Conversation with a Friend


Me on men: “I am the full package, I expect them to be too.”

a few minutes later….

My friend on finding a job: “Life doesn’t have to suck. No. It doesn’t. You are the full package; it should be too.”

Ooo, Touché! And so the search continues…

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Love, Lost.


I am hesitant to write this post. It is something that has hung over my mind for the last several months now, and yet I still feel inadequate to put it into words. In this post I do not offer any advice or helpful thoughts. Only my own confusion. In most things, though I have much to understand, I feel that there is a glimmer of truth that bit by bit makes itself known to me. In this matter above all, I feel green, small, and very far away from achieving any kind of understanding. Today, I will attempt to put words to my love and grief.

Last summer, I fell deeply in love with a wonderful man. I am no stranger to romance. I had dated many men, in many places, in relationships of all varieties. I was seeing someone else at the time, as was he, but when we met each other, every other person was forgotten. For the following days we frequently could only stare at each other, laughing and shaking our heads in disbelief. Surely this was it.

What happened, I still don’t fully understand, and isn’t the point of this post. The point is that its over. His leaving me is second in emotional pain only to the death of my mother six years ago. Indeed it touched a similar spot, I think, and aggravated the old wound with the new one. What followed proceded as though it had been already written. Neither of us was perfect. His faults are many and so are mine, and there were many things that stood between us: distance, age, culture. But all those things were small in comparison to what we thought we’d found.

It’s been almost three months now, and I am still struggling to process these emotions. What does it really mean to get over someone or to move on? I am not one to mope and wallow. Life will go on, much as it always had. Life is relentless, even in the face of grief and loss, and nothing is gained by refusing to run on with it. But what is the healthy way to proceed from where I am?

When most people talk about love, I find that what they really mean is a mutual addiction to each other emotionally. They do not love the other person so much as love the emotional role that person plays in their life. I will not pretend that I could love him perfectly without some unhealthy attachment, but even stripped of my attachment the fact that I love him is more certain and true to me than most of what I know. I can’t imagine the day when I will not. Something in me recognizes something beautiful in him, whether he is tired, angry, anxious, lost, or away from me.

I hope to love another, equally deserving person one day. Will I ever be able to look at that person with fresh eyes without judging one against the other? Will I ever be able to love as wholly and fully, without fear or reservation again? I want to. The love I experienced with him was the kind I’d always hoped but hardly believed was possible. For my own sanity and well being I have to believe that it is possible again. With this love I am ok. I can continue to carry it, but what of the things that hold me back? The pull and sadness the comes with us moving even farther away to pursue our lives? The intense missing of his person?

My love will always be with him, so I am faced with this seemingly unrealistic task: To move on, I must let him go. To let him go, I must really and truly disentangle my love from my attachment. Only then will I be free, and capable of loving that way again.

Understanding is the easy part. It is the doing that will take time. I suppose I am impatient. I want to feel free and balanced NOW, but I recognize now that it will be an active process, but one that will be worth it in the end.

If you have any comments or words of advice for me, I would love to hear from you!

J

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Thoughts on the New Year


Hello All!

I have been pondering for some time how I want to approach this New Year:

This next year will bring a lot of new changes and challenges for me. I do not yet know what those challenges will be, but my actions in the coming year will set the course for the rest of my life. That sounds a little dramatic doesn’t it? Every new day is the beginning of the rest of our lives, but this next year will be the deciding moments and the beginning of what I consider to be my adult life. For this reason, I will spend a great deal of time this next year and on this blog considering my prospects in the future.

To the Past

However, on this New Year’s Eve, as I consider the changes that lie before me, I want to look back and consider what, from now, I intend to carry with me. I have gone through many changes and learned many things in the last three and a half years, nearly all of which have been outside the classroom, and the most important thing I hope to take with me is the people I have met along the way. The most valuable lesson I have learned is the true value of my relationships with others.

There are other lessons too- personal lessons that I have been mulling over and I’m sure will later make their appearance here on this site. These things that I carry with me in my heart will act as a compass in an uncertain future.

To the Future

However, on to the future! It is New Year’s after all. New Year’s is for changing habits, setting goals, and for new directions. However, I have never had much luck with New Year’s Resolutions. For me, they tend to grow stale around March, and by mid-summer they lay long forgotten as my attentions turns toward new endeavors. The New Year’s Resolution however is an admirable concept, however, and one that I am quite taken with. A nearly universal ritual in which people submit to self-evaluation and make efforts to improve their lives is simply wonderful. I love goals, plans, and projects, but I have come to realize that resolving something for a whole year, is not for me. I have a more fun idea…monthly resolutions!

Last year, every month, I changed something about my diet to see what made me feel better. One month I stopped eating meat and found that I felt better. My diet ever since has consisted of considerably less meat. Another month I cut out dairy and found that it had no affect whatsoever cutting it out, or resuming eating it in copious amounts a month later. Another month I cut out the crux of my diet: bagels and found I made much healthier choices throughout the day.

These monthly experiments were easy to handle, provided great value for their duration, and permanently changed some of my habits for the better through the combination of awareness and developed custom. So, for this year, I am going to make ONE resolution for each month through which I hope I will form some positive and lasting habits.

January Resolution: Contact someone each day that I care about, but haven’t spoken to in a while.

The Present

How hard it is to remain in the present, and yet that is the best place to be. In this moment, I am thankful for all that I have been blessed with. In this moment I am happy because I can be. For all my future plans, I know the key to living my best life is knowing that I carry the best things with me. All the happiness, love, and joy I could want are not things that I intend to find on my journey. They are things that I carry with me to share, wherever it may take me.

Live well,

J

 

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Finding Your Future


This recently showed up on “Freshly Pressed.” Much thanks to Dan Rockwell for writing such a brief and productive post in evaluating our present and kick-starting a productive future!

http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/five-ways-to-find-your-future/ 

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Fear and Courage


Hello All!

Apologies for the extended break. Finals and the holiday season put normal operations on hold, but I plan to now resume weekly entries.

After giving myself a few days of down time after what has been a very trying semester and soaking up some family goodness, it is time to take advantage of the extra time winter break affords. For me, this primarily means the job search from now, until signing, will be my top priority. Finding a job in this economy I know will be no easy feat, but it is not the economy, I think, that will pose my biggest challenge, but my own fear.

Fear is not always easily identifiable. It does not always shake us, keep us up at night, fill us with adrenaline or cause the back of our neck to sweat. There are many kinds of fear. There is fear in the sense of alarm at the sense of a threat. There is fear in the sense of concern over performance such as public speaking, or acting as to avoid retribution. However, there is another kind of fear, a smaller creeping, irrational fear that is difficult for me to articulate. It is the fear that plagues me and it is it’s identification and monitoring that is so important to shaping my best life.

Here is a quote from Marianne Williamson on fear that is often printed or passed around in attempts to inspire people to greater heights:

Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 I used to have this hanging on my wall. However, for me at least, it doesn’t quite hit home. Am I afraid of my own light? Do I hide it so that others may not feel uncomfortable? No, I do not think that is my greatest fear. Instead it is the “Who am I to be…” that hits a little closer to home. I do not fear my own brilliance; rather, I think I have become attached to its idea. Instead, I fear that when the time of appraisal comes, I will be found lacking.

This feeling has always been a hindrance. Even when presented with an opportunity, I will hesitate if I feel I might not be qualified for it. I think of the shame and frustration I would feel if I was later to be found unworthy or lacking. You can imagine the sort of inertia this creates when making big life moves! I want it all, I expect the very best for myself, yet the truly dazzling opportunities are easy to pass up. This fear of rejection coupled with the fear of the unknown can be crippling. Groping in the dark, throwing myself at unfamiliar territory whilst doubting my own worth is surely a recipe for disastrous mediocrity and dissatisfaction.

I faced a similar situation when searching for collages, but somehow I made it through that process. Now, as I begin to search for a job, I find myself under similar conditions. The task is daunting. Where do I even start? Where does someone like me even begin to look? How do I sift through this mountain of information? The enormity of this task, the fear of the unknown, and the fear of what the mirror of multiple evaluations and rejections will tell me about myself has kept the job search from being much fun.

That is just the problem though. It should be fun! If not fun, this unique transition and opportunity to shape my life should be exciting. I should be eagerly perusing what is available to me, asking questions and applying to interesting opportunities with clear eyes and a full heart. This is it. I am about to enter the world as a productive member of society. This is what I have worked for. I should be as a child on Christmas, happily tracing over all the mystery packages, wondering what each one will bring.

This is what I should be doing, but up until this point, I haven’t. I have made some serious efforts, but not the kind that would come as a result of real zeal and enthusiasm. My reticence has been crippling.

Going forward I will be making a concerted effort to take courage and not let fear dictate or hinder my actions. I will no longer disengage for fear of what I might discover, but fully engage with my search for a better life.

This will be my battle going forward, but I encourage you to think of something that you know will make your life better. Something you have been meaning to do, or put more focus on, but for some reason, just hasn’t. Why is that? Give it some serious thought, because the root of this kind of self-sabotage will tell you much about yourself and the adjustments to be made for living a better, happier, life.

That is all. ONE thing that you don’t do that you know would make your life better, but you don’t do. Why is that, and what can you do about it?

Best Wishes,

J

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Of Emperors and Turnip Farmers


Last summer I worked with an extraordinary man. He is somewhere between mad and brilliant. Filled with neuroses, wickedly quick, and a powerful hunger for empire, he was Napoleon reincarnated. We met on campus some years back and though our philosophies were vastly different, we became friends. I listened as he plotted to build an impossible media and intelligence empire, and watched in disbelief as it began to raise from the ground. In the time that I joined him we talked often about our life theories and ideals. The one that we clashed most over, and the one that keeps coming back to me is our conversation of emperors and turnip farmers.

To him it was never enough to be good, or even great at something, you had to be the best. He told stories of how he had threatened his brother that if he did not win a debate, he would break his knees. I always took this to be a gross exaggeration as many of his stories could be, but his was the kind of intensity that you could never really be sure. You could see this gnawing hunger within him, the need to have his name in the history books. He had come from an old family that had had much taken from them. “When you are emperor,” he told me, “no one can take anything from you.”

This did not strike me as true. I watched him and thought to myself, I could never live like him. Yes, there is nothing exactly like being at the top, but does it really offer the greatest value to your life. It is wonderful to be the best, or the most powerful, or the most knowledgeable to be sure, but at what cost? No, emperor did not sound like a good idea to me. When you are emperor, everyone around you will doubtlessly want to be emperor too. History books drip with blood of friends and relatives, spilled over the right to rule. When you are emperor you can never feel secure in the ones close to you, or in your position. You must fight every day to legitimize yourself or your position, eliminating possible threats. It sounds exhausting. The emperor has everything, but can he be happy?

And what of the turnip farmer? The turnip farmer may not have the wealth and power of the emperor, but perhaps he is happier? If the turnip farmer can be content with his turnips, if he does not desire wealth and power, would not he be infinitely more at peace in his life than the emperor? Is that not what everyone strives for in one form or another, happiness? And if, as I postulated earlier, that happiness is a choice, then why not choose it as a turnip farmer? I saw, and still see nothing wrong with people who are content with their lives. My Napoleonic friend would dismiss them  contemptuously as having no ambition, but what was so contemptible about people who had already figured out how to be content?

The turnip farmers that I know will live happy lives, and in all likelihood, will die happy. The aspiring emperors, and I know many of those too, of them I am not so sure. Little emperors of their own domains, and yet they are always hungry and the turnip farmers always full.

Then what of me, as I decide where to take my life? As I fret about my direction, it dawns on me that I could go back home and live a perfectly comfortable, adequate life. I have terribly blessed, I should have nothing to agonize over. Yet, I lie awake at night discontent…and hungry.

I hold those who are content in their lives in the highest respect, for they have done something that I cannot. While I shudder at the thought of being emperor, I do not want to be a turnip farmer. I see all the fallacies of one, yet I cannot reconcile myself to the other.

I often feel divided like this, like I am two people in one. I will surely never be able to give myself over entirely to the pursuit of glory, or empire. Will I too, then, live out my life hungry?

Maybe one day I will learn, but today, I do not want to be a turnip farmer. I am hungry.

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Happiness is a Choice


Hello All,

For the inaugural edition of this blog I thought I would start with something that has been a guiding tenet for my life for the past six years. It is a difficult message but it is the one in which I believe the most because it has changed my life. Happiness is a choice.

I have talked to friends about this before and I understand it can be a little difficult to wrap your head around. Responses range from skeptical to indignant. How can happiness be a choice? You are not in control of what happens to you. You can’t help how you feel. It isn’t enough that someone is unhappy, but you have to tell them that it’s their fault???

First of all, fault is not a term I like to use. It’s right up there with blame, guilt, regret, and other things I try to avoid. Take this instead as good news. No one can make you unhappy. You get to choose. Even in the depths of something terrible, what you feel on the inside is something no one can touch, and that is an empowering thought.

When we are held hostage by our emotions, we are held hostage by whatever outside forces trigger them. If we realize that our emotions are subject to the power of choice, outside forces loose much of their power over us as well.

I learned this lesson durring the most difficult time in my life. There was no person in this world more important to my mom. She was my rock, my guide, and my best friend. I was just getting old enough that we could do things together and talk about things as friends and adults instead of just mother and child. We shared everything. One morning I went into her room to borrow her boots and she was still in bed.

You know that feeling when you step of the edge of a curb you didn’t realize was there? My whole world fell away from beneath me. Things like this did not happen in my world. She had to wake up. She never did. Her heart had stopped without warning in her sleep.

I was alone. I was the only one to see her like that. I called 911 and they took her away. I called the family and all relevant friends. People came, people cried, people brought food.   Finding her was not the hard part. The funeral was not the hard part. Seeing my dad and her father cry was not the hard part. When everyone went home, dad went back to work and I went back to school, when life marched relentlessly on, that was the hard part.

How could everything resume operation as usual, how could I resume life as usual when I felt there was a big raw bleeding hole in the center of me? I had just turned sixteen and was completely unprepared to deal with such overwhelming grief. How could I be happy when I had lost what was dearest to me? She had given my life meaning, now what?

I met a wonderful friend at this time also struggling with some pretty heavy stuff out of his control. Together we put it together, we could choose to be happy. Together we learned how to process our grief. Choosing to be happy does not mean denying what happened. We cried often. We talked about everything. We were hard on each other. If something was bothering us, knowing what it was and acknowledging it was imperative  because with out that it could only fester. The key is not to dwell. Acknowledge the source of pain, but then let it go. This may need to be done many times, but it is the time in between that is important. Choose to be happy. Find it in whatever you can. Anything beautiful, fortunate, or pleasant. Any love, any blessing, even as small as the fact that you are alive and can feel the miracle of sensations all around you. Focus on these things and choose to be happy.

Right now, what are you unhappy about? Something that happened in the past? Something that will happen in the future? But right now what about this very second is making you unhappy? There is more to be happy about, no matter who you are than there is to be unhappy about. You must believe that this is true. So many of the decisions that we make in our life are based on what we think will bring us happiness, but really those decisions are only what might make the choice easier. Believe that happiness is your choice, and be set free.

Reading this over again, I feel I have explained this poorly. Please comment with questions or with your own experiences in choosing your own emotional well-being.

Live well,

J

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