What a Difference a Day Makes

There is good to be found in many things initially not seen in that light. I woke up about 4am Thursday morning with a nasty stomach virus that kept anything from staying down until about 6pm last evening. Between a fever, body aches all over and many trips to the bathroom my life was devoid of peace for over twelve hours.

This morning I feel weak and out of it, but the storm is over. Nothing makes me appreciate good health like having the flu or something of the sort. It’s the feeling bad that makes me appreciate feeling good when the latter returns.  Being temporarily sick is humbling and a reminder that many people suffer from illness and will not recover in a day or two as I will.  I have always been healthy and my adventure yesterday was a pointed reminder to appreciate my good health.

Short and to the point, I am very grateful the worst of the sickness is over and to be feeling better today. Wow! What a difference a day makes.

The greatest wealth is health.
Virgil

If you have health, you probably will be happy,
and if you have health and happiness,
you have all the wealth you need,
even if it is not all you want.
Elbert Hubbard

There is something in sickness
that breaks down the pride of manhood.
Charles Dickens

We All Feel the Same Pain

There can be a thousand people in a room with only two dysfunction ones
and they will find one another. They’re attracted like magnets to each other
because they see them self in the other person
.

A psychologist once said that to me and from experience I know it’s true.  ‘Likes’ attract, even dysfunctional ones, just like the cartoon above I clipped a few years back and came across last week.

So what is a dysfunction relationship? A partnership that does not work well because of emotional baggage that has been brought into a relationship by one or both partners (more often than not, both!). While anger or dissatisfaction may be what is outwardly apparent, the inner core is almost always fear that originates from old emotional wounds.

If a relationship is not contributing to your emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being, it is NOT functional. And if it is not functional … over time, it will manage to break your spirit, if you don’t manage it! From http://www.broken-relationship-help.com

The reality of life is most people grew up in a family that was dysfunctional to some degree, so there is nothing to be ashamed of. In some regard just about all of us learned unhealthy ways of being and relating when we were kids. Face that junk and work through it or else you’ll keep attracting people who at first seem like they complete you or fix you (neither of which is even possible). The scary thing is you won’t even realize you need to be healed until the healing begins.

I have a way to go in “growing myself back up” but I have come far in recovering from “issues” rooted in my childhood. I am happy, hopeful and grateful to be where I am today.

Everyone is dysfunctional.
The most dysfunctional people are the ones
that refuse to admit they are!
Why have we all been wearing a mask
and hiding when we all feel the same pain?!   
Melanie Tonia Evan

Think Low and Think High

All my adult life I have bumped into conclusions made logically by scientists and researchers that say a person’s creativity peaks when they are young. There is no real consensus on how young this happens. Hypotheses vary from those who say eighteen months to others asserting peak creativity happens around twelve just before puberty.

The theories are that creativity is at its highest level when young while we “don’t know better” and have not been conditioned by reason and conformity. This way of thinking says in order to coexist with other people we learn to follow the rules and adhere to certain values (which are usually more about what you can’t do that what you can).  The result is creativity has to be placed into a straight-jacketed so we can follow what has already been instead of reinventing our worlds every day like a child does. Growing up we are taught to be polite and nice to people, to fit in, to adhere to what is “normal” (whatever that is!) and not scare others with our creative thoughts.

At least to a degree schools are conformity camps that, in varying degrees, attempt to drill what is conventional and customary into kids. While learning about life skills like readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic we also get smart-stepped into doing mostly what others do and have done. Generally we are taught there is one acceptable, true way of thinking and there is most often only one right answer for a problem (the one the teacher believes). Largely we end up being awarded for writing well, following instructions and regurgitating facts, figures and formulas and NOT for creative and lateral thinking. We are taught to rarely, if ever, question the wisdom and supreme knowledge of teachers and professors.

Research has now begun to show in adulthood we usually do lose a great deal of our creativity but it is more by choice than the cognitive fading that comes with age. The number one culprit falls under the heading of ‘use it or lose it’; we simply stop trying to be creative. We begin to do things one way, we get comfortable, don’t change and settle into easy to follow and relatively mindless ruts.

Habits are not the only things that hide away our creativity.  Falling into the ‘expert trap’ obscures it too. ‘Experts’ usually spend more time defending their “hill” than questioning it or developing other approaches. It is easy to become “all-knowing” on a subject and fall into the habit of allowing knowledge make one feel obliged to it.

Eureka! Before all my middle-aged friends begin to wring their hands in “lack of creativity anguish” I want to turn what I have written so far upside down and include material from an article in Psychology Today By Shelly Carson, PhD called “Creativity and the Aging Brain”. She wrote: In a recent study… the University of Toronto found that older participants were… more distractible than their younger counterparts. However, members of this older, distractible group were also better able to use the distracting information to solve problems presented later in the study.

Dr. Carson goes on to tell about other studies on aging and cognition that suggest an aging brain is marked by a broadening focus of attention. She says this lines up with numerous other studies that suggest that a broadly focused state of attention is a trait found in almost all highly creative people. The data suggest widened attention allows one to separate and distinguish quickly all sorts of varying information. Combining remote bits of information is the hallmark of the creative idea, Dr. Carson writes.

Still other credible research shows that the parts of the brain concerning self-consciousness and emotions are thinner in the aging brain which lines up with a diminished need to please and impress others. Dr. Carson calls this, a notable characteristic of both aging individuals and creative luminaries. She goes on to say, both older individuals and creative types are more willing to speak their minds and disregard social expectations than are their younger, more conventional counterparts.

In pondering the subject of creativity and reading about it, my conclusion is older people have a storehouse of knowledge gained from living, learning and experience. Taking bits of that knowledge and seeing them in new and original ways is what a creative brain does. The only barrier to being an older creative type is simply habits and ruts.

Highly fertile ground for deeply creative activity exists in my aging brain. To have more creativity all I need to do is throw off old ways of thinking and allow new ones to come in. That thought will send me out into the world today with a happily altered view and a grateful (and hopefully more creative) mind!

Think left and think right
and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up
if only you try!
Dr. Seuss

Most of Them Never Happened

There is a guy in this 30’s I work with who is quite a cynic but calls himself a “realist”.  A few days ago in conversation I said to him “realist is just another name for a pessimist”.  He is the sort that often finds things to be down about or else he anticipates something of the sort will come his way.  Reflecting later on what I had said, the feeling was a bit of research is in order.  I began by looking through definitions for pessimist, realist and optimist.

Pessimist:  tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view.  The doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil.  A pessimist is someone who is rarely disappointed, but sadly, very rarely pleasantly surprised.

Realist:  do not see the glass as half empty or half full, but see what’s exactly in the glass.  Rarely try to make a bad situation seem better than it is, but also never sabotage any good things going on.  Realists are brutally honest in assessments of situations – and this seems to help them cope.

Optimist: expects a favorable outcome.  The tendency to expect the best, look for good in all things and have hopefulness of the ultimate triumph of good over evil while believing this is the best of all possible worlds. The state of being cheerful or hopeful about the future and about the world around you.

William Arthur Ward pointed out his view of the differences between the three when he said The pessimist complains about the wind; The optimist expects it to change; The realist adjusts the sails.  Another related thought is a pessimist is a misunderstood realist, who would like to visit the planet optimists live on, but wouldn’t like to live there.

Optimist is fairly easy to get a grasp on. In trying to get further separation between realist and pessimist I came across the statement “hyper-realism and pessimism are the same thing” and that rings true to me.  I ended up with a clear view of optimism but thinking that the boundary between realism and pessimism is a very thin one and has mostly to do with how strongly a person’s attitude leans positive or negative.

Researchers believe that a pessimistic attitude might negatively affect health. Studies conducted in the Netherlands around fifteen years ago point to a probable link between pessimism and heart disease. The studies followed over 900 Dutch citizens from ages 65 to 85 over the six-year period. Each participant was ranked on a scale of optimism and pessimism. The study found that 30.4% of the optimistic participants died during the study period, compared to 56.5% of the pessimistic participants.

And there’s more.  In a study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists. Other studies have linked pessimistic thinking with higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality.

Optimists seem to have it best.  They don’t give up as easily as pessimists. They also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. Optimists see negative events as setbacks to be overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come.

Optimistic people, get sick less often, they are more successful in their careers, they make more money, they’re happier and they tend to live longer. When it comes down to it, positive, optimistic people are happier and healthier, and enjoy more success than those who think negatively. The key difference between is how they think about and interpret the events in their life.

Positive and negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies: What I expect can often come true. If I start off thinking I will mess up a task, the chances are that I will. I may not try hard enough to succeed, I won’t attract support from other people, and I may not perceive any results as good enough.

Generally speaking the American public divides itself with an approximate split of 50% optimistic, 40% realistic and 10% pessimistic.  It’s important to note that psychology has proven that about 50% of our happiness levels are set at birth by our genes.  That leaves the other 50% within our control.  Anybody can learn to be more optimistic and thus happier if they want to.

If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be is a quote from John Heywood I agree with completely.  Through application of such thinking to my approach to life there has been a dramatically positive shift for me within the last ten years.

I  realize now my friend at work is probably a true realist who is fairly neutral about things most of the time. Once upon a time I identified myself as a “realist” also but was actually a pessimist who could not admit it to myself or anyone else.   Today I choose to be  optimistic and am grateful for the goodness that approach brings.  It was in deciding not to dwell on negative things ahead of time, and not “borrow trouble” as my grandmother used to call it, that brought a true change. Mark Twain summed it up in a sentence:  I’ve known a great many troubles, and most of them never happened.  I am a recovering realist, who today leans toward being an optimist.  I am thankful for how much better such a view makes life!

A man is but the product of his thoughts.
What he thinks, he becomes.
Mahatma Gandhi

The $#*! Kids Say

These quotes are uninhibited comments made by British children taken from a commercial airing in the UK for a nonprofit organization:

(little boy) I was 6 on the 50th of November.

(little girl) Do mommies teach babies how to laugh or do they know already?

(little girl) Dolly’s having a Vodka.  Have another vodka Mummy, you like it.  Have another vodka.

(little boy) I don’t have a bedtime because my Mum doesn’t get back until really late.

(little girl) Shut it, you’re doing my head in. I’m warning you.

(little boy) Can I go to your house?  (WHY?)  Because I don’t want to go back to my house.

(little girl) I’m a mistake.  It’s always my fault.

(little boy whispering) Daddy banged my eyes on the floor.  It’s a secret, I’m not allowed to tell.

The comments from the TV advertisement start out amusing cute as little kids often are.  But the young children’s comments that follow are alarmingly honest about their fears and show how they are shaped by what they see and experience.  This is a tender subject for me because I was abused as a child.  Even just writing that brings relieve.  My denial for many years only made the effects worse.

I experienced “covert sexual abuse” which comes from what a kid is exposed to.  I saw and heard way too much, way too young.  There was some physical abuse by the man I refer to as “the evil stepfather” with his tendency to take punishment too far. But the most damaging was neglect and being made to feel unloved and unwanted.

Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T. wrote Child neglect is more common than you might think. Comfort, nourishment, shelter, and care should be things that a child can take for granted. Unfortunately, child neglect is a rampant problem that statistically exceeds child physical and sexual abuse in the U.S. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System defines neglect as a type of maltreatment that refers to the failure by the caregiver to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so.

1) Physical Neglect – Children need basic necessities as everyone: food, clothing, shelter, but are reliant on others to provide these necessities.
2) Educational neglect – Failure to provide a child with adequate education.
3) Emotional neglect – Consistently ignoring, rejecting, verbally abusing, teasing, withholding love, isolating, or terrorizing a child.
4) Medical neglect – The failure to provide appropriate health care for a child (although financially able to do so).

The latter two were a constant part of my childhood while number one popped up from time to time.  I was lucky that school was a place that cost a lot less than daycare which allowed me the opportunity to get a good education.

Long and hard I have worked to overcome the trauma of my childhood and its effects are greatly diminished today.  I don’t blame my parents.  They were 18 and 19 years old when I was born and were basically “babies having a baby”.

The point I want to make is neglected children are in danger of not developing properly.  The hidden danger of child neglect – the one that may not be apparent for many years but which can stick with a person for their lifetime – is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It can deeply affect a child psychologically and emotionally with long-term effects.  Children who experience neglect early in life may be at risk for a lifetime of trouble attaching properly in relationships.

I know all about PTSD, love avoidance, codependence, sexual compulsion, moderate depression and surviving childhood trauma as those six things are what professionals pointed out to me long ago as my ‘issues”.  I do not write here about my childhood baggage for sympathy or pity. Rather my intent and hope is two-fold:  1) To help parents see the impact their actions can have on their children and 2) to encourage adults who were abused as children to seek help and realize life can get better if you work at it.  I am living proof!

Intellectually I have come a million miles past my  ‘junk’ and most of the time it lives in remission.  When those old ghosts get loose today I am much better at withstanding their attacks than ever before.  And for that I am immensely grateful!

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of overcoming it.
Helen Keller

Go here for the complete TV commercial being aired in the United Kingdom by NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children):  link

To Risk My Significance

For a long, long time I thought I lived openly…at least in the vast majority of ways.  My secrets were either ancient history or had to do with relationships with the opposite sex. Somehow I managed to compartmentalize my behaviors believing that the 85% of my life where I was open and honest (work, friends, money, associates, etc) more than made up for the 15% where I often lived dishonestly (affairs, relationships with women, etc).  Yet, for that small percentage my dishonesty hurt them 100% and contributed to self-loathing suffered for a long time.  Thankfully that sense about myself is for the most part gone now, although self forgiveness has been hard.

Feeling better has to do with changing behavior and not having secrets.  No longer is worry about being found out a near constant apprehension.  It seems crazy at this point that I lived in two marriages that were fraught with a lack of honesty yet somehow thought everything could be OK.  Pure delusion!

By choice I live an authentic life today and am able to honestly be who I am.   It was VERY difficult to throw off the old habits.  Learning my bad behavior came mostly from insecurity and issues of abandonment helped, but it took “knuckle-busting” work to grow past my old ways.  I had to face my “monsters” and fight them through some dark days and nights.  But I did it!

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it become a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom,
and what which came to be as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Living Wide Open: Landscapes of the Mind By Dawna Markova

Life has become no less challenging, but has gotten simpler with out lies and rampant self-delusion.  Contentment and even happiness and joy are not longer strangers to me.  I only have to be one person with a singular personality and story.  No longer am I living different lives simultaneously resulting in uncertainty and confusion about exactly who I am.  As Markova’s poem above says… I have “loosened my heart” to “allow my living to open me and make me less afraid”.

Day to day life is more exciting and sometimes more unsettling than it used to be because it is lived just as it comes to me.  I embrace the good and beautiful and accept the bad and ugly with a knowing that even the best life is rounded with both.

One source of real joy that has found me has come through spending time with friends and making new ones.  I go out more than I ever have and spend less time in front of the television.  Listening to music and reading still take up a good bit of my time, but those hours are spent in a healthy way.  Never in my life can I remember going to three concerts within a few days, but last week I went to three!  Good for me.  I am no longer living an unlived life!

The goodness and balance in my days is better than ever.  I am  grateful to feel better about myself and living than ever before.

I choose to live love.
And I fully believe that life is not meant to be anything other
than the experience of passion, delight, creativity, peace, love, gratitude.
Any struggle, exertion, challenge, climb, exhaustion is self-induced…
a moment I refuse to open my heart;
instead choosing to cling to something of this earth.
Adrienne from her website Experience Life Fully

Whatever the Outcome… Forgive Yourself

Likely the period of most profound growth for me was time spent immersed in learning who I was and coming face to face with ‘what was and is’ while at “The Meadows” in Wickenburg Arizona.  Those weeks in the high Sonora  Desert in 2007 were eye-opening and life changing beyond anything I can describe.

When I think of the experience, the first things that come to mind are:
1) Life is pretty much what you make it into.
2) Letting the past go is critical to having a future.
3) People I care about and those who care about me are what really matters.

On point number three I was exposed at The Meadows to a loosely structured way of making amends.  The process can those willing to listen and hear what I have to say, but is not sure thing.  However it almost always works in helping me make peace with myself.

To verbally attempt to make amends all that’s needed is someone willing to hear me out, even if they can barely stand to do so.  Attempting to make amends with another who does not want to be around me and holds great bitterness and hatred will only serve to make the chasm between us wider and deeper.

The amends process is mentioned often in recovery and self-help groups although the only “written form” I am aware of is the sheet just below.

The process is to over time thoughtfully fill out the ‘amends sheet’ and share the contents with the person you hurt, offended or wronged.  Sometimes sharing it with another is impossible and my healing comes from the focus to complete the form.  At other times it will make no difference and the abhorrence the person feels will be unaffected.

There are other occasions when a someone considers what was shared and accepts the amends somewhere in the future.  And there are the instances when an amends makes an instant difference.  It has amazed me how a person who could hardly stand to be in my presence softened and connected with me again when I spoke my amends. The “Likes/Loves” section can lend a lot toward helping reestablish some equilibrium between people.

It is important to remember an amend is not just an apology, but instead is about establishing justice as much as possible. If the indiscretion can’t be paid back or rebuilt, then symbolically restoration needs to be made.  Nothing says the latter stronger than a true change in the behavior and future actions of the offender.

Sometimes it makes no sense to make an ‘in-person” amends as more damage could be done by it.  At others amends are impossible because a person one hurt has passed on or is impossible to locate.  Then a “living” amends can help. This simply means living differently. Amends are about a genuine change in behavior instead of the patchwork of an apology.

The ten tips below about making amends can be found here in depth LINK
1. Face your own feelings first… it’s not always self-evident.
2. Understand what it takes to make amends. Go beyond desire to cover up shame.
3. Write down the reasons to make amends.  Get out of your head and on paper.
4. Look over your reasons… See patterns emerging?
5. Practice what you need to say in your head. Prepare your notes (form).
6. Express genuine regret and provide measurable promises to change.
7. Decide to meet … face-to-face (at) a good, neutral place (if it makes sense)
8. Don’t overdo it! Avoid making assumptions about their feelings or perspective.
9. Keep it simple and to the point.
10. Resolve to move on.  Whatever the outcome… forgive yourself.

Today’s blog came from looking for a file in my documents and stumbling across “The Meadow’s Amends Form”.  It has served me so well in making peace with others and myself.  The greatest benefit of each attempted amends, whether accepted well or badly by another, is the healing that has come to me.  For every one I have made and all those I yet will, I am very grateful for the process I was taught its many benefits.

The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged;
he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.
G.K. Chesterton

NOTE:  To save the form right click on it at the top of the blog and select ‘save picture as”.

Being Aware that Fire Can Burn

Driving down the freeway the other day I noticed a big store I planned to visit on the weekend, but then was conscious of nothing else for another five miles.  A short while later slowing down to make my exit I wondered who was driving the car the last five minutes!

Never has such an experience come up in conversation that another does not relate similar experiences.  In something of a self-hypnotized state we humans apparently are able to function normally while mentally being somewhere else.  I have come to realize this practice can easily become a wide-spread habit that obscures a lot more than a few minutes.  When living today becomes routine and life is imagined to only be in the future, the danger of losing one’s self has begun.  Very well this is known to me from experience!

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.  From “Joe Versus the Volcano”.

During my 20’s and early 30’s I was in career building mode and the struggles to get ahead kept me keenly aware of what was going on around me.  Drifting off and living unconsciously happened to a much less degree then.  As success came and the comfort of plenty found me I slipped more and more into unconscious living.  Life to me then was all about what I was going to do when I retired early and indulged in what I was dreaming of doing.  But, as John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens while you are making other plans”.  I became a “Sleepwalker”.

On her blog “Personal Excellence” link Celestine Chua describes Sleepwalkers:  These are people who live through their lives in an unconscious state.  Being conscious isn’t about being physically awake – Many people around us are physically awake, yet living unconsciously. They are not fully aware of who they are, the larger context of life they are a part of and their real purpose in life.   

Sleepwalking as Ms Chua describes it helps to at least partially explain why my 40’s and about half of my 50’s are a blur.  The only direction was being headed toward something, but what I did not know. I dreamed instead of planning and could not envision what was ahead was to crash emotionally under the weight of all I tried so hard to out run.  I fantasized instead doing the work in the present and in time that caught up with me.  All I knew was the life I wanted was not in my possession and felt it was to be found in the future.  Of course, that is delusion.  Life is always happening NOW.  In whatever guise and shape, what is “now” is the ONLY place “life” happens.

One of the symptoms of being a “Sleepwalker” Celestine Chua notes in her article is something I was very guilty of once upon a time:  Find no time to do things you want to do.  She explains Sleepwalkers are often busy all the time – they frequently complain about having a lack of time, not being able to do things they want, etc. But they do not realize they are the ones who put themselves in that position in the first place. When questioned by other people, they cannot exactly put a finger to where all the time and energy went into. Sleepwalkers are always waiting for a proverbial ‘next time’ for their goals, dreams and desires in life, but they do not realize that the ‘next time’ never comes. By the time they do, a long time has already passed, and now they switch to thinking that it’s now ‘too late’ to work on their goals. 

Realizing I was just beginning to slip into some old patterns of thinking, I found the article on the “Personal Excellence” website to be a welcome wake up call.  My dysfunctions of depression and compulsion are thankfully not in control these days.  However, I was starting to  “sleepwalk” again thinking the life I wanted was somewhere in the future.  There was also a bit of playing the “too late” game with myself.  By simple acknowledgement the renewed delusions are dissolving.

Reminding myself of the discoveries of five years ago is all that is needed.  I am very grateful for the teaching the past gave me and for that awareness now preventing me from slipping into those old ways of being.

Knowledge is being aware that fire can burn;
wisdom is remembering the blister.
Unknown

You Are More Than Who You Think

Without cause or catalyst I can name, once in a while I have found myself alone glancing into a mirror being startled by the sudden realization “I AM!”.  These rare moments started in childhood somewhere about ten years old.  The feeling is not bad particularly, but one does send me into an odd loop of thinking and self-questioning for a little while. 
 
When I really SEE myself this way thoughts rattle quickly to temporarily permeate my being.  They range from a startling “I really am here!?!?” and one of surprise like “so that is what I look like” to one of questioning in the realm of “I look very different from what my mind tells me” and “who am I?”.  It is the latter that unnerves me the most.  I think that’s because no answer ever comes that is simple enough to encapsulate in a though and in trying to find one a twinge of fear shows up.  I don’t have a “motto”, “slogan” or “self-description” that sums me up in a comfortable way. Maybe no one does.  
 
Sorting out how “who I am” is something not taught at school and is one of the most bewildering things about life.  As a small child I was seasoned by the “old-fashioned” ways taught in the isolated rural south.  By the third grade my existence was peppered with the pain of a broken family and a general lack of caring from the adults responsible for me.  Children always blame them self for the problems of their parents and as a child my response to such feelings was to build a nature of conformity.  At a time that could have been about self discovery, my self-identity was obscured and largely out of my sight. 
 
Teenage years brought a time of questioning for the majority of what I had been taught intentionally or had learned from watching adults.  My formative quizzical years from thirteen to sixteen found me perplexed about 90% of everything!  And what does a healthy, trouble teenage boy do in regard to what he does not understand?  REBELLION, of course and pretend I knew everything!

Beginning in my teen world of the late 60’s and increasingly since, media hype surrounding celebrities – their image, body shape, fashion and hair style – it has been easy to get sucked in, longing to look like, sound like, act like and be admired just like the famous faces.  The silent pressure from all around created a gnawing tension between being myself and fitting in with the people around me. 

Internally I have forever been overshadowed by a self-consciousness that grew from a concern about what others think of me. With a dread of being put down for simply being who I really was it became easy in many circumstances just to do, say and act as I thought I was expected to.  It was my way of being accepted.  

Only in recent years has my fear subsided enough to where I can consistently talk openly about my problems, what I really believe in and the things that truly matter most to me. Before I was always afraid of not being understood or I’d be thought less of.  The issues of childhood and mistakes of my adult life combined with nausea from pretending gave me the impetus to change and grow beyond the “me” I had been.  Initially with reluctance, and later with growing confidence I have allowed myself to show more and more of the person that truly is me.

Now there is a knowing if others can’t respect me for the “true me” or are going to be judgmental then they are not worth my time, energy, friendship or love.  Today my knowledge is certain that my self-identity is so much more than what I wear or do.  Rather it is made up of what I believe in, what I dream of, what standards I hold myself to and about allowing myself the freedom to live first for no one else but me. 

In many ways my education of who I am has me still in class learning. Even now the questioning of who I am and where I belong linger and swirl, but thankfully not to the point of completely clouding life in front of me.   Though hard work, lots of honest introspection and the help of many I have found confidence and strength to counter my fears. There is much gratefulness to love, rather than fear, who I am.   

“Who You Are” by Wave Carberry

You are a rare wild orchid, magically lit from within,
But warmed outside by flaming sun of passion.
You are strong, and cling tenaciously to love.
No jungle predator can tear you from your home,
For you protect your own.
But when shrieking storms have blown down
All the stable trunks of home,
And you stand swaying in the shifting wind,
Know this, my friend:
You are more than who you think.
No one can define you, or diminish you,
Even at the brink of loss and sorrow.
You fold within yourself
Seeds of growth and power,
The light of understanding.

Progressive Jerks Forward & Developmental Back Stepping

With a cut or scratch on my skin, I know with proper care healing will take place.  The deeper the wound, the more time needed for the healing to happen.  Even then there often is a scar and the size of it depends a good amount on the care I take of the wound.

Healing emotional wounds is similar.  How much care I give the abrasion in my psyche affects the mending process.  Just like a visible injury healed on the outer body, recovery of the heart and mind usually leaves behind a scar but inside, unseen.  The inability to see it lends difficulty to knowing when healing has fully taken place.

Ever noticed how when we get hurt physically and someone asks if we are OK, the first response is often “I’m fine”.  My response has been like that when I was in searing pain and ultimately had to get medical attention.  I suppose admitting being hurt suggests some sort of weakness.  Why this is my nature I really have no specific idea, but have been doing it recently by saying I am OK when I really am not.

I am wrestling with an issue with roots back in childhood and tentacles all over my adult. My belief was I had moved past the issue to where it would not bother me again.  That thinking was a mistake.  Just as scar tissue is never as strong as original skin, when recovered emotionally from a childhood wound there remains a tender and easily re-injured scar.

The Buddha said desire was the cause of suffering.  Addiction is compulsive desire run rampant.  From my early adult life I was a relationship addict and had to be involved with a woman to feel complete (if not more than one at the same time).  Like any addiction, desire was never sated for long and over time it took more and more to satisfy the desire if only for a short while.

A part of my healing was to live with loneliness until being with someone was not driven by compulsion.  Will I ever achieve that one hundred percent?  Not likely, but getting the upper hand over that desire is something I am glad happened for me.  However, I have discovered a part of my self-control came from cultivating aversion which actually is not about being healed.  It is rather about building another form of compulsion:  one away from what is desired.

It is healthy to make the discovery I have.  Doing the real work on one’s self to find more contentment in life brings a constant series of doors being opened where an entry point was previously unknown.  This journey of self-discovery is exciting and rewarding while at the same time difficult and worrisome.  Healing and recovery is not a process that moves at a constant speed.  Rather it is a combination of progressive jerks forward and developmental back stepping.

My present challenge brought another little piece of clarity.  It is something I know but was not practicing particularly well:  worry churns the same thought over and over in my head building it to a size beyond its real meaning.  Worrying is just aversion or more accurately, fear.  Slaying this dragon or at least making it my friend means moving past my fear.  I have to walk right into the mouth of what I am afraid of and stride through it in order to move forward.

What you have read today is simply me thinking in written form while sorting out why an old way of being and thinking is affecting me so much.  Sharing publicly here is my way of overcoming contempt and aversion prior to deeper investigation.  Such has been my way with many things.  Building disapproval and even hatred for ways of being in my past is not healthful.  Just admitting that truth will help me overcome my aversion so I can heal better.

In Zen, there is a path called the “Great Doubt” or the “Don’t Know Mind”.  Simply it is only when I accept the answer is not known that it may be found.  As soon as I settle on a quick solution blindness will come over me for other considerations.  As soon as I have it “figured out” that is when I stop learning.

I am grateful to realize the wisdom of every answer I arrive at must be provisional, based on the information I have at that moment and my own ability to see it clearly.  With my current quandary I am uncomfortable, yet am learning greater penetration into wisdom by bearing the questioning.  It is challenge, difficulty and pain that are the most prolific  teachers.

Today I will not fear change and new ways of seeing or being.  I will not hold discomfort at arm’s length.  Without fear of the learning’s impact on my life I will let insights openly come so the lesson being taught can find me   I am grateful for the new perceptions that will help me to do just that.

Growth means change and change involves risk,
stepping from the known to the unknown.
Anonymous