Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For The Year 2012

Although you may not live it consciously, you are the “captain of the ship” you call your life. Not the sea - just the vessel. We do not control which challenges will try us, but we do control how we tackle them. To do this effectively requires having the right tools at the right time.

Insight to your "suchness," and acceptance of who you are right now will give you those tools and smooth the way forward. Otherwise, you live your life like a ping pong ball being bounced around by circumstances -  fearful and apparently helpless. Life lives you instead of the other way around.

The enemy of introspection is the belief in perfection (with everyone having their own idea of what that may be.) Looking inside with a more accepting and realistic eye, we find what is not yet "perfect,” but instead of treating it as something embarrassing, we welcome it as a way to make our lives happier and better.

Being perfect, or even becoming perfect, is a silly game our egos play with us. It is impossible to win, so let's refuse to play! What's wrong with walking the path of learning anyway? Living in denial of our perceived weakness and stumbling blocks causes an emotional disconnect with others, a deep loneliness, and an ever-present fear of being found out.

Small things we discover can have such great results, when we stop playing the perfection game. For example, when my mom retired and moved far away from her lifelong social circle to leave near me and her grandchildren, she bought a neglected 100+ year old house and a large wilderness of a backyard. Her plan was to make everything "perfect," a jewel to be admired. All of her energy (she has a considerable amount) and time were spent on a never-ending job. That, plus a few hours dedicated to quilting to break things up, pretty much summed up most of her life.  
Mom was becoming a homebody, and made no attempts to meet new people and make friends. Having no need to feel pretty, she wore her paint-splattered clothes almost daily.  And her hair, once the object of fussy attention, now did what ever it wanted to. Spur of the moment invitations for a family outing or an unplanned party when friends dropped by were always answered with, "No thanks, I'd have to do my hair -  I'm just not up to all that fuss.”

My mom was becoming a “schlep” (her word, not mine). In addition, she was becoming lonely, although she fervently denied that for the first couple of years. She blamed her lack of enthusiasm for anything new on just being tired from all the work. She insisted she was happy in her new life, just as it was. Of course, I knew better and (as any good daughter would) shared my thoughts with her, frequently.

A few weeks ago, while we were having coffee and talking about all the things that usually happen to New Year’s resolutions, she shared hers with me and I could not have been happier. “You know,” she said, “I have been thinking about why I feel so glum all the time. I have become lazy about my appearance. I have a need to feel pretty when I go out. Call it shallow, but that's who I am. I am lonely and it's my fault. I am well on my way to being an old coot if nothing changes. As you may have noticed I set my hair this morning, I am wearing lipstick and there is no paint on my pants! As of today, and for the new year, I will set my hair first thing every morning, I will come when you invite me and I also want to go to the weekly lectures at the library. It's a new start."

Such a small thing, and such a big turnaround. (If you, too, are someone who declines invitations because you are in a rut - like not having something ready to wear when the phone rings - have an outfit ready to wear only for such an occasion. Eventually, people will stop asking assuming it will be a “no.” Be ready when opportunity knocks. As a rule, we are social animals, and we need those connections to live a balanced life.)

The thing is, only you know - with introspection and without laying blame on others - what it is that keeps you from living life the way you want to.  And just maybe that life is different than the one you sort of drifted into.

So, for 2012, let's get to know ourselves a little better still, with the intent of becoming freer and happier. Forget about being perfect, see yourself with honesty and kindness, identify the obstacle and make a plan.

Happy New Year!

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