When I’m faced with a situation and not sure what to do or believe, a friend told me to get still and listen to my gut–that it knows.
But I have a problem with getting still.
When I am still, the silence can be agony for me. When I wait for an answer to an important question, a text reply from someone, or a response from an on-line blog on a piece I submitted, and sit in silence, it can be agonizing. When I am still, my mind makes up all kinds of stories to fill the silent space.
Maybe I’m not worth a response.
Maybe I’m too needy.
Maybe I’m too pesky and ask too many questions.
Maybe my writing is not good enough.
In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about the stories we tell ourselves, that they are often works of fiction, not based on any real information.
“When we are in pain we create a narrative to help make sense of it,” she states.
The stories that bubble up are neither healthy nor helpful. They may also be inaccurate. Still they persist.
One sunny, Sunday morning, I walked down to a local bakery for a muffin. It was a beautiful day and I decided to sit at a table outside of the store and enjoy my treat right there.
A middle aged man walked up with a long haired dachshund. The dog was adorable–with curly, reddish brown fur and one blue eye and one green eye. He tied the dog outside and went in for his own bakery treat.
As the dog stood there waiting, he was alert and perky, looking up at everyone as they passed by. I watched as people pointed at the dog and smiled. Some stopped to bend down and pat his head. The dog wagged his tail in thanks, and generously smiled back in his own dog-like way. Everyone who interacted with him walked away smiling.
Although that may be true for him, what I know for sure is that when I fight reality, reality always wins.
When I fight the way my body looks When I fight the truth about a relationship When I fight the way people really are When I fight what my situation looks like…it’s a losing battle.
When I fight reality, I suffer. Because when I fight reality, reality always wins.
So in this new year, my goal is to stop fighting reality and instead to see and accept things as they are without judgement. I cannot force people or situations into being anything different than they are at this point in time. Maya Angelou’s wise statement, “When people show you who they are you have to believe them,” can be applied to any situation. I have to believe and accept the reality of both who people are and the way things currently are.
I have noticed that for most people, the word divorce rolls off the tongue like any other word, but it is not that way for me. When I try to say it, I feel my throat tighten and when someone else says it, I feel myself flinch. The word holds pain and sorrow–so much so that when asked about my marital status, I prefer to say I am no longer married rather than using that word.
For a short period of time, I was seeing a great life coach who helped me with many things, one of which was re-framing this aspect of my life. She encouraged me to come up with my own definition for the word. I tried to see beyond what I was experiencing at that time, and came up with this definition:
Divorce: A deep, dark, difficult decision, out of which rises a door, through which discovery, development and a new direction are possible.
I was texting my friend Kevin awhile ago and he gave me a pep talk on staying positive. I replied that mostly, I am staying positive. I just wish the future wasn’t so muddy. He replied,
The future is muddy regardless…just sayin’!
I paused to think about what he said, then had to agree he was right. The future is always muddy. Regardless of well-laid plans, current health conditions, or whatever else is happening right now, the future is muddy and uncertain.
In the book, “The Immortalists”, one of the characters states that her mother gave her the gift of uncertainty. When I read this, I had to set the book down and ponder. Uncertainty is a gift? How is that even possible? I had to unpack this idea.
I have always been an easily frustrated and impatient person, which is evident in old videos from my youth. I remember one in particular where I can be seen chasing my brother around the yard. Since he is older, bigger, and stronger, I cannot catch him. Suddenly, I stop running and stand there, arms straight by my sides. I’m sure if there was audio to accompany the video, you’d hear a loud “Humph!’
Because of this, I have often prayed for patience. When I was in high school, I had heard that Amen roughly translates into the words “So be it”. When I first heard this, it was magic moment. I had always thought of Amen as the bookend to a prayer. I begin with Dear God and end with Amen. “So be it” now felt like waving a magic wand and what I ask for would appear. Ta da!
Needless to say, this caused me to pray more fervently for patience. But instead of feeling patient, I was presented with many challenges that tested my patience–situations where my frustration rose. Not at all what I was praying for. Clearly, I was missing something.
Recently, I’ve had some great conversations with my Uber drivers. I love to ask them questions and for some reason, they open up to me and share some interesting and fairly personal stuff. One time, I asked my Uber driver what brings him joy. He replied,
Being at peace with myself, liking and knowing who I am. Everything else spirals up from there.
His answer was a lightning bolt moment. I was struck by what he said and I saw the lesson in it. If he had asked me the same question, I would have replied something simple like “my kids, mornings, and the smell of fresh cut grass.” His answer was much more meaningful, deep and true. Before we can really find joy in other things, we must first know and be comfortable with who we are. We must be able to love ourselves. This isn’t being conceited or selfish. It’s contentment that comes from being self-aware.
My boss has been talking about selling her business, so I’m in the process of determining my next career move. I do not have a clear sense of direction and am fearful that I will not find something in time. I’ve been doing what I call excavation work–internal digging to determine what my insides are telling me to do–but I don’t feel like I’m uncovering any answers. Everything is muddy and uncertain. I’ve grown impatient and have been pushing myself to figure things out NOW.
One day when this feeling was quite intense, I was sitting at a red light and a big truck with the words Pluto Excavation Service pulled up alongside of me. The word “excavation” caught my attention and I became curious. When the light changed, the truck pulled ahead and on the back in big orange and blue letters were the words
I laughed out loud. Okay, I get it. My impatience and desperation are causing me to push for answers. These words were a message to relax; a lesson to trust the process and allow things to unfold.
When I took my first interior design job out of college, AutoCad was in its infancy. The company I worked for did not yet have it, so we drafted everything with pencil on vellum. I loved the process of putting pencil to paper. It felt really good to me.
Christian Baueracker was the master draftsman in the department. He was from Austria and sounded just like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was an amazing draftsman and his drawings were beautiful works of art. I asked him one time for advice on how to improve my drafting. What was his secret? He came over to look at what I was drawing and said
You need to draft with purpose.
He wrote on a slip of vellum “W/ PURPOSE” in his great lettering style and taped it to my shelf as a reminder. I immediately saw what he meant and how his work was so different. His lines were purposeful and had a well defined beginning and ending. He was confident about his work and each line carried its own weight and with that its own meaning. Some bolder, some lighter. My work by comparison looked tentative, with each line about the same as any other. I was doing the work, but without much thought or purpose.