The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the category “Thoughts”

The Vision Quest

I have come to understand that my current state of existence is me experiencing a vision quest of sorts.  I have grown increasingly isolated:  one undertakes vision quests alone.  I have become increasingly detached from things of this world.  I am seeking my raison d’être.  I keep tearing aspects of self down, then building anew, then tearing down, then building anew, and every time the tearing down goes deeper and the building up goes higher.  I don’t need to be under a drug’s influence to feel the euphoric highs when I have an epiphany, and the crushing lows when I am unearthing old wounds and limiting beliefs, swimming in the mire of wretchedness: that’s just been my life, as of late.  I have the distinct sense that when I finally emerge, I will be better equipped to serve the world.

And it’s hard as hell.

I better be a fucking amazing Druid after this.  And I better have my home.  This tree-hugger needs to put down roots next to some tree friends.  You hear me, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  Fuck you.  I kill you.  I kill you two times.

Yes, I am threatening the well-being of psychological concepts.  Because that’s how I roll.

To the nemeton!

 

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Thank You

So I have been a lover of the law of attraction and everything it represents for a while now.  And while I’ve had my ups and downs, my “oops!” moments and my “aha!” moments, I’ve been slowly moving forward, making incremental progress, learning some hard lessons and seeing deeper into myself than I ever could have imagined going in.  Last night was another one of those massive info dumps that feels so much like a meteor crashed into my mind planet, and my ecosystem is going to have to rebuild itself again.

If you’ve been reading for any length of time, it’s quite obvious that I am obsessed with making a home of my own.  Whether that’s a tiny house on wheels, a cob house, a beautiful old Craftsman bungalow… I just feel this inner longing for *home* the way that normal women who don’t, as Margaret Cho put it, ovulate sand might long for children.  I cry about it – a lot.  Not like, oh boo hoo, I want a fancy house to be a status symbol cry, but deep, profound sadness that can only be described as being adrift on a violent ocean, yearning for home.  I want my safe harbor.  I *need* safe harbor.  My ship has broken apart in the storm.

As much as I have tried to be positive about it, I’ve struggled.  I’ve done all the envisioning exercises I could think of – I printed out house listings I was in love with and hung them up where I could see them; I bought a few books on tiny house building and a couple of small tools that I didn’t already have as gestures that I was going to DO this; I bought beautiful vintage light switch covers to put in my new home; I said mantras like “I have everything I need and want available to me.”  And by the way, when you are paying for groceries with pennies from the penny jar and behind on rent, dropping $10 on a tool you don’t need yet is a big deal.  I thought I was sending clear signals of faith to the universe, so things were sure to happen!  And yet.  I would look at those house listings and think, good things like that don’t happen to you.  Other people get to have a home of your dreams, but not you.  I felt like I was torturing myself a little.  Real estate was already way beyond my income – and it’s only been getting more expensive.  But I kept looking at it.

I would get bitter about how easy it seemed other people had it – either now or in the past.  My most teeth-gnashing knowledge was that when my parents were my age, my father earned more at his job, with only a high school diploma, than I have ever earned in my life (and I’m not talking about inflation-adjusted dollars – I mean in unchanging numbers), plus they had my mother’s income as well.  He wasn’t a great employee – I grew up hearing tales of he and his friends going out drinking during their extended lunch breaks and going back to the office sloshed, or sometimes not going back at all (and yet, no one got fired for this, while I’ve been fired for showing up to start my shift ten minutes late one time too many).  With the gobs of money (in my eyes) from his dial-it-in job, he bought a two-bedroom house that cost five thousand dollars less than he made in a year, in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs.  Cars cost a few grand.  And yet, due largely to his gambling habits, my parents lost everything – the house, the car, everything.  When opportunity after opportunity had been handed to them as a gift from on high, they squandered it.  And it pissed me the fuck off.

Now, I get that it pissed me off because it’s all a matter of perspective.  To a kid that lives in a shanty town made of cardboard and spends their days fetching water from three miles away and can’t go to school, I’m the one who has had opportunity after opportunity handed to me as a gift from on high.  Just as to my parents, it wasn’t a big deal to have what they had – jobs were plentiful and stuff was cheap; the economy was good and don’t all the Mad Men drink cocktails in the office?  Normal!  Why would they have seen it any differently?  But I was so angry.  That anger said, I wouldn’t squander those blessings if I had them.  I wouldn’t take them for granted!

Which was all just a great big block to me ever getting any kind of blessings that I dreamed of.

Now, I tried gratitude exercises – but I felt like I was giving thanks for largely little things.  Somehow I thought that would translate into big things.  Well, it didn’t.  Because I was thinking of them as little things.  Hence the incremental progress instead of large leaps forward in the physical realm.

I tried making myself feel like I already had the thing I wanted – and envision it in detail.  I was good at the envisioning.  I am a writer/artist, after all.  I came up with house design after house design after house design.  I thought, this is the one!  I’m going to get some money, and build this house.  I did it with cars, too – you can see the Smart Car picture in an earlier post from me going to their website and designing the one I wanted.

But did I feel like I actually owned that house?  Despite all my mantras, no, I did not.  The car?  Not that, either.  For a long time, I was sad when I saw cars that I liked – I felt like I was being teased with something I couldn’t have again.

For the past several months, I have been sending out love when I see a car I like (for the record, Universe, that’s Smart Cars, VW bugs, Mini Coopers, and Subaru hatchback station wagons.  Yes, I have to have the one big car outlier, because that’s how I roll).  Now it’s not forced, and I honestly smile when I see one and feel like the Universe is smiling back at me instead of teasing me.  It’s saying, “Hey look, here’s that cool thing you like!”  So I feel a lot better on that front.  But I was still at a loss as to how I was going to earn the money (because that’s what I was focused on) to build or buy my dream home… or my dream car.  The writing muse has been flirting with me but I don’t have a book near completion.  No publishers have responded to my short stories or found my blog and said, “Hey, we like your writing!  Want a book contract?”  I wasn’t hearing back anything from jobs I had applied to.  I didn’t suddenly have a sewing tutorial or cat video go viral on YouTube.  I wasn’t selling out of inventory at craft fairs or Etsy, or having people beating down my door to buy Beachbody products en masse.  So, barring a lotto win (I probably buy a ticket once every two months or so), I couldn’t see a way out.  It was “I need,” and “I want” …which is, say it with me, NOT what you should be thinking if you are trying to attract things to you.

In other words, I was dialing in my manifestation efforts, like I had always felt my dad had a dial it in job.  I was saying what I wanted but not feeling it.  I was faking it ‘til I made it.  I was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.  But just like they say, if you smile even when you don’t feel like it, the action will often lead to you honestly feeling happy.  Well, the project-positivity-project has finally taken root, and I truly do feel positive about my life and the future.

What brought this on?  Well, I’ve been reading lots of books on manifestation, the law of attraction, and “new thought,” as they call it.  One of the pillars of these teachings is that you have everything available to you in the universe.  If it exists, you can manifest it.  If you can dream it, it exists.  “Hold,” you say.  “What about people who dreamed up things that never existed before, like inventors?”  Well, those inventions were made, weren’t they?  The components for anything you can ever dream are there – we just have to lasso them in.  The elements that made the resources that made the parts that made the first computer always existed – it’s just that no one put all those things together to create it until it was first imagined and designed, the international trade network was there, and prior inventions that were necessary for its creation – like electricity being harnessed – had been realized.

I understood this premise on an intellectual level, but I didn’t know it in my bones.  I didn’t feel like, okay, I have access to anything, my abundance is limitless, the world is my oyster!  Mantra after mantra did not seem to be infusing it into my core any more than I can learn through osmosis.

Last night was the shift that changed everything.

What triggered it?  Another Rhonda Byrne book?  Source material?  A great meditation session?  Nope.  It was one of those viral videos full of NASA footage, stirring music, and Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about how we are all stardust.

I had seen videos like that before – in fact, I think I had even heard that particular quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson before.  I loved them both, and thought they were beautiful at the time.  But just like sometimes, you read a book for the second time and all new things jump out at you, or it speaks to you in an entirely different way as you are at a different place in your life, this video hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I cried (this post is full of crying, isn’t it?  I swear I am not a geyser 24/7).  But it wasn’t “I’m sad,” crying, or even “I yearn,” crying – it was understanding crying.  It was feeling connected with everything and everyone in the universe crying.  It was a beautiful moment crying.  It was gratefulness crying.  I actually felt it.  It was a spiritual experience.  I felt myself expanding.

And in that moment, I truly, for the first time, knew that I was one with everything in the universe.  Not just on an intellectual level – but in my bones.  In my heart.  In my soul.  I knew I had access to anything and everything.  And I had gratitude of such a profound depth that it eclipsed all my little gratitude games and mantras.  I’ve had a great day today, and more is to come.  I don’t say that to mean, I hope I have more great days.  I just know that I will.

This blog is to say, don’t lose hope!  Keep at it.  Even if you are not feeling it at first, it will come.  Read, study, meditate.  Do all the mantras and exercises.  All those little efforts will prepare you for the much larger breakthroughs, like paving the road for a manifestation superhighway.  I think I just opened my on-ramp.  And I’m driving along in my dream car (I’m looking at you, Einstein)!

Inside Out

So, probably at least partially due to the sacral chakra sledgehammering, I have been taking a long, hard look at some self/body image issues.  Yes, I’ve had them.  Most of us probably have, to some extent.  But as “sledgehammering” implies, I haven’t been dealing with a sigh-in-the-mirror type of reaction – I’ve been calling it “there was a f**k-up in the soul-depositing factory on the day I was made.”  So… pretty hardcore discrepancies between what I feel like on the inside and what I look like on the outside.  And I knew these feelings were resurfacing and running me through the mud for a reason.  Cue the major insight music!

You see, despite these major discrepancies, I have not gone the route of body modification.  Of any kind.  There have been no surgeries.  I have no tattoos.  The only piercings I have are one in each earlobe.  I’ve never even dyed my hair… and except for hunting-and-pecking for split ends, it hasn’t been cut since I was nine years old.  The extent of my makeup inventory is a stick of eyeliner… that I don’t even wear most days.  I neither lie in a tanning bed nor paint myself a chemical shade of orange (I’m so pale I practically glow in the dark).  Basically… I am au naturel.  What you see is the way I was made.  It’s not what is on the inside, but it is the way I was made.

It is weird, despite the disparity between my “inside” and my “outside,” that I never tried to make the outside match more.  Certainly many, if not most folks do, to some extent or another.  But it has always seemed – and this was part of the insight tonight, why it bothered me so much when I thought about doing it – to me, at least, a violation of self.

Now let me clarify.  I take no issue with other people engaging in body modification.  I’ve seen plenty of piercings and ink that I thought looked great on the person who had them, and many folks who got a boost of happiness and/or self-confidence with their newly-dyed tresses.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  More power to you.  I am not at all saying that it bothers me to see *others* change their outside to better match their inside.  And certainly for the more serious changes – transitioning surgery for transgendered folks kind of serious – if that gives you peace with yourself for the first time in your life, by all means – be happy.  Please do.  But when I considered various changes that would better reflect my inside on my outside, on a personal basis, I always had this rather viseral reaction of revulsion.  Like, made-me-shudder-to-think-about-it disgust.  And I never knew why that was.  I have spent many nights in abject misery, wallowing in the it’s-not-fair bog of self-loathing, and yet I just couldn’t do it.  I just have always felt that somehow, the modification would bother me more than the original misalignment.

It finally came to me that that wretched feeling was a feeling of violation.  The violation of self.  I couldn’t modify my outside because I felt that would be violating it – violating me, somehow.  That seemed like a rather arbitrary assessment, in the that’s-not-very-rational sense, until the latter part of the insight came: because seeking inner peace by aligning my outside to my inside was going about it wrong.  Happiness, inner peace, and calm don’t come from external forces – at least not if you want them to stick.  You may get a shopping high when you buy some new gadget or gizmo, but that high doesn’t last forever.  You can’t force happiness by shoving it through your pores with acquired goods.  Would finally owning my own home (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know I’m a little obsessed with that idea) make me happy?  Absolutely.  Would it solve all my problems in the world so that I had no more reasons to be sad?  Decidedly not.  A new house wouldn’t be a replacement for a new friend, or fulfilling my higher calling, or any number of not-stuff things that rank much higher on the happiness scale.  My body matching my mind (if that was even possible) might make me smile when I looked in the mirror or give me more confidence when dealing with others, but I would never be truly free of the limitations of the physical self if I aimed to modify it instead of my inner self.  It would be like chasing my own tail (no, I do not have a tail – but you dog people and cat people know what I’m talking about).  Why waste energy chasing after something that is already a part of me?

I am what I am.  My inside is what it is.  My soul and my mind will be what they are no matter what my body looks like.  Maybe people won’t relate to me the way I would like, because they are going on my outward appearance rather than my inward reality… but that happens anyway, and frankly, those aren’t the relationships we should be worrying about.  I don’t want shallow relationships with people who look only at my cover and not the inner chapters of self.  The person who takes the time to read those chapters is going to know me, whether my cover reflects that or not.  My inner self is incorruptible.  Fixating on the exterior is tilting at windmills.

The foreman at the soul-depositing factory is off the hook.

Spiritual Detox

I’ve mentioned before that I viewed discovering some old emotional/spiritual wound, feeling its pain as I processed it, and then ultimately letting it go as a sort of spiritual detoxification.  Those instances usually occurred rather unplanned: “Oh hey, what’s this?  A scar I didn’t know was there!  Christmas!!”  But today, boys and girls, we’re gonna talk about doing that quite on purpose.

When you detox physically, you usually plan it – sometimes a lot – with special recipes, supplements, baths, juicing, etc.  This usually involves a trip to the grocer for ingredients, and perhaps timing it to your days off if you think you might have a bit of a health crisis and don’t want to be miserable at work.  So why not plan our spiritual detoxification the same way?

Now obviously, you don’t need to head to the grocer -or your favorite religious/metaphysical shop, as it were – for ingredients (though planning it for your days off might be nice) in order to spiritually detox.  But a little intention goes a long way.

I recently made my first foray into the Akashic Records, and despite warnings from others to just “get a feel for the lay of the land” the first trip in, I felt driven to ask my guides to “bring it on.”  My guides get a kick out of that.  I heard them chuckling.

Bring it on they did.  And ever since then, I feel like I have been doing The Master (Spiritual) Cleanse.  Old, dusty, forgotten relics are getting expunged from my mental attic at such a rate that I very quickly stopped wondering why I was reliving this old feeling again and found myself just hanging on for the ride, like an old rickety roller coaster that bumps you around and gives you a minor case of whiplash.  It became evident that this was a detox.  A bring-a-good-book-to-the-emotional-toilet detox.  Don’t fight it; that will only make things worse.

After several days of just hanging on for dear life and squeezing my eyes shut on that roller coaster, I began to peek out of one eye.  I began to work on the physical purging project on overdrive, but was under no illusions that this was the purpose of my purge: this was merely a reflection of my inner workings.  Some people turn their outside lives inward; I tend to turn my inner life outward.  My cycles of messy chaos, focused organization, and pure creation have always reflected what was going on in my mind.  My packrat habits developed during the years that I was stashing away those emotional injuries so they wouldn’t hurt me in the present, only to be dealt with later; my purging project began when I started to unearth those old storage units and let them see the light of day.

Though I am still in the middle of this ride (I think presently my coaster is on the upside-down section of track), I can say this for sure: God, do I feel better.  And then worse, and then better, and then worse, and then better.  It’s kind of like when you have the stomach flu, and eventually you get to the point where you are just willing yourself to toss your cookies, just so you can get it over with and feel better.  And you really do feel better once it’s out.

…Doesn’t that simile just make you want to spiritually detox right now?  Eh heh.  I promise, it’s worth it.

So, put it out there.  Even if going to the Records is a little “out there” for you, or you just don’t feel ready for that yet, talk to your guides.  They’re listening.  Let them know you’re ready to start dealing with things that you previously couldn’t.  That you want to get rid of negative toxins in your thought process.  If we’re going to improve the world, we first have to improve ourselves.

But maybe do that meditation on your day off. 😉

Changing Our Culture

In the wake of the horrible school shooting on Friday, I saw a number of people posting messages on Facebook that concerned me quite a bit.  Now don’t run away – this is not about gun control.  This is not a political blog, this is a spiritual growth blog.  What I’m talking about is fear.  Fear of “the other.”  Fear of strangers.  Fear of the mentally ill.  Fear of horrifying incidents at every turn.  Basic, primordial fear.

Now, I am not a parent, and I cannot pretend to know what it is like to be one, and so perhaps parents of kids that age who were feeling overwhelmed with empathy and protective feelings get a bit of a pass on this one.  But even other non-parents, or parents whose children were long grown were posting such things as: “teachers should be armed” or “this is why I own a gun” or “EVERYONE should be armed” or “I am afraid to let kids go to school” or “I don’t like that the doors at my kids’/grandkids’/friends’ kids’ school aren’t locked all the time” or “everyone with kids should homeschool to keep their kids safe” …etc.  Now again, this is not about owning a gun, or not owning a gun.  This is about the mindset it takes to fear your fellow human beings so much that you carry a deadly weapon with you for no other purpose other than your belief that it is likely that you may have to shoot someone who wants to hurt you to defend yourself.

How terrified are we of each other?  I had a friend from outside the US tell me (before this shooting, mind you) that she was afraid to come visit the US because she thought she might be attacked/mugged/murdered/shot.  I have other friends who won’t go out after dark, or alone.  How many people have conceal and carry permits, or even cans of mace inside their purse?  I used to work the night shift at a hospital within walking distance of my apartment.  I don’t own a car, so that meant I was walking to work at midnight, alone, just a couple of blocks away from the “notorious” street in my city.  Now I wasn’t dumb about it – I would call the security guard to let him know I was on my way, and if he wasn’t busy, he’d meet me at the corner in front of the hospital.  I stayed aware of my surroundings.  I didn’t walk with my headphones on.  But other people were more scared for me than I was for myself.  I had one coworker buy me a can of mace when she found out I didn’t have one (I never carried it).  And some of these were folks who had never lived in crummy neighborhoods or been the victim of crime themselves (I have experienced both).  So why were they more nervous about my commute than I was?

I wasn’t always this way.  I freely admit it’s a rather recent phenomenon.  During and after said experiences of living in the crummy neighborhood and being a victim of crime, I was a nervous wreck.  My high-alert level was so obvious it was commented upon by others.  And that is exactly why I refuse to live that way now.  Because I know that that is no life!  I was miserable, and I didn’t trust people any further than I could throw them (and I’m not even 5’5″, so I probably couldn’t throw anyone very far).  I walled myself up in my fortress of solitude, because my firmest belief was that people suck.

Now, I’m not going to get into quoting crime statistics here, but for a fabulous treatise on how humans have become less violent as a species, despite what the news and tragedies like this Friday’s would have you believe, I highly recommend the book The Better Angels Of Our Nature by Steven Pinker.  My transformation did begin before I found that book, but it really reinforced what I was already telling myself: most people are good.  Most people are just going about their lives, just like you.  There are not nefarious types plotting rape and murder around every corner.  Odds are, nothing is going to happen.

I am not delusional; I am not Candide, declaring that we live in The Best Of All Possible Worlds.  But 99.999%* of people are basically good, normal people (*not a real statistical number – please don’t snipe.  I doubt there is a study attempting to measure how many people are “good, normal people”).  Sure, there are a handful of nutjobs with crippling paranoia and a gun stash, or who have raped or murdered someone.  I am not saying we pretend they don’t exist.  Don’t do your best impression of a slasher movie victim and walk into the dark, abandoned cabin alone yelling, “Hello?” while chainsaw noises reverberate in the basement.  But don’t cower in fear from the poor homeless guy on the street who you think is “creepy” because he talks to himself, or refuse to live your life and do things you want to do because of the overarching belief that all the killers come out at night (I promise you, I was harrassed, chased, followed, stalked, and even had someone try and grab me off the street and shove me into his car as a teenager – all during the DAYTIME, as I walked to and from school.  Pedophiles are not vampires.  Nor are any other type of criminals).  My point is, if you let a largely irrational fear stop you – then fear has won.

Remember after 9/11, when we were encouraged to keep going about our daily lives, because if we gave into fear then “the terrorists have won?”  Why let this terror win?  Is it any less pervasive?  Which do you think is more likely: that you’ll die in a terrorist attack like 9/11, or that you’ll be a victim of a random crime?  Which one do you change your daily behavior for?  Sure, people avoided planes for a while, but most folks fly now without fear.  Why do we still avoid the streets after dark?  Car accidents are a common occurrence too, but do you avoid driving because there’s a chance you might get into an accident?  Are you afraid of other drivers?

In a debate with a friend on Facebook, I asked: which would you rather do?  A) Live for 50 years, suspicious and afraid of your fellow humans, until one day you shoot and kill another person who tried to hurt you, but hey, you “won,” right?  Or B) Live for 5o years, loving and trusting your fellow humans, until one day you die in a random mall shooting.  You maybe were afraid for the last moments of your life, but prior to that, you didn’t fear other people.  I’d rather be B.  Because at least that person got to live a life free from the limiting fear that too often we allow to dictate our lives.

I am in no way trying to say it’s not a tragedy when people die in a senseless act of violence, especially innocent kids like on Friday.  What I am trying to say is: if we let these horror stories terrorize us, if we let them make us paranoid, if we let them dictate our behavior, if we let them limit us… then we’re victims long before anyone possibly murders us.  We’re living in fear of something that is highly unlikely to ever happen.  Obviously it does happen.  But you’re more likely to die of heart disease or cancer than a random act of violence.  Do you run screaming from trans fats and chemical food additives?  Do you have an anxiety attack if you forget the sunblock?  I’m guessing probably not.

So instead of focusing on “what if,” let’s focus on what we can do to make things better, in any way.  Support the victims of tragedies like this.  Support charities you care about.  Support your fellow humans.  Let’s make a world where we help each other.  Let’s make life worth living.  Peace.

Just Do It

If I were a superhero, my special power could be The Power Of Procrastination.  This is not *always* a bad thing, as I do some of my best work when I’m up against a deadline, churning out work.  I work well under pressure.  But there are sometimes when it would be *awesome* if could kick myself in the pants and get started early!  Now this is not to say I don’t plan: I am most definitely a planner.  But I plan and contemplate what I want to do for a long time, and then rush through the actual task at the end (though again, sometimes, I can spit it out in good form in short order exactly because I knew exactly what I was going to do).  But still, I was recently prompted to analyze just why it is that I do that.  And I came to the conclusion that there are two main reasons why I am Procrastinismo, Master Of Last-Minute Tasks:

I am a perfectionist.  If I can’t figure out a way to make it just so, I often dread doing it (and sometimes avoid it entirely, because, the thought process goes, why bother if it’s not going to be done right?).

Fear of new things.  I often work myself up to a low grade anxiety when I am exploring new territory.  I don’t even always know when I’m doing it because when I think of psyching myself out, I think of the more intense version (reserved for things like going to the dentist).  But there is a milder version somewhat akin to jumping in a pool: you’re excited to go swimming, but you hesitate to jump right in because you KNOW initially that water is going to be cold.  Once you’re in, you adjust and everything is great.  But sometimes you have to talk yourself into it.

The event that had me looking deeper at my procrastination patterns this weekend was a prime example of the low grade anxiety variety; once I did it, I had a lot of fun, I want to do it again, and I overall loved the experience.  But that cautious streak in me had to know that it was going to go well before the rest of me could get on board with the enthusiastic participation component.

Now I know that not all things require Enthusiastic Participation, and some things that you’re really *not* going to enjoy just have to be done anyway, excited or no (see: dentist).  But this wasn’t one of those things.  This was a thing that was right up my alley, but still, that fear held me back from doing it until I absolutely had to.

So, I’ve formulated a plan (see?  I plan).  At least in regards to things that I’ve identified as Things I Actually Enjoy And Need To Get Done But Perfectionism And Uncertainty Keep Me Back (I love to title stuff, can you tell?).  I’ve actually plotted out stepping stone goals in my calendar.  So, if I’ve got a project due in three weeks, I’ll plot out part one’s deadline in week one, part two in week two, and the whole kit and caboodle in week three.  If I have an ongoing task to perform, say, listing new items in my Etsy shop, I’ll write in my calendar “x number of Etsy items due this month” (or week, or whatever).  I actually find having planned mini-deadlines forces me to get it done, because they hold the same “deadline” weight in my head, whether it’s the “real” deadline or not (or if there even is one or not).  If I force my brain to think of it as Due Now, it goes into that works-well-under-stress overdrive that has served me so well over the years (*cough*schoolwork*cough*).  It’s kind of like the advice they always give people who tend to run late (*cough*me*cough*): set your clock ahead so you think you’re late when you’re really not, and you’ll be on time.  Except this actually works (if I know the clock is 20 minutes fast, my brain subtracts 20 minutes, because it knows the clock is a LIAR).

Seems like a simple concept, but it’s been a point of frustration for me for many years.  I always feel so much better once the task/project/etc. is done; I seriously get a happy productive high generally no matter what I’m doing (dishes! laundry! paper! work!), and I definitely feel worse the longer I put things off.  The happy productive high is even greater when I complete a task that I have been procrastinating on for a long time (I finally mended my shirt and can wear it again!  woohoo!).  So this way, I get little happy productive highs on a regular basis, not just when I whack myself upside the head and force myself to Quit Procrastinating And Just Do It.  Which not only gets stuff done, but adds to my happiness levels.

What do you procrastinate doing, and why?  Figure out a workaround, and give yourself a happy productive high!  Au naturel, my friends – who needs drugs?  Just do it. 😉

Do A Little Dance

Sometimes, when dancing, you have to let go and just trust.  If you’ve got a partner, you have to trust that they won’t drop you or step on your toes.  If you’re alone, you have to let go of your inhibitions and stop wondering what others will think of you.

This applies to life, too.  Sometimes, you have to let go and just trust.  And sometimes, that can be scary as hell.

I find myself doing the throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air-in-unabashed-trust move, only to take a good look at what I’m doing and grab onto that safety bar in a gut-clenching, reflexive spasm, like letting go on a roller coaster.  There you are, feeling all secure in your seat, hands waving in the air, then you tip over the top of that hill and… hold on for dear life, even though you’re just as secure as you were on the way up.  I have to learn to keep my hands up there, and just scream my head off like all the other thrill-seekers.

First I was dancing, now I’m riding roller coasters.  Because that’s the kind of blog post this is going to be.

It’s never the metaphysical stuff I fear.  “The Shift”?  2012?  Unleashing the oddness that is the Real Wren upon the world (well, perhaps y’all should be afraid of that one)?  Unearthing old psychological scars?  Downloads?  Hippies (I live in Colorado, I had to make a South Park reference)?  Nope.  All good.  Bring it on.  I want to bend the metaphoric spoons with the best of them.  It’s the old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thing: I look at my bank account, which I was completely unconcerned about this morning, and clench.  I start adding up bills in my head, minus planned income, and I start freaking out about where the remainder is going to come from.  This morning I was in happy, it-will-all-come-in-time land.  Then cold, hard numbers had me looking up at the sky, wondering where the hell that you-don’t-have-to-worry-about-this-anymore windfall is when I really need it.  Which of course (*cough*LawOfAttraction*cough*), is exactly what I shouldn’t be thinking.  Thinking I need, thinking I want, thinking I don’t have it already just attracts… needing, wanting, and not having.  It’s fear-based thinking.  I need to dance on over to the love side of the spectrum.

I’ve already been working on exercises to change the way I think about money.  How many of us have this problem: I’ve heard over and over how “dirty” money is.  I’m not speaking metaphorically, here: I mean it has germs on it.  Think about where it’s been.  So I got into the habit of, touching money = germy, so I should wash my hands after I touch it.

Think about what message I was sending the universe: money is dirty and gross, I don’t like touching it, and I must wash myself clean of its essence any time I have some in my hands.

That’s a solid F- in Law of Attraction abundance thinking.

So I’m trying to override the hand-washing need and the “ew, germs” thoughts; I keep two dollar coins in my pocket (dollar coins make me happy, I like them) to look at and think, “I like this money; I like holding it; I’m keeping it” when I come across them; I’m doing an exercise from The Power that has to do with how you store money in your pocket/wallet, and what you think of when you look at it.

OK, so I promote my grade to a C-.  I’m still looking at that bank account and going, “I must plan!  That bill is due, and that one is soon due, and that one is overdue!  I must know how I’m going to pay them!  I must have details!  And what about the rent?!”

I need to look at my bank account and think, “I have so much money in there!  I never have to worry about this again!  I should go car shopping and buy Einstein right now!”

And as much as I try to Stuart Smalley my way around that one, my inner “realist” is like, “Groceries, Wren.  Concentrate on what you can actually do.  Concentrate on what you need right now.  Groceries.  Rent.  Bills.”

I hesitate to, say, go to the Smart dealership and look around because I feel like I’ll be wasting the salesperson’s time if I don’t have the ability to sign on the dotted line today.  But that’s exactly what I need to do.  I need to go and sit in the car, and imagine owning it, and feel what it’s like in there.  I need to act, with confidence, like I’ve got all the funds in the world.  Because otherwise, I’m just sending the universe mixed messages.

So my assignment, if I choose to accept it, is to go and drool over Smartcars, and possibly annoy some innocent salesperson asking about getting it in that nifty brown color.  It’s not wasting their time or mine, if this prompts the universe to channel the funds to me, and then I go back and find that nice salesperson and buy the car a month from now.  That will be my dance of confidence.

So what dance do you need to do to move forward, and show the universe that you fully believe you’re doing it?  Leave a comment – let’s give ourselves homework assignments!

Working On Forgiveness

We’ve all heard some variation of the idea that holding a grudge is hurting ourselves rather than the person we’re angry at, right?  We understand, logically, that getting ourselves worked up does not make the offender feel bad (especially since most of the time they’re unaware that we’re worked up, or why), and having an internal dialogue full of “GRRR!” and “RAWR!” not only does nothing to solve the problem, but doesn’t even make us feel better – usually it just serves to inflate our anger.  So those of us that are on this path and trying to better ourselves are usually working on forgiving those that have hurt us, and letting go of grudges.  Sounds like a great idea!

But there’s a key point: we’re working on it.  Now I don’t mean to say that if you haven’t achieved total forgiveness of everyone who has wronged you, you’re doing it wrong.  On the contrary.  I think we’re working too hard.  Let me explain.

If you’re working on something, you’re thinking about it, right?  Whether that thing is a project, dinner, or A Book, you have to be actively thinking about it in order to work on it.  So… in working on forgiveness, we’re… dwelling on the thing that hurt us.

And that is just about exactly what we don’t want to do.

Law of attraction time!  What you think about is what you attract, right?  So why the hell are we thinking so hard about things that have hurt us, in an effort to let those things go?  That’s not letting them go, that’s letting them take up residence in our minds.

But Wren!  I hear you say.  We need to process the hurt in order to let it go!

Yeah, yeah, okay.  At a certain point, you do.  As I’ve said, I do not advocate plastering on a fake smile and pretending that nothing is wrong when your insides are doing their finest impersonation of paper in a cross-cut shredder.  But eventually, you’ll have all the insights you’re going to have on the subject, and dwelling on it further is just rubbing salt in the wound.  Or lemon juice.  Or anti-bacterial gel.  Because holy hell does that stuff sting when you’ve got a cut on your hand, no?

Nor does this apply necessarily to hurts in order.  Sometimes the most recent hurts are the easiest to let go; sometimes the old ones are.  Sometimes you can say, yeah, that was a long time ago, and it can’t hurt me anymore.  Goodbye!  And sometimes those are the ones that thirty years later will whack you upside the head so hard cartoon birds will be singing in your ears from the sudden shock.  I’m not saying there are hard-and-fast rules, here.  But we shouldn’t be defining ourselves by our hurts; we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves a victim; we shouldn’t play over and over again past tragedies on repeat in our minds.  Nor, for that matter, should we wish to make ourselves martyrs.  I think God’s got enough of those, don’t you?  He is not asking you to suffer needlessly for some Greater Good.  What greater purpose could be served by you living a life of fear and anguish?

So… if you discover some old, heretofore unexplored specimen that reveals some insight into Why You Are The Way You Are, great.  Self-realization is a fabulous thing.  But then I don’t want you to make it Your Project to study the hell out of it like a scholar with the Dead Sea Scrolls – see what it had to teach you, appreciate it, and keep the lesson, not the hurt (and by “lesson,” I don’t mean keep the lesson that your mom calling you fat when you were ten means that you have to obsess over your weight now and for the rest of your life – I mean, keep the lesson that sometimes things we didn’t realize the origins of (obsession with weight) have a very discoverable source, and don’t define us.  We can let them go, because our mother’s judgement all those years ago was hers, not ours).  Let the hurt evaporate like morning dew under the bright sun.

And don’t, for the love of God, go around patting yourself on the back about What A Big Person You Are for no longer being angry at whoever the perpetrator of that past hurt was; that’s making yourself a martyr.  Don’t believe me?  You’re thinking of yourself as saintly for enduring cruelty at the hands of the unenlightened from your place of Spiritual Greatness – isn’t that, essentially, martyrdom?

OK, you say, I got it.  I’ll just let go all those times someone hurt me, and not think on it anymore.  I’m done!

But wait, there’s more!

I was thinking on this very subject the other day in response to a friend on some message boards online, and her comments made me have a realization of my own: there is no finish line to forgiveness.

Yup.  It’s unlikely that you’re going to forgive someone for something, and then cross them off your list, like a to-do for inner peace.  Maybe you forgive your mom for calling you fat when you were ten.  You let go the notions you carried all these years about weight.  You think you’re done forgiving Mom.  You cross her off your list.  But then – shock! – a year later, you remember some other comment of hers that altered your world, and you find her square in your “working on” area again.

I do not then want you going through your mental catalog of Mom Comments, searching for any and all instances of How She Messed You Up, so you can thoroughly and completely forgive her, and be done with it.  You’re not going to find them all!  And then you’ve spent all that time (and perhaps therapy) rehashing every not-so-nice comment she ever made, essentially re-flogging yourself, in pursuit of some “finish line” that doesn’t exist.

We’re humans.  We’re messy.  We don’t stay within the lines.

I have a person (who shall remain nameless) that I’ve got a catalog of instances like the Mom Comments in my example above, who I’ve been “working on” forgiving.  I felt like I was “making progress,” and was going through the catalog, page by page, banishing those “lessons” from my psyche that no longer served me.  It’s great that I let those things go.  But was I serving myself by examining things that didn’t need to be examined?  Do you enjoy unnecessary, invasive medical examinations?  Didn’t think so.

It wasn’t until I gained the perspective of that person as just a human – a weak human, sure, but a human – instead of some large, looming monster lurking in my closet at night, waiting to pounce – that a much larger shift began to take place.  I turned on the proverbial light, and saw that this person was just a shadow, not a monster.

When you’ve got someone that has made such an impact on your life such that they are a huge, powerful creature in your head – it’s a bit of a different animal to forgive.  It’s unlikely you’re dealing with one issue, which you can forgive and forget.  You’re likely dealing with patterns and behaviors – theirs and yours.  But when you realize they’re just a messed up human, and can see all those individual instances of pain add up to a pattern of behavior because they’re messed up too, suddenly they don’t loom so large.  They shrink in your psyche.  They become… spirit.

Because we’re all spirits!  We’re all spirits having an in-body experience.  Sometimes we mess up in this grand experiment called life, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that a person’s spirit, their essence, is “evil”.  I don’t care what they’ve done.  They could be the most evil SOB ever to grace the planet – something made them that way.  Maybe it was ignorance, their own hurt, delusions, or some combination thereof.  I don’t think when they die, they’ll still be the same.  I don’t think, in spirit, racists will be racists, or there will be religious intolerance.  Because when we’re all spirit, there is no race – and I seriously doubt there is a Protestant/Catholic, Jewish/Palestinian line in the sand in the afterlife.  Do you?

When you look at the people that hurt you as just little spirits, same as you, they are no longer big scary monsters out to get you.  They are just humans who messed up.  Maybe you don’t think they are just awesome now, but what they did no longer looms so large.  Thinking of them does not produce the same anger or hurt that it once did.  You are no longer punishing yourself for once being hurt.

And that, my friend, is pretty darn good work.

The Gratitude Games

How many of us are working to manifest a life of joy and fulfillment?  I know I am.  And though I can see so many successes that I’ve had, I know that it can get so much better!  So what’s been holding me back?

I recently finished listening to the audiobook of The Power (can you tell I love Rhonda Byrne?  Read her books if you haven’t.  I recommend them to people so often I feel like I should start a NPO to fund buying them in bulk and go door-to-door like a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon asking people if they’ve heard the good news).  The Power is the sequel to The Secret.  Anyway, in it, she’s talking about keeping a positive, loving attitude and she made a point that I hadn’t really thought of before: just feeling “OK” is not feeling “good”.  I can feel the difference between when I’m really, truly happy – when I’m focusing on things I love, things are going well, I’m in a good mood, I have energy – and when I’m just “OK”.  “OK” means I’m here; I don’t feel awful, but I don’t feel wonderful.  I’m awake, but not energetic.  Things aren’t falling apart, but puzzle pieces aren’t falling into place, either.  Things just “are”.

For me historically, “OK” was “good” – because the alternative was “horribly depressed”.  When you’re on the low end of the spectrum and a good day is one where you don’t feel miserable, you kind of lose perspective as to what “good” truly feels like.  So I have improved since I read The Secret for the first time and decided to take things into my own hands and change my life – I went from “horribly depressed, afraid, stressed, and exhausted” as my modus operandi to “calm and okay” as my norm.  That’s a great improvement.  But when you want to really make a joyful life, you’ve got to have a joyful attitude.

I’ve had moments where I really felt that joy – but so far, “OK” is still my baseline.  Now don’t get me wrong – that’s a much better baseline than the pit of despair.  But I want my life to be wunderbar, not just “OK”.

From here, it may seem like a daunting task to make that internal shift from “not bad” to “great!”  But from that pit of despair, it seemed like a daunting task to not be depressed on a regular basis, and I successfully changed that, didn’t I?

So, one of my methods to climb another rung on the attitude ladder has been to find different ways to be grateful.  I have come up with various games and practices to just think about things I love, am grateful for, and am manifesting in my life.  So for instance, one of the things I am manifesting for myself is a car.  I mentioned before that I’ve never owned one, and it would make my life so much easier to do so!  So every day, when I am thinking of things to be grateful for, I give gratitude for my car that is on its way to me.  I envision in my mind already owning it.  I picture spontaneously going to visit friends and it being a quick and easy trip.  I picture buying whatever I want at the store and not worrying about if I’ll be able to carry it, or if it will fit in my grandma cart if I’ve got that along.  I picture driving with a friend up in the mountains.  I imagine giving someone else a ride.

I love you, Smartcar! ❤

Yup, I’m enamored with Smartcars.  Specifically that one – I’ve already configured exactly what I want on their website.  I think when I get my Smartcar, I shall name him Einstein.  Because he’s smart.  And that’s how I roll. 😉

In coming up with these gratitude practices for myself, I had a stroke of inspiration: I should put together a book of Gratitude Games.  So that’s what I’m going to do!

I’ve been thinking of how it should look: a paper book should be easy to write in, so people can do some of the written exercises right then and there.  But perhaps a binder would be better, as they can re-arrange the order and do the ones that work for their path that day.  Ooh, an app!  How do I develop an app?  Maybe an interactive book on iPad – they have apps where you can build and publish for the iPad, on the iPad!  I need to manifest myself an iPad!  But then I still need to make an app for non-iPad users!  And a paper book for the technologically disinclined!  And an e-book for e-readers!

…this is how my brain works when it latches onto an idea.  Sometimes I need to tell it, “Slow down, Turbo!”  So I got out a pen and paper (low tech) and started making a list of gratitude game ideas.

I still don’t know how I’m going to form the book (app!  paper!  e-book!  interactive!), but that will come when it’s ready.  I have not given up on The Book, but I feel like the Gratitude Games is a stepping stone on the path toward its completion.  Perhaps I will be so grateful to get a book done, I will manifest… getting another book done!

In the meantime, I am compiling an ever-longer list of Games, and sending love to Einstein.

Because I love a man with brains.

My People

If you laugh a little too hard at Christopher Titus jokes (especially Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding), you are My People.

That’s kind of been my benchmark for years.

If it’s not been made clear, I come from a rather messed up background.  I’m not going to regale you with my “f**ked-uppedness cred” – because that’s rather beside the point.  And really – I am tired of hearing the same story at the beginning of every “rags to riches” or “success story” by a given author.  Every.  Single.  Time.  “Look, I overcame this!” and “Look, I overcame that!”  Maybe the first speech or book or radio show you hear them do, you say, wow.  But then if you like what they have to say and you want to hear more… you have to hear that same story twenty million times.  By about the fifth or fifteenth time, you’re feeling rather pitiless, like, “Yeah, I know, you were homeless and living in your car, or addicted to drugs, or an alcoholic, or Mommy didn’t love you, blah, blah, blah… I know!  Get on with it!”

Or as Christopher Titus would say, “…come down off the cross and use the wood to build yourself a bridge and get over it.”

Or is that just me?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not an advocate of telling people to hold it all in, suck it up, or otherwise give themselves an ulcer.  But life coaches?  Motivational people?  STILL fixated on their troubled past?  Reliving it with every class or seminar or speech they give?  That just seems… f**ked up.

But Wren, you may be saying, they’re trying to show that if they can come from hell and succeed, you can, too.

Alright, fine.  But you can say, “I know what it’s like to be in a dark place,” without having to go into all the gory details.  And if you’re truly over it, you don’t need to go into the gory details with every Tom, Dick, and Harry you want to motivate.  But these people are telling the same exact story – either with so much pain in their voices you just know it still haunts them, or with absolutely no emotion at all, like they’ve become so numb to the telling of it that it means nothing anymore – over and over again.  Neither of these scenarios sounds very healthy for the storyteller.  And how are they helping others by self-flagellating, again?

So what’s the point of telling and re-telling your dark, gritty backstory twenty times a week to anyone who will hear it?

Oh, yeah.  F**ked-Uppedness Cred.

These people are trying to earn the respect of people who are still in the dark place.

You know you do it, too.  Hell, I’ve done it.  If you’ve been through hell, you look at the Leave It To Beaver-esque families out there, with their support for each other, unconditional love, financial stability, health, and tragedy-less lives, and you kind of stare, like, “are these people for real?”  When the worst thing that’s happened to them is a fender bender or a bad case of the flu, you scoff at their blissful unawareness.  You mock what they consider to be hard times.  You can’t take much of anything they say – let alone their advice or compassion – seriously, because you feel like they just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

So the F**ked-Uppedness Cred is important if you want to be respected and taken seriously, and not blown off as some airy-fairy self-esteem cheerleader, giving trophies to everyone just for participating.

Right?

Well, f**k that noise.

I’m a pretty easy-going kinda gal.  Even when I was a volatile brew of emotional meltdown, blinding self-hatred, and distorted thinking, I still put on the happy face, and no one had even the foggiest that anything was even remotely bothering me.  Again – I am not advocating this as a good idea.  In fact it’s a very, very bad idea.  Don’t do it.  But I digress.

I would smile.  I would laugh.  I would make jokes.  And I didn’t tell other people my crap.  When something dropped – usually innocuously – it would stun the hell out of people.  Because I came off as that innocent goody two-shoes whose biggest problem was that tragic C in math class type.  But then I would let slip some hint of my real life and inevitably, I’d get comments along the lines of, “Wait… what?!  You?!!” or “But you always seem so happy!”

Yep, me.  News flash: not every person with a tragic past a) does drugs b) drinks to excess c) dresses goth and/or slutty and/or gangster d) screws anything that moves in a desperate search for love or e) flunks out of school and/or gets arrested.  Some of us rebel by being good.

Yessir, when I was a teenager, I was an honor student, participated in all sorts of extracurriculars, held down a job, was a teacher’s pet of sorts, didn’t do drugs, drink, have sex, or get into trouble, and otherwise could have played the “good influence” role on any after school special there ever was.

All while… living in hell.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been condescended to by people whose biggest problem that I could tell (since they lamented to me as though I was their confessor) was… they didn’t always get what they wanted.  But because I never said, “Let me tell you about real problems… ” and instead took their problems seriously, they presumed I found their plight to be equally tragic and the worst thing I’d ever heard.

Now I know I sound a little heartless here, and I don’t mean to be.  If you don’t have the perspective to put the little annoyances in perspective, then it’s going to seem huge and horrible in your vision when you encounter them.  I get that.  But if there’s a continuum of tragedy, and death and rape are on one end, and a parking ticket is on the other… the death and rape end gets to shake their head at the parking ticket end when they start going on like they’re a cast member in Hamlet.

So, I’ve been scoffed at for not wearing my F**ked-Uppedness Cred on my sleeve, and it used to annoy the bejeezus out of me.  But I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I don’t know why.  It’s just not in me.

But I’ve come to the place where I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter.

Think I’m a naive?  Go right ahead.  Think I’m BSing you when I say “I understand where you’re coming from”?  Scoff away!  Because I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter.  I don’t feel the need to win some tragedy contest or earn Extra Horrifying Bonus Points.  If someone is in a place where they can hear what I have to say, then they’ll hear it.  If they’re not, then they’ll find some other excuse to not do so even if I gave them a detailed dossier of Why I Understand Your Pain.

This isn’t to say “my secrets will die with me!!!” as much as it is to say, you’re not going to hear my sob story twenty million times.  If something is pertinent to a conversation, and perhaps actually helpful to furthering the discussion, maybe I’ll share it.  But I’m not going to go around announcing it so that I have the immediate respect of the other F**ked-Uppedness Survivors in advance.  Because I shouldn’t have to.  I want people to judge me on my present, not my past.  If my words have value, they have value in the now, not because I have a good sympathy-garnering story to tell.

So, judge me how you will.  There will not be a Chapter One: Out of Darkness autobiographical horror story in The Book.  But hopefully a few folks will read it anyway.

And I will try really hard to not stare at the Cleavers of the world like they have antennae sticking out of their heads when they talk about how wonderful their life is, except for that awful day when June broke the heel of her shoe and skinned her knee.

Because isn’t wonderful what we’re all aiming for?

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