Thursday, August 7, 2014

8/8/14—Exploring Love and Fear

Consider for a moment that there are two dominant things human behavior is made up of—love and fear. And every choice you make is either one, the other or somewhere on the spectrum between the two.  

Why love and fear? Because love embraces and includes and fear pushes away and separates. Fear exists in those place love is lacking. Love is a divine trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. Fear is an absence of trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. 

That person you hate? It's not really hate. It's fear that what you dislike in that person is also within you...fear of what you'll do with that realization...fear that you are not yet who you wish to be...fear that you are not who you represent yourself to be. Love understands that person came into your life to challenge you. They are an opportunity, not a curse. Love is grateful for their teaching.

We all contain the capacity for the full spectrum of dark and light within us. Whenever we see a behavior in a person that we don't like, we say "that is separate from me." But there is nothing in god's universe separate from you. There may be behaviors you don't exhibit or places you don't go, but the capacity is within you. And denying that what you hate in others is not within you fractures you, holds you captive, keeps you separate from god and keeps you from loving and embracing yourself. And the more you deny containing that which you hate, the more loudly you become that which you hate. That is the power of fear. 

If you can't see those dark parts that are mirrored back at you from your "enemy" with true understanding and if you can't look upon people you judge with the genuine grace of "there but for the grace of God go I", then you're not just in denial, you're choosing fear. And when you're choosing fear, you're choosing to distrust that everything is perfect as it is, you're choosing to distrust god's plan, you're choosing not to love, and as a result, you're choosing to live in the darkness within you and not in the light. When you live in the darkness within you, you're just a shade or two or three from the unspeakable atrocities you witness on this earth. 

The Westboro Baptist Church? Just a darker shade of fear than the shade you choose when you hate and separate. The KKK? Just a darker shade of fear. Hitler? Just a darker shade of fear. All, by the way, have some love mixed in and you should be able to see that, too. But all began as all babies do, with pure love. I always make allowances for those with the kind of genetic anomalies that cause mental illness. We all have genetic anomalies, though. Ours just resulted in funky ear lobes or a tendency to heart disease instead of mental illness (there but for the grace of god...) While some aspects of fear are innate and protect us, the fear that leads to hate and separation is learned. And when we turn toward fear instead of love, we run the risk of traversing into ever deeper shades of darkness. 

Beneath most negative emotions and states like hate, depression, anxiety and anger is fear. Behind happiness, joy, trust, acceptance and peace is love. When you fail to embrace the beauty of what "is" in the moment, you are experiencing some level of fear. The traffic jam that makes you feel impatient. The person whose lifestyle you envy. The homeless person you judge. The weather conditions that "ruin" your picnic. Or the obstacle that vexes you. All of that is fear. All of that breeds separation. All of that exhibits a distrust in the your god. 

So as you walk through your weekend, consider the choices you're making. And when negative emotions well up, trace them back to the fear within and consider what a loving choice would be instead. And if you're reading this on Facebook, consider clicking through to my blog where you'll find more thought-provoking quotes on the topic of love vs. fear. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

8/6/14—Eating Boogers and Farting

A couple of weeks ago I posted that one of my best kept secrets was that I liked to do ceremonies. To that, someone quipped that I have fewer and fewer secrets all the time. It seems as if my evil plot may be working. :D

When I'm not being jibed for over-sharing or sharing the obvious, I hear people say I'm brave to post about my fears, anxieties and inadequacies (as well as more positive stuff) online for everyone to see. You wouldn't know that just a few years ago, the thought of doing that was too scary for me. In fact, for most of my life I felt I had to contain my more negative or weaker aspects, lest people would think differently of me or change the way they saw me. I had a lot of fear around that. I guess I wanted to look like I had things all together. But I also feared that if I ever tried to do anything notable, someone would stand up and expose me in some way...mar some image of myself I had tried to create.

Unlike most issues that people would rather keep hidden, when you're overweight most of your life, one of your biggest issues is right there for everyone to see and judge. So appearing otherwise charming and pulled together was also kind of like damage control for me. It protected me from further hurt. Or so I thought.

But the fact is you can't control what others think of you. Whether you're a mass murderer or Mother Theresa, you will always have people who dislike you for one reason or another. Those people will always whisper behind your back. Some will tell hurtful lies about you. Some will tell painful truths. And most will be doing it in their own effort to make it look like they're more pulled together than you.

Putting it all (well, not ALL) out there has actually proved to be very freeing. I don't have to worry about people saying, "well, did you know she sometimes wears her pajamas all day and into the next?" Or "she acts all happy, but I'll bet she has problems with depression." I don't have to worry about anything like that and, in retrospect, I wish I'd never worried in the first place. It has held me back in some ways. But now if someone were to accuse me of, say, losing my temper with telemarketers, I can just point them to a blog where I've already admitted it to the world. :D It's not news. Coming out as flawed and neurotic is very freeing. :)

But there's another reason why I open up about fears around mammograms, inner conflicts around moving on from friendships, anxieties around writing, sad moments from my past, internal fears and all the other stuff I've written about in over 1000 posts. I write about it because it's not stuff we talk about. It's stuff we keep inside because we're ashamed, have nobody to tell, or think we're the only one or whatever.

Remember when you were a kid and the most horrific thing you could be accused of was farting or eating your boogers? I was never able to understand why that was, because doesn't everyone fart? And doesn't every kid sup on a booger or two? So why all the shame around it? Why all the mockery and meanness around it? Even in kindergarten, I understood the unfairness and hypocrisy of it all. We were all booger-eating farters! And yet some kids got branded with the scarlet B or F, while the accusers (who often went home to a large plate of boogers, followed by a bonfire fueled by nothing but farts, btw) came out looking like they had no adverse bodily functions at all!

So this idea of shame and separation and limitation at the hands of things we all have in common has bothered me for a really long time. We all have dark moments and times when we weren't at our best. We all have self doubts and crap we kick ourselves over. We all have bad habits and blind spots. We all have guilty pleasures. And yes, we all fart. And I'll be the first to admit that some of the things I've talked about on this blog have held me back. In fact, this very thing—the secrets we keep, not because we cherish them, but because we have shame or embarrassment around them—has held me back...kept me in the shadows and contributed to fears around being all I can be.

So I say stuff here and, instead of being judged, people thank me because they no longer feel so alone. They no longer feel like a booger-eating farter. And the thing is, I still have private things. And  you'd think I feel more vulnerable because of all this sharing, but I actually feel less vulnerable. By the time something makes it to the blog, I've come to terms with it. The blogging actually helps me work through it. Pushing "publish" is like getting another stamp on my passport to freedom on the matter. 

Opening up your baggage and placing it on display like this isn't for everyone. But we're all carrying stuff around that imprisons us. Maybe we drink too much. Or our marriage isn't as idyllic as it's portrayed. Maybe we've got a kid who's struggling in some way. Have a lot of debt. Are afraid of the changes ahead of us. Or maybe we're a fully grown adult who doesn't even have the first idea of who we are. There's nothing in any of that that can't be understood and felt by people around us.

Maybe they don't drink, but they work too much and see valuable opportunities to bond with their family slipping away in the same way you do. Maybe they feel the same lack of control over their issue. Maybe they understand what it's like to hide away in a toxic behavior because life can be just too damn hard sometimes. I think most people can connect with any of those things in one way or another. But we don't know if we never talk about it. Someone's got to talk about it so people can see that you can talk about it honestly and not be labeled a booger eater.

So today I just want to say that, whatever it is, you're ok. Your issue is understood and shared in some way by more people than you know. And that it's ok to find someone you can trust to confide in so you don't have to carry the secret on your shoulders any longer. It's ok to take that weight off your shoulders and move on.

I suppose there's some value to being more of a woman of mystery. But I'd rather be a woman of truth. Illusion takes a lot of work to maintain and you don't even realize how much until you start letting it drop away. Let's face it, we can't run from ourselves. We know who we are. To hide it from everyone else just keeps people from understanding you, seeing you as you are and loving you regardless. It just makes us feel alone. We're so much more alike than we know. And the fewer and fewer secrets we keep, the thinner the wall is between ourself and the rest of humanity. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

8/4/14—Changing Your Mind

One thing finally changed the way I feel about de-mucking my office. I got the idea from Facebook. 

If you're not aware of the Humans of New York page on Facebook, you might want to check it out. It has over 8 million likes. Every day the guy goes out on the streets of NYC, photographs random people and gets a little piece of their story to post online. This blog is so popular that New Yorkers WANT to bump into this guy and get their picture taken and talk to him. The posts are sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking and pretty much always wise. 

So a week or two ago there was a guy on there who said "change your mind about something that's important every day." This seemed like a cool bit of advice, even though I think I'd prefer to pull the idea of importance out of it. I'm also not sure I could realistically change my mind about something every day, especially if it had to be something different every day. But the advice is brilliant if you change your mind about something once a week or so...haha. (I feel like one of those people I HATE on the recipe sites that say "I really loved this stir fry recipe, but I substituted the tofu for bacon, all the vegetables for lettuce, added tomato and put it on bread. No need for rice!" They never even tried the recipe. They just made a BLT.)

The good thing about his advice, as given, is that it puts the pressure on to make you think of something "important" you could change. Should I change my stance on the death penalty, perhaps? Perhaps not. But I could examine it and make sure it still feels right with who I am. I could walk around for a day calling for murderers to be electrocuted, just to see how that feels. I can ask myself if, even though I don't think the death penalty is good, is there some other way to single out the most heinous criminals? Or, looking at it from another angle, how do I feel about the whole eye-for-an-eye thing? Does my opinion change depending on what happened to whom?

And it doesn't have to be your opinion about something, necessarily. When it comes to de-mucking my office—a room nearly worthy of an episode of Hoarders—it's less about an opinion than it is about how I see the task. I've gone years seeing it as a horrific chore that looms large over my head and drags me down. That hasn't really helped me make any progress in there. Seeing it that way makes it too large and unpleasant. 

But recently it has occurred to me that if I'm ever going to realize my dream of moving and becoming an author and all of that, I'm going to need to clear out that room. You can't show a house with a Hoarders room. And you can't just move and leave all that crap in there. So I started seeing it differently. So now, each weekend, I spend an hour or so in there "moving toward my dream" instead of "mucking out my Hoarders room". I've been pretty consistent with my efforts ever since.

You could translate this advice to a lot of things. You could change the self-talk that happens in your head when you make a mistake, for example. The way you see yourself in the mirror. The things you're willing to put up with in your personal life. You could change the way you think and see everything everything in life...or at least think it through again. After all, if we're constantly changing and growing, then chances are some of the ideas we have about things and some of the hair-trigger responses we've developed over the years should change too. 

Even more than that, though, is that it's a good exercise for keeping your mind open. One of things I like to say is "only a fool thinks they've got it all figured out." Truth is, the more you know about things, the more you realize how much there still is to learn. I think after 27 years in both advertising and as a tarot reader, it's fair to label me an expert in both areas. And knowing what I know, I know I'm not even close to knowing it all. One lifetime is not long enough to know it all. So to me, a closed mind is one of the most unappealing qualities a person can have. It says their ego is so tied to being "right" that they've become blind to what's going on around them. It also says they're missing a whole lot along the way. When opportunity comes up against a closed mind, it dies. 

Of course, we all have that in some places. Like right now my mind is closed to wearing one of those wing suits and jumping off a mountain. But for the most part, an open mind is the sign of an intelligent, vibrant and alive mind to me. And spiritually speaking, an open mind is key. I mean, nobody has THAT figured out for sure and anyone who thinks they do is a fool. 

So what can you re-think today or this week? What one thing can you change your mind on, even if you change it right back? Just the act of changing your mind about something puts you in different shoes and shows you the world from a different angle. We feel safe and comfy in the cave of opinions and stances we build for ourselves, but safe and comfy don't lead us to growth. What are you willing to re-think today?