Being in control use to give me a sense of relief. When things went the way I wanted them to go, how I wanted them to go, I felt comfortable. I appreciated a level of predictability in my life. I always knew what to expect because I controlled the outcome. That may be what drew me to Buddhism when I was 18; the idea that I’m in control of my life. But here’s the thing about life: it comes with this spare part called “the loop” and if it happens to be thrown at you, well…
So being in control backfired on me in the worst way. I had a plan: to be married, working in corporate America, make $80K, and own a home by the time I was 30. When my loop came, I watched what I had controlled (my image of my future) fall apart in front of my very eyes and I was stuck asking one question:
That was scary for me. If I can’t live the life I anticipated in the timeframe I set, then what am I suppose to do? Where do I go from here? Where do I even begin? Faced with those questions made me look at myself and I had to see that I had kept my eyes so focused on a future that didn’t exist and possibly suffocated any life I could’ve had in a relationship because I wanted it tailored to me. So my “what’s next” was simply changing my perspective.
Today, the question “What’s next?” gets me excited. It fills me with anticipation. I don’t ever know what’s next and I couldn’t be happier. Some people would see this as being unfocused and unmotivated, however…I know where I’m going. I just don’t know the destination.
But the scenic route is prettier.
This is Joyce Carol Vincent. I just found out about her Tuesday, but she died in December of 2003. Her remains were found three years later. Hearing her story made me want to know more about her. How could a woman fall off the grid for so long with no one checking in on her? After watching the documentary, Dreams of a Life, it became clear how that was possible and the scary reality that it could possibly happen to me.
Joyce was nomadic in her living; giving people bits and pieces of herself along the way. Her friends and close colleagues saw her one way but at the end of the movie, you could tell that they really didn’t know anything about her. They only knew what she told them, and accepted it as such. One of her ex-boyfriends said it best about her, “She was a woman without a past, and not much of a future.” She was a drifter in every sense of the word. She was able to assimilate whatever situation or group of people she was with. She stood out because….I mean, look at her. She’s beautiful. But she found comfort in being alone or in the company of strangers. I understand why that is; because among strangers, you can be whoever you want to be. There’s no one there to fact check you. No one who knew you way back then. As long as you stay charming and easygoing, you can blend right in and people will say, “She seemed so nice” on the 11 o’clock news.
A blanket statement that could fit anybody. My lab-chow “seems” nice. So Joyce got me to thinking about my own life. Had me face my own fear. Not about dying or even dying alone. What I fear is that I will die without someone knowing the real me. That I could go missing for three years and my closest friends wouldn’t even give it a second thought because “that’s just how she is”. I don’t want to be so afraid to let someone in; to be vulnerable with another person. I want to be my authentic self, and not the person I feel will make others comfortable.
I’m sorry, Joyce….that it had to end this way. I also thank you, for being one of my greatest teachers in 2014 so far.
What is the one thing that you’re grateful for right now?
I woke up this morning to a text message alert, that this snowstorm was keeping me home one more day. I didn’t mind it at all, actually I was already thinking of all the things I planned to do with my spare 24. I finally got to watch a movie that I missed at the theatres, I got to cook myself breakfast, I even got to read a little bit (which is something that I’m still struggling to do). But the one thing that I was very grateful to do today was take a moment to meditate.
This isn’t something I do for a long periods of time; my usual meditation consist of me just saying “thank you” as I get out of bed in the mornings. I use to dedicate at least 15 minutes every morning, but soon began trading meditation time for a few extra minutes in bed. Then I saw that I was becoming more and more distracted by my thoughts which I know to mean that I’ve taken myself out of my present moment. I knew I needed to get focused but just saw my mind being pulled in several different directions. So this morning with me being fully awake and a fully charged phone, I sat in the middle of my living room and found a guided morning meditation to follow along. Right away, I felt a sense of calm as I inhaled and exhaled slowly and deeply. This feels good. This felt long overdue. Then the narrator began to ask me a series of questions that came so naturally to me.
Who is in your life that you are truly appreciative of?
My family. My friends.
What is it about them that you truly appreciate?
That no matter what, they are there for me and love me in their own way.
What material things in your life are you grateful for?
My phone and my books.
What recent successes in your life are you grateful for?
The realization that I don’t know everything. That not having all the answers keeps me open to possibilities and other means of finding out the truth.
What have you learned lately that you are grateful for?
That I am enough.
That. Was. It. I have said that sentence many of times on days when I wasn’t feeling particularly grand about myself. I said it as a way to feel better about myself, but it always came out empty as I obsessed over whatever it was that I was lacking at the moment. But this morning, I felt it. It vibrated through my heart and body. I can honestly say without hesitation that I am enough right here and now. After I echoed that one sentence, my mind went completely silent. There were no more thoughts. They simply evaporated and I didn’t want to retrieve them. I just sat in the silence and breathed in deeply with a smile on my face.
That was enough.
I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. Being the baby of the family, he absolutely spoiled me. Where my mother was the authoritarian, my father was the authoritative one. He never raised his voice, yet we knew he was the head of the household. I remember sitting with him watching the news not because I wanted to (and trust me, I didn’t) but because my dad always stressed how important it was to be informed. In fact, my dad was well informed on a variety of subjects. Me watching the news was my way of showing my dad I was knowledgeable too. I always held my dad in the image of a young, vibrant man who was, as he said, “only as old as you feel”. Sunday afternoon, I saw that for myself.
We took a trip to Target to pick up a few things and he asked me about work. As I was beginning to tell him about my possible promotion, I really noticed my dad. His face looked hardened and droopy. He was lightly shaking. In a nutshell, my dad looked old……and it scared me. I had to rush through my chat because I felt years forming in my eyes. Why?
Because for the first time, I saw my dad as fragile and aging. That image contradicted the image I had carried with me for so long. Also, it had me come to terms with his mortality. It terrified me. In that moment, I wanted to put him away somewhere safe, keep him enclosed and keep him with me forever. I wanted to give him some of my youth so he can be around longer. I wanted to take away whatever it is in his life that’s making him age and keep it out of his reach. I know I can’t do any of these things, so I did the only thing I could do.
I just kept talking to my dad and engaging him in my theories and opinions on current events. And his eyes lit up like a child’s.
We’ve reached that time of year where it is everyone’s New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Gym owners all over the world breathe a long exhale of anticipation of all the new memberships they will obtain. Gym regulars, like myself, breathe for a totally different reason. We know what’s in store for us. Long waits for exercise machines and overcrowding of gym classes. I watched daily as people grumbled and moaned about how the gym was packed and they couldn’t wait until it was mid-February, where most people fall off the wagon and the gym is nearly vacant again. I especially braced myself for the overcrowded classes when I saw that the gym I attended was giving out discounted classes. But nothing prepared me for my bootcamp class.
Just like I thought, the class was packed. I mean, it’s bootcamp and people want to lose weight. Doesn’t a class like that scream “lose 6 pounds in 7 days”? Well, as the class progressed, it was obvious to me. What was obvious? It was obvious who was a regular at the gym….and who just started working out. I knew that look. I knew their stance. I knew their shortness of breath. The newbies were all on one side of the class (migration much?) and they struggled to do a plank. Some even looked in our direction, the regulars, as we held our planks with ease. Were we the prototypes? Were we the exception? I glanced in between sets to see the look of defeat on a lot of their faces. They all had this “What was I thinking?” look. I looked back and mouthed “It’ll be okay” because it will be. It was hard for me too starting out. The difference is, I kept going. All of us “gym rats” didn’t shoot out the womb carrying 5 pound weights. We worked hard at it. We kept coming back. We were determined to stick with it; we had a resolution.
Hopefully, the newbies will return. It’s actually nice to see new faces in the gym.
“Security is overrated.” – Keith Olbermann
Yesterday, I had the extreme privilege of attending an online seminar. I first heard about it from my (unofficial) mentor, who tweeted about being one of the speakers. The seminar was nothing short of eye-opening for me and really helped me set my intent for 2014. I may not be a person who wants to start her own business (but don’t count me out….), however I have struggled with this nagging thought that in order to have everything I want, it has to be given to me. Basically, I was looking for permission to be great. I double-dutch between being fearless and not wanting to fail. That thought, that one stream of thinking has essentially kept me stuck.
- Once I get this raise, I’ll be able to travel more.
- Once I get this job, I’ll be able to move
- Once I lose this weight, I can go skydiving
- Once I take this nap, I’ll be refreshed to go out with friends
- Once I write more in my blog, I’ll have enough experience to be a contributing writer
I was waiting for something, or someone, to come along and tell me about me. Isn’t that crazy? I never realized that, until I heard one of the speakers, Jeff Goins, talk about his own life and how he wanted someone to call him a writer before he felt like a writer (get out of my head, Jeff!). Now, he talks about “activity always follows identity.” If you don’t believe it, you won’t see it. I sat at my computer, wide-eyed, mouth opened, stunned. I had my first “a-ha” moment of the year.
Shawn “Jay Z” Carter once said, “Believe that you are great, even when no one else can see your greatness.” Yesterday during the seminar, I realized that I can’t be great being safe. I have to not be afraid of taking risks, which was a point that was reiterated a lot. Also, if I wait for the perfect moment, I’ll be waiting forever. My moment will come, I know it. However, that doesn’t excuse me from doing any work now. I need to get started right where I am and when I look up, I’ll be where I’m suppose to be (or where I was heading all along). The only thing I’m focused on is staying in the moment and doing everything with a purpose. So….let me fall.