Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is There a Bigger Picture?

Recently it seems wherever I go there are people having a tough time. Having difficulty making ends meet, finding jobs, paying for all the expenses that somehow creep up at the worst possible times. Struggling with sicknesses, addictions, chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, deep depression and other mental illnesses.

People are working their asses off at jobs they don’t enjoy, that they aren’t appreciated in or compensated for. Racking up large debts to pay for secondary educations with the foresight that there may not be careers available to them when they graduate.

Parents who are stressed out from all of these things and still need to find a way to hold it together to be the moms and dads their children not only require but also deserve. Losses of jobs and houses, and lifestyles and dreams. Losses of people, expected and unexpected, but felt just the same.

Religious arguments and politics. Social injustice. Internal feelings of inadequacy; of lacking. And an overwhelming feeling of despair and disappointment.

It all leads to, let’s be honest, feeling like shit. Feeling like the world is on your back. That bad things just keep happening and will just keep happening. That no matter what you do, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It might make you start questioning what the “bigger picture is.”

Is there a bigger picture? What is the point of all of this? And will it ever get any better?

I can tell you this, I don’t have the answers and I won’t try and act like I do.

Or rather, I don’t have the answers for you.

However, I have found the answers for me. Right now. In this moment.

Is there a bigger picture?

Do you want there to be? You are the captain of your life, whether you feel like it or not. In this moment, the bigger picture for me is this: Much of life has been beyond difficult, filled with trauma and tribulations and shit stacked so high against me that at many points I couldn’t see around it.

To be honest, my current life isn’t really any less difficult than it has ever been. But the bigger picture, for me, is that I can’t see having gone through all that I have and survived to just let my life be wasted. For me, the bigger picture is a trap. Looking too far in the future (or the past) blinds me from looking right here in the present, which is the only place I am truly capable of being in.

What is the point of all of this?

You know, I’ve mulled this question over since I was, at minimum, 15 years old. I haven’t ever come up with a definitive answer mainly because there isn’t one. There is no one answer to this question. The point of “all this” is whatever you want it to be.

Do you want to be the wealthiest person in the US? In the world? Do you want to discover an unknown entity or invent the world’s next innovation? Do you want to be the best parent you can be to your children? Do you want to be happy?

The meaning of life is vastly different for each person. For me, in this moment, the point of “all this” is to do the best I can. Right now. With the knowledge and resources and abilities that I have right now. And if tonight when I go to bed I realize that the day didn’t go as I had hoped or planned or even liked, well then tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Will it ever get any better?

At various times throughout my life I have been in places that, regardless of what anyone said to me, I would argue that no, it will never get better. I could point to the current place I was in (which was horrible). I could point to every past place of agony and depression and anger and despair. As if to showcase my evidence of how much everything is shit and always was shit and always will be shit. But, you know what?, complaining and arguing about how much my life sucked didn’t do anything other than allowing myself to sink down into it even more.

So, right here and right now, let’s lay it out. Life sucks. Life is hard and sometimes it seems like horrible things will never stop happening to us. Fair assessment?

Now let it go. Really. Putting the majority of your attention on all the things that are shitty, it doesn’t help you. While you’re busy getting stressed and upset about all the things that, right now in this moment, you can’t change you are missing out on all the wonderful things that are right there.

Sometimes all you can do is keep moving. Just keep waking up and doing the best you can. Just keep swimming as it were, like the fish in Finding Nemo.

Sometimes you need to change your perspective. To acknowledge the bad and let it go. To choose to focus on the positive things you do have in your life. To be grateful.

Are bad things going to keep happening? Yes. And good things too.

Stop PIPA / SOPA

To start, check out Wikipedia.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

As you can see, Wikipedia has “blacked out” their US site for 24 hours. Many other sites are participating in a full black out of their content or symbolically blacking out portions of their sites (such as WordPress.com).

But why?

To bring attention to two bills currently making their way through Congress — PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

As someone who utilizes the internet daily in many ways, especially in expanding my knowledge and developing my creativity, I am opposed to these bills and the implications they have.

I urge you to learn more about PIPA and SOPA and contact Congress to oppose the legislation.

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”

fightforthefuture.org

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

google.com

Tell Congress not to censor the internet NOW!

http://www.fightforthefuture.org/pipa

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

http://stopthewall.us/

Duality of Significance

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

On Expectations & Disappointment

We all have expectations.

I expect the sun to rise each morning and set each evening. I expect that I will, in fact, wake up and be alive each morning. These kinds of expectations are generally not acknowledged as being an expectation since, it’s assumed by the majority of people that they will occur. They’re assumed events.

Then there are expectations that lessen our ability to see the choices and control in our lives. Many of these expectations we obtain through the course of our lives — through our childhoods, from influences of peers and authority figures, through exposure to situations, from the media and from familial and societal norms.

They may never be labeled as expectations. In many families there is an expectation that children will graduate highschool or go on to attend college. It’s often never verbalized directly. There may not be a direct, “You will go to college” but instead through learned behaviors and patterns, it’s understood and assumed.

There are many expectations that are “placed” upon us. Educational and career expectations, monetary expectations, and the order in which one’s life path will progress (for example: college, dating, marriage, house, kids). Other’s can have a great deal of expectations for how they wish or want us to behave, act and choose.

For me, the expectations I place upon myself are often the greatest. Not just for how I want my life to progress but also in how I view certain situations.

Holidays are a great example. For most of my life I remember believing that Christmas was supposed to be the most magical day of the year. That I would come down the stairs at my house and the tree would be the most beautiful tree I had ever seen. I’d be filled with happiness and joy and excitement. As I opened the presents that Santa brought me, I would be overwhelmed with surprise and the most amazing feeling of content at receiving THE thing I desired most. It would be a perfect day.

I honestly don’t understand where this view of Christmas came from. A television show? A movie? Did someone once tell me a story like this?

Either way, it was an extremely unrealistic expectation. Nothing is perfect. There was no possible way I would get the thing I most desired (which was a little sister). Over the years I began stripping away at my expectation of how Christmas “should be”. Eventually all that was left of my original vision was the emotional feeling. I should feel amazingly happy and joyful and content.

You might see where I’m going with this story. My expectation that Christmas should equal happiness, joy and contentment was a set-up for disappointment. I felt like I should feel those things and, by not feeling them, I began to question what I was doing wrong. What was wrong with me. Everyone else (in my extremely skewed viewpoint) felt that way on Christmas.

Of course, everyone else did not feel that way on Christmas. They felt however they felt. And there was no way Christmas should be or how I should feel. Believing that the situation should go a certain way was an expectation that was doomed to fail because it was impossible. And in failing, I looked to myself as the culprit. That I must have been the wrong variable in the equation.

What actually was happening was that my expectation was unrealistic. It was a fantasy that was unobtainable by me, or anyone else. My mistake was believing that I was the incorrect part. The incorrect part was the expectation itself.

Unrealistic expectations don’t just come in the fantasy form, of expecting that events and circumstances should turn out perfect or pretty darn close. We also have expectations that events or circumstances will turn out poorly.

Often times we have these expectations based on past experiences. In a situation where we have had a poor experience, we may give ourselves a poor expectation or even no expectation to avoid continued pain.

For example, if a person in our lives constantly lets us down – doesn’t follow through with what they say and disappoints us – we may begin to lower our expectations for them. So the next time they say they will visit or call, we don’t expect that they will. This allows us to avoid the disappointment that will follow if they do not visit or call.

However, this lowering of expectations may eventually spill over into other parts of out life. We may fear disappointment or failure, so we lower our expectations of events or situations to avoid feeling disappointment.

In doing so, we may be inadvertently setting ourselves up for failure. So many times I’ve set myself up for disappointment by believing that my expectations were not only obtainable (as in fantasy) or realistic (as in lowered expectations) but also the way things were supposed to be. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t have expectations, but we need to evaluate the validity of them.

Stress and disappointment, not to mention failure, certainly come from a disconnect between our expectations and reality. Setting realistic expectations for ourselves, and those around us, can help reduce stress and disappointment.

If everyday I expected to wake up and have a perfect morning, with two children who perfectly listened, got dressed, ate their breakfast and got themselves ready, I would be setting myself up for disappointment and stress everyday. The reality is that my girls are 3 and 7 years old and the morning I just described is not realistic. By having a realistic expectation of how my mornings will go, I can better plan and handle them.

Every day is a learning process. By examining my expectations and developing more realistic ones, I not only sidestep a lot of disappointment and pain, but I am better able to appreciate the situations and events that I do have. I try to have realistic expectations, not expectations of perfection because my life isn’t perfect, but it is real.

My Kids Are Me (& Not Just The Best Parts)

Let me start with this. I love my kids. I really, really do.

But sometimes (and by sometimes I mean a lot of the time) they act like, well, kids (On a good day. Wild sugar-hyper monkeys might apply better). And not just kids, but MY kids and my partner’s kids.

And that means that they act like my partner and I did when we were kids.

Tantrums. Throwing anything they can reach. Screaming. Yelling. Kicking. Becoming temporarily deaf (You know, I really do like to say your name 50 times in hopes of getting you to look at me or respond). Changing their mind 59 times about what pair of shoes they want to wear (No! Not those ones! The other other sparkley ones!). Remembering that they have to bring that toy with them when we’re heading out the door, 10 minutes late. (And, oh yeah, where is that toy mom? I need it!) Claiming they absolutely don’t have to use the bathroom when I ask before a trip (and then 5 minutes in, it’s an emergency! I have to pee nowww!) Melting down because they weren’t the one who got to open the door (I don’t want to open it NOW! You already opened it! And closed it!).

Of course, obviously worse than we ever were. Because we were misunderstood and it obviously was our parents that caused us to act like that and, so, it was our parents fault we acted that way.

My kids? Well, it’s not their parent’s fault they act that way.

Because I’m their mom. And B is their dad. And there is NO way that we’ve in any way caused them to act like that.

Except… I guess genetics may play into it a bit (probably like 1%).

And they do spend time with OUR parents… yes! That must be it!

Here are my two little monkeys {Z, left; E, right} at Halloween time. Though they like to wear costumes year-round.

I hope it’s quite clear that I write all this in jest (love you Grama, Nana & Papa!). It wasn’t our parents “faults” for how B and I acted as kids anymore so than it is B and I’s “fault” for how our kids act. They act like…kids.

And while they may drive me near-crazy on a daily basis with some difficult to keep your cool and stay calm moments, I view my kids as the biggest lessons of my life.

Patience. How to stay calm. What’s really important. And how to deal with tiny people who often think, behave, react and/or embody many parts of B and myself.

And all of our flaws. Only, I don’t view those same flaws in my children as such. Instead I see personality, loyalty, creativity and a million other amazing attributes.

Truly they are amazing little people who, with a lot of love, learning, support, patience and hope, will grow into amazing people.

Hey, their parent’s did.

I Walk Down The Street

Many years ago in my life I was in a situation that I didn’t like. I was a teenager, struggling not only with being a teenager but also with some serious mental health issues. I remember at the time feeling like I was doing everything I could and being extremely frustrated that, despite my efforts, my life did not change.

At some point during this time period I was given this poem:

I think the first time I was given it, I didn’t even read it. I was given this poem on several other occasions as a teenager. Eventually I read it but, seriously?, this person is stupid! Just don’t walk into the hole, right?

Later, as an adult, still struggling with many of the same issues that plagued me as a teenager, I was again given this poem.

Reading it, I understood that the person in the poem wasn’t actually walking into a hole in the sidewalk. It was a metaphor. And it made a lot of sense.

The title of the poem, “Autobiography in Five Chapters” is aptly named. I won’t dissect the poem because, like most poetry, each person interprets it in their own way. However, I will discuss the implications to change.

Change really centers on a few things. First, we must realize that there are things that we cannot change and that we have no control over. Next, we must be aware of our own actions and behaviors and acknowledge them as our own choices and responsibility. And last, we must desire and have the courage to make different choices.

It’s obviously an over simplified description of a life-long, complex process. As a teenager I viewed my life much as the second verse in the poem. I continually made the same choices and was surprised that I was in the same place. It simply wasn’t my fault.

With time and a lot of effort to be more aware of my choices and responsibility for those choices, I shifted into a viewpoint somewhere in between the third and fourth verses in the poem. I made the same choices and ended up in the same place, but I wasn’t surprised anymore and I knew how I had gotten there. Eventually I was able to avoid the choices I had made out of habit. And by doing so avoided the outcome.

At present, I’m very much present in the fifth verse of the poem. I’m making new and more aware choices. I realize that those choices are mine to make and, if I don’t like their outcomes, I am always free to make a different choice.

There are parts of life that are out of our control, that we cannot choose and we cannot change. But the majority of our lives and things come directly from choices that we ourselves make. We are in control of those choices and any change we wish to make for ourselves. So often we lose sight of all the choices we (unconsciously) make and all the choices we can make, by focusing too greatly on the few we cannot.

Someone once told me that there are always choices, and they were right. It’s your life. It’s your choice.

Happy New Year!

The holidays were both wonderful and stressful which is, as holidays go, about average. Placing less stress on myself to have the “perfect holiday” and more focus on the things that really matter (my family, the moment), I was able to have a more enjoyable holiday than I usually have.

I know with the new year many people like to make resolutions and wishes for the new year. With that many take the time to reflect on the prior year – myself included. I do a lot of self-reflection (what seems like) almost daily.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to feel bad anymore for doing the best I can. Or feeling like it’s not good enough. It’s what I’ve got and if it isn’t good enough for you, too bad. It’s good enough for me. 2012 is going to be the year where I stop playing the victim. I’ve been the victim, I know the role, so it’s been an easy role to fall back upon. But I’ve also played the survivor and I play it well. I haven’t survived by laying down and giving up.

I am a capable, amazing person who is working so very hard every day to navigate through this life. To try to look on the bright side and see the positive. To try to propel myself further forward towards my goals in education, parenting and personal growth. It’s ok if sometimes I feel sad or angry or frustrated because denying myself feeling those emotions only strengthens their negativity. I can allow myself to feel sad or angry or frustrated and come out the other side.

I’m not perfect. But neither is anyone else. No longer will I be trapped by others negativity and attempts to stifle my achievement and growth. I am strong. I am smart. I am capable of loving and I am capable of receiving love. Not only capable, but worthy. It starts with me. And today I tell myself, “I love you.” And I mean it.

How often do we focus on other’s happiness and well-being, neglecting our own in the process? How often do we give ourselves endlessly – our time, our resources, our love? How often do we do the same for ourselves? Give something back to yourself, everyday, even if it’s as simple as saying a little mantra — “I love you”, “You are capable”, “You are strong”, “You can do this”.