Monday, October 31, 2011

It’s the Little Things that Create the Big Ones

While many of us are struggling to “survive” during these dynamic, tumultuous times, I think that more than ever we need to grasp the wonder and the richness of simplicity. Basically, boiling our lives down to what matters most to each of us will help our perspective – and priorities – shift to a more manageable place. Trying to have or do it all might just be too ambitious at times, and that pressure alone could be just what’s ailing us.

I recently read that what one average Joe typically does in a day is enough to exhaust the otherworldly beings watching over us. That concept made me stop to consider it and my own ways… Do I frequently applaud myself for getting out of bed in the morning, giving something – anything – my best shot, smiling at a stranger, and being present enough to avoid that indecisive squirrel in the road? Or do I mentally beat myself up for not doing enough? Truth be told – and I doubt I’m alone on this – it’s more often the latter. But what if what we’re doing is enough? What if it’s plenty, or even admirable to beings watching from afar (say, a distant galaxy or couch, for instance)?!

And what if, instead of giving up and being lazy, we’re flat out trying too hard and actually doing less? For example, we’re being inefficient with our efforts because we’re constantly berating ourselves for not doing whatever we are doing well enough… Well, that emotional energy is totally being wasted, and we’re probably pretty exhausted from it. Our other options are to stop worrying already, or just focus on something and do the best we can, come what may.

So lately, instead of hyper-focusing on what I didn’t do, I’ve been going through the motions of patting myself on the back for what I did do. I just journal a few notes a day about what I accomplished, no matter how insignificant or trivial seeming: “Did the dishes, answered the phone, breathed through my anxiety, gave a $1 to the Veteran’s Fund, organized project X notes, etc.” And you know what? That little bit of self-acknowledgment really does help me feel better about the scheme of things in my life. And the “little things” I accomplished? They set me up for where I am today: hitting the pavement on project X running.

So when you think about how ‘It’s the little things in life that count,’ well, you stop under-estimating them and begin letting them exist as if they were the real events in your life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Exploring Life’s Black Holes

What are the blockages, the reasons for not falling in love with another, for not falling in love with life, for not falling in love with oneself? If we let our own flaws block our self-love, we may also allow others’ flaws to drown out the love we have for them. And the same goes for life. But are we aware that we’re doing this? Probably not. The truth is that things will haunt us in subtle, small or big ways if we don’t turn to face the villains in our sleeping and waking nightmares. But what happens when we’re the villain?

Unless someone is literally trying to harm us, making them the bad guy, the experience negative, or the fault always someone else’s is not a productive, proactive way to live. But we do the opposite, too, by personalizing every little thing that happens and blaming ourselves for all the imperfections of our relationships, career failures, financial situations, etc. Yes, we have to take responsibility for our actions pertaining to all situations facing us… No, we can’t control the outcomes to these actions, however. The acceptance and calmness we seek is in between these two.

Can you be the perfect mate, perfect employee, perfect parent and perfect friend at all once? Ha, try being the perfect any one thing and see how that works out for you. But can we do the best with what we have to work with? Yes. And that alone may be the highest good anyone can do in a lifetime.

There are slackers, those who won’t take any responsibility for their lives – and there are hyper achievers, those who are never satisfied with their efforts, the results, the actions of others, or their life in general. Letting ourselves be real – flawed without letting those flaws overtake us – is a great gift to oneself. Just as we love our children, pets and partners unconditionally, we can do the same for ourselves. This doesn’t mean we don’t try to teach our children to be decent people, our pets to pee where they’re supposed to, or our spouses to believe in themselves. There’s just always a gentle balance - say, a grace - to living a life of love without excessive ego.

Everything that happens in life – it all matters, but it’s not the be-all-end-all. We have a bad day because of someone else or we let ourselves feel shame for something we did… The best we can do is explore the situation or feeling, do something to rectify it if possible, put it in a healthy perspective, and then awaken the next morning having forgiven (whether another or ourselves). It’s a challenge to live honestly and humbly while building confidence and courage at the same time. I think this is what they call character. And the fact that you got out of bed this morning sandwiched between the absurdity and divinity of being human is just one more positive step.

Keep rising and shining!