Saturday, April 14, 2007

Variety is the Spice, Doncha Know

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

I've been thinking about us and the ways we tend to classify and sort ourselves and one another.

We seem to have this incessant need to compare ourselves with one another and make judgments based on those comparisons. I understand that competitiveness stems from our most basic need for survival. And yet, I feel that as we surrender to the love that is the truth of who we are, we will become more open to accepting the differences, variances and preferences that make us individuals.

Differences don't have to separate us. One thing that excites me is that in spite of the attempts of governments, religions and gargantuan bodies of water to separate us, people still find ways to unite. Love always finds a way to bring us together.

If you think about it, superiority and inferiority of personages is a farce, the same kind of unloving ideas that have separated races and classes and countries for millenia. What makes us think we are superior to the man on the street corner with the cardboard sign? What makes us think we are inferior to the billionaire with the three-story mansion? Maybe both persons are living the life of their dreams, and who are we to decide one man's dream is superior to another's? We may have our personal preferences, but everyone else is not obligated to share those preferences.

Do you know what I think the great equalizer is? The common toilet. Everybody has to sit down and take care of business, regardless of whether they are a leader of a great country or a lowly servant. True, some may use a bidet as opposed to common TP, but we all have our humanity in common - the same needs, the same drives, the same hungers and thirsts, the same eliminatory, and circulatory, and other systems.

What differs between us is a matter of preference, teaching, sometimes brainwashing, individual talents and intelligences, and the application of these. So what? There is more about us that is alike than is different.

We do have our own preferences, and we don't have to like everything about other people or their actions, but we can make room in our hearts for acceptance of others and acceptance of the fact that we don't have to be right and make everyone else wrong. And we don't have to accept other people's judgments, either.

We all have the God-given freedom to choose, and the blessed responsibility for creating a life that is meaningful to us, and joyful, and loving, according to our own preferences.

And thank God for the differences that make us all so interesting. It would be a boring world without differences. Variety is the spice of life, and God gave us an extremely spicy world. Our appreciation is in order.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Living in the Moment

Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of blowing through life like a storm, we actually began noticing we are living it? What if we were to slow down a little and actually pay attention to what is happening?

I went for a walk in my neighborhood this morning, which is a little challenging for me because I tend to get bored with the same old scenery. My mind is in the habit of running constantly, and bringing it to stillness is a work in progress. I notice a lot more I used to, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

So, this morning, as I was walking and starting to feel mentally restless, I remembered that life is in the moment, and I want to enjoy every one of them I can. So, I asked myself, what is there to enjoy in this moment? I began noticing the softness of the spring air. The sun was warm, but it was a gentle warmth. The birds were singing, but in the moments before this, their lovely songs had been filtered out by mental clutter. As I was walking, I came across a patch of honeysuckle growing on a neighbor's fence. That's another one of my favorite natural scents, so I had to stop and take in the fragrance. That would probably drive a fitness expert crazy, but I feel that true fitness is multi-dimensional, just as true wealth is. If we're only working on getting our bodies in shape, and neglecting our souls and spirits, we are missing out on much of the joy life has to offer. True, physical exercise is good for our hearts, but so is fun, laughter, and enjoying life through all of our senses.

Jo Dee Messina recorded a song titled, Was That My Life? The chorus goes like this:

Oh we just get one
Ride around the sun
In this dream of time.
It goes so fast
That one day we look back
And we ask
Was that my life?

We can live life in the fast lane, hardly taking the time to look around. Or, we can notice the moments and live them as fully as possible. The path of least resistance is to follow the patterns that society has set up for us. We may think there is no other possibility, but the truth is, we follow the path of least resistance because it is easier. Swimming against the current may be more rewarding, but it's not so easy. Coloring outside the lines won't get us the approval we crave, at least not until we create something so spectacular that others can't help but admire it.

Ultimately, though, we are responsible for what we make of our lives. It's more pleasant to say it's all society's fault. The government, or our employer, or our spouse made us do it. We had to do it that way, because we have bills to pay, and mouths to feed. And as long as we hold on to that belief, we will continue to follow the same patterns and feel powerless to change them. But look around. There are people everywhere who are changing them - people who are taking their lives into their own hands, and creating their own success, their own joyful experience of life. Sometimes, getting from here to there requires a lot of inner work, a lot of dropping beliefs that aren't working for us, and a lot of mental reprogramming.

But imagine the rewards! Imagine the possibilities!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pardon Me, Your Addiction is Showing

Coming from a family riddled with addiction (I lost three grandparents to alcohol-related deaths before I was ever born), I managed to escape the biggies, alcoholism, drugs, etc., just as my mother did. Awareness and being conscious of the consequences of those addictions kept me off those paths. As I always told my children, "Every path has a destination. If you don't want to reach that destination, don't get on that path".

However, the thing you don't escape when you come from such a background is addictive tendencies. Even if the big, bad addictions skip a generation or two, the addictive tendencies are learned and passed on, until someone becomes aware of them and stops the cycle. I have heard so many people who have grown up around alcoholism say something like, "I will never be an alcoholic. I will never put my family through that kind of hell". And yet, they act out the same addictive tendencies in some other form and don't even realize the damage they are doing.

Whether we are workaholics, spendaholics, foodaholics or alcoholics, the effect can be very damaging both to our own lives and to those who love us. What it boils down to is escape. We escape into the addiction to distract us from whatever is not working in our lives.

The trouble with that is that while we're escaping, our problems are not going away as we hoped they would. Instead, they usually grow and spread like a fungus while we are ignoring them. Then, when we try to give up the addiction, we are faced with an even bigger problem than before. No wonder the temptation is to escape back into the addiction, and no wonder it becomes harder to overcome an addiction the longer we are mired in it.

There is always hope, of course. The thing that brings us hope is the thing we are most afraid of. That is, facing the thing we don't want to face. Facing whatever is not working in our lives. Facing the fear that if we deal with what is not working, it will require breaking through this wall of pain, and that perhaps the dull aching of an unsatisfying life is easier to bear than that one large swell of pain that may occur when we face the truth of what is not working and do something about it.

And so, what to do? Well, the choice, as always is ours completely. It is our own responsibility to decide the kind of life we will live. No one can decide for us, and no one can make our life perfect for us. It is our own creation, and no one else has the right or the responsibility to make it good for us. If we decide we would rather please everyone else than to live our best life, that is our choice. And that is the reason we can't rightfully blame anyone else for the outcome.

This is both frightening and liberating. Because knowing that I am responsible for my own experience of life and no one else is, not only means that the buck stops here, it also means that the power is here, as well. Right here, inside me. I don't have to look outside myself for the power to create my best life. I just have to do it.

If I want to, that is.