If my life had a theme…

Photo by Peter Heilman via FlickrI recently read a blog by one personal growth guru or another about how each of us has a “theme” in our lives. Perhaps if we have more to learn (or maybe it’s just if we were cursed with a particularly challenging life) then we have more than one “theme.” These themes will show up in various situations until we have successfully learned the lesson. 

I knew in an instant what my theme was: loneliness. Apparently I haven’t passed the test, because this is something that’s lurked in my periphery for years.

There have been times when I thought that I had tamed the beast — formulating umpteen lists about why being alone was actually rad and creating new mantras that said, in so many words, “I am enough.” 

Yet, it continues to reappear like one of those spiders that’s been smashed by a shoe, swatted with a newspaper, and sprayed with Lysol — but still manages to scamper across the floor unscathed. 

I hate loneliness just about as much as I hate spiders. 

The truth is, I’ve deliberately chosen situations that come with a side effect of loneliness — not because I have some sick need to make myself miserable, but because each of those choices were the best thing for me at the time.

In high school I opted to leave what was familiar, for a slightly less “normal” situation: homeschooling by myself in the morning, then heading off to my local high school in the afternoon — a school where I knew maybe two people.

In college I said “hell no” to dorm life and opted for a commuter school instead. (Making friends is a bit harder when a good portion of your classes are with the 40+ crowd.)

After college I decided I wanted to create my own schedule and thus opted to call myself boss and work from home.

Add to that a long-term relationship with a military man turned overseas contractor and you have one huge life recipe for loneliness.

I’ve always had friends — good, lifelong friends — but these individual ties seem to connect me to people who do have a “community.” I don’t think I’ve ever fully felt like I’m apart of something larger, a group that would say that I belong.

In the past, this thought led me to experience some pretty dark patches in my generally sunny life. Now I simply see it as an observation — an invitation to welcome change and stop seeing this as my “story.” After all, I’d rather say “I sometimes experience loneliness,” than “I’m a lonely person.” 

There’s much snazzier adjectives I’d like to have describe me. 

Maybe it’s not an “aha” moment that we need to stop our “themes” from reappearing, maybe it’s just the ability to recognize them for what they are and acknowledge that they’re there to serve as a reminder. A reminder to tweak our thoughts and our actions so that we do get the outcome we desire.

Our outside circumstances stem from our internal experiences — so using what’s happening “out there” as proof that we are right in our feelings is actually looking at the outcome and saying that it caused the steps leading up to it.

It just doesn’t make any sense. 

I’ve created this feeling of loneliness, not by choosing the wrong place to live or people to be friends with, but by selecting that “loneliness” as my reality — no matter the situation I’m in.

What’s your reoccurring theme?

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Playing Nice and Dropping the Drama : Birthday Resolutions Worth Sticking To

Photo by Will Clayton, via FlickrI’ve never really been one for setting New Year’s resolutions. The truth is, we’ve been told to set them, then inundated with all these facts and figures about why they don’t actually work — so what’s the point? 

It’s the same mentality that goes along with, “I’ll start the diet on Monday – ya know, after the weekend.” This is a spoken hall pass of sorts – one that gives the speaker permission to eat Big Macs and a pound of fries in the meantime.

So in between February (the month when all hope of receiving fantastic results from these New Years resolutions has dissipated) and December (when it comes time to start the fruitless cycle all over again) we let ourselves wallow in the habits of last year. The same ones that will probably continue the year after — if we rely on these resolutions to spur the house cleaning.

I do, however, believe that every birthday is a chance to start fresh. Maybe it’s because birthdays are a little more personal (and less of the “one size fits all” variety). Either way, this is when I like to re-evaluate the “me” I’d like to see in the coming year.

So with the big 2-4 looming around the corner, here are my list of intentions:

1. I intend on no longer entertaining the “my world is falling apart” mentality.

If I feel like things are off track in my work, relationships, etc., etc., etc., I am one dramatic bitch. My fear is that if I don’t express the dire nature of the situation to those around me, I may never be taken seriously. So I often speak as if my world as I know it is crumbling – and there’s no hope of anything getting better. Ever.

Clearly I need to take a chill pill on this. 

2. I intend on being kinder to others (translation: not so judgmental).

Ok, so we all judge. I’m just really, really good at it. If you are ever wondering why you should judge someone, just ask me. I’ll come up with a spectacular reason — and convince you of it’s validity while we’re at it. 

I realize I can’t make this go away at the drop of the hat, but I know that if I make an attempt to be more aware of when I’m doing it, eventually I’ll slow it down — until it stops altogether.

3. I intend on staring failure in the face.

I’ve realized over the course of the year that I am petrified of being told “no” — being turned down for another job, looked over for another opportunity — the list goes on and on. So in some aspects of my life I’ve stopped trying altogether. 

Yet I know that all of those huge accomplishments come with the threat of being turned down. So if I’m not willing to experience that, I’ll be shutting the door to some really great experiences.

It’s time to go big or go home. I’ll choose to go big.

4. I intend on being more grateful (no matter how sucky things are).

Perspective is a powerful thing — and mine needs some shifting. It’s so easy to get caught up in how things aren’t going according to plan (i.e. still making only pennies when my dreams were of the millionaire variety). But in the grand scheme of things I have it pretty great: I have a home, supportive friends and family, and the chance to actually pursue something I’m passionate about. 

How can I really be upset when I think about it that way? 

5. I intend on looking towards the possibilities.

Staring at the “what is” of a situation is not much fun. Looking at what is possible, on the other hand, is magical. Like driving past your dream home and imagining what kind of furniture you’ll buy for it when it’s yours. Or thinking about what it will feel like to board a plane bound for some tropical location you’ve only seen in posh travel magazines. 

This is where I want my focus to be for the next 365 days.

Now where’s the champagne??

Embracing Unrest and Fine Tuning My Intuition

When I was younger, wearing jeans would send me into full on panic attacks. It wasn’t the material that bothered me, it was the fact that they didn’t hug my ankles like my in-at-the-time stirrup pants did – the bagginess alone had the ability to make my palms sweat and my heart beat a little faster. If I was coerced into actually putting them on, I would spend a good thirty minutes (at least) attempting to roll the bottoms so they actually touched my skin. 

Even though the fact that a clothing item caused me such distressed was a bit, well, psychotic, it made one thing very clear: I knew from a young age – as we all do if we’re tuned into ourselves and our intuition – when things just didn’t feel right.  

For the past few years – and the past few days in particular – I’ve been wrestling with this feeling of unrest, attempting to find the “rightness” in where I am in this moment. Constantly feeling unsettled is driving me to the brink of insanity. 

Just for a moment I’d like to shut it off, forget the “big picture,” and convince myself that I don’t need to keep searching for fulfillment. You know – lose myself in a few days of drinking and pure indulgence and quiet that voice that keeps telling me there’s more out there.

Yesterday as I was spewing all this craziness out to anyone that would listen, my mom shed some much-needed light on the situation:

That ability to tell when things aren’t right is a blessing. It’s the Universe’s way of guiding you to something that fits better for you. If you didn’t have that you’d never move forward, never get out of your comfort zone, and never experience some of the greatest things life has to offer. That nagging feeling is there for a reason – it’s pushing you in the right direction. 

The truth is, she’s right (yes mom, I said you’re right). Every time I’ve made a big move in my life it was spurred on by this feeling that there was a better place for me – that I had the capacity to experience even more happiness than I was already experiencing. 

It’s not about failing to find happiness and beauty in the current moment, or looking outside for solutions to internal problems, it’s about allowing these feelings – something most people find as inconsequential – to serve as a guide to what should come next.

Out of all the things we strive to accomplish in our lives, I believe that nothing is more rewarding than experiencing a deeper sense of joy. The fact that we are able to discern between what will bring us closer to this state of being – and what will take us farther away – is amazing.

I still have that feeling of unrest, but instead of allowing it to represent what is currently lacking in my life, I’ll choose to see it as a guidance tool – a very clear indication that I have some really spectacular things waiting for me just around the corner.

After all, our reality is only as good or bad as we choose to see it…

Faith in Uncertainty

When life feels settled, things feel certain, and there’s little time for guessing what’s around the corner, it seems as if breathing comes easier. A little bit of boredom at least means that there’s probably not a whole lot to be losing sleep over. 

But when everything is up in the air – hanging like a cloud, debating whether to pour rain or let the sun peek through – it’s easy to concentrate on the question mark hanging over each and every situation. My life, as of late, seems to be one GIANT question mark.

I don’t know how everyone else handles lulls like this, but for me, I check everything. And re-check. And check again.

I check job boards, I check emails, I check my bank account, I check Facebook, I re-check emails, I check blog stats, I re-check Facebook, I check new job boards, I re-check emails. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It’s a little pathetic, I know.

The thing is, I don’t even really know what I’m looking for. 

I’m waiting for that one BIG thing – the job offer that would put my monthly income where it should be, the opportunity that would give me something to talk about, the lifeline that might pull me out to solid ground again.

And that’s how I know it’s not going to happen right now.

It’s not about being pessimistic, it’s about knowing that every big thing that’s ever happened in my life occurred when I wasn’t looking, wasn’t too invested, and was able to let go enough to be ok with any outcome – a place I’m so far away from at this point, I’d have to take three planes and a boat to get there.

Right now has become my mantra. I want to be swimming in an overflow of financial abundance RIGHT NOW. I want to have some amazing book deal in my hands RIGHT NOW. I want to be free from the stressors that I’ve been feeling RIGHT NOW.

Screw divine timing. I want things to happen when I want them to.

Unfortunately, I’m too aware of the fact that things just don’t work that way. But in the meantime  (did I mention that I HATE the meantime?), I have got to go through a “checking fast” – disconnecting from the uncertainty that comes from obsessing over email, job boards, etc.

Before writing this blog I was toying with actually setting parameters for myself – getting rid of Facebook on my phone, only checking email once a day or when I know that new emails have come in, severely restricting my online time to certain hours of the day. Then I started questioning what I might miss out on if I committed to such stipulations.

Clearly I wouldn’t miss out on anything substantial. But my mind is a stubborn asshole that likes me to believe that good things only come to those that dedicate themselves to being a psycho go-getter.

The truth is, all of this only shows my utter lack of faith – in myself, in the process, in the greater good. And that’s just not going to get me anywhere.

So for now, I’ll start out small. No more checking my inbox immediately after opening my eyes in the morning. No more checking Facebook one more time before I go to bed at night. Hopefully the rest will come naturally – with just a little bit of prodding.

Here goes nothin.’

Standing in My Truth

“Do you have a legitimate job yet? Maybe you should get a job at the Container Store…”

The words were flung at me without malice or ill intent, but they stung all the same – like sprinkling a generous heaping of salt on an already festering wound. They were thrown into a conversation with a family member known for spouting off hurtful words without truly realizing the effect they might have. I know this. But it knocked me off my feet all the same.

The truth is, when you work alone without someone checking in to see your progress or handing you outlined tasks to complete, its easy for people to question your work ethic. And it’s common for people to say, “So what do you do everyday??”

Layer this on top of the idea that tackling creative endeavors isn’t worthy of a paycheck and can never be funneled into a real career, and under the intense scrutiny of certain people, I’ve achieved nothing more in my day than the beggar on the street corner.

That’s a little hard to swallow. 

It’s interesting how many people allude to the idea that I’m following some pipe dream that can’t possibly result in anything substantial. They’re waiting with bated breath for the day when I’ll take any job that offers benefits.

My inability to see the reward in doing what I should do makes some people uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

Yet, I know that words don’t carry any substantial significance. They only carry power if I allow them to through my own belief of they’re validity. I don’t see myself as a raging success as a writer, so anyone questioning what I’m doing with my life adds fuel to an already burning fire.

Ironically (or not so ironically if you believe in divine timing), I was asked by an employer to write a blog today summarizing a video of Bob Proctor (one of the big-wigs from the movie The Secret).

I’m not a huge fan of Bob Proctor, but given the fact that he’s a self-made multi-millionaire, I would assume he knows a thing or two about making things happen. His message was this:

We have the ability to choose what we allow into our conscious mind. Once we allow things into our conscious mind, they are funneled into our subconscious mind. What takes up residence in our subconscious mind profoundly affects the results we see in our lives – so if we allow what someone says to trickle down into our subconscious mind, we’ll begin to see it become our reality.

Clearly it’s not about getting my well-meaning relative to say less hurtful things, it’s about getting to a place where I can stand so firmly in my truth that what they say just doesn’t matter.

It won’t happen overnight – as evidenced by the fact that I still have a pit of anger burning in my stomach – but coming to this realization is a healthy start in the right direction.

What truth do you need to stand in?

 

 

Releasing My Inner Control Freak

I used to be excellent at being in control. Well at the least the kind of control that you think you have, the kind that makes you wake up at 3am with thoughts of what tasks need to be done, what relationships need to tended to, and what the future might look like, should look like, or probably will look like. It wasn’t as if I woke up due to some unknown force and these thoughts slowly crept into my awareness. No – they were fully constructed entities catapulting through my mind before my eyes even had a chance to open. Now that’s some control craziness.

The truth was, I was never in control. I didn’t have control over the people in my life I thought were my mainstays. I didn’t have control over whether things remained firmly in tact or fell apart at the seams. And that’s why change knocked me flat on my ass.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take hurricane force winds to knock a control freak over, it only takes a small breeze. Why? Because they have so much invested in the outcome that anything different from what they expect can be a massive blow – as I’m slowly learning to recognize.

Controlling anything takes a ridiculous amount of energy for little reward. In fact, the reward is even a sham because it wasn’t the controller that made the situation what it was- it was likely what would have happened anyways, minus all the meddling. It’s just the ego’s way of puffing out its chest and saying, “Yeah, I did that. No big deal.”

Nice try ego.

In reality, all the moments in my life that I would call my “worst” have one thing in common: they all turned out ok. No matter the anxiety or the number of ugly cries I had, it’s always, in some way or another been ok. Maybe not great, but not life-shattering either.

What do I have to show for all the energy I put into wondering how things could possibly fall into place? Nothing. Not. A. Thing.

So I’m giving up the reigns and taking a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an active participant in my life (you really think my type A personality would let me give up full control??), just in a more laid-back, go with the flow kind of way. It’s like replacing a New Yorker with a Boulderite. Yeah, I’m making that much of a change.

It’s so much easier to let everything just be and figure out the logistics later. And usually the Universe is much better at steering than I am, so things can only go up from here. 

Giving In, Letting Go, and Following My Yellow Brick Road

When it comes to starting projects and seeing them through to the bitter end, I’m usually a little wishy-washy. In fact, I’m a lot wishy-washy.

The beginning is always fresh, like breathing in another city’s air on the first day of vacation. This part has me buzzing with possibility, sharing my ideas with anyone that will listen because I am SURE that this business idea/venture/life goal/etc., etc., etc. will be different, that I’ll make it to the top of my Everest with a flag bearing the symbol of my greatness. Every beginning starts with the same phrase – “THIS. IS. IT.” 

The middle is when things get a little dicey. This is when I start to realize that my yellow brick road has been washed out in a recent flood and I’ll have to walk barefoot in the mud to get through to the other side. My problem: I’m not too keen on getting dirty. At this point I’d rather turn back and pick another route that doesn’t seem quite so complicated.

Unfortunately, this means returning to the starting line with a little bit of shame, a dented sense of self-worth and a LONG period of reflection before I find another worthy business idea/venture/life goal/etc.,etc., etc.

Most of us are repetitive beings, trying the same thing over and over again even after we realize that the results are not what we expected or desired. Then, instead of shifting our actions and re-evaluating ourselves, we buckle down and try again – hoping that the circumstances have changed so we don’t have to. After all, why put effort into changing us when we could instead switch jobs, pick a new partner,  or move to a new place? Pick bright new shiny circumstances and we’ll become equally as bright and shiny…right?

Wrong. 

I realized eight months ago that the changes I needed to make were extensive. And exhausting. And so annoyingly irritating to tackle. I’m still in that process. Still trying to make sense of a new existence that doesn’t include all of the things that I thought were so SURE. I’ve become calmer, more at peace, more confident, less wrapped up in bullshit. And a lot of it is bullshit. 

I’ve learned to walk through the muck and the mud without turning back (well, at least not returning all the way to square one). I’m shedding my baggage along the way, one piece at a time.

This wasn’t a project I had intended to take on – in fact, it was one I avoided/feared/loathed all at the same time. Ironically, it’s the one I can say I’ve continued to push through.

Sometimes the things we are forced to go through shape us in more profound ways than any experience we ever choose for ourselves. And being led to face the things we fear the most can provide far more relief then simply never having to see those fears become a reality. 

I’m learning, growing, and letting change happen. It’s a liberating journey. Now who’s coming with me?

How Facebook Has Royally Screwed With Our Happiness Meter

I have a bit of an obsession with happiness – what causes it, what makes it stick, what can obliterate it all together. Perhaps this is the reason why I have an urge to ask complete strangers whether or not they are completely and totally happy with their lives. Because let’s face it – most people aren’t, and most have perfected the art of hiding it.

Why hide it? Well because happiness has become a measurement of success of sorts, a real indication of how well you’ve been at living. Hate your job? Can’t stand your spouse? Then by god, what have you been doing with your life? Not being happy is a sure sign that you just don’t have your shit together – or so we have come to believe.

It’s also a pretty damn good way to measure ourselves against those around us. If, for instance, your relationship is bobbing like a half-dead fish in the water when your BFF calls you up to let you know how her new beau bought her a ridiculously disgusting spread of exotic flowers – well, then chances are you’ll be feeling a bit like a failure. And how can you possibly compete with those people who seem to be thrilled with the idea of waking up in the morning, have their calendar filled to the brim with exciting happenings, are enthralled with how perfect their families are, and have prince charming to share their magnificence with?

Those people exist, right? Well, according to Facebook they do.

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a Facebook whore. In fact, I probably spend more time Facebook stalking than attempting to find a decent paying freelance job. However, that simply makes me an expert of sorts (because I like thinking of myself as an expert). Which has led me to notice a few things:

There are two types of Facebook personalities:

  • The type that always has something utterly depressing to say and will passive aggressively attack those who have “wronged” them (the ones you want to block from your news feed or just punch in the face).
  • And the type that always has some exciting weekend to look forward to, the perfect partner to gush about, and the most amazing job they could have ever hoped for – you know, the perpetually happy type.

So one day I, in my unhealthy obsession with dissecting happiness into little manageable bits, discovered that Facebook had given me the sense that a huge portion of my peers (some 400+ of them) were far happier than me (minus the Debbie Downers, of course). It was obvious after browsing through thousands of pictures of smiling faces and sorting through status updates, each with the underlying message of: “Look at me and my fabulous life!”

Funny thing is, I have those pictures too. And I’ll admit to writing one or two status updates that boasted of something I have had to be happy about – because each of us chooses the side of ourselves we wish to show and the parts of our lives we want others to admire.

That is the reason why Facebook has royally screwed us over. All those people whose profiles tell us they have their shit together? They have bad days too – they just don’t take pictures of it and plaster it all over for the world to see.

Facebook is our way of entertaining each other and should be taken as nothing more. That’s just a little hard to remember when you are sleeping on your parents couch and brooding over the fact that your life seems to have veered off into a ditch. I’m just sayin’.

Dreams? Yeah, I’ll Save Those For Tomorrow.

Before leaving home to bake in the sweltering sandbox that I currently reside in, I had concocted a list of things I would delve into once I got here. You know- those things we believe deep down will make us happier, healthier, more whole versions of ourselves, but are better left for another time or place. Yes. I have lots of those.

I figured that being in a town so far removed from regular Starbuck’s drinking civilization would inspire me in some miraculous way to be…different. And at the end of those six (or five if I have anything to say about it) long months I would have become a yogi, accomplished magazine writer, meditation guru, master chef, brilliant photographer, organization expert, blogger extraordinaire, etc. etc. etc. Seriously – my goals were that lofty.

Three months into my time here and what have I got? Sores on my ass from spending six to eight loooooong hours a day typing diligently on my computer that I can only use on the couch because the wifi refuses to cooperate. And the closest I’ve gotten to being a yogi? Completing a 30 minute candlelit yoga practice from a DVD via the Xbox.

Oh, and did I mention I’ve become an expert complainer and pity party thrower?

So as the boyfriend and I attempted last night to make plans for a life ATM (after the military) I found myself returning to that place of “once I get there things will be better.” I’ll have a group of girlfriends again, a real live place outside of the house to do my writing, my family a quick drive away. Funny thing is, that’s what I was all gung-ho about leaving in the first place.

My twenties thus far seem to have been an exercise in finding a place to be. A place that warrants a sigh of relief, while simultaneously pushing me to be something greater, do something bigger, and step out of the me I thought I was. I’ve been convinced at certain times that it’ll come with settling down – picking paint colors and a bed set to match. Then, I’ll suddenly feel as if I could only feel it somewhere as far removed from my comfort zone (and country of origin) as possible. Now, neither seems to fit just right.

It’s not my environment. I’m convinced (at least in this moment) of that now. It’s a matter of starting today those things I’ve reserved for another place and time.

Anyone else have a storage closet full of things to tackle another day in another city?

I haven’t disappeared, I’ve just been baking in the heat.

Blogging, like most other areas of my life, used to be something I scheduled. (Because even inspiration can be placed on a timeline for someone as by the book as myself.) Then, when things started to get a little crazy, I stopped cold turkey. But what used to be an issue of priorities has now become another bout of perfectionism gone haywire.

Let me just begin by saying this- when I was younger and writing in a diary seemed like something every little girl should do, I used to tear out entries if I didn’t like how they sounded. Granted, I had a placed a massive lock on the outside to prevent anyone from reading my innermost thoughts, but the point was that I wasn’t satisfied with anything short of perfection. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I began judging the writing I was putting up for all of the online world to see (or at least the meager audience that I had acquired).

Inspiration, it turns out, is also a problem when leaving my house has ceased to be an everyday occurrence. No, it’s not depression, it’s an absolute hatred of the god awful heat. Heat meaning 100 degrees IN THE SHADE. Seriously. I’ve never before felt as if my skin was cooking two minutes after stepping outside.

I can blame my writing hiatus partly on the fact that I’m in the midst of a series of processes. Learning to live with my honey, for one, is a PROCESS (capitals seemed necessary for that one). How could it not be when I’m used to being comfortable and he’s used to a lifestyle of survival? My challenge this week: getting him to agree to a rendezvous at the farmers market this weekend. For some reason, he’s completely against fresh produce. Go figure.

Another process: accepting and recognizing the perfection in everyday life. After the homecoming was over, and I settled into a “routine,” I began to forget what both of our lives were like when he was away. I’m reminding myself to feel a little gratitude for the shopping trips, the movie dates, and even the arguments that we couldn’t have had if the deployment would have ended differently.

Most of all, I’m learning to redefine the individual me while still staying connected to this relationship I’ve waited so long to fully experience.

I’ve missed you blogger world. Here’s to checking in more regularly.