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Archive for November, 2009

Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.  It is out of the formlessness of the neutral zone that new form emerges and out of the barrenness of the fallow time that new life springs.  We can support and even enhance the process, but we cannot produce the results.  Once those results begin to take shape, however, there are several things that can be done.  The first is, very simply, to stop getting ready and to act.  Getting ready can turn out to be an endless task, and one of the forms that inner resistance often takes is the attempt to make just a few more (and then more, and again more) preparations.” “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” by William Bridges

I had a foul epiphany the other day.  Well, actually, it was more like a fowl epiphany.

I stopped off at a mall close to my house to run a few errands.  Being as I live in California, it’s an open-air mall, irrespective of the fact that it’s Northern California and several of the months here are more often than not, cold and rainy.  Anyway, the first thing I noticed was this twenty-foot high orange and brown wooden turkey with a bobbing head.  Now I wasn’t surprised so much by the turkey (it shows up every November and doesn’t depart until after the New Year) but I was surprised by the whole “Groundhog Day” effect that it had on me.

You see, this turkey is hollow.  It has a door in its side that opens up so that you can donate canned and dry goods to the local food bank.  It’s something I do every year.  Only this time when I saw that damned turkey I could have sworn it was only a couple of weeks ago that I had been shoving boxes of pasta and tins of tuna into its hollowed-out butt.

Now, here’s the thing.  I’ve been starring at that mechanical turkey every holiday season for the past twenty plus years.  I’m sick to death of that Turkey.  And it was a stark reminder of how boring my life had become.  How risk free.  How safe.  And I swear to you, the second I laid eyes on it I vowed that it would be the last Thanksgiving I would ever have see it.

I’m an East Coast person.  Born and raised.  And though I was transplanted to Northern California more than two decades ago, my roots never took.  Every year I vow to move away, back to New York or Boston.  Back to someplace that makes me feel more alive.  And here was this gigantic three-dimensional reminder that another year had passed.  Another year spent daydreaming instead of taking action.

When the time comes, stop getting ready to do it—and do it!”

What is it about the familiar that keeps us so chained to the status quo?  Why would we rather suffer in a toxic environment than try something new?  It’s one of the reasons (I repeat, ONE of the reasons) people stay in abusive relationships.  The “known,” no matter how detrimental, feels like a safer choice than the unknown.  I’ve seen videos of children screaming to be returned to their parents, even though their parents were abusive to them.  We crave, (consciously or un) sameness.

I had some relatives from South Florida visit not too long ago.  They borrowed my car and drove up to Napa for the day.  They were rather disappointed by the trip.  Seems that they stopped and asked several people if there was a “Bennigans” around.  There wasn’t.  They were 3,000 miles from home, in an environment that is nowhere near theirs, and yet they wanted to duplicate the same experience they have in Palm Beach.  They wanted the familiar.

Now, I’ve never really been one to play it safe.  Or so I thought.  But to tell you the truth, the idea of actually implementing a plan that would take me far away from that turkey, that would uproot me from everything I know, regardless of how boring it is, scares me to death.  Why is that?

But like I said in my last post, there are two different kinds of learning, and this one was the experiential one.  I got it on a gut level.  I would rather die doing something new than live forever doing the same old, same old.

And like they say in “Pippin,” “I want my life to be something more than long….”

“Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin

Everything has its season

Everything has its time

Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme

Cats fit on the windowsill

Children fit in the snow

Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?


 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky

 

Every man has his daydreams

Every man has his goal

People like the way dreams have

Of sticking to the soul


Thunderclouds have their lightning

Nightingales have their song

And don’t you see I want my life to be

Something more than long….

 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky


 

So many men seem destined

To settle for something small

But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all

So don’t ask where I’m going

Just listen when I’m gone

And far away you’ll hear me singing

Softly to the dawn:


 

Rivers belong where they can ramble

Eagles belong where they can fly

I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free

Got to find my corner of the sky.

Pippin: Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

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Choose to be HappyMastery of some of the most extraordinary things has to do with just being willing to do the dumb, boring stuff over and over again and to like it while you’re doing it.  That’s how anyone becomes great at anything.”  “Choose to be Happy; The Craft and the Art of Living Beyond Anxiety,” by Swami Chetanananda

 

I had one of those “Ahh ha!” moments recently.

There are two levels of understanding.  There is the intellectual level and then there is the gut level, the level where you actually experience knowledge in a new and enlightened way.

I save things.  I accumulate stuff.  I’m an information junkie and a bibliophile.  Then there’s the whole abundance issue where you can never have too much of anything because at one time in your life you never had enough.

Now, I’m not in any danger of Oprah showing up at my home any time soon with a cleaning crew and seven dumpsters, but it’s all relative.  Are the stacks of books sitting in piles around my house any less toxic than the bags of clothing or the boxes of canned goods lying around in others?

Anyway, I was on vacation recently.  Ten days away from home with only two suitcases and a carry-on.  (Of course I always over-pack because abundance issues apply equally to hotel rooms as they do to living rooms.)  But, it wasn’t until I returned home that I realized how stressful my environment had become.

Because of my mood disorder it’s hard to be “present.”  At home there are always things to do, projects to tackle, books to read.  The list is endless.  Those things gnaw at you without you ever really knowing it.  It works on a subconscious level.  Even if you think you’re enlightened enough to “know” that that’s what’s going on, there is a huge difference between knowing and experiencing.

It occurred to me that whenever I go away on vacation I’m a lot less likely to get depressed or to have serious mood swings.  Although I must admit that trips away from home do make me more prone to mania, if only by virtue of the stimulation to be found in new situations and in foreign surroundings.

But here’s what I discovered: the limits of a hotel room are not really limiting.  They are empowering.

At home I have what seems like ten thousand shirts.  On vacation, seven.  (Okay twelve, but who’s counting?)  And most of the shirts at home aren’t ironed, because, well, I hate to iron, and I have ADD, and anyone who has ADD knows what I’m talking about.  So whenever I go to get something to wear, I’m overwhelmed by the choices and then depressed and angry at myself for my lack of discipline (for not having ironed most of them) and for my lack of motivation (for not having the energy to iron them.)

I never leave the house without a book in hand; so then I am forced to make another decision.  Which of the thirty books I’m in the middle of do I take with me?  (Hint: it’s usually a lot more than one as well as a few more I want to start.)  On vacation, if only by necessity, I’m limited to a few (okay, six, but that’s not really the point.)  Same thing with food (too many items in the fridge and too much energy required to prepare any of them.)  Don’t you just love the brevity of room service menus and the simplicity of preparing breakfast by making a quick phone call while still in your pj’s?

So, three things happen repeatedly at home.  I am overwhelmed by choices, I am reminded by those choices of why my life isn’t working, and I chastise myself for my inability to limit, maintain or prepare my stuff.

Now, I know it’s a lot bigger issue than just a little de-cluttering of my environment.  I know that it’s going to take a huge amount of energy to resist bringing more and more stuff into my house.  I know that I have to hold myself accountable for each and every decision, for each and every purchase, for each and every justification I make to warrant those (reactive) choices.

I don’t think I’m alone in beating myself up for such things, for thinking I should know better, be stronger, work harder.  And I’m not alone in placing blame on a mental state that makes even the simplest of tasks (like making coffee) seem insurmountable.

But I do believe, as I have said before, that most us are guilty of accommodating our disorder to some degree.  We make room for it.  We justify it.  We let ourselves get lazy and complacent, which only adds to our discontent.

But perhaps that’s just me.  One of the hardest things about this disorder is knowing what’s real and what’s imagined.  What I’m capable of and what I cut myself too much slack for.  But I digress….

Oprah, if you’re reading this, have your producers e-mail me so I can tell them which address to deliver the dumpsters to.

 

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