It’s Important to Know Your Limitations

Limitations

When you navigate through life with direction and have a sense of self, sometimes you hit a wall.  The wall is unexpected and it can be maddening, but only if you try to break through the wall instead of just standing there in awareness of it, and then accepting that it’s there.  The wall can be anything, but mostly it’s a place where you are reminded that you are not invincible.  After a long run with tons of momentum, the wall presents itself, making it abundantly clear that you need to slow down and change things up a bit.  If you don’t do it, the universe will do it for you, and from experience, I’ve learned that the universe’s way of getting my attention is not usually subtle.  The wall is kind of subtle, so if you’re aware of it when it arises, then you can overcome it without too much of a struggle.

It’s good to know your limitations.  It’s not good to walk around the planet thinking you know everything.  Nobody knows everything.  I don’t care who you are.  Self-awareness isn’t about life always being simple and trouble-free.  It’s truly about knowing the circumstances and how you are feeling and being in acceptance of everything right here right now without trying to outsmart any discomfort that you feel.

Last night I was in a Restorative Meditation class, and the instructor kept bringing us back to our bodies, asking us to feel anything that may not be comfortable.  She kept returning us back to our bodies, although my mind was off in the distance.  Each time she brought us back to our bodies, I felt something I hadn’t noticed before.  We did a stretch that brought pain to the palms of my hands.  It was incredibly uncomfortable, but during that time, I wasn’t thinking about anything else except for the discomfort.  When I directed my attention to my uncomfortable hands, and then accepted that they were uncomfortable, I felt myself relax into the discomfort.  The weirdest thing was that I actually became grateful for that pain because it made me feel alive in that moment, and none of my thoughts had any momentum over that pain.  The pain was a gift because it brought me into focus.  I wasn’t trying to avoid the pain, or turn off the pain.  I simply accepted it and decided that I was not yet strong in that portion of my hands.  I didn’t judge myself for it.  How often do I lay upside down and hold my feet up in straps?  Never.  So, how could I build that muscle if I didn’t allow the pain and discomfort to overcome me while I was stretching that untrained muscle?

What muscle am I stretching right now in my real life?  I’m not certain.  I know one thing is for sure – I’m not comfortable at all.  I’m feeling things in my body, mind and emotions that feel a lot like a wall.  I feel a bit blank because I don’t have answers for myself right now.  I’m at a loss.  The good news is, I know this is nothing more than an opportunity to quiet down and be aware.  I don’t have to have answers, and I’m certainly not going to avoid the way I’m feeling – the rawness, the numbness, the blankness.  It’s not going to kill me.  I know nothing right now, thank god.  I just know there is a wall, and I am standing before it and it’s incredibly annoying.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I’m vulnerable.  I’m human.  I’m fallible.  That’s actually incredibly refreshing.  If I knew everything, life would be dreadfully boring.

We all have limitations.  It’s ok to admit this about ourselves.  There was a time in my life when I pretended to know what I was doing.  That got me nothing but a lot of unwanted wake-up calls.  When you get to a place where you are ok with feeling vulnerable, and perfectly fine with not knowing what the hell is going on, then you’re actually getting somewhere.  I may not feel like I’m getting anywhere right now, and that’s ok.  This is a good place to ask for help, or to accept advice, or to be open to receiving some clarity.  It’s not a time to beat myself up, or to shut down.  Somehow I’ll befriend this wall and the wall will become uncomfortable with my acceptance, so it will shift, and I will gracefully walk past it.  Until then, I’m in a place of not knowing anything, and for once in my life, that’s perfectly alright by me.

Being Positive Doesn’t Mean Painting Yourself Pink When You’re Feeling Olive Green

Think Positive

For some reason I found myself surrounded by a lot of negative thinking people when I was first out on my own as a sober person.  I kept running into skeptics and cynics, and it was difficult for me to understand how people could live with the attitude that life was pretty shitty.  I was the Yang of that Yin.  No matter where I went, however, I couldn’t get away from people who made me feel like I was in La La Land.  I was in Berkeley too, which I thought was more of a hippy-happy place, but no – people were pissed off and convinced that if you think positive, you’re being delusional.

I took this as a challenge and began looking at how I viewed things.  In treatment I learned to notice my emotions arising when other people were in my presence.  I learned to stop and feel my emotions rather than reacting from them.  I had been out of treatment for about four months by this time, and hadn’t even considered my emotions in situations yet.  I was walking around in a bubble of positivity, constantly being grateful for everything from top ramen to minimum wage paychecks, and trying to find the silver lining in everything.  The thing was, I felt really good most of the time, but I was also ignoring when I didn’t feel good.  So I began getting real with myself and I stopped painting things pink when they were actually olive green.

Yes I was grateful for both of my two jobs, but there were several things about work that I was unhappy about.  I began noticing those things.  I began feeling how annoyed I was half of the time, and also there were people I came into contact with who made me feel inferior.  I began feeling that insecurity out in myself.  When I was bored, I admitted to myself that I was bored.  When I wanted to throw chicken at an entitled customer’s ugly face, I felt the anger come up and allowed it to hang out with me.  No I didn’t react in my emotions, but I stopped lying about them.  After about a month I realized how negative I felt inside regardless of my positive attitude.  Sometimes life was just shitty, and I was finally willing to take that in and allow it to consume me once in a while.  But I will tell you what – that wasn’t going to work for me forever.  I had to find a way to balance the Yin and Yang out.  I wasn’t going to live on the opposite side of the spectrum now that I was getting honest with myself.  So I got quiet and began reading books on the subject.  What I discovered was that our whole entire experience of life is projected by how we think.  Our experience of life is induced by our emotions, and our emotions derive from what we think about.  Ah-ha!  The bottom line was that I needed to change my thinking in order to enhance my emotions so that the experience of positivity could be genuine.

This took me about a year, but I made the decision to do an experiment.  I was about to move into a new place where I rented a bedroom inside of an older house with a woman who I knew nothing about.  At first I was terrified of it being a wrong decision because I was leaving my recovery peers in order to learn to balance on my own two feet.  I had outgrown the need for “support” which wasn’t feeling like support anymore.  The only thing I went on was my gut, and my gut was telling me to make the move, although my brain was incredibly insecure about the whole thing.  Instead of buy into what my brain was telling me (that the carpet was not clean enough for me, that it was too small of a space, that I would lose touch with my peeps, etc…) I decided to change my thinking.  I had about nine months before my daughter would be moving back in with me.  I had nine months on my own.  This would be a perfect time to complete the manuscript that I was writing and spend some quality time getting to know my sober self in relation to the real world.  I had a simple life and I could either buy into my fears, or I could tap into the place of myself that I had been ignoring for years.  I could really dive into my writing and move forward with an attitude that life keeps getting better.  I decided that I would write that damn book and trust that when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in life, it just keeps getting better.  It did.

Instead of living on the surface of myself and of life, I began feeling everything.  I didn’t deny when I was afraid, which was often, but I also didn’t buy into the fear either.  I somehow developed the courage to walk through it, and life began feeling legitimately magical.  Great things began happening.  I was more motivated.  I felt more joy.  Positive people entered into my experience.  Within those nine months my life accelerated beyond anything I would have ever imagined.  Two years later, I am living a completely different lifestyle – the one I was dreaming about while living in that bedroom with the dirty carpet.

It really boils down to two things – fear and freedom.  You either buy into your fears about life, or you trust the deeper part of yourself that longs to be free from that overbearing fear.  If you buy into the fear, you’re going to be riding on unpredictable waves your whole life.  If you dive past the fear, you’re going to find freedom.

No, things are not perfect and yes, I do have bad days, but I continue forward marching with the attitude that life keeps getting better, and it does.  I am not lying to myself when I say this.  I am certain of it.  I know it to be true because my little experiment worked.  Instead of pretending that I don’t feel “negative” emotions, I acknowledge them and allow them to be with me, but then I change my thinking around situations by saying things like, “It’s going to be ok.  I’m always being guided.  I’m exactly where I need to be right now.  I’m loved beyond measure.  I’m going to move through this with ease.  Some days are better than others, and that’s ok.  Emotions are temporary.  They are not eternal.  Whatever I need is given to me at the exact right time, and right now I may need this challenge in order to grow.”  The inner dialogue has changed, and so has my life.  It’s getting better and better all the time.  My relationships with my family is so much healthier.  I have several friends now instead of acquaintances.  My job completely accommodates my needs and wants in life.  Both of my children live with me because they actually want to be around me.  That in itself is nothing short of a miracle.

It’s not about being positive and ignoring the negative, or searching for a silver lining in the grand scheme of life.  It’s about going deeper.  It’s about getting real with yourself.  If you are unhappy – admit that shit.  Feel that negativity so that it can move through your body.  Be aware of it, but then change your thinking around it so that things will transform for the better.  Accept things for what they are, positive or negative, but learn to smile with life.  It’s always changing – it’s constantly on the move.  The question is, can you move with it in ease, or are you going to resist it by ignoring what’s really going on with you?  Once you began acknowledging what’s really going on with you, the negative emotions begin clearing much quicker.  They simply want your attention.  They draw you in so that you remember yourself – so that you can rebalance and re-center yourself, instead of getting lost out there in the chaos of the world.