It’s a weekend of quiet, spent mostly on housekeeping, meditation, and reading/studying. I spent some time, too, coloring in tiny squares on my Life in Weeks chart, which I started this year; it’s already an eye-opening project. I’m a very visual analyst, and I see patterns and trends fairly easily – especially painted with such a broad brush. I’m not imagining things; I’ve spent the largest portion of my life devoted to, and in support of, someone else’s agenda besides my own. Now, though, I also see the next 40 years laid out ahead of me – incomplete, unknown, and wide open with possibilities.

I’ve also been feeling fairly lonely. It’s odd. I’m not alone. I’ve spent considerable time in shared space with loved ones, too. The thing is…we’re not connecting easily. We’re each at such different places in life, with ourselves, with our understanding of the world; it is a season of change. I am learning to take care of me in moments when a conversation takes a turn that doesn’t really involved me, or isn’t the sort of thing I care to be all caught up in for one reason or another…by gently disengaging, or refraining from becoming involved in the first place. That’s a positive step for me…my tendency has been to be all up in everything, if it is within earshot, which over time feels more invasive than supportive for my loves, and for me quickly becomes a drain on my emotional resources, and just not much fun. There are other experiences I’d rather share with people who matter to me.

Taking a step back and letting other people’s business be other people’s business, and letting them have their moment – without me – feels like a better choice for my emotional wellness…but I had no idea just how much of what is going on around me has nothing whatsoever to do with me, at all. I am surprised to find that although I am aware that too little of my time supports my own agenda…I may not be prepared for what life holds if I stand firm on putting more of my emotional resources, and time, into my own needs and agenda; it could be very lonely indeed. This is a chapter in life’s curriculum I will study with great care; it looks like one of the more challenging bits. 🙂

OPD swirls around me in the background. I stay to myself. Sometimes it’s lonely, but it is less stressful, less emotionally fatiguing, and interestingly – I also seem to have far fewer, less intense, headaches. I don’t know that there’s any causality in there, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

When I started this journey I had some idea what I might find, built on assumptions and expectations.

When I started this journey I had some idea what I might find, seen through a veil of assumptions and expectations…

My traveling partner shared an article this morning, and I learned a new word that just delights me. The word is ‘listicle’ – you know, an article that is a list. I’m just delighted. It’s a needed word, that describes a real thing. It’s even in the dictionary. I feel like a child seeing a butterfly up close. lol I love words – they make it possible to communicate some very nuanced ideas. The article itself has value; it is a list of 7 traits the author suggests are common to chronically unhappy people. As I read the article, I felt a sense of forward progress, growth, and accomplishment, because there was a time when I definitely had all 7:

1. A default belief that ‘life is hard’ was definitely part of my experience until some relatively recent point. I’m not sure I really noticed when it changed, but reading the article this morning I feel keenly aware that it has. I would go so far as to acknowledge that I sometimes find life complicated, challenging, or moments when life feels hard, but it’s recognizably not my default experience.

2. A belief that ‘most people can’t be trusted’ most certainly describes how I used to feel about ‘people in general’; fearful, distrustful, and very very certain that if I dropped by guard for an instance, or turned my back, or shared a confidence, the consequences would be swift, severe, and painful. I don’t feel that way at all now. I find that generally, people mostly do their best, and are well-intended within the limits of their understanding of the world they live in. Well-meaning isn’t always enough for a good outcome, and I find that I am pretty accepting of that, too. I’m aware that people lie, that people are capable of fraud, bad acts, and real nastiness. I trust that each person I meet will likely behave very consistently with their nature, and underlying values, and that the best outcomes come from clear communication, awareness, and refraining from making assumptions, or holding on to expectations – or grudges – and that walking away from ‘toxic people’ is sometimes the only productive healthy choice.

3. Concentrating on what’s wrong versus what’s right is something I still struggle with. I get emotionally invested in something that seems unjust, unfair, unreasonable, and unnecessary, and my frustration with it can push me into becoming over-invested, and emotionally involved to a point that I lose perspective. I see this, too, as progress; I started in a very different place than I stand today. There is further to go.

4. Comparisons to others, and fostering jealousy are something I suppose most people struggle with; comparisons are an easy shortcut for measuring where we stand. The thing I’ve learned over time is that it’s not a competition, this ‘life’ thing. It’s more like a journey, and I take it pretty much alone – my own progress over time is my only measure of performance, really, and what that other person over there is doing with their time, money, heart, or intellect has little to do with me.  At the end of my life, when I look back, it won’t be to say “Well, compared to [insert name of celebrity or role model] I sure went far”; my life will have to stand on its own merits. Jealousy is new for me; I only recently learned what that feeling is, at all. I’m not really wired for it, and having finally experienced what it feels like, I’m okay with moving on as a being to a place where it is simply not likely to come up. Like ‘worry’ or ‘guilt’, ‘jealousy’ is a pretty pointless emotion that tends to start trouble, without offering any solutions. Having finally experienced what all the fuss is about, though, I am learning to use the feeling as a flare that pulls my attention to a specific need that I am not taking care of, and identifying that thing; making the underlying need, and taking care of that, a priority has tended to entirely satisfy any moment that feels like ‘jealousy’ – it nearly always turns out that some small thing I need isn’t being handled by me, and that I’ve made the mistake of assigning blame or responsibility to some other person, without being aware of it.

5. Striving for control isn’t something I have much problem with, at this point in my life, and it’s been a long while since it has. For me, letting go of the need to control everything in my experience turned out to be easily resolved by avoiding controlling or manipulative relationships; relationships of that sort tend to find me ‘pushing back’ to regain my freedom of will. It becomes an unpleasant see-saw of competitive power games that I find distasteful, and I went a different direction some years ago, and never looked back.

6. Considering the future fearfully comes up now and then. That’s sort of a given with anxiety. It’s not on the same order it once was, and these days I generally find that taking time to meditate kicks fear to the curb pretty handily. A better understanding of the value of thinking, of thoughts – and the understanding that thoughts have no ‘reality’ that I don’t give them, that I create them myself – has freed me to consider a ‘what if’ scenario to its conclusion – however ludicrous – and learn from it without being wounded by it; it’s not real.

7. Gossip and complaint filled conversations…yeah…just not my preference these days. Living in chronic misery, though, what else was there? It was a way to lift myself up…by comparing my experience to someone else’s. It was a way to make myself important…by venting about some unsatisfying thing or another. It was a way to get  and hold attention for some moment…and feel a little bit supported. It’s not honest, though, and it’s not … consensual. It also isn’t as effective as simple communication about my own feelings, and experience, using ‘I statements’ and just asking for a hug. Taking that more effective approach requires me to embrace a level of genuineness and vulnerability that was pretty scary, at first. It’s been worth it.

I don’t say much, above, about what I did to make these changes happen over time – because I’m not actually sure. Is it the meditation practice? Is it better health care? Is it taking care to get enough sleep? Is it a byproduct of changed perspective with time, and aging? Is it all the studying of the neuroscience of emotion, and the structured practicing of techniques intended to craft a more positive implicit memory? Is it love? Is it a coincidence? Is it my own idea – or someone else’s? I have no idea what specifically I’ve done that has amounted to so much change for the better, over time… I wasn’t even aware so much had changed, until I read that article (expecting to find myself nodding along and checking off all 7 as things characteristic of myself) and realized that it doesn’t speak to my ‘now’ experience.

...Without the powerful limitations assumptions and expectations place on my experience, I have found wide open vistas of possibility, and broad horizons of potential for change.

…Without the powerful limitations assumptions and expectations place on my experience, I have found wide open vistas of possibility, and broad horizons of potential for change. There are verbs involved, and your results may vary.

Today is a good day to share progress, and feel encouraged. Today is a good day to recognize change for the better. Today is a good day to say with conviction “I have come so far!” Today is a good day to see that I am changing the world…and to remind you that you can, too, and probably do. 😀