Change or Stay Miserable, Your Choice

I keep finding this over and over again; in books, on TV, in articles and social media posts.

“If you want things to be different, you’re going to have to change things. You’ll have to do some work.”

Over the years, conversations with friends have spun around the same subject. Over coffee I hear a friend talk about how frustrating her situation is. Over lunch I hear another friend complain about his life. On the internet, friend after friend posting about how they feel stuck.

Translation: “How do I keep doing the same thing, not make any effort or take any chances, and get better results?” The answer, of course, is that you can’t. You will need to change. You’ll either have to change what you’re doing, change how you think about something, or change where you are. You cannot remain the same, put no effort into growth, and become more than you were yesterday.

The whole thing reminds me of that commercial for the yellow pages. “If I advertised in the yellow pages, people might come to my amusement park.” We might look at our situation and think we want to change it but do nothing instead. We don’t take responsibility, the right to change things. Instead we wallow in our life and complain how complicated it is and how unhappy we are. Maybe because it’s easier or less scary than changing.

I’m not saying I have everything under control, no one ever does, but I have learned to be a lot happier over the last twenty years. I’d also say the last five years have been my biggest and fastest growing years, and I don’t mean my waist size, although I really should work on that. I’ve had some major ah-ha moments that have really changed how I see things and how I react to things.

It all started with meditation. I’d been mocking it for years when people had suggested it. I laughed out loud when my doctor suggested it to help me while I transitioned off of anti-anxiety medication. I’m not sure how long I heard the suggestion but at one point, about five years ago, I saw an ad for CALM for seventh time in a row that morning and decided to give their free trial a chance. It changed me. Something about the way they described practice just clicked for me. I’ve been keeping a morning meditation practice ever since. I do hope to spend more consistent time in practice, but I do what I can for now.

You’re going to laugh but almost all “self-help” books are great for me. I try to read a few every year. Books like “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Boundaries” were great, as well as “Depression is a Choice” and “I Don’t Have to Make Everything Better.”

Right now, I’m reading “Warrior Goddess Training.” There’s so much there I already know but it helps me immensely to read these affirming words again and see how much I’ve already internalized and how much I still need to keep consciously working.

This morning there was a bit in the book that took hold of me and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was about the difference between “linear” and “cyclical” living. Linear living would be thinking that if you work through life just right, you’ll get great results, you’ll always be happy, and everything will go well. But we all know that isn’t true. You can make all the “right” decisions and still find yourself dealing with a crisis you don’t think you can handle.

Cyclical living is understanding and accepting that good times come and go through no fault of your own. Some days we’re happy and that’s great, but some days we’re depressed or angry and that’s ok too. It will all pass by and cycle around. Life and death, happiness and sadness, night and day, it’s all part of the cycle. We’ll be young. We’ll grow old. We’ll have kids and care for them. They’ll care for us. Love it all.

I want to create a reminder for myself that “This too shall pass.” Remembering that will help me to love the good times because they are short and the bad times for the same reason. I haven’t made my life better by making the “right” choices, feeding my kids the right food, or training my husband to do what I think is best. I’ve made my life happier by changing my outlook and seeing where I can effectively do something and where I can be lovingly accepting of the situation as it is.

Feeling a Tad Crazy?

It’s 10:15AM now. Here I am dutifully writing my morning piece, wondering what in the world I can write about that has any meaning at all. I think I need another cup of coffee and my notes. BRB.

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https://www.facebook.com/SassyMantras/

I’m back and THIS is what I want to write about today! Funny side note, the “Alt Text” on this photo is “person holding a sign.” How funny is that?

I saw this in my Facebook feed this morning and thought, “Oh shit! Yes! That’s it exactly!”

What would you define as a “spiritual awakening”? I liked the first meaning that came up when I googled it. “An Awakening is when the confused and frightened self transcends to a higher consciousness, an awareness full of love and peace.” Hmm…maybe years after the awakening has happened and I’ve recovered from its effects!

Every time I’ve felt led to a change in lifestyle, I’m always hit by a wave of fear and stress. It’s like my current practice is a physical part of my body and must be forcibly torn loose before I can adopt a new, possibly better practice. No matter if it’s a spiritual, emotional, physical, or cultural awareness change, from my experience, it is going to cause some stress fractures somewhere, but it will heal stronger than it was once it’s over. That’s what I keep reminding myself.

Initially though, as the awareness of a change in thinking comes to me, I am laying there in the fetal position wondering if I have actually lost my mind. Passions. Career. Marriage. Children. Parenting. Education. Religion. Politics. Relationship. These are only a few of the choices we make every day of our lives. And each choice we make changes the trajectory of our lives. The best part is that we aren’t an unguided projectile.

When you throw a rock from a catapult, you have to decide where you want it to go and carefully calculate its trajectory. Once it leaves the bucket there is little that will change where that rock land. Its fate is sealed.

Human lives are more like a highly advanced space craft. We can leave the ground with one idea in mind, change course mid-flight, and end up where no one has gone before. But we do have to make the decision to change course. That’s where we start to question our sanity.

We can see the place we first decided to go. Others have been there before us. It’s settled and has a pre-determined place to land. Mid-flight we see something in the distance, beyond that original destination, and wonder what’s out there. We feel compelled to follow our desires and find out what that glimmer out there is. There are so many unknowns. We may not ever get there. And, even if we did, there’s no guarantee we’d want to be there or want to stay. “This is insanity!”, the safety-oriented part of you says.

You have the choice though. Go the way everyone else is and see if you can make it work for you. There’s no shame in that. There is a reason that traditional route is there. It’s safe. Most people are happy on it. You can also travel down the road less followed and find joy there. Or you can be the trailblazer that creates a new way.

Everyone has their place in this world. Find yours, even if you feel you may be a little crazy to start the journey. “All the best people are.” says Cheshire Cat.

To Wisdom!

From Philosophy Now magazine, “Hegel on History” by Lawrence Evans

“As he famously writes, “the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” In other words, philosophy (or ‘wisdom’, hence his reference to the Roman goddess of wisdom) can only analyze history retrospectively, from the standpoint of the present.”

Hegel was speaking of philosophy, but I’m going to take it personally and apply it to personal wisdom.

“The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” Wisdom can only come at the end of events, not before or during. As the sun rises and makes its way across the sky, we’ll have to rely on our wits and keep working. But once the sun sets, the owl comes out to hunt.

What is “wisdom”? The dictionary says, the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. You can’t have wisdom without experience. You can borrow someone else’s wisdom though and, adding it to your own experience, have greater wisdom in the long run, but you’ll have to have some negative and positive experience to have real wisdom.

So, while I’m having one too many drinks with a friend over lunch and going a bit too far, and afterwards texting a bit too many of the conflicting thoughts that are running through my head in words that are not that clear, I’m making some serious mistakes that may cost me a friendship. Maybe some better laid out principles would have made this situation go more smoothly? Listening to the wisdom of another friend may have spared me. But here I am muddling through voluntarily on my own. The least I can do is watch for the owl.

What wisdom have I gained? I’d elucidate, but I’m afraid it’s far to personal. That’s a rarity for me. Why write about it here if I’m not going to tell you what I learned? Because everyone gains their own wisdom from their own experiences. The key is to know that you can learn instead of just getting up and falling down again.

Experiences are just that, experience. What I wish I could do better is have patience with myself and wait to react after I’ve taken some time from the experience. Instead of reacting right away while I and those that had the experience along side of me are still…recovering…maybe I could have some key phrases and responses that will give me time to process and then say something helpful.

Writing that down for next time, although, at this age you’d think I’d have already learned that and would remember. Some days I wish there was a smart phone app that listened to everything I said and knew where I was and with whom and would pop up with great reminders as a text from a friend. It would say things like, “Do not order another drink.” and “Remember what how she reacted last time?” or “Your mother doesn’t appreciate that kind of language.”

Well, here’s to experience and (hopefully) wisdom!

Down The Rabbit Hole

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“The hardest advice to listen to is your own.

No one to blame when it all turns to shit, right?!

But then it’s worked before. And usually gets the best results because I know my own heart, strength, and situation, best.

But…being responsible for my own actions just sucks sometimes.

How do you guys like listening to me talk to myself?”

My morning Facebook post, one line at a time. The first line was the post. Each following line was a comment as I thought of them over the course of an hour. I typically don’t post things like this. They are cryptic. People don’t know the situation I’m talking about and usually think I’m talking about them…which reminds me of song…

I try to limit my personal posts to what’s happening at our house and what I find interesting. You know, posts about what the kids are going (which are fewer and fewer since they are becoming grown and on their own), awesome things I find in the yard or around town, and cool articles and podcasts. Things people would be interested in. Things that might bring my friends to know me better, as if we are interacting in person instead of online. But then I thought, why wouldn’t my friends be interested in what I’m thinking? And I’ve been thinking a lot lately! So here it is. Use it if you like.

I won’t go into the details of who and what. I’ll just say that he hurt me with his words, but I know he lashed out because he’s hurting too. I had a part in why he’s lashing out. Much like when one of my kids has been pushed to the limit and lashes out in anger, I want to help. He’s a friend, a fellow traveler. But I also know that people need their space when they are hurting. They also need to know someone loves them and is waiting to love them more, but they need to be alone in their feelings until they reach out for help.

He said his piece, probably in frustration and anger. I tried to express my feelings of interest and friendship better. And now I have to leave it at that.

If you love someone, set them free. Right? But, to tell you the truth, I’m not very good at that. I loath so much to be misunderstood or to be on someone’s shit list that I push to have my heart known and sometimes that comes off as desparate or fake.

I do love every one of my online friends. It’s why I have them there. And I’ll always be there for any friend that reaches out, regardless of how many years it’s been or what has happened between us.

Healing Hate

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“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”
From Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

There are all kinds of hate and all of them cover up some kind of past pain, some hidden fear. It’s a primal instinct to push away and demonize that which may cause us pain, that which scares us. A friend asked how we can help people deal with it and I had to think about it. My first instinct is to think that you can’t help, but maybe you can.

When I sense that someone hates someone or something, I don’t insist that they not. I try to respect where they are and know in the back of my mind that they have some fear or pain they are working though. I let people have their opinions, let them speak them and feel them, hold space for them, even if I don’t agree with them.

There is a difference between hateful feelings and hateful actions, though. Making a law to ban certain people from places or activities, physically or verbally harassing someone because they are hated, etc., cannot be tolerated by anyone. But a person saying they hate certain people and don’t want to interact with them can be left alone. They are hurting no one but themselves.

If we allow people to have their hate, if we love them anyway, and respect their opinions, give them space to feel what they feel, we have the chance to open a dialog about where that hatred comes from. Hate is a natural, instinctive feeling, and it takes time to work through. When someone makes a statement about something they hate, I ask questions about it. I ask why and respect their answers, maybe give an opinion of my own. This gives people a chance to reflect on their feelings and possibly change them.

If we shut people down when they express hate, we cut off that dialog and let that feeling ferment in the darkness. In that quiet feedback of the mind, that hatred grows and turns into action.

Hate isn’t going anywhere. You can’t get rid of it, but we can minimize it and give it a shorter lifespan.

What’s Your Family Culture?

I’ve been thinking about cultural customs and communication a lot lately. I’m wondering how much of what we do or don’t like about a person initially is more about how they communicate or the manners they learned growing up in their own family/national culture and less about who they are or how they behave.

What is culture? It’s the way a group of people living in close proximity have learned to communicate through words, actions, and behaviors. The family I grew up in had its own developed culture. And the state and country I grew up in had its own wider culture. Your culture teaches you what to expect from the people around you and what they expect from you. It makes people comfortable and able to focus on bigger things. When I walk in a room at a party, I know that if I make eye contact, smile, and talk in a familiar friendly way, people will accept me as part of the group and I can move forward with making closer friendships. That is what culture is.

The world is a big place with so many different cultures and communication styles. We used to only interact with a few on a daily basis. In the course of a regular work week, we’d interact with our own family’s culture and that of our physical location. It was easy. In a lifetime, the only time you’d deal with another would be if you traveled or if a foreigner came to your area. In those instances, you’d have to learn about what was expected of you as you traveled or that your new neighbor from China communicated respect in way different than you.

With the internet and social media, the world suddenly seems so much smaller. We deal with vastly different cultures on a daily basis. The pictures we see, the articles, the comments, all reflect a myriad of cultures that are so foreign to our own even from people inside our own country. We react to what we see from our own perspective, assuming that the person on the other end is posting from the same point of view when in fact he most likely is not. We end up taking offense and being angry, wondering what in the world has gone so completely wrong these days.

You’d think making it possible to see and communicate with people from around the world for free would make us immediately more understanding and sympathetic to others, but no. It’s made us angry and distrustful. Of course, it has! People say human is human and “a smile means friendship to everyone” but that just isn’t true.

The internet is opening up a whole new era of communication. In my opinion, it’s the equivalent of discovering fire, inventing language, and developing farming. It’s going to take a long time to re-invent the rules of behavior. Our new culture may be very different than any previous one. It may need to be based on a broader understanding of human nature, braver communication techniques, and a penchant for really wanting to connect. It remains to be seen if the human race is up to it.

Battles

Something I’ve found very true over the last several years is that people really love their labels and will fight you to the death to keep them.

The biggest battles I’ve heard between good people are over who is a “real” Christian, homeschooler, vegan, etc., and who is not. There are millions of other labels out there. I’m sure you can think of a few that you put on yourself.

I was warned years ago, not to put labels on my children as we raised them without school. We learned to look at that individual child, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their preferences, their patterns, and love them. We supported them to get they wanted or needed, not because that’s how this label needs things, but because that’s how this particular child learns best at this moment in time.

This past month I’ve been looking at and discovering some new ways of living and relating. I instantly began to label myself and as I looked at that label and the myriad of different people that choose that label, I started to feel bad about myself because I didn’t seem to measure up. I wasn’t “real.”

And that’s when I saw it. Labels really do suck. They tie you down to a prescribed list of details that may or may not relate to you, that may not help you at all but hinder you because you can’t wrap your head around that part of the label.

I dropped the label in my mind. I stopped following and attempting to join groups that called themselves by that label and suddenly I felt so much better.

I’m not a “real” anything but the “real” Michelle.

Who Are You?

Really? I mean who is more real, the person you think you are in your head or the person people see you as?

Everyone sees you differently. They see you through their own filter and the one you use toward them. I project a different person to my children than I do to my friends, to my online and in-person friends, and differently to family members, too. And each of those people sees me through their own filter of experience and personality. I’d have to say none of those people see the “real” me in its entirety. Everyone censors themselves to some degree or another, consciously or not.

And then there is the me in my own head. Is she the “real” me? Maybe, but that me changes quite a bit from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. She can make me proud when she is kind, loving, and patient. She can be confident and outgoing. She can be impulsive and fun. And then sometimes I just don’t know what to make of her. She scares me when she seems cruel, angry, hurt, and spiteful for no reason whatsoever. I try to hide her away on those days, but she always seems to creep out somewhere. Her damage is hard to repair.

I wonder what it would be like to be able to get inside someone’s head for a day. Would we recognize that friend? Would we sympathize, or at least understand better? Or would not be able to see around our own filters?

News Reports

If Jesus was the Son of God and people believed it, why didn’t they write any of these activities and words down while it happened? Why did no one report on it until at least 60 years after His death and resurrection?

That’s the question around this house lately. And here’s what I have come up with…

Maybe…just maybe…Jesus and His followers didn’t leave any books, writings, letters, etc., for us to follow because He knew we would worship the books as idols; sacred texts instead of the sacred being.

Maybe He knew His instructions were so clear and simple that they didn’t need to be written down.

“Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:37-39