Saturday, August 17, 2013

Just the Way You Are

Oh, yes, I know, it's a tired song and one that I suspect even Mr. Joel would like to allow to retire gracefully, but its lyrics are resonating so strongly with me right now. He sounds so good on this clip. Not a bad earworm for the day and I want you to sing it to yourself before you sing it to another.

In the frenetic pace of life, I often forget and it is such a relief to be reminded that I am enough, just the way I am. It is so wildly easy to attach our self-worth and value to someone or something outside of our own selves. We work for others' approval to validate us and that makes us needy, doesn't it? When we want others to measure our self-worth, we miss the point entirely. It certainly sounds like common sense in writing, but in reality, I have to work at reminding myself that the most difficult person and the most important person I need to impress and gain approval from, is me.

Maybe this sounds familiar to you, too.

If I am seeking love and approval from others, it doesn't fill that need for love in me, from me, does it? It's never enough because it's not what I ultimately need. If I try to fill that need externally, I might also turn to something like food, shopping, alcohol, (fill in the blank) to find that feeling that I am searching for.

Like Dorothy, we have been wearing the ruby slippers all along. When we realize that we are enough just the way we are, we can fill the hole with self-respect, esteem, love, abundance, joy. Until we have it ourselves, we cannot give it away. And when we cannot give it away, it can't be returned to us. Get it?

When we make changes in our lives because it is what is right for us, not what we think others want us to do, then we are living authentically.

Find a way to believe this about yourself. "I am worthy and enough simply because I am."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Awakening, again

"Join me in a 21-day meditation challenge!" was a message posted on my friend Sandy's Facebook wall. I notice that when I just jump into things without giving it too much thought, my subconscious is in need, searching the universe for the opportunity.

"Why not?" So I jumped in.

Every morning, before the world and my ego self, recognizes that I am awake, I access the daily reflection and meditation that shows up in my in box. It's been a week now and I've noticed some things.

I've noticed that some of the exercises are pretty challenging. I was told to spend one day doing a simple affirmation whenever I found myself looking into a mirror. Make eye contact with myself and say, "I see you. I appreciate you. I love you."

No big deal. Except that it WAS. Do you really see your self? Many men shave in the morning, women may apply a moisturizer or a full face of make up, but do we really look into our own eyes? And then tell our selves that we love us? I was really surprised by the awkward feeling I had the first few times I did it. Thing is, no one else was looking. I'm in the ladies room. Alone. It was just me, myself, and I, and it took some getting used to.

Do we really allow ourselves to know who we truly are? Not our roles, not the personality that has been created, not the person that life has molded us to be, but the true essence of our selves? This may be a revelation for some, the possibility that the push and pull we feel within at times is the tug of war between who we really are and who we and the rest of the world have deemed we "should" be. 

I have found that when I am spending my time being my everyday self, the person the world has deemed I should be,  I worry more. I worry about whether or not I am enough or worthy. There's a lot of measuring done - bank accounts, car, house, material things, social life, etc.

My ego/everyday self keeps me in line. I check my words. I don't fully share my feelings of joy, love, disappointment, hurt, anger. Besides, living as my everyday self insulates me, protects me. I'm not opening myself and risking getting hurt. I can just keep the walls up, keep everyone in their tidy and defined boxes, my new found boundaries up, and my true self stays protected. 

This past week of engaging in daily meditation has been interesting. I am witnessing this interplay between my everyday self and my true self, the push and pull between them. When I am mindful and present and living in my true self, my ego gets nervous and sounds the warning bells. Like the voice on the GPS after you've gone against their driving directions or simply missed the turn, there's this slightly disgusted tone in the voice, "Recalculating." Duh. Trust me, Loser.

I get that my ego self is there to protect me. But like my Norton Antivirus system that has decided that my iPod shuffle is an intruder that we will not allow ourselves to sync up with, or the over protective parent,
or one guy tries to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb and now we all take off our shoes before we fly, there are times when our concertina-topped walls are keeping out far more good stuff than they are protecting us from what could be a threat.

There is no doubt that those walls are there for good reason. We know from painful experience how devastating life's experiences can be. None of us escape these and we learn to protect ourselves as best we can. We mitigate our risk. We build an elaborate system of landmines, moats, locked doors, and such in order to protect ourselves from ever experiencing that pain again.

I was reminded this week about the story of Icarus who had a great dream to fly. He built his wings and flew too close to the sun. His dreams got him hurt. Or did they? After all, he did fly.

The gifts of life are abundant and rich. In order to fully experience them, we must be willing to open to accept them. To allow ourselves to be vulnerable. To let people out of the emotional boxes we have placed them in for our own protection and safekeeping.

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  Anais Nin

The bud can die on the vine, without ever blooming or coming to fruition. Where do you need to allow yourself to open and take a small risk?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What's under the bed?

As a young undergraduate in the early 1980's at the University of Iowa, the comic strip "Bloom County" was a favorite of many. Berkley Breathed, the creator and cartoonist of the strip, lived in Iowa City in the early days of Bloom County and referenced many Iowa City landmarks.

For me, the enduring character of Michael Binkley and his closet of anxieties has been a light-hearted way for me to deal with my own. Every once in a while, my own closet of anxieties opens up a Pandora's box of irrational and bizarre things to worry about.

Dressed in his sweet footie pyjamas and his totally 80's techno-pop hairdo, Binkley has a closet filled with 80's icons that scare him to pieces. What I admire about Binkley, is that he is not too afraid to actually take a look inside.

I notice that when life has a particularly high number of stressful events that require me to be on my game pretty much all the time, I tend to have these kinds of night visitors.
"It's the friends you can call at 4 a.m. that matter." - Marlene Dietrich

And usually what happens is that my 4 a.m. someone is there and can take the flashlight, shine it under the bed and in the closet and say, "See, Laura? There's nothing there but good stuff."

Good stuff, indeed. Here's a post I read today that admonishes us to not gloss over the good stuff. No kidding. How many times do we take for granted the incredible that happens to us every day? I live a charmed life, no doubt about it, and I often miss it thinking that because it's not happening the way I envisioned/scripted/wanted-to-control, that somehow, it's not good. Silly, isn't it?

Just like any parent trying to calm a child's fears, the question is, "Is this for real?"

Makes sense, doesn't it? Are these unsettled feelings coming from true stressors, things that are actually happening or is this just my overactive, highly-developed imagination awful-izing things? And, it's always the latter. I find that I don't lose sleep over the events of the day that I'm living through, but the oh so tempting act of worrying about potential problems.

Seth Godin wrote about the opposite of anxiety this week and he defined non-clinical anxiety as "experiencing failure in advance," and "amplifying the worst possible outcomes."

Yes. That's it. So, let's imagine the best possible outcomes and be amazed by all that is good instead of scaring the wits out of us with monsters under the bed.