Once upon a time, I tried a radical experiment. It was inspired by a conversation I had with some one I don’t think I knew particularly well. I have no idea what I was saying but they cut me off mid-sentence to observe, in a very gentle way, that all I ever seemed to do was complain. Because I didn’t speak to this person very often, I had a moment of “you don’t know me!” but it quickly passed when I mentally ran our conversation back in my head. Yep. I had whined my way through the whole thing. I conceded their point and later solemnly vowed to myself to cease the negativity for a period of time. It wasn’t long, maybe a week or a month. You wouldn’t think that would be that big of a deal: just find positive, happy things to talk about… since I am an upbeat, optimistic type that should be a snap – right?
WRONG! Very quickly I found that I literally had nothing to say that wasn’t a grouse, lament or gripe. Entire conversations would happen in my presence without me uttering a peep. If you have ever met me, even for 5 minutes, you know that it’s impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I can’t help it, I have a comment – witty or otherwise – for everything! But at that point I was totally stumped for what to say.
A few days in to my unexpected silence, I realized that I had been unintentionally putting a lot of negativity out in the world. This was a rude awakening as I’d started thinking of myself as a Pollyanna, with a tendency to look on the bright side and inject a can-do spirit into situations. Yet there was the evidence before me, as I could not even come up with neutral topics. A change was definitely in order. I took a solid month off from complaints, and took a good look at my conversational style.
Turns out, I was always looking to make people laugh. The easiest way to do that is to complain about a universal topic in a unique or witty way. (It’s true! Listen to your favorite comedian and you’ll see what I mean.) Making people laugh is an admirable pastime – but for me, the amount of gloom and doom I spread was not worth the chuckles I got for my running commentary of depressive thoughts. The subject of conversation didn’t have to change as much as the angle from which I approached it. I set an intention to be more positive in my speech patterns, to talk of things from a place of encouraged expectation as opposed to voicing doubt that anything could possibly go my way. More Tigger, less Eeyore.
Over the years I can tell I’ve picked up the bad habit of complaining again. I am going to set another intention to be mindful of my words. It’s not that I can’t speak of problems in my life, fears, insecurities or even worries I am having. I just have to come from a place of hope that it’s nowhere but up from here. I’m doing this for a few reasons:
1. I am dedicated to be a person that is a positive influence on the planet.
2. Words are powerful. What we say out loud is more powerful than even our thoughts, because they have an effect on other people as well as ourselves. Our words shape our reality, and I want my reality to be full of joy. And if we meet and I speak of hope and happiness, maybe it will give your reality some joy too, which increase my joy even more. Everybody wins!
3. Honestly, I care how I am perceived by others. I don’t want to be seen as a Debbie Downer! I have had such a blessed life, with far more peace than I ever thought possible. I want other people to see what miracles can occur in their lives if they put their faith in the (capital U) Universe and approach their fellows with love and compassion.
4. I am hoping you’ll join me! Let’s start a movement… What should we call it? Bliss Bunch? Serenity Society? Team Gratitude? I can’t wait to hear your name nominations! Go out and recruit others. Let’s make April a complaint free zone. Who’s with me?
I want to love and forgive as I imagine my higher power loves and forgives – in my belief that means everyone deserves both love and forgiveness in equal amounts. My biggest struggle in that goal is loving and forgiving the people in the world that have hateful or naive ideas about the safety, respect and freedom of others. I don’t have a lot of interest in politics or the religious debate. I avoid discussion on those topics, as I don’t believe most (myself included) have enough real information to form a cogent argument. Heartfelt and logical discussion? Possibly. Informed and educated exchange? Most likely no. When these topics come up I usually find something else to do, to avoid being drawn into negativity when I hear hatred or regurgitated dogma.
The point of this topic is that lately I have been finding myself concerned that I will run across hatred on my personal Facebook page. I have close to 500 FB friends, obviously I am not close to all of them and therefore do not necessarily know if their beliefs align in Universal love and forgiveness. I try to be truly open-minded and not dismiss out of hand anything that has a logical or heartfelt basis – I even understand the “my religion is the only right one” stance or the “my lifestyle is the only proper lifestyle” idea. It makes sense that one would choose the ideals that embody goodness in one’s mind. There are a lot of philosophies out there but rarely do I meet people embracing hypocrisy as a way of life.
There is a certain topic in particular that I have been fearful of seeing under fire on my personal FB feed, but I’d like to avoid moral, political or religious specifics here and just talk about my personal struggle with executing my own belief system in the light of other people’s hatred or naively formed opinion.
Let’s say that I have a personal affinity and an affection for men and women that, for vital nutritional reasons, must eat raw onions – we’ll them “Raw’rs”. If they don’t eat raw onions, they can become very ill to the point of hospitalization or perhaps death. I grew up around quite a few Raw’rs, and they weren’t seen as special or different – they were just people. They would eat raw onions right in front of my family without any apology or hesitation! In public they were more hesitant to eat their raw onions, because some people would get upset about it. I was taught that those upset people were special and different in a negative way, but that they weren’t necessarily bad people either.
The people that got upset about public raw onion eating thought that the Raw’rs were different, perhaps a lesser type of human since they had a different nutritional needs than “normal people.” Since “Normals” found the smell and sight of raw onion eating offensive and wrong, they expected Raw’rs to do it in private or utilize nutritional alternatives that science had found. The Normals thought the Raw’rs were making a choice, that they liked eating raw onions all the time and ignored the alternatives because they were morally or mentally ill. Soon there was political involvement regarding the rights of Raw’rs to be able to eat in public. Some states had to actually create a law allowing Raw’rs to eat in public!
When I was younger I hung with a Raw’r crowd. I even tried a raw onion diet for a while, but realized I didn’t have those nutritional needs and went back to Normal eating after a few years. During those few years I saw firsthand the treatment that Raw’rs received, the looks, the stigma – the embarrassment they felt for being themselves in public. Because of the hatred directed at them, most Raw’rs learned to be open-minded. I found that attractive. I also found that the Raw’rs from my childhood were some of the physically and emotionally safest people to be around. Normals in my life hurt me, but a Raw’r never did. Quite the opposite! Even with their differences in behavior, they were role models in how to live love and be family, because they had felt the hatred of strangers their whole lives and realized the vital importance of the acceptance of family and friends.
I think this is a good way to illustrate the weirdness surrounding bigotry and hatred. There’s an argument that the smell of raw onions can be a bit strong outside of a kitchen. The thought of someone biting into a raw onion like an apple literally nauseates me! Ugh! So couldn’t we make a point that Raw’rs should be treated differently in order to not offend the Normals? I think it’s ridiculous to put humans into pigeonholes that limit or expand their freedoms, but I invite you to use this example to explore your own ideas about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, breastfeeding in public, vegans, hunters… sub yourself in as a Normal and ponder what you’d fill in for the Raw’rs. This has been a good exercise for me in exploring where my close-mindedness and fear manifest in relation to different cultures and lifestyles. I want to be 100% open-minded, even to those that don’t want to be – or can’t be.
I wish I always behaved like everyone is equal, deserving of love and respect in the same amounts as everyone else – in the same amounts I yearn for in my heart. I’m a work in progress, and I hope you are too.
In my experience, we humans tend to think we are extremely unique in our thoughts and feelings: “no one thinks these crazy thoughts like I do” or “no one has this much hurt/shame/guilt/fear in their hearts” or “it’s hard for others to understand me because I am so much more intelligent than almost everyone else ever” etc.
While I’ll agree that everyone has something to offer this world, and every person is a child of (enter deity here), worthy of love and respect… I’m convinced that we are having a collective experience that becomes meaningful only when it’s shared among us. What that has to mean then, is that we have to be having the same experiences or no one would be able to exercise their empathy and emotional understanding. In other words, no one could relate to anyone else.
There is a phrase I have heard tossed around called “terminal uniqueness” which refers to people that are in a place where they’d rather literally die than be willing to accept help or guidance. Having once suffered from this condition myself, I can definitively say two things: 1. it is absolutely the most awful feeling when you believe you’re experiencing stuff no one else has ever felt or done – anywhere you go, anything you do, no one can help you, understand you or even forgive you for your thoughts, feelings, actions. 2. THERE IS A CURE.
Because the illness exists solely in your head, as soon as you are ready to be cured – poof! – you are miraculously able to begin the healing, grow, and most importantly help other people do the same. My experience with overcoming terminal uniqueness is the same as everyone else’s experience. (See what I did there?!) I needed loving guidance toward the new idea that I while I may be very special in my own way like my momma told me I am – I am not, in fact, experiencing my life differently than any human that has ever existed on the planet. I’m not a new breed of human and therefore my limitations are within the realm of human experience. In other words I was basically told, “Sweetie, get over yourself” and then comforted as the shock of realization hit me. They were indeed correct in what only moments ago I had thought obnoxious, presumptuous and downright rude.
The most painful part in this epiphany for me was the torrential rush of hope I felt as this new reality sank in. If I am understandable, if I am one among many, if my thoughts, feelings and actions aren’t despicably inhuman or inexplicably disgusting then some one, somewhere can help me. If I can be helped, then life might not be so isolated and painful. If life isn’t so isolated, so painful – then, just maybe, I can be free. I didn’t dare hope too hard right away. I had had hope before, only to have it be crushed by people in just as much pain and ill circumstance… so I was still afraid that this relief was fleeting. Freedom seems impossible when our captor appears invincible. Realizing that what is holding you back are your old ideas and thoughts (either fed to you or made up by you to survive your environment) and not any outside force, can give you courage to fight for that freedom, for inner peace, for a chance for true happiness.
Since discovering I am just like everyone else, I have found other people walking around with that same horrible mix of grandiosity and utter shame of terminal uniqueness. I’ve seen people die from it. It’s a terrible tragedy to see life end for no other reason than we couldn’t help them see how ordinary their problems are. Sometimes people have had their hope crushed so many times they simply can’t allow themselves any hope at all.
I hope this post encourages you to either ask for help, or offer it, depending where you are on your journey. Here are some of the phrases that helped me to become one among many, though they may seem harsh they were all delivered in pure love:
“Get over yourself sweetie”
“You can’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before, but I encourage you to try.”
“You haven’t done anything we didn’t already do… Twice. While naked.”
“Sorry, you’re just not that special.”
“Of course you punched her/pooped your pants/cried for three days/etc. I would have done the same thing in your shoes.”
“We will love you til you can love yourself. Go ahead and act a fool. We’ll still be here when you wear yourself out.”
“Don’t leave before the miracle happens.”
What they didn’t tell me is that the miracle was me feeling like I belonged somewhere – right here, on Earth, with you. My spot was reserved at birth, and no actions I took or thoughts I had could remove it. The same is true for every single person. Sorry, you’re just not that special…
I had no intention of abandoning Hope on Heels for so long, as all of the positive feedback (both internal and external) let me know I was doing something right. Something good for my soul, that connected me to the souls of others.
So what happened? I always found myself too busy, too tired, too pained, too hyper, too distracted to blog. Introspection is scary, especially when there’s a lot of “stuff” going on. When I have “stuff” going on, I tend to get very busy. It’s not all bad activity – quite the contrary! I work out and help people and chop veggies and read books and do puzzles and visit friends and get organized and… well, you get it. I’ll sleep, breathe and think about what’s really going on later. As in, not now… or now… or even now!
Taking time for a long, deep soul searching is not on the agenda for most folks, but I don’t have the luxury of not examining my resentments, fears, and faults. Svadhyaya, meaning self-study in Sanskrit, is my ticket to mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom. Without this self-study, I become obsessed with the idea that something external will fix my problem. Perhaps a pair of shoes or a phone upgrade will relieve me of my suffering? Nothing on the TV or interwebs remind me to practice prayer and meditation, for those particular solutions are kept in a dark, dusty corner of our societal tool shed – if they are in there at all!
So with no introspection, no blog. This isn’t an awesome recipe or crafting blog – it’s about my truth and connecting with others. No one wants to read my to-do lists, not even ME.
Also involved with not blogging is an element of punishment. I enjoy writing so denying myself the pleasure is a form of self-flagellation: “Bad girl, you’re suffering! That must mean you’re imperfect, a condition that needs immediate correction. No writing or true enjoyment for you until you return to an unattainably, unsustainably perfect way of being.” You can probably see where this line of thinking gets me. I’m not claiming to be rational – quite the opposite – but this is where I go when I am afraid.
And I’m only afraid like that when I forget that I am a woman of faith today, that I have tools to bring me back to center. Like practicing yoga through the “other” non- physical limbs of yoga, mostly the yamas and niyamas, with my primary focus on ahimsa (non-violence AKA not beating myself up) and santosha (contentment AKA accepting my self in my current, divine state). For a few reasons I am not engaging in asana (yoga “poses”) right now… but doing yoga off the mat is an entirely different post. A post that I hope you will see fairly soon.
Unlike many people I have a whole tool shed full of spiritual solutions that I have received through friends, mentors, students, therapists and good books. My gratitude for that can’t go unstated. No matter how far I’m willing to wade out into my pool of misery, I know that there’s always a warm and fuzzy answer waiting back on the shore. So here I am, all wrapped up and finally, finally back to connecting with you.
I want to say that I thank you for your support during this period of radio silence. I still felt you all there even while I was away and it gave me strength to do what needed to get done to find my way back here with truth and authenticity. And if I wasn’t going to be real, there was NO WAY I would be able to blog. I have no interest in transmitting my suffering to y’all, only to offer my personal experiences and the solutions to my challenges that I may help you with yours or simply assure you you’re not fumbling alone in the dark through this big Universe.
Over the last decade I have come to understand that I am not defined by what I do to pay bills. It was a difficult lesson! Both pride in my work ethic and having been with the same company my entire adult life made it hard to grasp the concept that I am not my job! What I know now is that ego about my work ethic says a lot more about me than what I am actually employed to do. Not working is usually fairly difficult for me, and I know because I have been through disability before and struggled with feelings of guilt and uselessness for not being at work.
The moment I made the decision that I was unable to work, as described in my last post, I was certain that I was doing the wrong thing. Right before I made the decision I was sure… but then my old buddy Self-Doubt showed up to create fear. I filed my disability claim and immediately decided I wasn’t that bad and should just cancel it, suck it up. Just go back to work.
The great news is that always happens when I need to take disability time off, or even when I just call in sick for a day, yet I can’t recall a time where I’ve EVER looked back and regretted calling out of work. So I just waited that BS out and went to the doctor to get the paperwork done.
I am feeling a lot of fear lately about work. Honestly, and this is the first time in my life I’ve even considered this as a possibility, I am unsure that I will ever again be able to work at my current job. So I looked at the five kleshas in yoga, to see if I could pinpoint the particular one I’m most affected by on this issue. I thought it might help if could concentrate on the particular branch of fear I was hanging out on. Unfortunately I think it’s the trunk of the affliction tree… avidya or ignorance. I like the Wikipedia definition:
avidya: ignorance in the form of a misapprehension about reality
When I express my fear out loud I am quickly assured by all that I am wrong, that I will go back and be just as kick ass as before. That fear is just a feeling I’m having, and feelings aren’t facts. Feelings can change any time, are often wrong, and can cause indulgent or poor decisions to be made. This fear feels very real though I’m fairly sure it’s a lie, and the solution is waiting to see what actually happens, as opposed to creating that reality or worrying myself to death about it.
For now, I’m doing the work to take care of my physical body, my emotional state and my spiritual connection. I’m focusing on the present and what I can do to be the best Angela today. Which means the more frightened I get, the more I focus on the immediate. I do what I can in the moment to be present for what I am being offered in that moment. It’s making for a very small world lately, but that practice has allowed me to mostly stay focused on joy despite my constant discomfort.
What a gift!