Sunday, November 5, 2017

11/6/17—Choosing Love

An updated classic post:

When I was a little girl, I had a secret fantasy. While other girls dreamed of princes and weddings and happily ever after, I dreamed about being so rich that I could have a room with nothing but stacks of fine china and walls to throw it against. 

So many things made me angry. We moved every two years. I was bullied for being overweight. I had a big family, but often felt alone. I had a lot of responsibilities at a young age. My mother and I would lock horns a lot. I often felt misunderstood at home and in school. In high school, my mother became terminally ill. Personal accomplishments were expected, so they weren't celebrated. And I never felt I had a voice in any part of my life. I learned not to complain about anything. 

So there was nowhere for all that frustration and anger to go. There were times as a child it would overwhelm me and I would have "breakdowns" that nobody ever knew about. I had plenty of alone time as a child to come unglued with nobody noticing. It scared me, but telling anyone would be fruitless. I was already known for being dramatic and, like I said, we really weren't allowed to complain about anything. My mother was either working and couldn't deal with it, being an Air Force "first lady" and couldn't deal with it or dying of cancer and couldn't deal with it. It was never a good time to have a problem. 

When I became an adult, a lot of things changed. First, I had a lot more control over my life and how many times I moved and how much my life would be disrupted. I got called names a lot less. I had a measure of professional success and felt noticed and appreciated. And, by the time I was 25, both of my parents were dead, so I created my own support network that would give me the affirmation or whatever it was that I needed. But more importantly, I found something bigger than myself to believe in and have faith in. 

At one point I realized that a lot of my anger came from things I had zero control over. And that anger was fueled by the fear of all the things that would be out of my control due to all the stuff I had no control over. And that made me feel very vulnerable. And, feeling alone as I did back then, I couldn't afford to be vulnerable. 

I reckon everyone reading this recognizes that last paragraph in some form or another. 

As we move along our spiritual path, we learn that life will always throw us stuff we have no control over. We learn that there is no situation where we don't have a choice, even though our options may not be ones we can abide. And we learn to cultivate a practice of letting go and having faith. We learn how to transcend much of our anger and fear. Which doesn't mean it's ever fully gone. I always make monks an exception—people who don't have to live in reality and can devote 24/7 to their faith and trust. But for most of us, fear and anger are things that are going to suck us in from time to time. 

I'm mentioning this because there is so much fear and anger these days. Ban Muslims! Don't take my guns! You're threatening my rights! You're threatening my way of living! What we really mean is "we're used to things the way they are—even though we'll concede it's not really working this way—and we are afraid of how things might change!" But we'll never say that because we're too busy holding on and being angry to see it. We're too afraid of change to even consider compromise. We feel vulnerable and don't feel like we can afford to be vulnerable. 

In a previous blog, I wrote about how I believe our behaviors come from one of two places—love or fear. There is value in both. But I find my life is lot happier if I make the lion's share of my moves from a place of love. And love includes trusting in the universe. Embracing change. Letting go and letting God. And trusting that our prayers are being answered, even if it doesn't look that way. There's a difference between "letting go and letting God" and just laying down and letting the world walk all over you. But fearful people don't know that, no matter how much they say they have faith, because they're not actually letting go. They're not actually trusting. Instead, they're holding on to fear. 

Lately I've been feeling a lot of anger myself. And, yes, fear over the direction our country is going. I am fine tuned to the news and I feel like I've been pulled down into that vortex that so many in this country haven chosen as their life since birth. And I know this is about fear, because I'm angry. That's my clue. And I know I feel out of control, because I feel like I'm standing by, powerless, as my wonderful country becomes overcome by fear, hate and a complete lack of compassion. I feel like there's nothing I can do to stop it. Because people who have lived their lives in fear, cannot be reasoned with, and they bring such darkness and alarm to any hint of anything that could be a solution, that we just keep careening into the abyss. Because that's where everyone wants to be.

This year, the World Happiness Report, which measures happiness using things like economy, life expectancy, freedoms, etc., had a special chapter on how much our nation's happiness has declined over the past couple of years, despite its growing wealth. It recommends, "The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America's multi-faceted social crisis—rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing on even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis." I think we can all agree that won't be happening with our current leadership.

While this sounds dire, we were ranked #14 out of 150+ nations on this particular report. Other reports are not so generous. We are in the bottom 10 on the Happy Planet Index. The Harris Poll has 31% and 33% of Americans claiming happiness over the past two years. And a well-being poll puts us right toward the middle, which isn't bad when you consider we're practically tied with Canada. So it really depends on who you ask, how you measure and even where you live in the country.

In some ways, we have little to be afraid about. The last war that took place on our soil was 150 years ago and we fought it with ourselves. We've never been invaded by anyone. We've always been the invader. Historically, we've known no famine. Our economy is on the uptick. There's very little foreign terrorism or violence in our country—almost all of it is Americans killing Americans. At various times in history we were warned about what the Italians and Polish and Germans and Asians and Mexicans would do to our country if we let them in, and nothing ever happened. And yet so many in this country are terrified. In fact, we act like such assholes because of it that it's a wonder Canada and Mexico haven't joined forces to smack us down. 

But, to me at least, it feels like we're moving in those directions. It feels like our fear is manifesting things to be afraid of. Certainly the red-state fear manifested a president who plays Russian roulette with North Korea and who is a threat to many Constitutional freedoms. And I fear that my own fear is manifesting more fear. If you believe that what we believe we eventually achieve, our future doesn't look good.

I know what I need to do to get myself back on track. I need to disconnect from the sources of fear and move back towards sources of love. And if you're frustrated and pissed off, maybe you could do the same. It begins by asking yourself simple questions, like am I making this decision out of fear or love? Am I entering into this conversation out of fear or love? (hint: most debates come from fear) Am I doing what I'm doing out of fear or love? 

I have this knee jerk reaction in me that says "if I stop watching these fear-inducing things happen, then that's the same as giving up and letting them happen." But the truth is, my watching isn't doing anything to make things better. It just adds to the negativity, which breeds more negativitity. We're not going to heal this cancer by perpetuating it. And I'm not going to miss anything germinal by not watching. Someone will keep me apprised.

The more we move toward love...toward God or Jesus or the universe...the more blessed we become. I know this from personal experience. Living from a place of fear isn't freedom. It's not constructive to yourself or those around you. And it's really just barely living. 

This isn't about people who have different opinions than me. It sounds like it to the defensive and fearful, but it's not. We all have opinions and preferences. And we could all make up stories about where ours come from. I could say my obsession with sweets is about love. I love sweets. But if I'm honest with myself and look deeper, there's a lot of fear in my "love" of chocolate, because I usually crave it when I'm angry, stressed, bored or unhappy. So that's all I'll say. Ask yourself whether what you're doing, saying and thinking is coming from love or fear, and put your knee-jerk "I'm right and everyone else is wrong" attitude to the side long enough to let the truth shine through. 

We only get this one chance to live. Let's do what we need to do to live it from a place of love. There is no law that can be made, no president that can be elected, no circumstance that you could come across that could MAKE you live in fear and anger. It's an internal thing that only you have power over. You can choose love or not. You see it all over the globe in places where war, famine and poverty reign and there are still people choosing love. It is your mightiest power. It's your security in times of uncertainty, if you let it be. Know you have the power and choose love.