And you will fit in.
Shame might sparkle through the seams,
But it will comfort me to know
That the parts of you
I have forever feared in myself,
The subject I’m feeling today is avoidance.
Why do we avoid doing things? Laziness, fear, and procrastination perhaps. I agree with the first two, but will add some hot sauce to the latter with this truth: procrastination is fear in a different wardrobe. The two are one in the same my friends.
Let me explain by telling you my experience with the double headed beast. I was a constant procrastinator. I avoided doing things until the last minute for many years. I kept “not doing” things, because there was something about the “do it or fail” pressure that turned my crank. And luckily I seemed to do well when the pressure was on, at least in college I did. Many an A was received via this method, much to the annoyance of my classmates. Whatever. It worked for me for a while.
I also avoided doing things because I was scared that I wouldn’t do a good job. And I didn’t like myself apparently, because if you do, why would you put so much stress and pressure on yourself with all this last minute nonsense?
But now things are different. I no longer label myself as a procrastinator, rather, a person who occasionally finds herself head to head with fear, battling with the thoughts that say, “hey, don’t do that, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and will end up making a gigantic mess of <insert task here>.”
This issue with avoidance did not apply to school work alone. In the past I used a whole pile of discombobulated reasoning methods and tactics to justify my avoidance issues. After some reflection I can now clearly see that there was a whole mess of things that I avoided, which proved to be quite damaging over the years:
The summary of all of these confessions is that for many years I didn’t think I mattered. To be clear: I take full responsibility for the way in which my life unfolded and the circumstances and situations I found myself in. But I was quite damaged for a long time, and I honestly struggle to even begin to explain how I got outside of the quicksand of negativity and pain I lived in all those years. Thankfully those days are mostly over. Mostly I say, because in times of weakness (read: lack of sleep) I find it wildly easy to fall back into the old thought patterns that brought me to the darkest times of my life.
The moral of this quick story today is that I think it would do us all some good to reflect and deconstruct the situations in which we find ourselves procrastinating. And I’m not talking about emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry (guilty party here). I’m talking about the things we find ourselves avoiding that would do us some good to deal with head on, and in a timely fashion. Answer the question: Why are we avoiding <insert scene here>?
And with that, I’m going to go clean my car. Actually, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow instead. 🙂
I’ve been a jerk. Have you been a jerk? I was even a little bit of a jerk this morning to my hubby. Now I feel guilty for being a jerk.
Why do we act like jerks?
It starts with a thought. Sometimes it’s about what someone else, and sometimes it’s about something I wish I hadn’t done, with varying degrees of regret and shame. I ruminate on the thought, and voila, jerk-like feelings start rumbling. It takes a few minutes for me to chill out and find some perspective by reviewing my recent cranial playlist. If I’m open to being honest with myself I’m perfectly capable of finding the original thought that rattled me. But if I’m not open to figuring things out, and let the thought consume me, I join the ranks of the jerks, potentially creating an avalanche of jerks, all because jerk-ish behavior took place at some point in the past.
It’s easy for others to say “just stop thinking about it.” The truth is, it’s a huge endeavor to put those five words into action. It isn’t easy to shut the brain off from a thought we are accustomed to having. The thoughts we have stick close to home, providing a constant reminder of where we, or others, have come up short. And as far as crummy behavior outside of ourselves goes, it’s reliable, and in many cases, never going to change, no matter how much hope we might have that it will.
So the life altering challenge I extend to myself and the masses: let’s learn to change how we react to the thoughts we have.
For me the place to start is forgiveness. There is no way I’m going to find any peace if I’m walking around with internalized anger. The process of forgiving has to do with me learning to forgive myself as well as others. Because as I admitted previously, I’ve been a jerk too.
I believe so strongly in this life changing statement: what you put out you get back. I’ve witnessed this energy transfer throughout my life, but I refused to accept it as fact until recent years. If we are harboring aggressive feelings towards ourselves and others, we will find ourselves running into more of the same. My life began to drastically change the day I started paying attention to the thoughts I had about myself, and faced them instead of running from them. It was shockingly enlightening to say the least.
I want to be clear about something that a lot of people refuse to believe, which is that we have a choice. We can choose different thoughts if the ones we are currently thinking aren’t serving us well. We can choose to let pessimistic comments and inferior energy permeate our peace, or we can say “no thanks” to it. We need to learn how to control our reactions to the adverse thoughts and behaviors we come across. And it’s terribly difficult to do in the beginning, because few of us have ever flexed these non-reactionary muscles. In most of us the ability to not-react is new-born baby weak. But if a new born can build up their muscles, we can too. Practice and perseverance, and a desire to find some happiness and peace in our lives may be our motivation.
Why do we think we have zero control over our thoughts, and for that matter, our lives? It seems many of our parental figures modeled reactionary living. We were told we have no control over our circumstances. Some even boldly advised that life is difficult and awful. Many of us have elders spewing their long-held, “life with limitations” beliefs our way on the daily. The idea that we have zero control over our lives is a widely held assumption that serves no purpose.
Over the years I’ve witnessed people offering pessimistic, unsolicited advice, driven by their belief that outside sources are responsible for where they are in their lives, not them. This leads to children believing they have no control of their thoughts or the scenarios they may face in this world. These kids may spend their days worrying, thinking the world is a scary and awful place, with horrible surprises around every bend. Take it from me, this is no way to live. In fact, it is not living at all. When we take responsibility for the thoughts we have about ourselves and others, and put a positive spin on things, our lives will unfold in much more favorable ways and for the people around us.
Change is possible. Let’s consider a new way of processing our thoughts and the behaviors we associate with them.
The focus must be on finding a sense of calm amongst the chaos. And this tranquility comes from within. I tried to find it in many outside sources for 30 years later, to no avail. Based on my life experience, which has included years of doing it the wrong way, I know that you will not find true peace in your life through a bottle, a new dress, or excessive exercising. It simply won’t work. Your ego might have you convinced that it will, but eventually, your spirit is going to get sucked dry. Please consider this truth, from a person who has made all sorts of mistakes trying to find peace (particularly if you want to gain some control over your life, your thoughts and your behavior).
There is a lot of information out there about how to calm our minds. I find a lot of it lacks depth and quality (particularly the “five ways to…” lists) and then on the flip side, some of it is pretty intense which scares people off quickly. One of my current goals is to create a way to make finding calmness more accessible to the skeptics. (These are the people who often need it the most. Those that ferociously reject something always have issues related to that which they aggressively reject). I will begin working on this project soon and happily share when it is ready. 🙂
In the meantime, I’d like to share this trick I picked up from a therapist, which I use to protect myself from toxicity in situations outside of myself, and scenarios that have reliably disrupted my inner calm. It’s a good trick to use around aggressive or negative people, especially if you find yourself easily rattled by others:
Picture yourself surrounded by an imaginary bubble. You can pick a color if you want: whatever works for you. The idea is that you envision this bubble surrounding you like a safety capsule. When you are entering a space that has been known to cause you grief, picture this bubble, and know that nothing can permeate this safety chamber. Know that it will protect you from any negativity that may be pushed your way.
I hope this trick might help you as it has helped me. I look forward to sharing more as my journey and research unfolds. I’m extremely passionate about the process of finding peace in this crazy world, and would be grateful for comments or emails with ideas or feedback.
And I will sign off today with one of my favorite poems that is suitable for today’s subject matter. 🙂
A madman inside you
Who is always running for office –
Why vote him in,
For he never keeps the accounts straight.
He gets all kinds of crooked deals
Happening all over town
That will just give you a big headache
And glue to your kisser
My wish for us all is that we do away with our incessant need to play the comparison game. Comparing ourselves to others has got to be one of the most counterproductive activities we can involve ourselves in, particularly when we follow the “my issues are nothing compared to <insert name here>” rhetoric and dismiss our primal need to look after ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong: comparison can sometimes be a useful and sobering means to realization. For example, if we find ourselves ruminating on something trivial, it may offer us a way back down from ego-land and help put things into a more productive perspective. But when we choose to ignore our needs and well-being because someone else’s story appears heavier on the “things that matter” scale, we all suffer.
Here’s an example: a situation came up in my life recently that had me questioning the stability of one of my jobs. A lot is weighted to the work I do: it provides a feeling of accomplishment, offers the ability to connect with people and helps provide for my family. The additional piece is that I am really comfortable where I am right now. The thought of things changing so abruptly and without me having any input gave me heart palpitations, with the added bonus of my mind wandering to a whole assortment of dark places. I knew these fear-based instincts needed to be worked on as they weren’t the optimal response.
However, right when this realization came to be, a huge fight broke out between two of my family members. The fight had to do with big picture stuff: a lack of love and respect being shown. The common denominator of most of the issues in the family stem from this, so it’s a familiar scenario, just different time and different details. Regardless, feelings were raw and the aggression was intense. Everything was inflamed, and the flared emotions were no match for anything else that came to light at that time. And it all occurred at the same time that the rumblings about my job came to light.
So I kept the job-talk to myself. I didn’t tell my husband because he had his hands full. I pushed my concerns to the side because in “comparison” (ugh, I dread typing it) my issue wasn’t worthy of discussion. That was the conclusion I chose to make, when in fact it did require a discussion (right away) about what we needed to do to get ourselves prepped for the possibility that a major change to our livelihood could soon occur.
So what happened next? I left it alone, which was pretty easy to do at the time considering this war that was going on in the background. Thwarting off the aggressive tactics which were being flung about was proving to be a full time job. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of unwelcome distractions. And then on the morning of the third day of all this negativity, I woke up with a pit of anxiety in my stomach. I felt so uncomfortable in my skin: severe levels of dread and fear that I couldn’t shake off. I was scared because I couldn’t figure out what the issue was right away, which was maddening because normally I am quite capable of sorting myself out by looking inward via yoga and meditation. But that day nothing worked. I was on the verge of what felt like a total break-down, trying to prep this early birthday celebration dinner for my husband, when tears started to fall, and with them came a huge slap in the face realization: “woman, you are stressed the hell out by the possibility of losing one of your jobs! You need to talk to your partner about this and handle your shit!”
No outside tantrums are worth ignoring your inner turmoil
I was crying, but I knew they were tears of relief. And I wanted to reprimand myself for not figuring out earlier what was so clear to me in that moment: you cannot put your needs on the back burner because someone else stomps their feet louder. No outside tantrums are worth ignoring your inner turmoil. Talk about it. Write about it. Read something that might help you handle the anxiety productively. But whatever you do, do not allow someone else’s issues get in the way of you handling your business.
There will always be distractions. There will always be ample excuses for why we cannot look after ourselves or put ourselves first. Things will not always play out seamlessly and the way we want them to. But I’m all about the lessons and not letting any part of my journey, no matter how dysfunctional, go to waste. And this week the lesson was this: embrace the act of bravery. Command your position in this world as a woman on a mission who validates herself even if others won’t.
I will leave you with a quote that inspired me to write today, despite the fear of what others will think and how my truth will be received.
Do not believe what you have heard.
Do not believe in tradition because it is handed down many generations.
Do not believe in anything that has been spoken of many times.
Do not believe because the written statements come from some old sage.
Do not believe in conjecture.
Do not believe in authority or teachers or elders.
But after careful observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and it will benefit one and all, then accept it and live by it.
I failed, over and over again for many years, at being a fake version of myself. Along the way I failed at friendships, jobs and relationships. I never felt safe or settled in my skin. I was constantly on the run from that version of me.
I started faking it because I didn’t fit in with everyone else even though I desperately wanted to. I always felt uncomfortable: like some low-quality, Made-in-China version of myself. I never felt good enough being who I organically was, so I played pretend a lot, often thinking and referring to myself as a chameleon, morphing into different characters in accordance to what I believed the social setting dictated.Scars are souvenirs & memories are tributes to the moments that force us to wake up Click To Tweet
History dictates that some of the greatest minds failed, and failed often, but they kept getting back up despite these failures that took place on such global scales. This truth has helped me to stop looking at failure as a bad thing: rather, I now refer to it as a forced redirect down a different path. Sometimes our minds get so caught up in the day-to-day ramblings that we lose sight of the optimal road, and what is perceived as failure is in fact, a harsh shove towards a better suited scene. Time and reflection allows the truth to filter out from the pain, and like clockwork, we can choose to find lessons amidst the debris.
We are not on this planet for Facebook likes or Twitter re-tweets: we are here to become the best versions of ourselves we can be. The path is marred with scars and their accompanied lessons, and inevitably, a lot of episodes that we label as failures. Outsiders will talk about us; many will judge us. But we must remember what the episode is for, and find gratitude in the offerings it brings.
Scars are souvenirs and memories are tributes to the moments that forced us to wake up.
Shuffling the blame doesn’t make it go away: it directs more energy onto the problem, when logic dictates finding a solution would be much more productive.
Reflection on the how and why is great after the fact, but it doesn’t necessarily help the immediate, “must-fix now” scenario.
Fearing accountability is impractical: it wastes valuable time and energy that could be used to create something amazing.
And living in a perpetual state of resistance is exhausting.
Don’t be a solution stifler. In a sea of blame shufflers, be accountable.
I found myself in an interesting predicament this morning: something happened with my finances that shouldn’t have, and I had to call someone out. I didn’t “let them have it” or anything nasty, but I had to tell them that I wasn’t happy and that I wasn’t going to put up with it. When I first got that intuitive feeling that something wasn’t right, I didn’t want to ruffle feathers, so I let it go. I ignored the red flags and the situation became much worse.
I’m pissed off that I let things get away on me because I didn’t want to cause an issue for someone else. It sounds so stupid to me now. Why didn’t I say something sooner?
The answer comes to me promptly: for many years I was heavy into feather ruffling. If someone even thought to cross me they would hear about it. And I wouldn’t let it go. I felt so out of control in every area of my life, that anytime I had a chance to attempt to control an outcome or situation, I was all over it. It was exhausting. I’m tired just thinking of it.
Given my past, I tread very lightly when something occurs that may need to be addressed. I would say that now my initial desire is to avoid the situation. But then I ask myself if it’s necessary and/or worth addressing, and often it is. So I get to the process of dealing with the scenario constructively, but firmly, not allowing myself to be bull-dozed by paternalistic talk, all the while ensuring I don’t succumb to my tendency to minimize my worthiness. I simply cannot minimize my worth anymore.
Then comes the assumptions: I often find myself entering into these types of situations locked and loaded with them. It’s really hard to shake the old fear that stormy skies loom ahead.
A lot of these assumptions are part of an antiquated thought process I hold onto simply because it’s what I’ve always known. That which causes me discomfort comforts me. (How’s that for some dysfunction?) What I’d like to focus on now is making considerate assumptions, ones that acknowledge all parties involved. Because I know the tone of the interaction will match the tone of the assumption I make.
Or I could choose to refrain from assuming.
That’s something I’m attempting to put into play: leaving the preconceived notions or ideas at the door. When a shitty thought process and/or interaction comes along, it can be difficult to stop myself from shuttling that negativity to the next exchange, or referencing it the next time I find myself in a similar situation. But when I assume the worst and it comes to be, I’m ushering in a destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy like it’s royalty. It’s not royalty: it’s total crap. Constantly expecting the worst is the absolute worst.
So I’ve been trying to come to the table sans assumption as of late: entering interactions with calmness and kindness, regardless of what happened five minutes or 5 years ago. I say, hey assumption, I see you, but I don’t feel you, and then try to enjoy the moment organically with my side-kick peace.
I’ve noticed that as I follow this path, how quickly things can become really great. I’ve realized as I adjust to this new perspective that I have a lot more control over my life than I ever thought I did. And every-time I refrain from matching aggression with aggression, it becomes easier to do the next time. That’s saying a lot for me, because I was raised on aggression: it was all I knew.
I’ve also started seeing troubled people beyond their outsides: looking at others beyond their socially unacceptable addictions and their quickly flared tempers. I see the truth: a lot of us haven’t healed from traumas that occurred so many years ago. A lot of men and women are walking around, still hurting as though the thing that hurt them as children just occurred. I have immense compassion and love for these souls. I was one of them.
The truth is we are all products of the past, and not many of us were raised with a daily dose of love. If we hold onto this internal animosity too tightly, it will inevitably spill over into every facet of our lives, and show its face in so many undesirable ways, all the while staying true to what it is at its core: fear.
We have more choices in our lives than we like to admit, not unlike those “Choose your own adventure” books I loved as a kid. Everyday we make choices. And when we make a choice, there is always an outcome. Why is that concept so hard for us to grasp? That we are responsible for where we are in our lives? I used to wildly (and aggressively) reject this belief. Up until a couple of years ago.
We have arrived at our current location because of a series of steps, a series of choices that we have made. Regardless of what happened to us, we can choose to use it as a tool of expansion, or we can allow it to stagnate our emotional evolution. We don’t have to take the past out on our kids; we don’t have to transfer the hate to our spouses. We don’t have to be hateful to others because someone else was hateful to us. We don’t have to let the hate win.
We can make a choice to live the rest of our lives wondering why, and blaming everything and everyone else for our pain, despite the fact that blaming someone doesn’t change the fact that the crappy situation occurred. Blame brings more fear and aggression to a situation that was already loaded with both. It’s like tattooing “long live hate” on your forehead.
We can also choose to assume power and control over our existence in this world, and challenge ourselves by using emotionally charged thoughts and situations as lessons. We can refuse to allow the energy from a past trauma rear its ugly head in the present day. We can work on refining our relationship with courage.
It’s what I’ve gotta do to find some peace in this (at times) muddled mind of mine. Who’s with me?
Today I did something outside of my comfort zone: I offered to help a stranger bring her newly purchased treasures from the thrift store to her car.
I felt really uncomfortable thinking about doing it, but something pushed the words out, and once I offered I was committed. We had a lovely chat as I walked beside her, down the street to her car, and with every step my anxiety subsided a little more, until it completely dissipated and all that was left was gratitude.
I was grateful that I pushed through my initial discomfort, and helped someone.
Now I’m here questioning why I felt so uncomfortable. My belief system dictates that it is entirely illogical to feel uncomfortable helping someone, but the physiological response doesn’t lie.
My mind wanders to the early years, which were focused on mercilessly serving oneself, and “fit in or be left behind” group-think. The egocentric thoughts and activities from the morning of my life clash with this drastically different idea of being of service. I’m assuming this rivalry is the root cause of the emotional discomfort I experienced.
I feel a little sad for the part of me that is living in the leftovers. Our past is like braille on our backs, reminding us of what we once were. The memories remind me that I am happier when I push beyond the familiar follow-the-crowd, safety-net way of living. Opening my eyes to an alternate approach, which focuses on ruffling my own feathers by challenging long-held beliefs, and creating space for new ones that serve a soul-growing purpose, is proving to be more productive and gratifying.
The lesson I see in today’s adventure: being of service is a good thing, and if I’m uncomfortable with it, then I need to do more of it.
Spend more time in unfamiliar territory. Turn the unfamiliar into the familiar.