How do I get there from here?

Getting there

The past few months I’ve been a bit more silent when it comes to my blog. I’ve been a bit more introspective in my writing. Today instead of getting caught up with the daily ebb and flow of life, I decided to put the remote down, and open my laptop. Like many of you I doubt myself a lot, have I done the right things? Have I taken the right steps to accomplish my future? While I do write about positive things, I too struggle with many of those same topics, and this past few months have’t been any different.

How is fear controlling me?

I listen to quite a few TEDtalks and similar programs, my newest obsession is Invisibilia on NPR. On a recent episode Fearless they explore various ways in which fear influences us. They talked about the way our brains and our physiology reacts to fear, and how our brains can’t distinguish between real or perceived fear. What does any of this mean? A simple way to put it is that if your fear is perceived, you don’t feel any differently about it. That leads me to ask the question, “Is fear stopping me from achieving the kind of future I’d like?” What messages am I telling myself, is my attitude a bigger contributor to my success or failure? A part of me definitely believes that  with a better attitude I’ll be happier. Many people believe that with happiness comes gratefulness, but I learnt in another TEDtalk; it’s more gratefulness that leads to a happier life. So now my mission is to be more grateful for everyday experiences, like the ability to get out and walk around in this beautiful place I live in. In the conclusion of the Invisibilia episode on Fear, one of the hosts Lulu Miller gives her formula on overcoming fear, and I’m willing to share that with you. Fear = Thinking + Time, if you take away either thinking or time you don’t have fear.

Haunted by Past Relationships!

My last relationship was over 2 years ago, so fell free to think “hey this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I should discredit EVERYTHING he says.” Before you completely write me off, I ask that you at least consider some of the points I’m making about my own journey, and ask if there’s any similarities with yours? Yes I know 2 years is a long time, and at the expense of sounding like some people in my life, yes I understand that’s a LONG time to be single; lol that’s a discussion for another post. I find that I’ve been thinking a lot about my last relationship, and whether it was the right decision to end it. But that’s the fallacy isn’t it, at the time it’s not like I said ‘hey I can make a stupid decision, or I can carefully consider things, I’m going to go with the stupid decision.’ Things we’ve done in our past, for the most part we’ve carefully considered them. Knowing what we know now, we can see that things could have played out quite differently. While I do still deal with the consequences of my decisions, I can’t think of it in terms of what I know now. I think it’s interesting that sometimes when we think of the past we seem to remember mostly either the bad or the good. My latest thought is that while I’m remembering the good aspects of that relationship, for other reasons it didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean that I can’t look for those qualities from someone new. Isn’t that the point of life, to learn from our past mistakes, and to not repeat our bad behaviors. Instead of focusing on the past, I could devote my energy to the present, and being intentional about the future I want.

How has my Faith helped or hindered me?

Being Christian isn’t easy, there’s many aspect that some might consider “fun” that I don’t indulge in. Without specifics, I’ve chosen to embrace a certain life, because when it comes down to it, it’s part of my nature, my upbringing. I had a conversation with my mom a few months back about some of the aspects that are central to my life, and I realized now why I’m the way I am. I was raised christian so many of those values have been en-grained into me. When I was younger I had a lot of misconceptions about what I could and couldn’t do as a christian. Without getting into any specific debates, I’d say that there were certain thing that never appealed to me. While it was fun to indulge myself for a time, that indulgence didn’t make me any happier about myself. In many cases I turned to destructive ways both mentally and physically, that weren’t any more fulfilling in the end. Especially here in my blog, I don’t specifically talk about my Christian Faith. I’m finding it hard to spread a message of Peace, Love, and Acceptance. Especially when others who share my faith, especially the most vocal ones are especially hateful to others. They preach a message of hate, ignorance, and otherness. I find it interesting that Jesus our greatest example as a Christian, when asked what’s the greatest commandment said:

… A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39 NLT

To us the term neighbor is simple, but to the people of that time, a neighbor wasn’t just the person in close proximity. A neighbor also meant people who don’t share your religion, ethnicity, or even a mortal enemy. For me that means that even though you may not share my faith, showing you love isn’t conditional, showing you love doesn’t mean that you have to share my beliefs. My central question still remains “how do I spread a message of love and understanding” when others are saying that if we don’t share the same faith, I should hate you?

My life today is different from my dreams!

Why is it that what most of us imagined our lives being, isn’t the way it is today! Remember when you were a kid and wanted to be a Doctor, a Nurse, Lawyer, Celebrity? Why is it that many of our lives are vastly different? I was talking to a friend a last week, and she shared the same sentiment. The truth though is that while some of us aren’t the things we aspired to be, we’re happy with who we’ve become. I would say that the past few years have been more about appreciating who I’ve become, and to stop obsessing about what I’ve not accomplished. Life has a way of throwing you those curve balls doesn’t it? My view today has changed, on most days I believe that “I’m exactly where I need to be” I believe that each of our lives plays out in a way that helps to orient us towards our most beneficial self. Of course we also have choices, each day we make a choice to go one direction over another. Living my life believing that I’m where I’m needed frees me up to see opportunities that my presence can help fulfill. Not in a selfish grandiose way, but I believe that there are things each of us are uniquely qualified to handle. A changing view of life means that I also no longer hold on to the idea of a Perfect Relationship. I imagined that there’s a person out there that you won’t have to face certain issues with. Imagine a continuum if you will, where there’s a certain threshold that you don’t go below, but the truth is the person isn’t a determining factor whether certain relationships will have to deal with certain issues. In some ways conflict is a necessary part of all relationships, no relationship is devoid of conflict. As Gary Thomas recently put it in a recent article “Singles: Your feelings don’t matter half as much as this” he said:

Your future partner’s ability to handle conflict will have far more impact on your satisfaction in marriage that your current level of feelings.

Realizing that there is not really a Perfect Relationship, and that it matters more how much work you put in, my views continue to evolve. I believe that this fits with other aspects of life too. Sometimes challenges or conflict highlights our deficiencies. When faced with those deficiencies do we run or give up, or do we stick around and try to overcome them. For me I believe the latter is what leads to a successful relationship, it’s not that you’re not going to have conflict, or tumultuous times. It’s learning to work through them, it’s being committed to working with the other person. This should be one of the most important tenants of any relationship..

Lessons on Empathy. What can we learn from Ferguson!!

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With each day comes more news of events much like Ferguson Missouri unfolding. Yet another unarmed person is loosing their life in the hands of police. While death is nothing new, loosing a life to someone who’s supposed to protect you isn’t something we’d like to be a normal everyday occurrence. The events unfolding in Ferguson has become yet another issue that is polarizing, now religion, politics are not the only issues of polarization. I wanted to take some time away from writing about my usual topics such as Love, Relationships, and Self-help to talk about this. How can something like this drive us apart, how is it not bringing people together, why does it separate us? While the issue is very complicated, and picking a particular side is easy, my mind prefers to look at it from a deeper angle. In the recent weeks what I’ve been thinking about is how there seems to be a lack of connection to those involved, to really understand where they’re coming from. For me I believe that part of the reason the events from Ferguson can happen in our communities, and why it seems to polarize other communities is a lack of empathy. I’d like to spend some time talking a bit about that and other closely knit factors.

Practice empathy not sympathy!

I tend to be a more logical person, while I doimage have emotions, and express them quite often. When it comes to making decisions I tend to be a bit more logical. While emotions are necessary, they do cause us to make decisions on things that are perceived, rather than actual evidence. Before I get further, let’s talk a bit about empathy. In a little video I found while researching this topic, Brene Brown gives a great explanation of empathy: The Power of Empathy. Brene defines empathy as having 4 elements: perspective taking, staying away from judgement, recognizing emotion, and communicating that feeling with people. In order to have empathy, we have to be able to put ourselves into someone else’s shoe. In the video she describes this as climbing down into the cave with someone else. It’s very important that we not pass judgement, “well I won’t have…” or “you’re stupid, it’s your fault.” Just by recognizing someone’s emotion it can change the conversation, “it sounds like you’re angry” “I can see that you’re upset.” By acknowledging someone else’s emotion you’re saying that you’re paying attention to THEM. In contrast sympathy is slightly different, but it is perceived vastly different. Sympathy in essence is sticking your head into the cave and saying “wow that looks really bad down there.” Sympathy is acknowledging that something is wrong, but not being willing to step into the mud yourself, you want to stay out of the mess yourself. As Brene says,

Empathetic responses don’t start with “at least”

I had a miscarriage “at least you can get pregnant.”

My marriage is falling apart, “at least you have a marriage.”

So to specifically understand why the Black community in Ferguson is so outraged, we have to fully understand what THEY’RE going through. We can’t necessarily look at the events there through OUR lenses, unless of course you’re living in Ferguson.

Our Perspective forms our Reality

This brings me to a central point that I think needs to be stressed. Our perspectives shape our reality, and this is where emotions could lead us astray. Regardless of what another person says or does, our perspectives will sometimes show us things that are not there. In the work I do I’ve encountered many upset customers, and one particular experience is still fresh in my mind. I spoke to a customer who was not happy with their experience, and felt that they had been treated badly. While I had no desire to follow the policy that initially caused this bad experience. I even tried telling the customer that I wasn’t going to continue to push the issue, but didn’t even get to say that before they began berating me. Not to worry there’s more to the story, but my point is that despite my actual intentions, the customer perceived that they were being treated unfairly, even though I was not actually engaging in the same behavior. It fascinates me that even in the presence of video evidence, people will still maintain there perspectives. Take football for example, there will be a video clearly showing whether a player was out of bounds or not. Despite what that video actually shows, there will be 2 people hotly contesting that the player was either out of bounds or in. Why is it despite concrete evidence people will still say that things are the way they think, even if actual physical evidence says contrary?

Good also exists in bad situations

In a TEDtalk about Courage, one of the presenters Janine di Giovanni talks about her experience as a War Correspondent. Check out her full TEDtalk What does it take to cover a War? In the radio segment the host asks her why does she continue to go to war torn countries to report, and something she said stuck with me. Janine said that although she has seen many tragic and horrific things, she has also seen a lot of good and courageous people in those places. Although there is a lot of darkness there, she has also seen light shine through in the darkness. While I had a previous post that talks about this but from a religious perspective, that is not what she is talking about here. To understand why this is relevant, you have to remember that our world is full of duality, good and evil does co exist. I’ve heard people ask in times of pain “why did this happen to ME” “why did god let this happen to ME” While I’m not here to defend God, a particular verse kept coming up this week:

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

This particular verse doesn’t get into the weeds about whether God “lets” bad things happen to people, but what it does say is that god causes things to work for good. I understand that many people reading this probably don’t share my faith, however I know that many have asked this question “why me God?” I’ve heard people try to simplify god down to this, god is good, bad things happen in the world, therefore either god isn’t good or he’s not real. I caution this kind of thinking, so let’s look at an example that will be more relevant. Many people are parents, and they consider themselves good parents, yet bad things happen to their children. When bad things happen we understand that it’s not always directly a reflection of your parenting, that you can still be a good parent. The reality is that many things happen that are outside of our control. Yet there are always opportunities for good to shine through. There is always an opportunity to offer grace to someone who treats you badly. I believe that’s what Janine has experienced in her life.

What does empathy, perspectives and good have to do with Ferguson?

I’ve lamented a bit about a few topics, but again what does it have to do with Ferguson? I believe that when we heard that story, we quickly tried to pick a side, we picked a side that associates more with our lives. We offered our sympathy, and in doing so we didn’t fully take the time to understand why the community was upset. You see while we might share similarities with Mike Brown our Daren Wilson, to understand their lives, we have to really UNDERSTAND them. To really embrace Ferguson and have an honest conversation we have to walk in the shoes of that community. As an African American male, it would be very easy for me to condemn Daren Wilson, he killed a black teen. While that might seem the case on the surface, the real story is far more dirty and murky. This could be our opportunities to really understand the lives of both Daren Wilson and Mike Brown. Especially on social media, this story has raised many divisive and visceral comments, and I’m ashamed to be a fellow human. This situation could be an opportunity for good. One of the things I was reminded from the TEDtalk was that it’s easy to make a negative comment, or to let injustice prevail. It’s much harder to stand up for good, to do the right thing. In the church sermon today about Joy, I walked away with this, sometimes we can’t really offer much help. Sometimes all we can offer is a simple gesture, but even a simple hug, is a step in the direction of empathy. Sometimes in painful situations there really is nothing we can do to make it better.

Writing is a platform for me to express my thoughts to people that are not in my immediate area. While it’s becoming easier and easier, I caution you, my readers to do so responsibly. Today the world is becoming darker, more evil, and even a small gesture will remind us that there is good. While it’s easy for me to pick a side in the Ferguson story, the act of 1 young boy has reminded me I should choose my words carefully. Some people believe they’re only words, Free Hugsbut words are very powerful. “I have a dream” are only words by themselves, but they’re also a rallying cry for the oppressed. Those words taught a nation that we can be more inclusive of our brother and sisters. I have a voice, and I refuse to use it to spew anger and hate. Mike Brown isn’t the only one who lost his life that day, in a way Daren Wilson also lost his life too. The question I ask is what can I do to not continue spreading hate and misunderstanding. A way for me to do that is to have empathy rather than sympathy. While empathy is a great place to start I must also do my part, I must be willing to step out and do good, even if I’m the only one standing. As a 12 year old showed us, even if it’s just a free hug, he’s offering all he can in that situation. Going forward a question I will as is How can I offer YOU help? Not in a Golden Rule kind of way, meaning I’ll offer you the kind of help that I would want. But to actually ask you, what do YOU need me to do for YOU?

Aside

Doubt, Fear, and Shame. The enemy of Happiness!!

“God’s promises are not contingent on my feelings or my failures” – Renee Swope

Aside from feeling a bit under the weather, I’ve been feeling a wave of doubt clouding my thoughts. Doubts about my future, whether I’ll accomplish the things I desire. Will I remain single longer, but then again I’m not exactly looking for a relationship either. I’ve been focusing my time on discovering what traits are important to me, so that when I do search for a life-partner I’ll already know what traits are most important to me. While I’m generally a positive person, there are moments when I don’t feel so optimistic about the future, but I suppose everyone has those moments.

What’s the source of my turmoil!

It’s interesting that when I started to feel doubtful, it wasn’t prompted by someone telling me I wasn’t going to succeed. My doubt came from within, I was my own critic. As I thought of that, I remember telling a friend earlier this week, “surround yourself with people that will lift you up.” I believe I also commented in someone else’s post telling them “when you’re hearing doubt, it’s more than likely that it’s coming from YOU” Then here I was a few days later falling into the same trap. It’s interesting to me though where my answers come from. Just as my doubt started internally, with prayer and reflection, the answer usually comes from within also. I’m not saying that I alone can solve my own problems, but I do believe that God/the Universe (depending on your beliefs) gives you the answers to your questions. By being plugged into yourself and your spirit, you will often hear the answers from within, and if you’re not plugged in someone will tell you that message.

Loving yourself first is the first step!

It’s not easy to admit, but sometimes being single can be awfully lonely. Of course with your single status you have the freedom to carve out your own path. This weekend I went out on one of my usual Sunday/Funday Hikes in the Mountains. It’s always fascinating how beautiful nature is, and it gave me time to reflect and be in my own thoughts. Being ok with the silence is definitely a good indicator of your level of self-love. In those moments what’s the message you hear? If it’s positive and hopeful, chances are you’re doing good on the self-love continuum. Of course the opposite is true, if you’re playing out thoughts such as “you’re not enough” “beautiful enough” “smart enough” etc. Chances are you need to work on loving yourself better. I read recently in a post “it’s ok to give yourself a break” sometimes we’re our worse critic, and we have to remember that sometimes we’re the only one talking bad to our-self.

Enjoy the stage you’re in!

As a closet planner and goal-oriented person, I feel as though I always have to be working towards something. I’m taking a bit of a different approach now. My faith teaches me that I’m “Right where I’m needed”, I believe that my life is divinely planned, and while it’s important for me to make some plans, I also have to follow where my spirit leads me. It’s hard for me to relinquish control and to not have EVERYTHING planned out. A friend sent me 2 quotes that I’d like to share:

Stay single until someone actually compliments your life in a way that it makes it better to not be single. If not, it’s not worth it.

Being single doesn’t mean no one wants you; it means God is still busy writing your love story.

Both these things ring true, I’ve written in length in previous posts that relationships should be mutually beneficial. Meaning that both people should be helping the other be their best self. I heard on the radio today “a marriage should be two people dutifully sacrificing everything for the other person, that is the meaning of a marriage.” Being single doesn’t’ have to be a stigma, after-all aren’t relationships about being happy, why be in a relationship if it means you’ll be unhappy. So while you have time to learn, grow, and love yourself, enjoy it. Learning to love yourself first is practice for loving someone else unconditionally.

As I write this, I feel my mood improving. I guess it’s true, writing is therapeutic! This get’s me back to my first quote, while I may not be feeling optimistic about myself, the world continues to revolve. Other’s still love me the same, even though I may doubt myself. You see regardless of how I feel about myself, others don’t necessarily feel the same way. The caveat is that could have both positive and negative effects, for the purpose of this though we’ll just speak about the positives.

Have you been feeling doubt and fear about the future? Where is it coming from, is someone else doubting you, or are you doubting yourself. In most cases we can’t control others, they’ll do what they want. You however have some control over your own thoughts. Remember that your words have weight for you also. So speak love, kindness and grace to yourself. Treat yourself with Love.

Oh no I think I came down with S.O.S!!!

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It has occurred to me that I may be suffering from S.O.S (shiny object syndrome). I was reading a post from a fellow writer yesterday (yes miasilvvs I’m talking about your post “The Chase”). In her post she talks about loosing interest in a new relationship after some time has passed, she calls it “The Chase” As I was pondering life, as I always seem to do often. It dawned on me that I might be experiencing a case of Shiny Object Syndrome.

O pining about the Future!
For the past few months I’ve been giving serious thought to what I’d like by future to be, aside from my next relationship, I’m specifically thinking about my career. I’m getting older, and I’d like to have stability in my job. For me part of what has been difficult is that I also need to feel intrinsically motivated with what I do. Otherwise I’ll end up sabotaging what I do, mostly subconsciously, not intentionally. Looking at what I’ve accomplished, I feel as though I can do better, or that I should be at a different place, much further along. I know that many people will say I’m crazy, and that I should feel proud. I was talking about this with a friend a few days ago, and while I don’t think I’m where I should be, that’s what also gives me the motivation to move forward.

Newness is always soo exciting!!
There’s a kind of excitement that comes from doing something new, the discovery is invigorating, but like all things in life, there’s usually a plateau for the newness. I started a new job a few months ago, while I didn’t see it as being a career, I still enjoyed it. I still did my best, and I learnt something new each day. Now that I’ve been there a few months, I’m starting to learn about the “cons” of working there. It’s no longer shiny and new.

What does the future hold for me?
As I was contemplating my future with that job today, it dawned on me that the past several years have been like that. It’s not that I’ve not held a job for more than a few months, I was in the Military for 10 years. Although it’s only part-time, I’ve had a primary job for the past 6 years, and work a 2nd job to supplement my income. Perhaps I should be doing something that will allow me to move, or change jobs every few months. That way I can stay in the newness stage, hmm something to think about next!

No one said figuring out what to do would be this hard, while the future looks uncertain. I’m confident that I will find the Career that’s right for me for where I am in my my life. After-all I’ve gotten thus far, and I haven’t imploded yet. What about you, is anyone else feeling like they get tired of things quickly. Are you also longing for the excitement of going on a new adventure?

Hindsight is 20/20, and so is HOPE!!!

Hindsight

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “Hindsight is 20/20” I think the same thing can be said about hope. Over the past week I’ve been hearing the same message about hope, but what is it? Why should we be hopeful? According to dictionary.com. Hope is: to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidencethe feeling that  what is  wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. It takes confidence to be hopeful, confidence in yourself and your path. For me life is about balance, between past, present, and future. Between good and evil, positive and negative. Sometimes life is also about the grey areas, it’s not just Black and White. I was reading a post and came across a bible verse that I wanted to share.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his John 9disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,”  Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. John 9: 1-3

 

Before I get more into talking about being hopeful, I thought it was good to get a little context. Sometimes our understanding is clouded by wrong beliefs. As we see from the example above, Jesus’s disciples thought the blind man was suffering because he did something wrong. As Jesus pointed out, suffering can also be a great opportunity for Love, grace, and miracles. I understand that all may not agree with the example I used, because not everyone agrees with my religious views, however please bear with me for a bit longer. Religious convictions can be some of the strongest, but even with religion we can still have wrong beliefs, and I believe that this example is one that demonstrates that point. But what does this have to do with hope? Just as Jesus’s disciples saw suffering as the result of some type of wrong doing, I believe it’s the same lie many of us tell ourselves. Life is full of good and bad, ups and downs, it can be a bit of a roller coaster. Although things happen to us, it’s not always a result of bad behavior, we’re not being somehow cosmically punished for our past mistakes.

Last week I read a post from thedailylove.com that reminded me that life is also full of nuances. In her post Donna Gates asks Are you Positive or Negative? At first I was a bit taken back by her post, because she suggested that we shouldn’t use those labels. After reading further I realized that she was on to something, sometimes we limit ourselves, and holding on to labels can do that. As I mentioned above life is sometimes nuanced, bad things may happen, and it’s not always a direct result of something we’ve done. In many cases, bad things can lead to victories, triumphs, and life changing revelations. The end of a romantic relationship, could lead to us finding ourselves, and then finding someone that’s better suited for us; but first we have to release ourselves from the old way of thinking.

The other important aspect of Hope is the past. If you’ve been in a similar or worse situation, it gives you confidence. From your past experiences you gain the strength to overcome other situations in the future. As I was jogging last week, I recalled a time in my life when I wasn’t sure what would happen next. Was I going to find meaningful work, will I ever find love, will I have enough money to pay my bills? As those thoughts slowly resurfaced, I realized that although I hadn’t found that “Great Job” financially I’m much better off now, and as for love, I’m learning to love myself. There are many things I consider myself to be; a positive person, an optimist, are among those labels. I also recognize though that there are many other nuances, I’m learning not to let my EGO mislead me. To not get a false sense of confidence, to recognize that my happy moments are giving me strength for the unhappy ones. By seeing where I’ve come from, it gives me strength to endure the day ahead. While I can say that I don’t suffer from depression, I do have my moments when I feel doubt and gloom come over me. In those moments though I’m able to reflect on where I’ve been, and with the help of those who love and care for me, and my faith of course, I’m able to pick my head up again. What I’m not saying is that I live with my head in the clouds, I don’t think that Life is always about lollipops and rainbows, but that it’s nuanced; and recognizing that saves me from inner turmoil.

Tools and practices to be more hopeful:

  • Life is not just black and white, sometimes it’s about the grey areas also. Recognizing where your beliefs are centered is the first step.
  • Your past experiences give you confidence for the future. Experience builds confidence, when facing a difficult situation, ask yourself what other similar situations have you faced before? Chances are you’re here now because you’ve survived past experiences.
  • Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean that you think things are always going to work out. Sometimes some challenges aren’t meant to be overcome, they are there to show us our limits.
  • Going through a bad experience doesn’t mean you’re being punished for something. Although there are consequences to our actions, that rule doesn’t apply to EVERYTHING. Sometimes some experiences are an opportunity for Love, Grace, Mercy, and Life Lessons. Learning to recognize the difference is an important aspect of having hope.

Hope