Sunday, October 25, 2009

We Live

from a place of fear. This is undeniable. I should probably qualify that it is true of most people but I cannot say unequivocally that it is true of all people. So I speak here today to those of you (me included) that live from a place of fear. Let me capitalize Fear. I capitalize it because it dominates our lives, it is for some of us THE motivating force behind everything we do, everything we think, it defines our existence. I defy anyone to sit down, make a list of those events in your life that you remember, that you might even refer to as 'defining' moments of your life, and deny that the possible decisions that either you were considering or actually made were not the result of Fear. Go ahead... I dare ya.

Right, I thought so.

The opposite of Fear is Love. Not just courage but Love. I would say that courage is merely a symptom, an aspect of Love. I do believe that the definition of Divine Love encompasses many attributes, for example courage, and creativity, a sense of connection with others, a need for others. There is more no doubt but I'll stop there and let y'all use your own imaginations.

I believe that every decision we make, every decision that effects our life (and don't they all?) is made from either a place of Love or Fear. If we choose Fear then we stay in a place of pain, of regret, of stagnation. We stay in one place, never moving ahead. If we choose Love then we move to a place of courage, of creativity, of self-realization. We move one step closer to that which we are, or rather that which we CHOOSE to be. We move one step closer to realizing a potential that has no boundaries.

And isn't it courage and creativity and self-realization, are not these at least some of the things that define us as the image of God?

Now let me just end by saying this: I do not for one minute believe that it is merely the recognition of this that enables me to step right out of that Fear-mongering mode into the eternally joyful Love-mongering mode. Oh no, it's going to take work, a lot of work. I do not for one minute discount the many ways that we were influenced as we grew into adult-hood and undoing these shall we say less than healthy modes of living takes time and effort and a willingness to push through the difficulty. And it takes the help of some kind of professional counselor, whether it be psychotherapist, minister, choose your poison. But it absolutely must be somebody who is going to give you all the space you need to re-discover yourself. I do not believe that psychotherapy is a perfect means to get to that place that we want to be but the truth is that a good therapist will give you that space of re-discovery. There will be pitfalls, bumps in the road but really, what doesn't present us with pitfalls and bumps in the road? In the end a good therapist will foster an atmosphere of acceptance and exploration and a good therapist will also allow themselves the space to learn from you. Therapy is a great place to take our first tentative steps out of that place of Fear into that place of Love because it is a safe place to do so. It can be, with the right therapist the perfect place to start or should I say re-start.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Go Inside

What is it that defines us? By that I mean what does it mean to say ‘be yourself’? What does it mean when I say that I am searching for the ‘real me’?

I think I have the answer.

There are two realities, there is objective reality, that is the external world around us. It is real, it is there, we can see it, it impacts us moment by moment, it presents facts, scientific, philosophical, metaphysical if you will. It is there, we can see it, touch it, hear it, all of which is to say that we can experience it through our physical faculties, our physical bodies and the attributes inherent to our physical being.

The second reality is subjective reality. Subjective reality is our own personal reaction, our own personal experience that is specific to us, the individual. It encompasses our own thoughts, our own feelings, those internal sensations that are inherent to our own personal emotional and intellectual makeup. These are the attributes of our psychic construct and our psychic construct has been formed, I’d say is dependent on our objective reality. Our psychic reality has been assembled, molded, twisted (some would say, me for example) this way and that, frequently forced to fit into spaces either too small or too big or too round or too square for our own personal capacities. The proof of this fact is that two people can see the same thing at the same time and yet each one would feel something completely different from the other.

So many of us, and admittedly I fall into this category, so many of us have had the experience of being forced into spaces too small, or spaces too large, or too round or too square for our own personal capacities. Our own attributes, e.g. talents, wishes,, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears have been dismissed as invalid and replaced with somebody else’s idea (usually our parents) of what is right. Of course we accept, at least for awhile, the other’s interpretation of reality because hey, assuming it is our parents version of reality we are referring to here, they know right? They are the parent, you are the child, they don’t need you, you need them. They must know, they’re big, you’re little.

Oh brother.

Here is what defines the ‘real me’. My subjective experience. For the record my subjective experience is valid. Oh I’m going to say that again. My subjective experience is valid. Let’s write it on the blackboard five hundred times. My subjective experience is valid, my subjective experience is valid, my subjective…

I am allowed to like what I like. I am allowed to think what I think. I am allowed to know what I know in the way I know it. I am allowed to do all these things because these things are exactly that which makes me me, which shows to the world the real me. And to find the ‘real me’ I must go inside. I must look to myself, I must recognize and accept as my subjective reality my own experience, my thoughts, my feelings. Because this is what the definition of the real me is.

The Surgeon General has warned that while the definition of the ‘real you’ is simple and easy to find, the actual act of showing the real you to the world may be hazardous to your health and requires large quantities of courage, determination and a willingness to make yourself vulnerable beyond your wildest imagination.

St. Paul said “when I am weak, then I am strong” and Jesus said “the truth will set you free”.

No truer words have ever been spoken and it is just about the saddest thing ever that most of us have absolutely no idea what those two statements mean.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Got

I’m not a big fan of self-help books and magazines. Except of course for my ‘Quest for Positivity’ reading frenzy, and to be fair most of the reading I did was related to the business/professional end of the spectrum, i.e. motivating and managing people, I have read next to absolutely zero self-help books. I suppose that is at least partially a reflection of the cynic in me. Whatever.

But and but and another big but, the Best Piece of Advice I Ever Got came from a self-help book entitled ‘Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live’ by Martha Beck. Ms. Beck is some big, self-help, life-coach guru person and I have absolutely no idea how I came across this book but I did. I think that I was attracted to the pretty blue cover with the star on it.

Of course the book is all about finding your well, North Star and well, leading the life you were meant to live. But the best piece of advice I ever got came out of chapter 7 of this book which is called Soul Shrapnel: Repairing Your Emotional Compass. The title of the chapter probably gives a hint and in it Ms. Beck makes it perfectly clear that we’re never going to realize our potential until we heal the emotional gun-shot wounds we’ve suffered in life. She doesn’t get all touchy-feely and mushy, she just states it plainly and simply.

So thank you Martha Beck for the best piece of advice I have ever received, and probably will ever receive in my entire life. I never did finish the book, maybe someday when I’m done with therapy who knows. But I do know this, all the self-help books, all the life-coaching sessions, all the positive little mantras, all that stuff would have been a complete waste of time without the therapy. So for all of you consumers of life-coaching services and readers of self-help books do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already - spend your hard-earned money on a good therapist and then use what’s left over for the life-coach if you still need her/him.

For the record Ms. Beck is a pretty funny gal and a good writer so if y’all like that in your self-help books perhaps you should look her up. Oh and Martha when you read this, don’t bother sending me a check for the free plug I just gave you, I owed you one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

True Story

One day I decided that I wanted to be a more positive person. I have always tended towards the top of the cynical, bitingly humorous, impatient and harsh curve and it seemed that this is not what is helpful to the world at large and to the people in my immediate vicinity. This is not the way to win friends and influence people. I would now say that this wasn’t altogether healthy for me either but at the time that idea was lagging towards the back of the line.

I decided that I was going to make a willful, concerted effort to be the swan of positivity floating in the sea of negative ugly ducklings. I was going to be a leader and proof of the power of positive thinking, a beacon of light on the ‘can-do’ highway of life.

And so I started about the business of readjusting my attitude. It seemed best to me, after a lifetime that if I will be absolutely truthful was most definitely top-heavy on the negative, that I should start small. Frogs only turn into princesses in the blink of an eye in fairy tales and movie theatres. This is real life and I am, if nothing else a realist (or so I thought but that’s another story altogether).

Anyhoo… I decided that it would be easy enough to smile and be nice to people in the grocery store, show a little kindness, allow others to get in line ahead of me even if I was there first. I was calm and patient waiting in line at the bank, making sure that I was pleasant and kind to the teller when my turn was up, regardless of how long I had waited to get to the head of the line. I was even pleasant to the clerk at the motor vehicle department and for anyone who has ever been there we all know what a challenge that can be. As an aside it is amazing what a little smile and humor can do to a person who has spent years toiling in the obscurity of government bureaucracy. Some of them even smiled back at me from time to time. Already some payback baby. This is going to be awesome!

I read books on the power of positive thinking, I read books on how to be a leader in the business world, how to be a leader in your personal life, how to get the most out of people, books on every conceivable positive thinking idea there is out there. I won’t lie, some of them were worth the read, occasionally I would come across something that offered a new way of seeing an old story, some little tidbit of life philosophy that I had not considered. Good stuff and I tried my best to put these things into action both at home and at work. And for awhile it was working. Most people really do respond well to positivity. Oh sure there are those that are permanently and eternally cynical and unhappy but hey, it does take all kinds yes? I would move along from them, nobody was going to rain on my positive parade.

But one day something happened. On this particular day I woke up and like a ton of bricks it hit me - this being positive thing was taking a hell of a lot of energy, I mean a hell of a lot of energy. And I pondered this. How could something that was so right, so good, so ‘freeing’, so full of everything we have come to know as true in this world be sucking up so damn much of my energy? If it’s good and right and true shouldn’t it be easier? Shouldn’t it be energizing rather energy depleting?

Umm… yes.

Thought number two for the first day of the rest of my life:

Sweetheart, get thee to a therapist.

I have saved the part that smiles and jokes with the bank teller, this IS better and it takes no energy and it is such a small thing and it truly makes a difference. Be nice to people. I still don’t (mostly) lose my temper when I get stuck in traffic. If somebody gets on my bumper I move over and let him (it is usually a ‘him’) pass. But the rest of it, the books, the forced positive attitude, the burning of the beacon of light on both ends? I’ve put that aside for awhile. I haven’t got the energy, I’m just not there yet. I have realized that it must come in its own time and in its own way and exerting my willfulness in an effort to force something does nothing but drain my resources.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Search for Meaning

Here’s a question: if I don’t know the meaning of life, or specifically the meaning of my life then how am I supposed to know what matters? How do I know what skills matter, either technical or intellectual, and by these things I am referring to the quantity of knowledge, of facts that we should be filling our heads with. Should I read a hundred books or ten thousand? Should I know five thousand words or a hundred thousand. How many actual words are there anyway and do I need to know this?

Does it matter if I’m smart? Does it matter if my IQ is high low or in between? Does it matter if I possess the qualities of kindness, warmth and empathy? Maybe it would be better to be cold, aloof and detached? Should I increase my athletic capabilities, my creative capabilities? Do I learn more about the human body or the human psyche? Should I know about rock formations or weather patterns. Do I choose to study Freud and Adler and Jung or do I tackle Aquinas and St. Augustine and Martin Luther? Math or physics? Spanish or French? Engineering or philosophy? Shakespeare or Erica Jong? Oprah or Dr. Phil?

Should I have many friends or few friends? Should I stick to hamburgers and ice cream or is there some benefit to acquiring a taste for (ok forcing myself to tolerate) caviar. Do I drink wine or beer or not drink alcohol at all? Do I try LSD so that I can know the experience firsthand? Do I need to know firsthand the experience of an LSD trip?

The psychologists tell me I must feel my emotions, the scientists tell me I must observe the world around me. What is it that matters, subjectivity or objectivity? Which one of those is right? There are those (the psycho-scientists?) that will tell me I must use both subjective and objective experience. Maybe that person is right. How do I know?

Do I need to take responsibility for my life or can I just do whatever the hell I want, let the chips fall where they may and everyone else be damned. Do I need to plunge the depths of my unconscious or should I merely go through life reacting to whomever and whatever happens to cross my path not worrying about searching for truth, not caring about morality, ignoring every thought and feeling that is generated from within myself?

If I don’t know the meaning of my life how do I make my choices?

Perhaps it is clear to anyone who might read this that I have been contemplating the meaning of life lately. It leads me to wonder if there really IS a meaning to life. What if this is just something that some caveperson suddenly came up with one day, thousands of years ago while writing drawings in animal blood on a cave wall. Who decided that life has to have meaning and how do I know if that person was right?

If anyone has ever read Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning they would know that he has determined by his years spent in concentration camps during the holocaust that those who managed to survive the horrors were those that assigned meaning to life. Of course it gave them something to live for, any fool can understand this. But what was their meaning? Were they able to figure that out or did they just make a leap of faith based on nothing that life has meaning? Were they hoping to find some future meaning and that's why they were able to endure or did they find meaning right in the middle of Auschwitz? Was it abstract or was it material?

We are all so hell-bent to find meaning in our lives but has anyone stopped to think that maybe life has no meaning? It is so easy to say that it does or it doesn't but which one of those is right and how do I know? Don't we have to figure out first whether is does or doesn't before we can then make our choices?

Does the existence of God dictate that there must be meaning in this life? Those of us who have belief in His existence look to Him to tell us a) that life DOES have meaning and b) what that meaning is. What if while I'm looking at Him for these answers He is looking back at me saying "Don't look at me sister, I never told anyone that life has meaning. That's something y'all came up with on your own."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Affairs and the beating men take for them

Interesting thing about being a woman (single or otherwise) involved in an affair with a married man. If this were me (as the woman) I could lay out to my friends, to my blogging buddies, the women I mean, all of the manipulative, boundary-crossing behaviors of this man with whom I am involved and it’s a pretty safe bet that all of my female blogging buddies would be making all sorts of angry comments about what a manipulative, sex-crazed, untrustworthy bastard the guy is. Certainly I, as the woman scorned in this relationship would eat this up, roll around in it, glory in the love and support that is being thrown my way by my home-girls and keep on talking/blogging about it. Who would not want that kind of love and sympathy and support? He’s hurting me! Sisters Unite! Girls rule and men suck! Why oh why are they so cruel and heartless?!

Let us look at it from another angle.

Sweetheart you are having an affair with a married man. He does not belong to you, he does not want anything permanent with you and you have no right to expect anything from him and you have no right to expect that he won’t hurt you time and time again. Pain is an inherent quality to relationships like this and there is no way around that. He does not know that he is taking advantage of all of the emotional insecurities and dysfunctions that exist in your psyche. He does not know that your father beat you, that your mother was ineffectual and that you are a substance abuser. And even if he did he hasn't got the first freaking clue what that all means to your fragile emotional state and his role in taking advantage of it. He is not willfully and wantonly taking advantage of things of which he knows nothing, unless of course he's got a Ph D. in psychology and he has spent years as a therapist, in which case there are governing boards to whom he should be reported.

Here is a new spin on an old tune. Maybe his father beat him. Maybe his mother was ineffectual. Maybe he is a substance-abuser. And maybe you don't know these things about him and even if you did you do not have the first freaking clue what impact your involvement has on his fragile emotional state and your role in taking advantage of it. Why are we always so quick to paint the man as a predator in these kinds of relationships? We see only our own tender spots and we feel only our own pain as he runs the sandpaper over them.

If you continue to respond to his emails and text messages and phone calls then you are just as guilty of being manipulative and untrustworthy as he is and it is you who is running the sandpaper over your tender spots. This will never amount to anything in your life of any significance. You can sit around with your therapist and your friends and your blogging sisters, spending hours dissecting it, figuring out the why's, the what's, the wherefore's, spending your hard-earned money to understand the emotional need that is being addressed in your life via this affair and that's fine but first know this: It will bring you only pain and more pain and might I just say unequivocally that yes, this situation is your responsibility not his. You have two choices, you can either endure the pain of cutting him loose now or you can endure the pain of hanging onto him until you've 'worked through it'. Pick one. DO NOT waste six months of therapy sessions to come to this conclusion. DUMP HIM FIRST and then use that six months of therapy processing the whole ugly thing and getting past the pain of cutting him loose.

He does not own you, you only choose to LET him own you and yes, you should cut him off and cut him off now. There is no middle ground, these are not muddy waters and there is no ambiguity to weed through.

Put the sandpaper down and back away from the married man.

The End.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My new favorite line ever... EVER!

"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now if I could only figure out how to find out if its true...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 64

An answer perhaps to the eternal question of the need for human pain and suffering can be found, I think in the word ‘experience’. It is only in the experience of pain and suffering that we as human beings can know empathy. This is the only way in which two people can truly connect at a real and intimate level. This is the only way that one can truly know what the other knows. It is only in feeling the pain, in knowing of that experience that we truly and honestly share with another. This is where we come to that meeting place of true spiritual connection that enables us to know what is in the heart of the other. The defenses are gone and the truth of the other is known.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I have to admit

That sometimes this whole God thing seems like utter bullshit to me. I mean mystery is cool and all, and it offers hope and it offers intrigue and all of those other really cool things. But sometimes I think to myself “what a load of crap”. What is the point? We struggle through life, we deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. We have times in our lives when things are not going well, one thing after the next and we try to keep it all at bay, try to get up and go to work each day, try to put it out of our minds and for what?

For a load of guesswork that’s what. Because in the end, despite the positive thinking, despite the ‘Just Do It’ slogans, despite all the cheap talk of God’s love, in the end when life is hitting us from every angle the bottom line is that we feel like we’re struggling through this on our own. And that’s the truth.

When I hear some guy talk about how he walked away from a car wreck because of his personal blessing of God’s protection while at the same time 500 people are killed in an earthquake it all suddenly becomes crystal clear to me that it’s all mostly just a bunch of guesswork. And perseverance and intestinal fortitude and a little bit of vodka or valium, which is a bit of a joke but it's really not all that funny. Sometimes I think it would be great to be able to just walk away.

This could be a good example of this thing that I referred to as doubt a few posts back.
Just Do It

I used to take guitar lessons. One day a bunch of years ago I saw a guy playing the violin at a wedding and I decided right then and there that I simply had to learn how to do that before I died. So a couple of months later I took my bad self down to the local music store and told the dude that I was going to start violin lessons. And you know what I did then? I let that s.o.b talk me out of it. Yes I did and I have been flogging myself ever since. He told me that it takes years to learn to play the violin well and clearly (I guess by looking at me he could tell) I didn’t have that many good years left, there simply wasn’t enough time. So he pointed me in the direction of the guitar and I said what the hell. Classical guitar is lovely and I would be thrilled to be able to play classical guitar.

Yeah, well about eight years later I’m still struggling with this freaking classical guitar and sometimes I just want to throw the damn thing through the window. There is something amazingly soothing to me about the sound of shattering glass… especially when I’m the one that shattered it.

Anyway… so here I am eight years later, still learning to play the classical guitar and I am here to tell you and I don’t care what ANYONE says, there is NO WAY ON THIS EARTH that learning to play the violin could be any harder than learning to play classical guitar. And all you violinists out there my hat’s off to you and you have my undying respect, as do all of the classical guitarists out there as well as any other player of a musical instrument. You do not know the meaning of the word ‘perseverance’ until you have taken up the task of learning a musical instrument. The good news is that the payoff is so high and that makes it all worth the effort (at least I keep telling myself this).
That a person could learn to play the classical guitar, or violin or any other stringed instrument is proof positive to me that we are capable of things we never dreamed possible if we are only willing to slog through the difficulties of life.

So here’s my point. I took lessons for something like five years and I made progress but I never could get over the feeling of being judged. I never could get over my obsession with playing each scale perfectly, with sounding each note perfectly, with not making any mistakes. In short I never could allow myself to play like the beginner I was instead I expected that I should, right out of the box be able to play this instrument like Segovia.

Ridiculous I know and I did know it in my head… but my heart was something else. I could not let go of this. I read books about how to practice. I read books about the learning process. I read books about how to freaking LET yourself make mistakes for god’s sake! (that is so pathetic). And still….

My guitar teacher used to tell me all the time how I just needed to ‘let it fly’. Just let it go and PLAY. And I couldn’t and I used to beat myself over and about the head trying to find that ‘thing’, that elusive gene, that mysterious whatchamacallit that would magically enable me to let go of the need to play it ‘right’ and instead just play it. What was wrong with me that I could not Just Do It?

And so to Nike and your ‘Just Do It’ slogan might I just say… Well I would be breaking my own little rule of no naughty words on my blog. But you all know what I’m thinking.