Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful For the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So often at this time of the year we are asked to give thanks for what we have, our blessings, etc. It is a great exercise in wading in positive feelings of gratitude. However, what happens to what we might not be too happy about? Our so-called mistakes, or short-comings often get neglected by choice. It is as if we don’t want to mix the good with the bad. We are saving the bad for another time. For some, it comes out when they repeat an unwanted pattern and then they proceed to beat themselves over it. Others choose to be reminded of the bad by others (relationships, an incident on the TV or a movie, etc.). Some spend their lives avoiding any such thoughts, or so they think until something happens that pushes it all to the surface.

I am a firm believer in two things: there is no such thing as good or bad; and if you are afraid of something, it’s better to stalk it and face it until it no longer spooks you. Gratitude is an emotion that encompasses this. If you are grateful for the lesson you have learned from your mistake, then you must in a sense be grateful for having made the mistake for if you hadn’t, you might not have learned the lesson. If you feel into this statement, you will notice that the word mistake no longer has power over you and you have faced something dark or negative and nothing bad happened. Life is indeed like opening up a box of chocolates and biting into all of them. There are some you are going to love and some you wish you could spit out. You learned which ones you like and which ones you won’t try again. Being grateful only for the good is like taking out all of the chocolates you like and pretend the ones you don’t like aren’t in the box. Life is a rainbow of colors and flavors and our job is to experience as much of it as we can. For only in the experience are we going to know what we like and what we don’t.

Even in the depths of grief, there is the sweet memory of the one we lost and the love we feel for them still. And unfortunately, at times, it is in losing them that we recognize how much they meant to us. That in itself is the gift of loss. So, in the spirit of this beautiful American Holiday, I would like to ask you to look back into your life and think about your blessings, your talents, and your so-called mistakes, short-comings, or losses. Imagine a basket that contains your entire life experience up until now and imagine all of the events, people, and decisions like small fruits or flowers in this basket. Some are fresh and delicious, and some are not. But they are all there, and you wouldn’t be here in this exact place and in this precise form, if it weren’t for all the fruit and flowers in that basket. Your basket is uniquely yours, you have filled it with its content, it represents all of your choices and experiences. Now, that you have a fresh inventory of the basket, breathe it all in, give thanks and honor all of its content. You are indeed an amazing creator. Keep on creating, don’t close the door on the creations that have caused you pain, for there is wisdom in that pain. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Can Be a Matter of Conscious Choice

It can be, because it doesn’t seem like it is all the time. Sometimes it feels like it is not up to us. What am I talking about? I am talking about conscious choice. I’ve written about Charlie, our little dog in the past. He is a little black pug who is so not an alpha dog. Charlie would never have survived in his pack, he would have been the first to have been consumed by the alpha pack leader. He would have been a hindrance to the pack because he would wander off in the woods if he thought he saw a pretty leaf he could chase. He would slow them down. Charlie has a friend he plays with every day, another pug who is female and full of life and energy. She is the one who determines how many circles they run, which direction they go, and who gets to get on top! Charlie doesn’t mind being led. I don’t think Charlie understands how he shows up in life. He just is. His playing with his friend reminds me of how we as humans interact with each other. I wonder how many are truly consciously aware of how we show up, furthermore, if we choose to be or do we?

Recently, I met someone who was very demanding. He was not interested in asking if it was convenient for me, or if I was even interested in what he was talking about. I soon realized that if I continue being nice and make it convenient for him, I would be very unhappy. So, I became more demanding too and explained how I wanted it to be. I didn’t hear back from him again. Making the conscious choice to show up assertive may cost you a friendship, but if you have to let someone rule over you to be their friend, that may not be a friendship at all. On the other hand, you may consciously choose to allow the other person to make certain decisions if those are important to them and not to you. For example, I have a good friend who makes all of our lunch decisions (where to meet and when). I am ok with that, I don’t care where we go, so I let her take charge of that. However, if the place she suggests is inconvenient or I’d rather go somewhere else, I will speak up. I am also certain that she doesn’t mind making all of those decisions. I have a choice and I am aware of the dynamics of our relationship.

The same holds true in our most intimate relationships. If you feel like you are the one who makes all the decisions because your partner won’t, you have to consciously decide if this is the role you want to play. I hear so many complaints from women who feel like they do all the “work” in the relationship. Yet, I never hear if they actually have allowed their partner to do some of the “work”. Yes, I use the word allow, because it is about allowing. When you want things done your way and at your speed, you are not interested in the work getting done, you are interested in having your way. That need to control translates as not allowing. So, our partners avoid helping out and let us do it ourselves because they know that whatever they do will not be good enough.

This past weekend, my husband and I went out to a concert and a babysitter took care of the kids. She was the perfect baby sitter. The kids and the dog were well taken care of. Once she left and I looked down, I noticed that there were leaves all over the floors and the rugs. I guess the kids and/or her must have taken the dog out and tracked the leaves all back into the house. I felt a tinge of annoyance, and then I remembered how glad I was to have had a night out alone with my husband and a great babysitter who didn’t mind staying over until well into midnight. Allowing is about accepting all that is, just the way that it is, even if it isn’t quite the way you’d like it to be. That night I consciously chose to be grateful and content. I consciously chose to put my attention on what truly mattered. I would have had nice clean floors if we hadn’t gone out that night, but I would have also missed out on a great date! We spend so much time on things that truly don’t matter to us and we have done it so many times that we don’t even notice it when we do it. All of the years of practice at giving our attention to things we don’t really care about has dulled our awareness and robbed us of recognizing our own personal choices. We give away our power in a hundred different ways each day and then we wonder why we aren’t happy. To make matters worse, we try to control our environment to bring a sense of order and/or balance back again and all that does is make it worse.

So, the next time you feel helpless, exhausted, or angry about a situation that involves someone else, ask yourself what really matters and how you have co-created the situation? Once you know and are clear on what really matters in that situation, then you can do or be as needed. However, you have to take responsibility for the consequences of your action or words. People may or may not be happy with an empowered version of you and that is the chance you are taking. Make the conscious choice and watch what happens…

Monday, November 9, 2009

Does The Truth Have a Chance?

Since last week’s post, I’ve been pre-occupied with the truth. I’ve been catching myself looking for it everywhere and noticing that somehow it has lost its clout. No one seems to be interested in it. I am also reminded of that great line from the movie, A Few Good Men, when the Jack Nicholson character says: “you can’t handle the truth”. It makes me wonder if we really can’t handle the truth. Or is it simply that the truth is not as interesting or shocking as the stuff we make up or is made up for us.

Last night I watched the CBS News (60 Minutes) interview of Andre Agassi by Katie Couric and I watched the truth try to make an appearance despite being shoved into drama, turned into gossip, and nailed by gotcha journalism. I didn’t expect this from 60 Minutes and especially when the guy they were interviewing had already confessed everything, but I am learning that there is little difference these days between any of the so-called news shows on TV. For those of you who missed the show, Agassi has written a new book (to be out today), an auto-biography called Open. In it he confesses to a lot of things including taking crystal meth, wearing a hair weave, and hating tennis. Mind you, Andre Agassi is a retired and respected tennis player who is married to another retired and famous tennis player and is an active philanthropist. Between the two of them, they live a very comfortable life. Writing this book is not going to make or break his lifestyle. With the camera up close, it was clear that his reason for writing this book was to be open and honest about himself and a step in his atonement for his mistakes of the past. He could have let it all be, no one would have known or cared about any of this. His image would have been untarnished and he would have remained a great tennis star. Instead, he chose to come clean, to speak the truth. To me, this was wonderfully refreshing, especially coming from the guy who made “image is everything” a famous line. Instead, Katie Couric kept on asking him things like how many times did he take crystal meth, for how long, how does he feel about what others are saying about him, etc. This was a moment where we could have found out more about what speaking his truth means for him, if he could go back in time, what would he change if anything, what are his hopes for his children, etc. I could think of a dozen questions that would have honored his speaking his truth and left us inspired or compassionate and curious towards people living lives so different than ours.

This interview got me thinking again about our lack of interest in the truth and our lack of patience and even tolerance for those who are being truthful. We would rather not believe them. As Katie Couric said, some of us might have thought that he was just being whiny or trying to sell his book. Any twisted, negative rationale is ok, but the truth. I hope I am wrong, and I hope that people can see and feel beyond what was demonstrated on TV and continues to be demonstrated 24/7. I hope that truth becomes fashionable again, because it is pretty potent, but if we keep on avoiding it we are just feeding into the illusion we are living in. I can’t imagine that this is what we choose. I hope that we can indeed handle the truth. I am certain that Mr. Agassi feels like a huge burden has been lifted. He doesn’t have to be anyone’s tennis star or fulfill anyone else’s dream. In fact, he has liberated himself from that pedestal. He is free to be himself if he chooses so. I wish him all the best.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Does Truth Have To Do With It?

He has been officially separated from his wife and even lives in another state. He comes into town every weekend to visit the kids and spends the weekends on the driveway or in the garage (where he is allowed to be). The kids don’t want to be around him, they blame him for everything. He doesn’t know that we know about it. He still pretends that he is commuting back and forth and that the house is theirs and everything is ok. I don’t say anything one way or the other, I don’t want to intrude and I don’t want to be drawn into the drama. I go along with his stories even though I have heard the ugly version from his wife. This is a story of someone I casually know and spending the weekend listening to him tell his story to others, I realized how much he still might believe it to be true.

He made me think about the stories I exchange with others. Once we repeat the same story over and over, we believe it too. It’s what politicians do best, it is what churches and other religious institutions have done for centuries, it is what corporations do (except their disgruntled employees know otherwise, and spread their own stories. But the corporations are more powerful and can spread their stories more efficiently and can reach a wider audience), it’s what families and cultures do, and on and on it goes. In fact, when we get together with people, it provides the perfect opportunity to exchange our stories. He tells his story, we tell ours, or someone else’s whose story we like, and pretty soon by the end of the gathering we leave more convinced that our story is indeed true, especially if others bought into it and we even have some fresh stories that we can spread around.

In my neighborhood, the common story is about H1N1 vaccinations. Having two school aged kids, I admit, I get sucked right into it. We all share our knowledge about the latest whether it be which pediatrician is giving them out to which towns have been inoculated to conspiracy theories, etc. We are all concerned about our children’s health and probably our own too. We are frustrated with the fact that there is no clear communication about where and when we can get vaccinated. We are unclear about how serious this threat is. In summary, we don’t have enough information. And because it might be a matter of life and death (especially when we listen to the nightly news and hear about the town next to ours who had the latest fatality, etc.), we go into fear mode. This is the perfect environment for creating drama to feed into our fears. The feeding keeps the fear alive and strong, it makes us be right, so it feeds into our self-righteousness, we keep on talking and obsessing about it, we attract those who might not have been afraid, and it keeps on getting bigger and bigger. At this point, we are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get the vaccine, which I am afraid I am seeing happen in my neighborhood.

So, what happened to the truth? And does it matter? At this stage in the game, you have chaos and fear together hand in hand with extremely strong convictions and delusions about matters of life and death of young children! This is an extremely dangerous concoction that could easily get out of control. I know with my neighbors, that no one at this stage is really interested in the truth. They just want the vaccine. Going back to my friend with his delusions about his life and marriage, I wonder how interested he is in the truth. Once you live inside the stories that you have created, you have no reason to be interested in what may be considered as neutral and disarming. From my perspective, accepting a failed marriage and visiting the kids at the court appointed times is a lot easier to handle than travelling back and forth every weekend, sitting in a cold rental car, waiting for kids who don’t want to see you, and lying to everyone you meet. On the other hand, his choice of lifestyle is more exciting, complicated, exhausting, and sure to draw sympathy from whomever might know the truth. He also gets to avoid the pain that he might feel if he accepted his role in the dissolution of their marriage. And as a bonus, there is the possibility that she might feel sorry for him one day and let him come inside and his story would be true after all.

Whether we are living inside our human-made stories in our personal lives, or out there in mass consciousness which is fed by us, the media, and all of our friends and families, we are separated from the truth. We believe what we want to believe, and we have done it enough times that we believe that it is the truth. We spend our lives proving our stories to be true and because everyone else is doing it too, we have no reason to stop. The only time we stop is when we are tired of the drama, we are in search of the truth, or our story got so out of hand that we got called on it. So, the next time you find yourself convinced of something that does not bring you peace of mind/heart/soul and body, ask yourself if it is true. Is it true that you have to do whatever it is you are doing, is it true that the government is out to get you, is it true that your life is going to end if you leave your job, your family, your (fill in the blank), is it true that she/he hates you, etc. Is it really true?