Sunday, February 22, 2015

All in the Head

This week I had a funny incident take place that showed me just how much of the anxiety I experience is of my own making.

On Tuesday, I sent off a flurry of text messages – to my landlord, a close friend, a new friend, etc. – and didn't hear back from any of them. Not a single person. I made and received calls, but not a single text message came through. Being the person I am, I went into a tizzy and started imagining the worst: “I'm being a nuisance! They don't want to be friends anymore! They're trying to send me a passive-aggressive message!”

Wouldn't it be cool if we could take certain things out of our heads like taking off a mask?

On the periphery of my brain, I postulated perhaps the people I texted were busy, but I didn't give that thought much credence because clearly the more plausible theory was the one where everybody decided they wanted nothing to do with me. It may sound ridiculous – and it is ridiculous – but that's where my brain goes and it takes a lot to convince me otherwise.

I turned off my phone on Tuesday night, still with nary a text, woke up on Wednesday, and had 11 text messages. All of the people I texted on Tuesday had responded to me shortly after I contacted them, but my phone was being weird and I didn't receive the messages until Wednesday. That's never happened to me before. All of that worry and anxiety for nothing.

It reminded me that so much of what I'm anxious about never comes to pass. That I put myself in these anxious states by the thoughts I think. It's easy to say, “Well, think different thoughts!” but I don't know how to do that. I don't know how to become more logical when I feel so illogical. A new practice that I'm trying is to ask myself, “How do I know this is true?” That simple question allows me the space to step back and remind myself, “Oh yeah! I don't know it's true. It's only my thoughts/pictures that tell me so,” and somehow my rational brain is able to come back online. Because really, most of this stuff is in my head.

I dream of a world where we recognize much of what we worry about is only in our minds. A world where we don't believe everything we think. A world where we're able to take a step back and ask ourselves for some evidence of the thoughts we think.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It Was Never Between Us

This week I felt like a cuckoo bird. Sitting in a room full of boxes in a new place will do that to me. I noticed that because I felt insecure in my living space (i.e., everything was new and disorganized), that also meant my insecurity regarding relationships came up. I think I've mentioned before that I'm anxious attachment, which in a nutshell means I feel uncertain in my relationships.

That anxiety and sensitivity was on hyperdrive this week as I found myself spinning out over the tiniest things. For instance, I texted my neighbor and when she didn't respond right away I started thinking the worst: “She doesn't want to talk to me! I'm bugging her! She regrets having me as her neighbor!” Of course, that wasn't true and instead she was just busy, but still. When I'm in that anxious state I take everything personally. I try to read people's minds and make every action, or inaction, of theirs a reflection on me. I want to modulate my behavior in order to maintain a connection with the person.

What I love about this picture is you think it's just a drop on a leaf but it's NOT! Kinda like how if you look closer you see things are between God and us.
What I love about this picture is you think it's just a drop on a leaf but it's NOT! Kinda like how if you look closer you see things are between God and us.

Talk about making myself crazy, right?

One of the things that helped me so much with this is a quote misattributed to Mother Teresa. It's a variant or paraphrase of The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith, but I like the inaccurate quote better than the original:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Ahhhh. I'm breathing a sigh of relief just reading that again. Whenever I try to curb or modulate my behavior, I'm making it between us, when actually it's between God and me. When I express my love for another, I'm really expressing my love for God in the form of a person, and it's not up to me whether the person accepts it or not. That part is out of my hands. And because the universe is infinite and creative, it's quite likely that if the person I'm expressing affection to rejects it, I'll receive love from some other person. For God, there is no limit and there is no distinction.

What I'm saying is it doesn't matter if my neighbor doesn't text me back right away, or some guy rejects me, because it was never between us. It was between God and me anyway, and the more I shore up my relationship with my higher power, the better off I'll be. The more that I stop taking things so personally and practice forgiveness, kindness, honesty, and service regardless of how people respond, the happier I will be.

I dream of a world where we we see relationships as an expression between God and ourselves. A world where we show up fully regardless of other people. A world where we value our relationship with ourselves because we understand ultimately everything is between God and us anyway.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wishing and Praying

Often when I'm praying it ends up resembling a wishlist. For instance, when I'm looking for a  new place to live I'll say, “Higher Power, please help me find a place to live that's safe, quiet, fits all my belongings, in ____ neighborhood, with laundry onsite, plenty of storage space, and where I can see trees outside my window.” And then I start visualizing and fervently praying – or more like begging – saying “please, please, please” over and over again like a mantra.

And then I get what I asked for. Maybe not exactly – usually the neighborhood is a little further afield than I'd like – but all the other things are there. However, I get things I didn't want either, like overprotective dogs, loud neighbors, poor insulation, or something else that compels me to leave. The trouble is, I don't have all the information, and I won't ever because I'm not omniscient. That leads me to believe that perhaps I don't know what's best for me after all and maybe I need to leave that up to an all-knowing entity.

This photo seems to encapsulate my idea of a prayer. Not sure why, but it does.

According to my beliefs, Higher Power, God, Brahma, the universe, whatever label you want, is omniscient, so it seems to me the best thing I can do is to align my will with the universe's. One of the things that's different about where I currently live – besides the impossible way it came about – is instead of having a wishlist, every morning I said, “Higher Power, please place me where you want me. I want what you want for me. I don't know what's best for me, only you do, so please align my will with yours.” And this apartment is what showed up. It's everything I wanted and more, like being next door to a friend and within walking distance of a pool. I'm finding that when I leave things up to Higher Power, my wildest dreams are ant-sized compared with what lies ahead.

I have to believe because I did things differently, this living situation will turn out differently. Thus far it has. I moved in less than a week ago and already I'm more unpacked than I was in my last place. It's not because I have more energy or more help, rather it's because I want to unpack. I already feel settled in energetically so I want to settle in physically. With my last places, a part of me obviously knew they wouldn't work out so why bother unpacking? I have to admit I'm still gun shy; I'm still worried something will be horrible about where I'm currently living that will compel me to move, but at least I can say I wasn't trying to force my will. That instead I was in a state of surrender, acceptance, and openness. That it came about not through wishing but through praying.

I dream of a world where instead of prayers being wishlists we pray to align our will with a power greater than our own. A world where we understand we don't know all the answers and we won't ever, so we can't possibly know what to ask for in the future. A world where we each live in a state of surrender, acceptance, and serenity.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

There's Nothing Wrong with You

This week I got a wallop of self-inflicted shame. Ugh, is there anything worse than that cheeks-burning, hang-dog feeling? As the shame I feel doesn't stem from harm I've caused myself or others, it's not aiding anything and becomes another way that I'm mean to myself. What comforted me was hearing that shame is a perception, but also that there's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing broken that needs to be fixed. I don't fully believe that, but I loved hearing the message so much I thought I'd write a letter to you and to me. For some extra oomph, listen to the audio so I can tell you just how awesome you are. =)

This picture makes me warm and fuzzy, which I think we could all use more of.
This picture makes me warm and fuzzy, which I think we could all use more of.

My dear, there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing broken that needs to be fixed. There is nothing horrible that needs correcting. You are lovely and amazing just as you are in this moment. I know that may be hard to hear, but it's true. If absolutely nothing changed, you would still live a full and rich life. I know there are parts you don't like, parts that you'd like to change, and that's OK, but at the same time, recognize those are choices and not requirements. You aren't required to change any part of your person or your life. You could keep going as you are now and still be loved, respected, and fulfilled. Nothing has to change. It doesn't. If you want it to, that's a different story, but nothing has to.

You are doing great! I think you are doing a terrific job and I am so proud of you. Proud of who you are and who you're becoming. Proud of all the things you have accomplished and will accomplish. You aren't broken, or defective, or any of the things you tell yourself. You are a work in progress, but even if the progress stopped, what's here is magnificent.

I understand that you feel ashamed, but I promise there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing broken that needs to be fixed. Most people feel ashamed about something. If it wasn't this, it would be something else. You are not alone now or ever. You are a part of that great, big, messy group called “human.” And you're doing great! Let me emphasize one more time that you are loved, just as you are. If things continued like this, you would have a good life so you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I swear. You are a treasure and a gift and I love you.

I dream of a world where we stop shaming ourselves unnecessarily. A world where we understand we are fine just as we are. A world where we know we aren't broken and don't need fixing. A world where we accept and love ourselves as we embrace our magnificence.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.