Just Be Who You Are (No Matter Who THEY Are)

Be You

The worst thing for any artist (I’m certain) is when you complete something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you look at it with the sudden realization that it’s crap.  I don’t think there is an artist around who doesn’t have a little voice in their head telling them that they suck, and once in a while taunting them to give up altogether.  It’s even worse if the artist has no other outlet.  Last week when I was considering no longer writing, the only thing that came to mind was to buy a surf board and call it a day.

It’s so weird and awkward to be faced with insecurities out of nowhere when you’ve moved along feeling quite secure.  You followed your gut, and everything felt so intense and right, so you went with it for months at a time, but you were kind of in your own world during that duration, and then you get out into the real world around people who seem to have something that you don’t have, and immediately you’re like, “I’m clueless.  I’ve been delusional this whole time, or naive, or perhaps just foolish.”  You stand there and feel like your legs have been kicked from beneath your torso, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to do with your hands.  I’m always looking around for napkins to shred in these situations.  So you go home and you take it all in, and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do now that I know I’m lacking everything.”  It sweeps over you for a few days, while confusion is poking at you to go down a different path.  I should be more literary and less visionary.  I should be more like her, or after the same things as him…  At middle age, you feel like you’re in high school again and you’re wondering which bridge is closest to home (Richmond or Golden Gate) so you can jump off, but you laugh at yourself for being so dramatic, just like in high school.  I’m just going to buy a surf board, you think.  And call it a day.  I have absolutely no place in this world.  Then you just stand there for a while not buying into the confusion.  By just observing it you realize that it’s really beneficial to see your insecurities, because those pockets of weakness inside yourself need some serious attention.  So you decide to be compassionate toward yourself and to not make any sudden decisions or changes.  There’s something brewing within.  You know it.  And because of this moment of terror, and facing the terror (rather than pretending it didn’t happen), you grow.  You grow stronger, wiser, a little more in tune with yourself.  You become a little more rooted in who you are, because you didn’t sway in the moment of confusion.  You just stood there and allowed it to sweep over you, like an oak tree standing tall and strong in a winter wind.  Some old branches got blown off, and you feel a little bit bare, but you’re still standing there.  Those old branches and leaves aren’t who you are.  They’re simply images that deflect the whole of you.  They often hide you, even from yourself, but when they get swept away unexpectedly, you get a good look at yourself, which is so beneficial, because you’re bigger and stronger than those parts of yourself that wither and die (the images).  You’re something of greater value, and though you can’t put your finger on what that is, (because it’s impossible to identify something so empty of identification) you know it’s significant and that you should spend more energy on that part of you, which is always growing and becoming stronger.  It’s beyond the illusions you put out to the world to help you fit in.  I think it’s good to know that you don’t always fit in, because it reminds you to root yourself into the ground, rather than showing off your leaves.

Artists are faced with doubt more than the average person because many of them are placing themselves out for scrutiny.  Opinions of other people about your work is so subjective, so it’s important to have a vision for where you’re headed and to not get lost in the maze of other people’s standards.  This applies in life as well.  I may work a menial job, which will be judge by certain individuals who have secured themselves a fabulous career, but I also know that it’s incredibly temporary.  I work the job to pay the bills.  My vision for my life goes way beyond the office.  So I can’t get caught up in the disapproval of other people.  Comparing our artwork to artists in a different genre, is foolish.  I mean, I get scoffed at once in a while by literary snobs who don’t think what I write is “real” writing, but half of them haven’t written a fraction of what I’ve written (I’ve prudently observed).  At least I’m putting my work out there, rather than just standing around and talking about my ideas for the book that I haven’t written yet, or making excuses for why I haven’t written anything.  I’m getting better each time I complete a manuscript.  Anyone who’s completed writing a book, knows the struggles, dedication, and hard work it takes to actually finish the job.  Those who have done it usually respect anyone who at least finishes writing a book, no matter the subject.  It’s admirable in any case, especially because you’re basically standing there naked for the world to see you (if they are that interested)… and that takes guts.  I think standing there with your guts hanging out says more about you than your artwork.  Your artwork is the leaves.   Your courage is the tree.

To actually stand there and have the courage to admit that you may suck, yet not giving up in the face of defeat, is like rooting yourself into the ground, shedding old leaves and spreading your branches out toward the sun a little bit farther.  When you are faced with these uncomfortable adversities, you’re challenged enough to keep becoming who you are deep down inside, rather than shallowly striving to be like everyone else.  Good for you.  You only spend moments with other people.  You spend a lifetime with yourself, so don’t let the world sway you.  When you feel shaken, root yourself in deeper, stand taller and let go of those leaves that no longer suit you.  Ask yourself if you’re missing something that you may want to work on from here on out.  Trust in the process of feeling confused and insecure once in a while.  That confusion and insecurity is giving you a good opportunity to look at yourself, and to recall your vision, and to see if you’re on track.  I think it’s good to remind ourselves that everyone feels insecure once in a while, but those who are great, strive not for greatness, but to merely be themselves.

Limbo is Only Good at a Party, Not So Much in Everyday Life

Limbo

The one game I am terrible at is Limbo.  Sadly, I’m not limber enough to limbo, but I’m talking of the physical game here, not the mental/emotional one.  I was the champion at the mental one, except it never got me anywhere (um… because the mental/emotional game of limbo keeps you stationary), so there was no true championship.  Reality limbo is like a stagnant river.  Everything just gets swirled into that one place of non-action until it eventually stops the flow, and begins stinking to high heaven.

On my morning run this week, I noticed a new sign sitting up on a chair at this shabby/chic store that I love.  It says, “WAKE UP AND BE AWESOME!”

Wake up and be awesome

I saw this after making the decision that I wasn’t going to waiver any longer when it came to making decisions.  I have spent the last several months wavering back and forth about so many things.  It has become incredibly exasperating.  I’m the kind of person who wants concise answers about things.  Just give me the damn bottom line.  Tell me what to, where to go, who to talk to (how not to pick up a drink).  Give me solid lines, man.  But something has changed for me since I’ve been in recovery.  I’m more about feeling my way through life, rather than thinking my through it, or making decisions based on logic.  And this is a huge shift for me because I’m an “all or none” type of individual, and when you’re feeling your way through things, lines can get kind of blurry.  I think this has been my problem lately.  Logic tells me one thing, and my gut tells me another.  So I’m in limbo, but when I made a decision earlier in the week to follow my gut, and then I saw this sign, it was like the bulb in my head ignited.  It’s not about what I do, really.  It’s about how I feel while I’m doing it.  If I make a decision to “feel awesome” per say (and I have made this decision, btw), then I’m focusing my energy inward, which will project (create) an outward physical reality that is pretty f-ing awesome.

It’s true.   We get caught up in physical reality because it’s solid, but we forget that there is a whole universe occurring right inside of us, which actually projects that physical reality.  If you’re not paying attention to yourself, life seems pretty random, but if you are self-aware, everything that unfolds before you is thoughtfully developed by your well-trained thoughts.  I have literally “thought” people out of my path by not thinking about them at all.  By basically telling the universe that I don’t want to have the experience I’m having with them, I’ve rid negative people out of my life.  I do it all the time.  I just don’t give attention to those people, or I give them direct attention to move it on out, and they go away.  I know I can do this with everything.  If I need more money, I focus on money coming in, rather than dreading what I don’t have right now.  If I want more friends, I open myself up to that experience, instead of basking in my loneliness.  We all have the power to create our experiences by focusing on what we do want in life.  The bottom line (ah… here it is), is that we essentially want to feel good.  In order to feel good, you have to have a positive attitude, no matter what’s occurring.  So what does this have to do with limbo?  Everything.

It’s all about waking up and saying, “I am going to feel awesome today.”  I’m going to put my all into whatever it is I’m doing.  If I made a decision to remain at my job, then I’m going to get focused and work hard.  If I made a decision to be in this relationship, then I’m going to give it my all.  If I made a decision to get out of this relationship, then I’m not looking back.  If I decide to lose twenty pounds this year, then I’m NOT going to screw around with sugar and carbs.  If I do binge out on Twinkies, then I’m going to feel guilty.  My goal is to feel awesome, so screw that Twinkie (do people even eat those things anymore?).

I know this is easier said than done, but if you’re focused on how you feel, rather than spending a great amount of time focused on physical reality results, then the results will reflect your awesomeness.  It truly will.  I know for a fact that I feel amazingly awesome after I finish writing a blog, or while I’m plucking away at another chapter in a book, so why would I study for a real estate exam in order to sell houses because that’s a more “logical” course of action?  For years I’ve gone back and forth with this.  The other day I was like, “You know what?  I don’t feel as awesome when I’m spending my energy on my real estate career, like I do when I’m writing a book.”  The only thing I truly care about is writing books.  Do they make a lot of money?  Not yet.  But I haven’t even given it a real shot because I’ve been in limbo this entire time.  I realize now that I haven’t focused my energy on my writing like I could.  Even if it takes me a decade to make a living writing, it is that worth it to me, because I feel so incredible while I’m writing.  Nothing else gives me that feeling of awesomeness.  You know what I’m saying?

So where am I placing my energy from here on out?  On this thing that makes me feel awesome.  I know (because of extensive experimenting and experience) that once I go for it, my physical reality will unfold to match my alignment with who I truly am.  This is a law of nature.  I may not end up a millionaire, or a homeowner, or a Tesla driver (not right away anyway), but I will definitely be a happier person, and I think I made the point that the way we feel, is so much more powerful than our physical reality (which will eventually reflect the way we feel).

If you’re in limbo about something (or several things), then take a moment and think about which direction makes you feel awesome.  If one way is a gamble, yet you feel exhilarated thinking about taking that chance, and the other way is you settling for less because it’s a much more comfortable decision, then go for the awesomeness.  You don’t have to give up everything on the comfortable side to follow the path of awesomeness.  You simply have to make a decision to place more of your energy toward feeling awesome.  At some point, that comfortable place will become uncomfortable and it will naturally fall away.  It all about where you place your focus, and your focus should always be within (or you will surely do without). (Right about now, my son would roll his eyes and shout, “Mom, stop saying AWESOME…”)

Getting Past the Physical and Emotional, Into the Eternal

Path of Light

Over the course of a couple of years, I keep running into parallel situations where I am confronted with circumstances beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  The circumstances are stressful beyond measure.  Two times, I could barely get out of bed because of the weight I harbored, but I reached out to my friends or family each time, who helped me find the strength to trust in the outcome.  What am I asking for in my life?  I have to reflect on this, knowing these situations are created by an inner desire for something.  I am of the understanding that I am the creator of my own life experiences.  The answer is that I want to move past some of my old ways of thinking, especially about money.  For years, I have “never had enough,” and in each of these situations, I’ve been stretched and pulled and contorted into a place where I’ve finally had to let go and trust that there would be enough, and there always has been more than enough in each of these situations, although in the moment, I would have never guessed that I would be even better than ever, if I merely looked past what was right in front of me, and how I felt at the time.  The one thing I did not do was go down a dark path of thinking.  I acknowledged my fears, but did not get caught in their trap, and I know now, that this is key in overcoming the most difficult situations.

I find myself almost laughing today because here I sit with another circumstance that has me mentally contorted.  My roommate is basically bailing on her responsibility for the remainder of our lease.  We have seven more months on our lease and rent where I live is not cheap, which is why I got a roommate in the first place.  I can’t exactly get another roommate because of the way our apartment is set up.  It would have to be with a close friend or family member because of the space.  My roommate was like family, so it worked out okay, but I cannot replace her, nor do I really want to at this point.  My children and I need our own space, and none of my family lives near here, so it’s not like I can offer anyone close to me a place to live.  I’m on my own now.  Suddenly.  Just got an income increase two weeks ago, and a week later, my roommate tells me she can’t pay the rent.  Kind of ironic, and yes it’s a blessing about the income increase, but how incredibly scary and frustrating.  I was going to buy a laptop with that extra money so that I could work from home. Now I’m spending that extra money (and some) to pay the rent.  So much for the laptop… (but, wait)…

Yesterday I was riding with the Realtor I work with as his Transaction Coordinator.  We were going to look at a historic house that is going on the market with the two other Realtors I work with, as their Transaction Coordinator.  During the drive, he asked how I was holding up with the “roommate situation.”  I told him that I was bummed because I needed to buy a laptop with the extra money, so that I could work from home.  He knew that I was looking at laptops just a week prior. The device that I was using was a tablet, and it was quirky with some of the online systems we use, so it was taking me several hours to do what would normally take a half hour on a PC.  We were on the way to his house to grab some signs.  He just bought a device like mine, but newer, so he mentioned that he had a laptop just sitting around collecting dust.  He grabbed it when he got to his house, bag and all, and plopped it on my lap.  “Here you go.  All you need to do is erase all my crap.  It’s a good laptop.”  I opened the HP and was surprised to see that it was in great condition.  I’m using it now and it’s faster than my device, plus much more convenient.  It is everything I need to work from home, and it has all the bells and whistles that my device doesn’t have.  Sure, I would love to have a brand new system, but I didn’t have to pay a dime and I got something handed to me faster than I could have done research on what to purchase.  This is how life unfolds for me.  What I need is provided.  When I ask, I receive.  When I let go, things fall right into place.

I don’t exactly know how I’m going to manage the next few months without feeling overwhelmed, but from experience, I know that it will all work out.  My roommate situation wasn’t exactly convenient like I had hoped anyway.  There were several issues, and I wasn’t happy the way things were, so having her move out is a very positive thing, emotionally.  Usually when you remove negativity from your life experience, it makes way for more positive things to come into fruition.  I’ve noticed that when I am emotionally tired, or stressed or frustrated, it is difficult to write, but when I am at peace, the writing flows.  Other things flow better too, like money, and good relationships with like-minded people.

One of my very close friends got really angry in empathy for me when I explained what was going on with my roommate.  I was too drained to take on any anger at the time, nor did I want to sink into my frustration like that.  It just takes too much energy, but it also reminded me that I’m no longer caught up in the physical appearance of things like I used to be.  I am aware that something greater is unfolding for me and my children.  It isn’t apparent yet, and it is scary as hell, but I truly have no control.  This is all beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  After my friend had his fit of anger (which was really entertaining, btw) he told me something he had told me once before a couple of years ago while I was going through something similar.  “The universe won’t let you fall,” he gently said.  This was after I mentioned that if I couldn’t make it, I would be okay.  It isn’t the end of the world if I have to start from square one again, but he assured me that the universe won’t let me fall because I’m doing everything I can to take care of business and keep a roof over our heads.  I knew he was right, so I relaxed into the couch (thank god it’s mine) feeling very grateful for his affirmation.

We all want life to be a certain way and to unfold at a certain time.  From tons and tons of experience with sudden changes, my life rarely goes according to how I want it to go, or in my timing, but I have also grown incredibly strong and wise during my journey.  I don’t have control over most things, but I certainly have control over myself.  I have control over how I think, what my vision is, who I hang around with and how I respond to circumstances.  I have control over what is important to me and identifying those things that are not a priority.  My journey has been more about me than it has been about the outside world.  In the meantime, I’ve grown closer to my children, my friends, and my family, and I have a very good working relationship with the several Realtors I assist.  I am so incredibly fortunate to live in the area I live, collaborating with down-to-earth people, and that I have a positive outlook, rather than a negative one.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I can improve in many areas of my life, but I know that when I focus on that which is beyond the physical and the emotional, the knots in my life work themselves out.  If I need help, I ask.  If I need a friend to talk to, I reach out.  If I need support, I go to a meeting.  If I’m overwhelmed to the point of feeling paralyzed, I turn it over to the great HP and focus on being of service to another human being.  There is an eternal place with an abundance of grace.  This is where I go when the skin meets the pavement in my life.  This is the space where I am set free from the burdens of everyday uncontrollable circumstances.

Dealt a Bad Hand of Cards? The Good News Is… We All Were

Hand of Cards

A friend of mine was telling me about a woman who died of heartache after her son committed suicide.  He placed part of the blame on her in the note he wrote before killing himself.  Sadly he was in such a poor state of mind, that he probably didn’t realize his words would destroy his mother.  Even if he did do it intentionally at the time, it was not an act of good reasoning.  He wrote something and reacted to life during the moment it was eating him alive.  I don’t know anything about him, but I know from experience that life can feel like it’s swallowing you whole at times, especially if you are suffering in addiction or with mental illness.  I don’t know if this young man was, but he certainly felt like a victim.  His mother, in turn, succumbed to his victimization.

I recall a time in my life when I felt like I was dealt a hand of shitty cards, and was pissed that I was stuck with them.  Instead of playing them, I threw them down and ran away from the table (a.k.a. life – myself).  I had no idea at the time, how strong, sharp, courageous, or creative I was.  I also had no clue about something very significant, that I understand now.  I was not only the player holding this hand of cards, but I was also the dealer.  Everyone sitting around that card table of life, was me in another form.  Everyone at the table is playing a role and most of us are bluffing without even knowing it.

When we’re born, we immediately wake up in this plane of reality surrounded in circumstances.  Some of us are lucky to be born in a loving home under a nice roof in a country that’s basically free, while others are not so lucky.  Either way, it’s how you think about things that determine your experience.  There are self-destructive addicts that come from a loving home in a free country, and there are brilliant people who are changing the world for the better, who have derived from poverty and abuse.  It’s not the circumstances that mold the outcome of your life.  It’s how you think and how you respond to your experiences that create your life.  If something terrible happened to me today, and I was thrown in prison, I could either go in there as a victim and mold myself into the negativity, or I could make the best out of the situation and remain a positive influence on the other women.

We always have a choice in life.  It’s not just a hand of cards that we are dealt.  It’s knowing that the hand is an opportunity to be strategic and willing to play the game.  Any of us can fold at any given time. Most of us carry on and hope for the best, but what if you knew something that other people don’t know about the game?  What if you realize that you are the one dealing the cards, and you understand that this whole experience is all a bluff?  What if you wake up one day with the same shitty hand of cards and you pay more attention to your anger about the cards, than dwelling on the cards themselves?  What if you look at the cards you are dealt, along with the smirks on the faces of the other players, and you suddenly know your agony?  What happens then? You wake up. You realize the game is a farce.  It’s a set up.  It’s set up to piss you off, to make you feel like a victim, to break you down, and to finally turn you inward.  It’s here to make you figure out something beyond the game.  There are hints along the way, but we get so caught up in the game that we completely lose ourselves.  We forget what we are constantly dealing with, which has nothing to do with other players, or the cards (the circumstances).  These are all merely reflections of something greater.  When you get this, you can either continue playing the game with a smile on your face, knowing it’s all a bluff, or you can stand up at the table (life), take a bow for your performance in the game, and move on with the understanding that you can now create whatever it is you want from here on out.  You aren’t stuck at that table.  You have a choice to move along to new experiences, but first you must recognize yourself in every aspect of each experience you are having, and in each person you meet.  Then an only then will you understand that you have never been a victim of a bad hand of cards.  You were simply the dealer disguising yourself as a frustrated player, in order to wake up and realize that you are truly the dealer.

I know a lot of people that succumb to an idea that life is filled with adversity in order to remind us that there is a god, and that we can count on him.  That’s part of it.  It’s always good to know that there is a bigger picture, but it’s better to know that you have a responsibility while you are here.  If you throw your hands to God and decide to suffer because you think it’s “His will,” then you aren’t fully getting it.  The idea is to overcome your suffering by understanding that this whole gig is a set up to discover your freedom.  The suffering is like a bad hand of cards.  When you notice your suffering, rather than the bad hand of cards, then you are getting somewhere.  That somewhere is the place that you came here to discover.  It feels like home, because it is.

There is nothing outside of yourself that is more brilliant or better off than what you’ve brought to the table.  No one else’s hand of cards are better than yours.  It only appears that way so that your frustration emanates something very clear.  When you realize what you’ve brought to the table, you understand that the cards were merely a tool along your journey of self-discovery, and you’ll get up and thank all those players in your life who were bluffing to show you the way to yourself.  Most people remain caught up in the game.  Let them be.  Now that you know, you are set free.

From A-Z Why Recovery is Easier than Addiction

Ultimate Freedom

Acceptance and Awareness

Better perception of reality

Clarity

Doing what you dig

Experiencing emotions

Freedom from fear

Growth (mental, emotional, spiritual)

Having choices

Intelligent decisions

Just being yourself

Kindness toward yourself and others

Laughing comes easier

Mindfulness

No hangovers

Open to life

Playfulness

Quiet mind

Restful instead of restless

Surrendering to what you have no control over

Terrific sleep

Unity with yourself and others

Valuing yourself

World opens up for you

X marks the spot for new beginnings

You (underneath all those layers)

Zeal for life

What Begins with WHY and Ends with YOU?

Quick fix

In high school, I recall wanting to lose a bunch of weight quickly, but a doctor told me I would have to eat right and exercise for the best results.  I was angry with the doctor because I wanted a pill to do all the work for me.  Eventually, ephedra was hot on the market, and there I had my quick fix.  I lost the 40 extra pounds I’d been carrying most of my life, and while I took the pills, I remained quite thin.  The worst part about it was that I could eat like a pig and not gain a pound, so I developed terrible eating habits while using ephedra.  Eventually the FDA took the pills off the market because there were a few reported deaths due to heart attacks.  I was more than willing to put my life on the line to take those pills and remain a size four, but I would either have to accept my natural size ten, or figure out a way to keep the weight off organically.  There is nothing on the shelves that will melt the pounds away and keep them off.  Eating right and exercise is the only sustaining answer, so I had to change my mindset.

This last year, after three years of recovery, I have slowly lost weight that I gained while drinking.  It has taken me six months to lose ten pounds.  That sound dreadful, I know, but at least the habit of eating right and a daily exercise routine is something I have been able to maintain, not to mention that my self-esteem has increased, because doing the hard work has made me feel good about myself.  If I can’t look in the mirror and accept myself for what I am right now, then there is a lot more work to do simply than a diet.  More than anything, I want to be healthy, feel good and live a long life.  If it takes me three more years to lose another ten or fifteen pounds, I’ve got the patience now.  I know it will stay off because I’m not using a quick fix, and I fundamentally feel good about myself for once.

This morning I read an article about a vaccine for heroin addiction – a pharmaceutical that will block the cravings.  This is another one of America’s short term answers to a fundamental problem in the culture.  This drug could literally increase the usage of heroin.  I mean, my old addict thinking is like, “Cool.  Now I can try heroin because if I get addicted, I can go to the doctor to stop the cravings…”   (Yeah, that’s how sick I am on an addict level).  There are no sustaing quick fixes in life.  As pioneers, we Americans are also incredibly backwards.  We work ourselves to the bone to maintain a standard of living, and then drug ourselves into zombies in order to maintain that standard of living.  None of it is fulfilling, and there is way too much pressure in our society.  We’ve got to turn this around on a fundamental level.

When I was twenty-seven, I already had been married for six years, birthed two children, and maintained a stressful career for nine years.  I got the children ready in the morning, did all the laundry, kept my house in tip top shape, cooked dinner most of the time, and cleaned up afterward.  I was doing what I thought was “normal,” but I was miserable.  I got through it with ephedra and alcohol.  We all know how that ended.  My husband was fighting his own demons at the time, trying to contort his natural way of being, into a standard American husband model.  We both failed greatly.  I don’t know how most people do it without going insane, especially if they are doing it sober.  All of that keeping up with the Jones’ nonsense, felt like I was twisting my soul inside out and then flushing it down the toilet.  To make things worse, some people made this lifestyle look incredibly easy, and the pressure from outside people, was terrifically constricting.  I didn’t know anything about what I wanted in life, yet I was molding myself into something completely opposite of who I truly was.  I’m an explorer, not a homebody.  I’m creative, not regiment, like my career required of me.  I’m also not keen on committed relationships.  I cried a lot back then.

It takes a lot of courage to discover yourself, and all your defaults of character on a fundamental level, but some of us don’t have a choice.  For some reason (perhaps a deal I made with the gods before I was born), I couldn’t ever drink myself to death, so the only solution for me was to figure out how to live my life sober without being completely miserable.  Nearly four years later, here I am sober and happy.  My lifestyle is nowhere near what it was in my twenties.  It certainly doesn’t live up to the American standards, but I am fulfilled.  I took the time to find out who I was.  I explored myself and the world around me enough to know that I’ve got dreams, and hopes and yearnings.  To ignore those, is futile for me.  I have nightmares of people telling me, “You have a calling to be a pianist in a church…” blah blah blah.  (You might as well stick a needle in my arm and call it a day).  God, the last thing I need is people deciding what’s best for me, yet that’s what I did until my late twenties.  Thank the gods for my rebellious nature.  It eventually did me a world of good.

I truly believe that there are people who have naturally addictive personalities, just like there are those who are naturally hyper.  I call that “excess energy.”  It simply needs to be channeled.  Put an addict to work on something they love, and you will see passion.  That extra energy simply needs to be focused.  Most people who have an addictive personality, are incredibly ingenuitive.  You can’t put a bird in a cage and expect it to forget about flying.  I hate seeing birds in cages.  It’s awful.  It reminds me of a creative mind being forced to learn algebra.  (Kill me now…)

There is no quick fix to a fundamental problem.  We need to teach our children how to channel their creative energy into what they’re passionate about.  If they are drawn to horses, we shouldn’t direct them toward tap dancing just because that’s our dream.  If another family has all their children in sports and your child doesn’t like sports, don’t force them to be in sports.  It’s a dangerous thing we’re doing by keeping up with the Jones.’  If you hate working nine-to-five, find a way to make a living more creatively.  The good thing about America is that we have a lot of choices.  We shouldn’t settle, and we should never stop exploring.  It is not human nature to be stagnant.

I feel like there are many people who are fundamentally unhappy, and rather than taking the time to explore ourselves, we quick fix it.  Many people don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, but they eat to fill a void.  This is so common.  Other people are chronic relationship chasers.  Listen, we all have an inner void.  It’s there for a reason.  Explore the void, rather than trying to fill it.  It takes less time to enter into that void than it does to fill the void.  You can never fill the void because it isn’t a void at all.  It’s your inner-self needing your full attention, and it gets louder and louder until you acquaint yourself with it.  We need to learn to sit quietly with ourselves, and to be uncomfortable once in a while without trying to numb the discomfort.  We all have traumas and pains and sorrows.  They are there to assist us in our spiritual development, but if we ignore them or numb them, then we end up even more miserable for a longer period of time.

Self-love is the answer to this backwards thinking society, but not on a topical level.  We need to go deep.  It doesn’t take as long as we fear, and the journey is incredible.  The bottom line is that if you’re unhappy, you can turn it around, but you need to do the work.  Admitting it is the first step.  If you can do that, then you’re already brave.  You also need to be courageous and willing.  And if you can’t muster the courage up, think about the end of your life and reflect on what it’s going to feel like if you didn’t make an effort.  If you spend your life trying to impress other people, how is that going to add up in the end?  It’s not worth it.  We are responsible for what we do, who we hang out with, how we feel and where we are headed.  There is no one or nothing that can pump you full of self-esteem.  It takes work, and time, but it’s worth it because the journey is truly fulfilling.  Along the way you realize what you’ve been missing all along, which is incredibly profound.  I won’t give it away, but it begins with Y and ends with U!

Encouragement for Transformation in the New Year

Trans

And we do not know what we are looking for,

Until we come again to our beginning… 

Robert Lax from Circus of the Sun

There is something significant about feeling lost once in a while. For me, it’s a reminder that I have no control over anything, which is good because when I try to be in control, I’m bound to make a terrific mess. This new year, there was a lot on my mind, and a discomfort that I can only describe as slow inner torture, overcame me to the point that I had to sit unnervingly with it. There the terror emerged, flopped around inside my gut, agitated me to the point of tears, and then gave me insight that wouldn’t have come if I would have carelessly numbed it out with a drink. While I sat with the discomfort, I thought the suffering would never cease, and this was the point at which my fear took over and told me that it was necessary to drink, because there was no other way out of my misery. Thank the gods for that vivid tape I play in my mind of my old self, who used to heed to that mocking fear. She ended up in even worse misery than where she began in the first place. There is no way out of misery except to embrace it. In the words of the beloved poet and sage, Rumi, “The cure to pain is the pain.” Yes, it is true.

Today, doctors will give you something to numb the anxiety, which may seem like a perfect answer in the middle of an emotional crisis, but as a person in recovery I have to ask myself if this is the way to go. From a spiritual perspective, life is not always comfortable, especially when inner growth is occurring. The problem doesn’t lie in the discomfort itself, but in the resistance of it. We are a fast food thinking society, conditioned to eclipse our pains and moods with pills, rather than learning a very natural process called healing. What a concept – to heal, rather than to anesthetize our inner conflict. But during the conflict, it is almost impossible to conceive that this is simply a spiritual rebirth, which is terribly confusing and constricting. It takes a great amount of faith and courage to accept the agony, but it is necessary if we are truly in recovery. During these times you just have to know that your soul wants to play its role here, and if it’s not able to emerge, it’s going to make things very uncomfortable. I have to constantly ask myself if I am in my natural state of “being,” or if I’m being bounced around by outside conditions. I am very sensitive, so I must be careful with moving too quickly in the world, or becoming stagnant. Either one of these things will send me into an emotional spiral. I am certain most of you in recovery can relate to me here. We need to keep aware of ourselves, so that we don’t lose ourselves during times of spiritual development.

I got through the agony because I surrendered to it, but it wasn’t easy, and I also know that it won’t be the last time I go through this sort of spiritual discomfort. It’s a good practice to journal during moments like these, so that we can refer to something when we experience it again. We tend to forget that life has its ups and downs and spirals. It is ever-changing and so are we. Becoming spiritually aware and emotionally mature is a bitter process, but it doesn’t last forever. The last thing we should do is numb it out. We should always ask for help when we need it, which I did. I had to lean on friends this last month, more so than I have to in a long time. Today I’m feeling anew after weeks (or probably months) of discomfort. It was worth it to not take a drink. I’m so glad I didn’t, but man, the old alcoholic self really wanted one. What have I learned from this process? That I really need to let go of all the things I want, and trust that there is a guidance system in place for my life while I am here. My soul wants to emerge and shine and play its role here. I do not have a clue as to what that role is. I really don’t, but I know that when I let go of trying to figure things out, clarity comes rushing in, whether it’s through dreams, or from the mouths of my friends. I get to experience the magic of simply surrendering and saying, “Damn, I have no control, and I’m letting go now. I’m giving the universe the reigns of my life because I know from past experience that I will be nurtured, guided and protected during this process. The discomfort is temporary.”

Do what you have to do to nurture yourself when life is difficult. It’s important that you stop everything and just ask yourself what you need, rather than extending yourself even more. I finally did this, and after one day, I feel myself centered again. By simply taking time to honor my own being, I received clarity and balance. I should have done this sooner. The other thing is when you feel lost in the world, or misplaced, don’t try to figure things out. Just surrender. When I did this, some interesting people came into my experience whom I wouldn’t have expected. Two of them told me the same exact thing on the same day. “You need to be your own best friend.” They said this when I told them that I feel like I’m lacking any mentors or support, or guidance in my life. “Be your own best friend.” What a concept. The third person who came into my experience was a comedian and motivational speaker, Michael Pritchard. He spoke at our office meeting yesterday. I rarely go to these meetings, but it’s the beginning of a new year, and I heard he was good. He spoke of happiness and how to collaborate with people, rather than to compete with them. He works with children and inspires them to live from their hearts. While I sat there listening to him, I realized that he’s doing exactly what I want to do. I had been wondering what I wanted to do. Now I know. It’s very clear. He works in my county, so the first thing I did was email his foundation and find out how I can volunteer. There are always signs pointing us in the right direction. You simply have to be aware, open, and willing. Sometimes you’ve got to get out there and talk to people, and ask for help along the way. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s imperative.

So in a very short amount of time I went from floundering, to feeling centered. That’s a huge shift. It was a very transformational new year for me, although it wasn’t anything that I would have planned for myself. It would have been easy to cave and give up. That’s for sure, but I kept thinking about people in life who have it worse, and those who never give up.

Never give up. Continue moving forward. Find a reason to get out of bed, even it is simply to feed your cat. Sometimes you have to push yourself a little bit, or a lot, and most of the time, you need to be your own best friend, your own support, your own motivation, and your own nurturer. If you do this for yourself, the world will follow suite.

My New Year resolution is simply to let go, and also to try new things, meet new people and volunteer somewhere. Sometimes you have to give what you don’t feel you have in order to receive what you need. Life is cyclical. Once you give, you open yourself up to receiving. Usually all we are ever looking for when we feel lost, is ourselves. So if you feel lost, or out of control, don’t go numbing it out with a drink, or distracting yourself through another human being. Simply let go and know that the universe surrounding will return you to center, if only you listen and watch for the arrows pointing you toward the right direction. In time you will see that the arrow is pointing right at you. With love for the New Year – J. L. Forbes

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI

Embracing Your Quirks Along with Your Qualities

We all have sides to ourselves that we don’t like.  I don’t want to know or admit that I can be moody, or argumentative.  I want to believe that I am incredibly balanced, super zen, and supremely centered.  The truth is, I can be those things, but I also deal with bouts of anxiety followed by terrible panic attacks.  I grow restless sometimes.  I get irritable.  I still have moments where anger comes up for me, and there is a dark side of myself that doesn’t rear its head often, but it’s undoubtedly there.  I’m human, you know?  And we all are, so rather than trying to rid ourselves of the parts of ourselves that we don’t exactly like, or trying to pretend that we are all that, we should be willing to accept our quirks and learn how to look at them without judgment.

Without judgment?  Yes, without judgment.  There are so many parts of myself that I wish I could change, and I’m constantly working on myself, but I still mess up in life and say the wrong things to people, or get trapped in gossip sessions.  I am not consistently serene.   Every day has its challenges – and people, places and things often pull me in ways and bring out dark parts of myself that I didn’t even know still existed.  I surprise myself at how balanced I can be in certain settings, and also how unglued I can become in other situations, but there is no need for alarm.  If we begin accepting the stuff we don’t like about ourselves, we learn to laugh, rather than scorn ourselves for those things.  Laughter can alleviate the negativity, and it will transform a heavy situation into something more palatable.  Life is life.  It’s difficult.  On top of all of life’s unpredictable nuances, we have moods and stresses that push and prod us, often without our permission.  It’s ok that we are quirky and moody and sometimes unfiltered.  I think the best thing we can do is be self-aware and when we feel like we’ve made a mistake, or when we overstep our boundaries, we simply need to take a step back, re-evaluate and take responsibility.

I think the most difficult situations are when we screw up and we take responsibility, yet another person is affected and does not accept our apology.  When someone else judges us for our quirks, or for our mistakes, it makes it difficult not to judge ourselves, but we still need to learn to let go of what other people are harboring about us.  Most of us are doing our best, and sometimes we are caught off-guard in life.  If this affects someone else and you’ve said your apologies to no avail, then the only thing you can do is let go and move on, and allow that person to have their experience, or to cut you off if that’s what they choose to do.  Beating yourself up never does anyone any good.  Life is way too short to spin out about things you cannot change.  Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, trust that you are unconditionally loved and always being guided.  Let go.  It’s ok.  Life goes on and you’re allowed to make mistakes here.  Earth is a playground of learning experiences.

I read this cute thing online the other day that some people call taking one step forward and two steps back, a “setback,” while some of us call that a “cha-cha.”  I really liked that.  It’s true.  As a recovering alcoholic, I have overcome challenges that I thought I would never overcome in this lifetime, but once in a while that old addict returns out of nowhere and wreaks havoc within me.  I cannot help this.  It’s just part of who I am as a person in recovery.  I am certain that I will deal with this for the remainder of my life, and when it comes up, I have to sit with it and talk about it and stare it in the face, but I can no longer judge it, because it is part of my own humanness.  The one thing I know is that I have beat it before.  I have moved through the cravings and the restlessness and the negative thoughts with flying colors, so when these things arise, I know there is light on the other side.  I don’t hate myself because of my challenges.  I learn to cha-cha with them without resistance.  It’s a fun little dance, you see?  It’s good when these things come up for me because it’s a reminder that I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.  I certainly do not want to go backward, but I am in no way, shape or form at a point of arrival.  We just keep moving forward and picking ourselves up when we fall, and laughing at ourselves for being so human.  Life is not asking you to be perfect.  It’s simply asking for your participation.

Don’t dwell on the negative stuff about yourself.  Just let it be there and observe it, and know that it’s something you can work on, but don’t ever buy into an idea that you’re less-than or not worthy.  Have compassion for yourself and move forward, regardless of how other people judge you.  We all here doing this thing called life, which is not in the least bit easy.  The challenges are set before us for our personal growth.  It doesn’t matter what other people think.  What matters is that you continue moving forward and taking responsibility and trying.  Don’t ever give up on yourself.  Surround yourself with people who care about you, and let go of those that don’t.  You will never please everyone, and not everyone is going to accept you.  The most important thing is that you accept yourself in all of your variations.  Keep the cha-cha in mind, and embrace all that you are.  If you can laugh at yourself, no one else will have power over you.

Which Portion of Myself am I Supposed to Listen to Anyway? (The Conundrum of Humanity)

Heart and Mind

A couple of years ago I freaked my (at the time) fifteen year old son out by telling him something like, “Everyone’s minds are sick and twisted.  We all have messed up minds.”  His response was “Oh that’s just great,” as if to say that he didn’t have a chance in life – Like an “I should give up now,” sort of conclusion, but I wasn’t finished explaining myself.

“Son,” I continued, “what I mean is that our minds are like a labyrinth and if you stop and listen to it, you will see that it carries on and on and, sometimes takes you to terrible places.  Your thoughts are nuts if you really stop and listen to them, but YOU are not your thoughts.”

This is about the time my children’s eyes begin glazing over and I have to sum up the wisdom I’m about to embark upon them so that they don’t fade off not knowing what I’m trying to teach them.  (Oh, btw, I have a twelve year old daughter too).

“YOU are an incredible being, who goes way beyond your mind.  You have a brain, and a heart, which also thinks, has a magnetic field surrounding it…” (oops, losing him)… “and scientists are now discovering that the heart is also a brain, but it is so intelligent of a brain, that it does not operate by logic.  It is the brain of intuition that knows all, sees all, and holds compassion rather than judgment…”  Ok, so I’ve lost my son by now, but have I lost my adult audience here?

Now, my children tune me out a lot, but the proof of my own sense of who I am (the heart person, not the brain person), is strongly reflected through their trust in me, and them knowing that I’m solid in myself.  When it all boils down to it, my two children know that I am the real deal.  There is an underline “no-nonsense” rule with me (after several years of recovery).  I no longer buy into the bullshit of my mind, and sometimes when I’m going there, they observe me moving through it quickly.  This isn’t to say that I’m some super-human saint, because I’m absolutely not.  It’s simply that when it comes down to it, I am able to tap into that greater place of myself that knows all, sees all and holds compassion rather than judgment.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and lie.  I certainly DO judge people.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t.  But the difference now, is that I know when I’m doing it, and I can finally take a step back and re-navigate from that greater place.  It’s an ongoing process.  I’m constantly reminding myself to stop judging, to trust in something greater than what my mind is telling me is true (i.e. there is no way I can achieve success without following certain rules of society…), to trust in the balance and abundance of the universe, and to follow my gut rather than buying into my confining fears.  This magic of life is all understood by my heart, which is where we all began in the first place.  The first thing that we are in this human form (besides the cells and membranes and such) is a beating heart.  Our brains do not develop until long after our hearts develop.  I remind myself of this when my clever little brain goes off into the maze of maddening reason, which is essential for problem solving in a pinch, but overall, I yearn to experience the fullness of my life, rather than spending time in the prison of my mind where I can make a conundrum out of the beauty of a flower.

I think a lot, but lately I’ve been learning to drop down into that greater place of myself which feels. When I am in the presence of another human being, I am listening more to my own emotions arising now than I am the words they are saying to me.  I am curious to know what they are reflecting within me.  I’m drawn to people who get under my skin, and also to those that bring out the best in me.  What is that about?  Why do some people pull out my negativity, while others bring out my unconditional love?  It’s so interesting to me (but here I go thinking again)…

The bottom line is that we have a constant choice to navigate our lives through our ingenious minds, or through our precious heart center.  There is a HUGE difference in how life unfolds when you begin operating from your heart center.  These two are incredibly opposing forces within you.  The mind is consumed with lust (for things, people, desires…), while the heart is filled with love.  The mind rejects, while the heart accepts.  The mind holds on, while the heart let’s go.  The mind sees limitation, while the heart is boundless in nature.

You cannot tell me that we are constantly being pushed and pulled from the outside by a devil with a pitchfork, and a god who lives way out in the cosmos somewhere.  All of this angel/devil stuff is innate within us.  It’s the mind vs. the heart.  It’s the challenge within ourselves that we all have to face – and at some point, embrace. We all come here with these two opposing forces within us and hopefully we leave this place from the same beautiful facet of ourselves where we began – the heart. The mind will take you on a psychotic journey, but the heart will keep you present, and that’s the whole point of this blog today.

If you want to be present, drop down into your heart center.  That’s where you truly exist and who you truly are.  That limitless, intuitive, all-knowing, accepting, unconditional loving, source of energy.  This is who we all are deep down inside.  There are no exceptions, so stop thinking you are better than dude standing next to you in line, and pay attention to your source of navigation.  Be aware of YOU, rather than getting lost in that maze of yours up there. And the amazing thing is, the instant you catch yourself in the prison of your mind, you can immediately drop down into that limitless place of yourself. No religious guilt involved, you see. Let go. Be free. Stand in the wholeness and vastness of who you truly are by navigating from your precious heart. YOU hold the key to your own experience of your life. Now isn’t that refreshing?

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.