Life and Randomness

truth

It is early morning as I type this. I have a full day of grading essays ahead of me, but I give final exams in the next week, and my academic year is winding down. This is the storm before the calm. I am almost there.

The rose bush in my backyard has been covered in buds for weeks it seems, but yesterday I finally saw three blooms bust wide open, and this morning it is covered in bright pink flowers. It’s strange how something as predictable and certain as the change of seasons can be so exciting.

There are certain truths in life – like that winter will become spring every single year without fail – that we tend to forget or ignore or somehow doubt. I feel like this message is chasing me lately. Does that happen to you, too? It’s like everything that I am reading or hearing or thinking is revolving around some center point whispering to be heard and then shouting a little louder until I pay attention to it.

Today’s culture values individual perspectives and stories, and I’m grateful for that. It’s important, and it’s the first step to empathy. But maybe what we lose in the process is the notion of absolute truth. There is the truth and there is my truth and there is your truth. None of those are exactly the same thing, but the absolute truth is the bedrock where you have to begin. We even have a term for this now when someone says truth-bomb. As though that real truth, that uncomfortable thing we try to ignore, is explosive.

I was listening to a podcast recently where someone was talking about this, and she said truth is like a reporter – just the facts, ma’am. The rest of it is stories that we pile on which can have some value but can also be full of false notions sometimes. I love gray area. I love the questions it brings and the changes it can inspire in me. But I lived in that space for so long that I am ready for solid ground, and maybe this truth concept is at the center of that.

I haven’t read any of Augusten Burroughs’ work. (Tell me where to begin if you have!) But I ran across a passage of his on Instagram, and it blew me away. He says, “Nothing you build on inaccuracy or mere hope or longing or lies or laws that oppose the nature of things can endure.” That is a statement of fact. How many times in our lives do we do this? We can build something on inaccuracy, and it can chug along for awhile, but it cannot endure. This is why people can drive expensive cars and file for bankruptcy soon after. Why you get shocking news of someone’s divorce when they appeared to be happy only a few months ago. Why friendships don’t stand the test of time when you don’t have all that much in common to begin with. It is why someone with a beautiful social media feed is often pretty unhappy in reality. The gig is always up eventually. That is not a truth we can change. It’s a universal law.

He also explains, “Whenever I have encountered a block or an issue in my own life it’s because somewhere, hidden in my life, is an inaccuracy and I have to find it. There’s an inaccuracy of the marriage, of the life I’ve built…being a little bit dishonest here and there created a disaster. When I think about all the times I’ve screwed up it was because there was a lie somewhere in my life.” That’s a pretty sobering thought. These lies are not always things that we tell others; in fact, I’d say it’s more likely that they are things we tell ourselves.

I tell my students that writing is like an excavation. You have to chip away at all the layers sometimes until you get to what you really think, what you really want to say. That’s where you strike gold.

Truth is the same way. It is not as subjective as our culture likes to think it is. If someone shows you who they are, you can add a thousand stories to it to explain it away, but what is the truth? Just the facts ma’am. What do their actions show you about who they are? That is the simple truth. If you have patterns in your life that keep reintroducing themselves again and again. What are you doing to create it? One long look in the mirror and all the hard questions. That’s where the excavation starts.

This is hard stuff, but the other side of that coin is that there are some beautiful truths that we can’t deny either.

What I know is true ……

That good things come to those who work hard.

That the life you create is made of a million tiny moments, the things you do every single day.

That patience is a virtue and you will always get better results when you respect the hands of time and withstand the urge to chase something shiny and temporary

That gratitude multiplies on itself and brings you abundance

That lasting happiness is built of your own hands inside of your own self

 

I think what I know to be true above everything else is that life always gives you what you want. Always. Not like some genie in a bottle delivering us our wishes on command. But what you pay attention to grows and grows. Maybe where we go wrong is that, with all of the other layers we throw on top of it, we lose that pulse of what we really desire, and we want something else instead. Then that thing comes true and we are left with unhappiness anyhow because we chased the wrong thing.

These are hard questions. But where you find the inaccuracies is also where you can follow that path to the truth. You find it, you ask for it, you work for it, and it will come to be. This I know is true. As sure as the earth travels around the sun, as sure as the seasons pass, what you desire will come to you. The challenge is to want the right things.

 

 

 

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gratitude

a different kind of happy

I don’t know how it’s been 13 days since I have written in this space. We acclimated to the post-holiday, real life schedule again. The semester began. It snowed last weekend, a rarity in Atlanta. And now here we are with a some springtime weather a week later. That is more or less the summary of my past few weeks with the details left out. And it’s always the details that matter anyhow, isn’t it?

There are pieces of my days that I want to write about, but I never sit down to do it lately. And there are pieces of my days that I am not ready to write about yet but know I one day will. I love writing and the clarity it offers me, but I am also finding that when you are writing about something, you’re standing on the outside of that thing looking in. This is something I love to do in retrospect, glance inward at something after it has come and gone and see it with new eyes. But lately I feel like I don’t want to ruin things in their immediacy by putting on my writer eyes to dissect it. Sometimes you just need to let things be. Breathe in and breathe out and whisper gratitude for what it is in that moment and do all the thinking later. I find lately that I might try to write about something, and the words stop short of where I want them to be. They aren’t ready to come yet.

Part of this could be that I have spent so much of the past few years writing about pain, and it feels good to do that – to search and try to find some kind of meaning in it. But when things are good, it feels different somehow. Like I don’t need to search for the meaning by digging through my thoughts word-by-word. With joy, you just have to be still….which is also hard sometimes.

I am (like everyone else these days) a huge Brene Brown fan, and I know she tells us, “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. And if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.” I do this all the time. When things are good, especially after such a long season of hard, I dress rehearse tragedy in my head. I think of the thousand ways that the other shoe could drop. The million pieces of my life that could go wrong and create a mess to clean up. Joy is a terrifying emotion, especially after you have survived heartbreak in any form and you realize what the other side really feels like. It seems so ridiculous to type that, but it’s true. I don’t know why I can’t just let happiness be what it is without the worry. I am getting perhaps a little better at it, but I’m not there yet.

I do find my joy is deeper now though. The happy is a different kind of happy from what it was before. It can be big things or little things – the swell of a particular song I love on the speakers, the feel of home in the midst of a busy week, a leisurely walk with the kids in the woods. I feel every single second just a little bit deeper than before.

Life in general is more terrifying than it used to be because I know more intimately what pain feels like, and after these past few years, I think I’m almost operating from a sense of struggle as my norm. But now that the dust has settled and it feels like luck and quiet are starting to blow my direction, my joy hums in a deeper spot in my chest as well. It radiates and warms in a way it never did before. I guess that’s what people mean when they say life and age and experience can make you wiser. I feel it all. Good and bad and ugly and beautiful.

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It took courage to do what I have done in the past two years. To look pain and heartbreak and difficulty and even death in the face and muster the courage to know that I would walk through it stronger than how I began. But it also takes courage to do what I am doing now. To be happy without asking questions and without anticipating tragedy around the bend. Brown also reminds us, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.'”

Courage is a heart word, no doubt. And I already know I have it, but now I get to use it perhaps for a different purpose. To be honest and speak openly about who I am and what I want. To look happiness in the face and know that I am worthy of receiving it with no strings attached. To know that this is my time and my season and my own life to mold any way I choose. To see the wide open space in front of me as opportunity for happiness and fulfillment rather than scary wilderness. Sometimes joy is just that, pure and true.

gratitude, Life and Randomness

affirmation

As an English teacher, I know that words have power. I know that for certain. I see it everyday as what I read speaks to me like nothing else can, and I see it when I teach students to grow in their use of language and then watch them acquire power and personal agency as a result.

But I wasn’t really one for meditative affirmations in my former life. Was I too busy to think about it? Or didn’t think I needed anything to change or improve tremendously? Or I didn’t think they’d likely work for me anyhow? Probably all of those things. But these days, I am really seeing the power of words and thoughts in my own life, and I’m making them part of my everyday routine.

I purchased this set of cards from Your Joyologist a while ago, and it contains 52 encouraging affirmations. It sits on my bathroom sink, and I pick up one before bed at night and repeat it in my mind as I fall asleep. I wake to choose another one and repeat it to myself as I shower and get ready for the day.  I grab them at random and assume that they each have a message for me that I’m intended to hear on that given day. So far, this has turned out to be the case more often than not.

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Maybe I am a nutcase and a total hippie-crunchy-kale-eating-yoga-doing-affirmation-reading weirdo, but these work. They really do. The mind is a powerful thing, and I am seeing more and more that I can change the world around me in the truest sense when the thoughts in my mind change. Some would argue that this is stupid and I’m just imagining positivity because of the way my mind assesses my world after reading these thoughts… and to you I say, maybe so. But it’s working for me, and the good in my life just keeps growing when I tell myself it is there for the taking.

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When I remind myself that I need to release what doesn’t serve me any longer (anger, resentment, self-doubt, judgment, fear) and make room for the good stuff, the good stuff appears.  When I remind myself that there is a greater plan at work, I begin to see it unfold.

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When I remind myself that I am enough as I am and I choose to love myself without the burden of demanding that I change to suit others’ desires and expectations, I feel more complete and stronger than before and others begin to see me as enough, too. (Or maybe I’m just empowered to shed anyone who doesn’t recognize my worth from my life. Either way, it begins with my assertion that I am worthy as I am.)

These cards get me started each day, but I also have a few mantras that I repeat when necessary and keep in my back pocket like a tool kit. I am safe. gets me through sticky situations with anxiety. I am enough. I am loved. gets me through moments of self-doubt. I am allowed. I am deserving. are reminders to me that good things can come my way, and it doesn’t mean the other shoe is about to drop. (Anyone else have that weird fear with joy and happiness? Like it’s too good to be true?) It’s hard to swallow the joy with simple gratitude and not look for the black cloud. I’m finally realizing that this way of thinking is rooted in a belief that I can’t possibly enjoy good things fully because I don’t deserve them. It’s like a big board game with a point system, and I haven’t done enough good things yet – haven’t acquired enough points in the game of life – to receive happiness without some kind of caveat. This has been a light bulb moment for me recently as I realize this. Joy is such a vulnerable feeling sometimes.

At the risk of losing any credibility I might have with any of you skeptical readers, energy is a real thing. We project certain messages out to the world, and we receive what we think we deserve. I’m seeing this without a doubt in my current life as I watch particular people and situations find their way to me.  The sense of community I’ve watched unfold for the kids and me (as I wrote about in my last post) is a result of my desire to build my own life, and more than that, my belief that I am loved and valued by others despite a year prior to this that left me with many moments screaming just the opposite.

It’s the power of intention. And it’s becoming clear to me that what you intend is what you become. I’m beginning to see the power of having true intention in my life, in all my choices – big and small. It’s so tempting to do what you have always done, be what you have always been. It’s so tempting to act impulsively and resist the urge to think or pause or reflect. But the pause is where it’s at. It’s where the change happens. And as terrible as it felt to “start over” earlier this year, I’m seeing it emerge as a gift. I can carry on with intention and purpose and be whoever I feel I need to be, go where I feel led to go. I’m not weighed down with another’s expectations or opinions or doubts of me. Right now, I’m not sure where that destination is, but I know it’s somewhere good, and I know that intention is the only way to get me there. Autopilot never works for big steps in the journey.

 

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I’ve had a few people comment here and there – either blog readers or friends in my usual life offline – who have complimented me for staying afloat with optimism and believing that better days are ahead. I do realize that so many people spend the first few years after a divorce flailing and confused and sometimes making some self-destructive and impulsive choices. And really the only thing responsible for my refusal to fall in that pattern is intention and a relentless determination to, as it says in the quote above, bring my blessings on myself and find them in the world around me. It’s my stubbornness really. When I attended the workshop with Jen Pastiloff in August, we talked a bit about the less “fluffy” definition of manifestation. And that is to “make shit happen” in Pastiloff’s words.

Sometimes the world throws a lot of sad and scary stuff your way, and you have to change the landscape. It’s not easy though. Nothing in your life will change unless you change your daily habits and empty yourself of everything you were before and then fill it back up in the way you want. When you go looking for happiness outside of yourself, or even worse in the exact place you lost it before, you will never find the real deal. Joan Didion says, “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” And I’m starting to get that feeling, too. With intention and purpose, everything about your world can change. I’m finally feeling incredibly lucky that my world exploded and gave me this beautiful season of in-between where I have no framework constricting me.

You have to work really hard to find the happy. But when you say it enough, you begin to believe it. And when you truly believe it, life begins to hand you some pretty amazing gifts.