certain.

Recognizing the loss is our first step. Coming to terms with it helps us begin to take the steps to find what once was ours. We can begin to plan, to set goals, to move in the direction of restoration. We can find our inspiration, foster our motivation. Be assured, that once we have found again what was lost, whether self-confidence, our ability to trust, faith, our health, love, our purpose, our ability to forgive, hope, our energy, enthusiasm, passion, or our self-esteem, it may seem different than in its original form, it will likely be much better. At the very least, we will have a better appreciation and more respect for it. We will take better measures to safeguard it, to care for it, to keep it, much like the tiles on my shelf.

What once was lost, now is found. What you have lost, you too can find, you need only to keep searching, it’s there, I assure you.

Do You Have Change?

Change terrifies most people. We are truly creatures of habit and we fear anything that may disrupt our lives or deprive of us the control we seek to maintain over every detail of our individual worlds.

I once participated in an advanced leadership course with the Boy Scouts of America (Wood Badge, for those of you who know). Part of the lessons had to do with change. I remember one of the staff members, Norm, the cook, used to come out of the kitchen at random points during the instruction, always in a funny costume, carrying a sign. One side of the sign said “change happens”, the other side of the sign said “change is good”.  He would silently parade across the room showing one side of the sign, then the other. I was self-righteously convinced that I was open to change, adaptive, willing to embrace it whenever it came about. I scoffed inwardly at those who weren’t. What I didn’t really understand was this lesson would apply to far more than who the Scoutmaster of our Boy Scout troop was and what requirements were necessary for this merit badge or that. 

Life is full of change, big and small, good and bad. Over the course of the next decade, I learned to accept change, to deal with change, to embrace change and finally, to actively seek change. This is a huge part of my “effort to evolve”.

The interesting thing is, once you learn to work with change, the changes most folks would consider “bad” aren’t actually all that bad. They may seem so at first, but by God, we survive, grow stronger and move on, usually in a much better direction. The changes that most folks would consider “good”, or desired, or wished for, worked for, obsessed over, and manipulated into happening, often end up in the desired effect, temporarily, only to ultimately end in a “bad” change. And, if embraced, that “bad” change ultimately ends up “good”, and more lasting.

Through the events of my life over the past decade, the changes that have occurred, both good (manipulated into happening) and bad (as a result of manipulating the desired changes), I have come to a very important realization; one ought to be very careful what one “asks” for. 

Life was exactly what I’d asked for; the realization of many dreams – possessions and a lifestyle. With “getting what I asked for”, the trade off was imprisonment by those possessions, by that lifestyle. My life became all about being able to afford those things, to maintain that lifestyle, to a point where I could not enjoy those possessions, nor that lifestyle. When the inevitable happened and all those possessions and the lifestyle were lost, with a lot of reflection and a bit of discipline, I realized, with great relief, that I was free. The life I’d had before was very much an illusion; those possessions, that lifestyle, did not make me who I was. I identified myself to all as the person with this lifestyle, with these possessions, I was no more than a shelf upon which these acquisitions were displayed for others to admire and make conversation about. 

Now, I am far more real, I am more genuine, I am more authentic. I am a work in progress. I am so humbled. I have spent the past few years evolving into a person, a real person, not a mannequin of a certain lifestyle, a living display of a collection of desirable possessions. I am me, just a person. I have been stripped and I relish this freedom, this nudity. And I am very careful what I “ask for”. 

And I seek change. There is nothing in my life I don’t leave open to change. I flirt with it. I bathe in it and let it wash over me and hope it makes me a better person, that I learn more valuable lessons from it.

Through the loss of everything, I have become rich. I have also learned that I did not know first, the power of prayer, and second, that I’d been praying all wrong. I asked for “things”, in prayer, and would even justify them, in prayer. And I got them, the desired change. I prayed for the man, the spouse, the job, the house, all of it. Then I got the inevitable “undesired” change, because what I asked for was never meant to last. I think it was meant to happen, if for no other reason than to teach me what was truly valuable in life, part of which is the ability to accept and grow from constant change that I am not usually in control of. Now prayer, for me, consists of nothing more than offering gratitude and affirming who I am.

I find when I am anxious or depressed or in a quandary, it is usually because I am fretting about the possibility of an undesirable change. Once I wrench it out of my mind, let go of it, and stop trying to control it, things usually fall into place, do actually change, and for the better. I have to remind myself that wanting something to not change usually ends up with a worse result. Besides, everything has to change, time changes everything and time cannot be stopped. So, hoping something doesn’t change because currently it is good, doesn’t mean that, as time goes on, it will remain good. 

Take a relationship, for example. If currently it is good, so good that you don’t ever want it to change, just fretting about it never changing changes it, puts a strain on it, pressure on it, and this can actually become the catalyst for it to fail. I just finished reading a book, “The Soulmate Experience” by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn. I highly recommend this book, and it taught me so much about change as it relates to relationships. In the course of two weeks, I have totally changed my thoughts and attitudes about change, as it relates to relationships, and I am comfortable and at ease with whatever may change in that relationship. So far, it has only changed for the better.

As my life unfolds, through constant change, I grow and learn and develop. I do seek change, certain, intentional changes, but I don’t “ask” for them, and they certainly don’t consist of “things”. The changes I deliberately try to make, now, are more about developing my health, my attitude, my thoughts, my essence, not my egoic self. 

Today I took to the dump the last of the items from two very large storage units. Storage units full of the bits and scraps left over from all that I’d “asked” for, that I’d prayed for. Just junk now, as we speak, being turned into the filthy dirt. The last remnants of that much desired, past life have been discarded and now, I am that much more free. Free to seek change.