Archive for September, 2014

The Performance Artist in All of Us

September 30, 2014

It goes without saying that a core characteristic of any re-booter is their creative impulse. Inherent in the desire to re-boot lays the realization that there are alternatives to how we currently live our lives, combined with a curiosity about what those alternatives might be. The simple fact that you are even aware such possibilities exist and are willing to explore them demonstrates how much you revere and respect innovation.

 

We each come into this world somewhere on the spectrum of how much we utilize our imagination. This sort of intellectual curiosity is not to be confused with traditional depictions of a creative mind: visual artists splattered with paint, the tortured, drunken writer, the erratic and moody musician. Such types may garner the lion’s share of attention for their creativity, but they do not define the parameters—much of what they do should be labeled juvenile and pathetic. “Look at me!” they scream. “I’m so crazy! I defy you all!” Exhibit A of this sort of tiresome “envelope pushing” is Lady Gaga’s “performance art” at SXSW. When I hear of such demonstrations, I can’t help but recall Queen Gertrude’s famous observation, “The lady doth protest too much.”

 

In contrast, I contend that inherent in creativity is a beauty and finesse that doesn’t need to shout. As re-booters, how you re-define yourself, your goals, and your life can demand far more mental agility and risk taking because you are doing it within and against the weight of centuries and generations’ worth of tradition and established expectations. Of course, this deeply personal and quiet revolution can have enormous reverberations on those around us, but we don’t need to shout in order to be effective. We need only live our lives in a determined, confident manner consistent with who we now are. Does what I’m saying make any sense?

 

What makes re-booters’ struggle heroic is the fact that they are willing to pursue this path at all. This is not for the faint of heart. My wish for you is that everyday, you vow to be brave, you vow to test the limits of something that doesn’t sit right with you, that holds a dissonance for the person you wish to be and how you want to live your life. It needn’t be showy, there’s no call to vomit on anyone, you just have to quietly try a new way. This quietly brave act is your performance art.

 

For those of us who need occasional bolstering in this department, I encourage you to seek out fellow journeymen. Who do you know who’s forged their own path? Talk to them about their experience, ask questions, see if what they say has any resonance for you. The same strategies won’t work for all of us, but they do help prop open the door. Recently, a friend came to me wanting to discuss a fundamental shift in their life’s direction—made all the more formidable because they know few peers who are confronting such dilemmas, so they skewed older and came to me. Good, great, I’m delighted to help them sort out the questions they may want to ask. I have none of the answers, but if I can help them feel less alone, that goes a long way.

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People Are Strange

September 25, 2014

People do strange things all the time—really, really odd. They pose for disturbing professional portraits. They take women who are not their wives out for dinner and dancing and then solicit other men to dance with them. They go to Star Trek conventions or keep rows of stuffed animals along the rear window of their car. In their free time, they enjoy shoving sticks in holes to arouse wrathful snakes. They covet the images projected by Camille Flawless.

 

I don’t want to be one of those people, but I probably am.

 

Do you have any idea just how ODD you are? What weird thing do you do that makes people take a small step back?

 

This goes way beyond the “whatever floats your boat” philosophy. Fortunately, most of the bizarre things people engage in aren’t dangerous or (entirely) morally depraved, but they certainly inspire a moment of, uh, “processing” when others learn of their predilections. I suppose a therapist or scientific researcher might talk about impulse control, oxytocin, patterns of gratification, and risk taking when analyzing the whys behind such activities. But the truth remains, that we all do this. In fact, the Doors’ iconic song People Are Strange sets out the universal quality of our condition.

 

While our weirdnesses may not be as colorful as the ones I started this post with, the tie that binds us to our more flamboyant brethren is that we all do it—and much of the time, we don’t even realize how peculiar we are. Statistically speaking, I know I must do something equally odd. I’ve tried to deconstruct my attitudes and behaviors, but I have yet to figure it out—being wildly anal about how the dishwasher gets loaded (thanks, mom) doesn’t rise to the level of freak show. I wish someone would tell me so I might examine the matter more closely.

 

Remember, what I am referring to is distinct from behaviors that some people embrace because they WANT to be perceived as “weird.” That group is hungrily, actively soliciting attention and they go about it by pursuing a rebel road. To me, such behaviors are not integrated with who the person truly is; rather, they remind me of a needy teenager. Of course, there is (as with all things) a spectrum, but what I find so intriguing is what our weird, innate behaviors or attitudes reveal about our inner selves. Why is it that someone would want to disturb a sleeping snake that presents no threat? What could possibly be seen as sexy or appealing about the male or female model at Camille Flawless? What chord is this striking?

 

When you have time, I want you to reflect upon somebody you know who does something you consider very strange. What is it that they do? What makes it so perplexing? Would others consider it as odd as you do? And if not, what does that tell you about them…and about you? And, finally, so this doesn’t come across as a wholly critical post, what sort of freedom does this person enjoy that allows them to engage in such activities—most likely, it’s a freedom you don’t possess yourself. Because, while it’s none of our business what other people choose to do, we can learn something about ourselves in how we react. Send me your best odd stories, I’m always looking for new material…

Lingering Echoes of Auld

September 23, 2014

Many years ago when my grandfather died, we hired a bagpiper to play at his graveside. At the time, I remember feeling somewhat embarrassed about such a showy display of a hearkening to long, long, long ago Scottish roots—especially given the fact that none of us wander about wearing Campbell tartans or attending Robert Burns’ suppers. But, lately, I’ve been contemplating the mournful wail of those tunes as I’ve caught scraps of familiar cadences in current country music.

 

While it’s true that there is lots about country music that is missing subtlety or elan, the same can also be said for just about any musical genre of today. In 2013, Tom Petty was quoted in a Rolling Stone article describing today’s country music as “bad rock with a fiddle,” which I thought was hilarious. But even if his assessment is fair, there remain powerful undercurrents of those Scottish and Celtic highland tunes which linger in the harmonies heard today.

 

You may be interested to learn that the reason behind such a strong sound association of fiddles, bagpipes, and lyres with country music is a direct result of the widespread destruction of church organs by those dour Calvinists of the Scottish Reformation. In 1561, when Mary Queen of Scots returned from France, she brought with her a love of music as well as a tradition of court patronage for musical performance. But due to the fact that the organs were demolished, other instruments had to be employed during church services. Music performed at Lowland weddings further popularized these types of sounds. Two hundred years later, Robert Burns got in on the act by collecting folk songs from across the country and adapting them to make them more acceptable to a middle class audience (Auld Lange Syne is a tune most will recognize).

 

Now, what does any of this have to do with re-booting?

 

The echoes of our long ago past can intrude and insinuate themselves into our lives in the most unexpected of ways. This can include things we didn’t even know were part of our (collective) history. Why some random harmonic element would catch my attention when others don’t reminds me that there is a lot more going on beneath the waves of our awareness than what we realize. We’re reacting to something more. There’s a wistfulness in our response we don’t understand.

 

What is something that has caught and held your attention for no reason you can explain?

 

I didn’t grow up listening to country music. There’s a lot about it that grates on me–a cat being strangled comes readily to mind. I have a distinct saturation point when it comes to troubadours twanging on about beer, trucks, and honey sweet kisses. And yet, listening to certain runs reminds me of something I’d never claim as my own. I guess that’s what I was feeling that day the bagpiper played beside my grandfather’s grave. Is that artifice? Or is it the past reaching out and reminding us of a thing we’ve lost along the way?

 

Have you ever experienced anything remotely similar? How might this factor into your re-booting process? What unexpected undercurrents are influencing you?

 Scotland

When Someone Won’t Believe You

September 18, 2014

The high profile controversy currently raging about exactly what and when Roger Goodell and the NFL knew about Ray Rice’s violent attack on his then girlfriend is a dramatic example of a situation most of us have faced at one point or another over the course of our lives, namely, finding ourselves in a situation where someone doesn’t believe we are telling the truth. They believe we are lying and nothing we do will convince them otherwise. (What I believe about the Goodell controversy is irrelevant for purposes of this post.)

 

Of course, there are myriad, shimmering, spectacular examples of people who lied and were, rightly, not believed. Certainly, the most famous in recent memory is “I did not have sexual relations with that young woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Alas there is an infinite supply of individuals who omnipotently believe they can fool everyone. This phenotype of false denial is counterbalanced by tragic examples of people wrongly convicted or framed to take the fall for something they didn’t do. But the point of today’s post is not to examine the rightness or wrongness of any of these scenarios. The point of this post is to examine how we handle it when someone doesn’t believe us when we are telling the truth.

 

One snowy morning in 1976 when I was in third grade, Terri, our 19 year old school bus driver, yelled at all of us to shut up and remain silent for the remainder of the drive to school. At the time, I was wearing a blue snow parka with a fake fur hood, so my face was partially obscured. Being an obedient child, I kept my mouth shut, but leaned over to see what the girl next to me was drawing. From her rearview mirror, Terri saw me do this and screamed at me, accusing me in front of everyone of disobeying her. Once we arrived at school, she dragged me into the Principal’s office. No one believed my tearful denials and I was punished. I have never forgotten that day.

 

When was the last time someone didn’t believe you?

 

Let’s break it down like a geometrical proof: Two people (A & B) who interact on a somewhat regular basis have an altercation where A accuses B of doing or saying X. B is innocent and has denied it; A refuses to believe B. How does B proceed, standing wrongly accused by A?

 

(NB: I am not addressing scenarios where B is claiming innocence based on a technicality—see Bill Clinton above.)

 

Generally speaking, in scenarios such as these, B is rarely an innocent lamb. At some point, B may very well have criticized something A has done or said–even something related to X, but B did not do what A believes. By way of a parallel, if I shoplift, that doesn’t mean I am just as likely to be guilty of physically assaulting the storeowner.

 

Often, A and B are people who lack a sympathetic trust or affection between them. Examples include in-laws or relatives who don’t thrill to see one another; colleagues who’d just as soon not work together; or parents of children who are friends with our kids. This type of relationship is fertile ground for such misunderstandings.

 

A fundamental truth of re-booting is that we need to find a strategy to calmly withstand the slings and arrows of those who perceive us as worse than we are. We have to make peace with the fact that not everyone will like us and that, on occasion, we’ll stand unjustly accused. I know how uncomfortable this can feel—what about you?

 

Learning how to move forward without getting distracted by the opinions and actions of others is far harder than it sounds. We have our reputations to consider; we want the world to think the best of us. Considering that none of us lives in a vacuum and we must coexist with those around us, it’s fully understandable that we would feel upset when wrongly condemned or criticized by others. But, common sense tells us that it’s gonna happen to all of us. That’s just how life goes…

 

Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, “What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people.”

 

This statement comes in handy because we cannot control others’ opinions of us—whether good or ill. We cannot control what our in-laws, our coworkers, our neighbors, or the person we just got into a fender bender with believes about us. The best we can do is to live our lives unburdened by such evaluations. In other words, you can’t worry about it. Leave them to their opinion; just ignore it and go forward the best way you know how.

Waiting for Another Chunk to Fall

September 16, 2014

A few nights ago, I was happily sitting at my computer when I heard a loud noise; having no idea what it was, I went to investigate. It took awhile for me to discover the source of this commotion, which turned out to be a 24” x 18” chunk of plasterboard that had spontaneously expelled itself from the ceiling. Now, I live in a house that was built in 1930 and has many of the issues old houses have—particularly ones where pro-active maintenance is not a priority of its owners. But even I, an expert on nothing, recognize that when a rotten (but dry) segment of ceiling falls to the ground, perhaps it’s a subject worth addressing.

 

My father, in his infinite wisdom, decided to poo-poo my suggestion of contacting a contractor. Instead, he solicited the counsel of a cousin who runs a close second in home maintenance ignorance, but he is a man. Upon inspection of the alarming puncture, my cousin recommended that it would be best to, “wait until another chunk falls out.”

 

So, this is how we’re proceeding.

 

Now I stand vigil, waiting for another chunk to fall. Certain devious parties have recommended that I accelerate the process by “facilitating” the exit of a follow up chunk, dramatically displayed like a forensic crime scene reminiscent of an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Having spent years performing sweat labor in the bowels of a Machiavellian university, I’m surprised I still retain sufficient naiveté and honesty that it hadn’t occurred to me to do so. At this point, however, I reserve the right to switch over to the dark side at a time of my own choosing.

 

This idiotic (and dangerous) example of kicking the can down the road has parallels throughout our lives; Congress comes to mind first, but we all meet with situations where we find ourselves hostage to the bad judgment of others. One of the first things I do in such situations is remind myself that whatever I fear most will happen probably will not come to pass. After that, the situation boils down to a game of odds. What I have learned is that it doesn’t help matters for me to get angry or frustrated by the ill-advised decision since it’s out of my hands, anyway.

 

There’s a lot to be said for a strategy where we keep our heads down and plow forward the best we can, rather than shaking our fists at the skies or repeatedly trying to convince the decision maker of the wrongheadedness of their decision. Back in the day when I was employed, I had a boss who was notorious for changing plans at the last minute, creating exponentially more work for the staff with little pay off, and simply being erratic and unfair in their “management style.” Since they didn’t have to execute any of their decisions, it didn’t matter how much extra work was created. A mistake I made was expressing disagreement with this approach; I would’ve been way better off had I kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t going to win, no matter what I said or how right I was. It took me years to learn this.

 

When in your life have you found yourself in a similar situation? How do you respond to idiotic strategies?

 

I came into this world blessed with many qualities, but patience is not among them. In fact, I believe that one of the biggest lessons I am here to learn is the cultivation of patience—which can’t come soon enough, as far as I’m concerned. This has been an excruciating and endless process for me, but the good news is progress has been made. Actually, I haven’t had a choice in the matter because patience has been the primary quality required of me as I’ve clawed my way through this life transition. Things have not come fast for me; they’ve creeped along with many a set back. It used to be that I’d cry and get depressed and righteously indignant about the unfairness of this perplexing turn in my life. These days, I just chuckle and shrug. One day at a time. No point in getting mad about it.

 

And so, I wait, engaged in fulfilling activities rather than worrying about when that next chunk will make itself heard. That’s all I can do.

 

 

Unrelated Postscript: As the author of this blog, I need to address what one of my followers recently told me, “Your blog is preachy.” I suppose it can sound that way to certain ears. But, in my own defense, I would contend that an endeavor such as this blog requires a specific, clear point of view, which I have. Further, I would argue that it’s not “preachy” in a superiority way. It may be “preachy” because what I’m saying is (fairly) serious and about life’s journey. But I never pretend to have all the answers and readers who are particularly sensitized to perspectives that sound “preachy” wouldn’t be interested in reading it. Just had to get that off my chest…

 

Negotiating Unexpected Hazards

September 11, 2014

A few weeks ago, there was a confusing mess on Route 66 in Virginia, a highly traveled commuter thoroughfare near DC. The white strip used for demarcating lanes came unglued from the asphalt, resulting in crazy wavy lines that confounded drivers. When interviewed, many reported that they were so befuddled by the wiggly loose tape they nearly ran off the road. I bet!

 

What particularly attracted my attention about this story was the commentary of other drivers who said they didn’t even notice the mess. Now, why might that be, I asked myself? What is it about these people that they were blithely unaware of what was happening all around them? Because whatever it was, this quality, in this situation, kept them safe by enabling them to proceed without fear.

 

As with any characteristic, obtuseness and acute sensitivity have their advantages and drawbacks. Those who skew towards the obtuse can happily plod forward, unburdened by surrounding chaos, in contrast to those who are attuned to detecting the slightest deviation on the radar. The others can better prepare for impending disruptions because they recognize that a change is in motion. In my opinion, it’s the latter of these two categories that risk more on a daily basis because it is they, the easily startled ones, who are vulnerable to overreaction. They are far more likely to be thrown off their game by the smallest of infractions closely followed by an overcorrection. I reluctantly include myself in this category. As obtuse as I can be in many arenas, more often than not, I startle. I am a startler. Are you?

 

Either way, it doesn’t matter, because when our plans get disrupted we have a choice: we either freeze or we improvise. We either feel upset or we shrug it off. We wait for conditions to right themselves or we plow our way through, not bothering to worry about why it happened, only that it did.

 

What sort of person are you? When things get messed up in an unexpected manner, what is your first gut reaction? Do you flip out or reevaluate? Are you slow to recover or quick?

 

What this has to do with re-booting is that we must make similar choices as those drivers on Route 66. There we are, happily plowing along in our lives when BOOM! something we didn’t think would happen, happened. Someone dependent on us suffers a serious health crisis. We lose our job. We are betrayed. We tell a lie. Suddenly, it dawns upon us that our life is not what we thought it would be. The people in it are not who we thought they were…or we aren’t who we thought we were. Whatever the precipitating action, conditions change radically and now we have to cope with the aftermath. So, what then do you do? Do you drive straight forward or do you get distracted by all the wiggly lines? Because, remember, you can’t just stop in the middle of Route 66—you’ll get slammed like a bumper car if you do that—so you have to keep your foot on the accelerator and pray. Are the wiggly lines a sign from God? Will some other overcorrector crash into you, despite your best efforts? Maybe.

 

The ability to improvise under less than ideal circumstances—and I say this as an OCD Control Freak—is one of the most resilient qualities a re-booter can cultivate. Stopping is not an option. You have to keep going, using your common sense to guide you when all your previous markers have disappeared.

 

Years ago in California, I had a great uncle who was an ophthalmologist. One of the rules of thumb he taught my mom was that if ever she found herself driving in fog or was blinded by high beams at night and couldn’t see the road, she should look to the far right hand lane strip to guide her. It’s a very handy tool, by the way; I’ve used it a lot myself. Now, this wouldn’t help our hapless Virginia commuters, but the point remains true nonetheless. Use what’s available.

 

Whenever we get thrown off our game, the best first next step is to rely on a stalwart guidepost—our common sense—to negotiate those next ten feet, and then reassess according to current conditions. You’re not stopping. You’re not not wildly following wiggly lines. You’re not pretending things are as they were. What you’re doing is getting through. How do you manage to stay inside your lane?

wiggly lines

 

Reduced Pressure Zones

September 9, 2014

Today, kids, we’re going to master a principle of residential plumbing: keeping potable and non-potable sources of water separate. Similar to our circulatory system, where arteries and veins function to isolate oxygen rich blood from oxygen poor, household plumbing has distinct (but conjoined) systems of pipes to insulate clean water from dirty.

 

As you know, water is normally maintained at a significant pressure within the pipes to enable it to flow quickly from the tap or shower. If that pressure fails or is significantly reduced, as may happen when a water main bursts or pipes freeze, then the resulting pressure drop may allow contaminated water to be drawn back into the system. This unwanted flow of water in the reverse direction is known as “backflow.” The point at which a potable water system connects with a non-potable water system is referred to as a “cross connection.” A backflow prevention device, also known as a reduced pressure zone (RPZ) device, is used to protect potable water supplies from being polluted by backflow. The simplest and most effective way to achieve this is to provide an air gap.

 

That is all I will ever know about plumbing. The end.

 

However, this ignorance cannot stop me from using RPZ as an analogy in my ever expanding Roster of Re-booting Resilience.

 

When you think about it, each of us exists in a high pressure zone—some even do our best work under these conditions–after all, it’s pressure of one sort or another which motivates us to get off our duffs and accomplish goals. Without any need to perform, it might be difficult to distinguish us from a lump on a log, so pressure can be a very good thing. We get ourselves in trouble, however, when the pressure goes awry. Too much and we might spew out all manner of ugly things, too little and we fizzle out.

 

What’s problematic is when drips and drabs of the more toxic, contaminated elements of ourselves slip into the mix. At first, nobody may notice—a little snarky comment here, a whiff of resentment there leaves a hint of an odor or the faintest metallic taste, but usually gets diluted by our more normal, functioning selves. If left unchecked, however, that backflow of bad attitudes can increase and spread contagion way faster than we realize. This is why we need to be certain we have our own RPZ devices installed and fully functioning.

 

As you learned in my highly informative plumbing tutorial, one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent backflow is to install an air gap. That sort of pause or suspension is a tiny example of the macro re-booting shutdown process. It’s a temporary halt of sorts. If you’re anything like me, you usually can tell when a bad mood is descending or when you’re reaching your limits of goodwill or patience. You may know it, but those around you won’t always recognize those first, initial rumblings. As finely tuned as they may be to changes in your mood, nobody other than you can better discern the storm clouds gathering in your psyche. And even if you’re able to control yourself sufficiently to “hide” or limit seeps of backflow, it’s still contaminating your system. The RPZ device provides a catch basin to isolate those toxins looking to worm their way back in.

 

What strategies have you devised to furnish that “air gap” between your angry, frustrated self and your normal, functioning one? What is your personal RPZ device?

 

And no, the temporary numbing effect offered by a garden variety of addictive behaviors doesn’t count. Staring at the computer in order to avoid interacting with your family or inventing reasons to leave home every weekend is not recognized by the Plumbing Contractors Association as an approved backflow countermeasure. You may be able to apply for a permit exception once in a blue moon, but other than that, you’re out of luck. Sorry.

 

So, what blue print might you sketch out to manage this challenge? Everybody wrestles with this; it isn’t unusual. We’re all decent people, none of whom sets out to contaminate ourselves, or those around us, with our bile. This is why responsible parties take steps to install effective relief valves.

 

So concludes our plumbing tutorial for the day.

 RPZ sketch

 

 

 

Not a Whole Lotta Sleepin’ Goin’ On

September 4, 2014

What is it about the dark that lures us away from sleep and towards activities of a more fitful sort? While quiet may reign supreme in our homes, many of us are likely to be restless and unsettled. What is it that you ponder at night? Where does your mind drift? Worrying about your children, aging parents, or life direction? Rehearsing the necessary steps to clean house and off load a bunch of junk? Sorting through possible solutions to business problems? Replaying that last, exciting interaction with that person you can’t forget?

 

Here in DC, we get to witness our Revered Cadre of Officials dedicate 24/7 to thoughts of themselves$$; it’s a fulltime occupation! Respect must be paid. Before I can possibly solve the nation’s problems, I need to expand my brand by securing this next election or book deal. Nice.

 

Back here at the ranch, having cultivated an expertise in lying awake at night, what I have found is that relentless worry never solved any of my problems. In fact, I cannot recall a time when directing my considerable willpower towards achieving some goal or resolving some problem resulted in the matter being solved any faster or better. The intensity of total focus, while useful at times, winds up exhausting everyone around us. It doesn’t matter how fascinated or fixated we are on a particular issue, if we don’t give it a break, we’ll wind up draining whatever reservoir of goodwill and patience our friends and loved ones have for us. We need to learn when to give it a rest.

 

As I reflect on various episodes in my life, what inspired such obsessiveness stemmed from my anxious belief that doing something was better than doing nothing. Having no clue how to handle a particular challenge, I decided that fixating on it would expedite a solution. Not so—especially when you add in elements such as most of what we worry about isn’t in our control to begin with! We can’t determine who will like us enough to follow up or if our children will make wise choices. There’s no way for us to alter how lonely or jealous another person feels. We can’t do much to control the level of pain our body feels if we’re sick or injured, but anticipating and concentrating on future, potential pain doesn’t enhance the experience. And that job or marriage we lost? The one that paid our bills and provided a sense of identity? Lying in the dark, nursing a sense of panic and anger doesn’t increase our chances to find the next, right one. We’re way better off curbing such contemplations and going to sleep.

 

In fact, the Zen Buddhist philosophy of living in this moment and not another proves its usefulness during times when I can find no rational explanation for what is occurring in my life. Why beat myself up trying to comprehend things beyond my ken? Given how aggravated I am by the short sighted and politically driven leadership of most of organized religion these days (fyi, domestic politics has become the 21st century civic equivalent of organized religion), I tend to pick and choose from the variety of creeds out there and formulate my own patchwork religio-philosophical approach to find my way through this life. Hey, it works for me…

 

What works for you? What do you think about late at night, when you can’t drift off? What images bury themselves deep in your mind, refusing to fade? Do they evoke pleasure or panic? Are they an escape or a torment? Because the truth is, whatever we fixate on is feeding us in some way we wish to be fed. We do it because we have a craving that this line of imagery satisfies—it doesn’t matter how illogical it may be. The worst of these ponderings are the ones we think about repeatedly but refuse to take action on in our waking lives. We torture ourselves for fun–a lot of masochists out there…

 

I realize I’ve wandered around, a bit, in this post, but my point is that you are not alone, lying there in the dark, wide awake. For as many sound sleepers as there may be in this world, there are a whole lot of us restless types—the ones for whom a locomotive of thoughts is always tunneling through our heads. But every now and then, we, too, need to tap the brakes on that endless track.

Green train

A Shelter from the Storm

September 2, 2014

Here at Dignitary’s Retreat, I dedicate a lot of space to discussing the necessity of embracing change and making positive adjustments throughout the course of our lives. But in this post, I am focusing on affirming those elements that remain steady, which reliably deliver the support we need—whether it’s our bodies, our talents, our support systems, or at least our sense of humor. Having that thing that we know will remain firm and support us through life’s rocky times, well, that’s merits acknowledgement, too.

 

My life over these past five years has been nothing but turbulent; the types of stress that accompany such a high level of instability have taken their toll on my bank book, my idealism, my social network, and my ego, to mention but a few. Whether it’s the loss of highly valued, long term relationships, a cratering of a presumed career, uprooting and moving to an entirely different part of the country, a significant economic downturn, or a stark confrontation of the truth that what I had worked so hard to build turned out not to be what I wanted, well, I imagine you can sympathize with just how upsetting the winds of change can be. What stormy currents are you sailing these days?

 

Yet, other truths exist, as well. Throughout this ongoing upheaval, I have had unwavering support from family members and friends. They shore me up when I falter, terrified that I lack the strength to make it through. My body has reliably worked despite all the strain. When crunch time has come, I’ve been able to summon the psychological, emotional, and spiritual resources necessary to get me through the moment, through the day. I’ve never once had to worry about where I would sleep or if there’d be food on the table. Over time, my perspective righted itself, enabling me to laugh again. And, despite all the anxiety and confusion I feel, I have never, ever believed that this crisis would ultimately defeat me.

 

These are no small things.

 

So, my question to you is this: what elements of your life can you rely on? Who or what is there to shore you up when you falter? Because these resources exist for you, too. They may differ from mine, but they are there. Take a moment to acknowledge who or what they are—and be certain to include those elements of yourself which support and sustain the very best parts of who you are.

 

Now, write ‘em down.

 

I want you to take pen to paper because the act of putting them into physical form gives such thoughts more credence than simply allowing them to float, temporarily, across our consciousness. We all have parts of our lives which remain fixed in our corner, and knowing what these elements are can provide a source of strength when we feel the rest of our lives closing in on us. This is our personal storm cellar, a refuge that each one of us is entitled to, but must build for ourselves. It’s not a place to hide from the world, but a shelter for those times where we feel the rest of our lives has been stripped bare. The reason this is important is that—at least for me—when I’ve felt particularly frustrated or overwhelmed or defeated by my circumstances, having no idea what might come next, I’ve been able to stop myself, slow my panic, and remember all those things I do have, taking a moment to summon gratitude for all those elements which continue to work in my favor. This is my wish for you, too.

 

Are you willing to try?

 Tornado pic


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