Dec. 30th 2016
I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions. But I do like to take time to reflect and review the order of my values as they change from year to year. Slowly, it seems that I value my own happiness over anything else. For me to be happy, I feel that I require financial stability, strong and loving relationships, good health, and a feeling of purpose, but I am questioning if all these necessities are going to stick? Happiness has taken on a different meaning to me these days. It used to look exhilarating like a roller coaster ride with laughter and party balloons. Now it looks like wind…invisible yet sometimes so powerful it can blow you over. To me, happiness is that feeling of deep connection when you know that your precious heart is in good hands. It happens more frequently to me these days. I seem to come across more moments of honesty. I don’t know if this is because there has been more tragedy and sadness around lately, or because I’m just aging and noticing that feeling of certainty. Whatever it is, it’s better than any roller coaster ride or a great party.
Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I usually make 21-day commitments throughout the year. It is said that it takes 21 days to form a habit or to break a habit. And I believe this to be true. 28 days would be better, but it feels too long for me. Most of the commitments I make involve removing something from my life. I’m currently on day 16 of a commitment not to playing computer games. I’d become addicted to Spider Solitaire and another game similar to Dr. Mario. I knew I was addicted because I’d sometimes get anxious during conversations with the people. I’d crave for a quick game of solitaire. I couldn’t shut it down easily either. I’d play before bed sometimes and it would keep me awake for hours. It seems insignificant as I write it down, but I could feel it numbing my insecurities, robbing me of sleep, and preventing me from facing the daily challenges of being human. On day 6, just before bed, I experienced one of my rotational thought patterns. Just a night of awful visions of people being cruel to each other and to animals. Unfairness is a major trigger for my anxiety and although I can feel the suffering of the perpetrators just as much as the victims, I tend to get entangled in the “why?” and the “will this ever end?” questions. Normally, a good game of Dr. Mario could stop such a pattern, but I’d made a commitment and I have an accountability partner named Lise, that I had to report to in the morning. So I decided to snuggle in with Quentin (we often sleep in separate beds due to my night terrors and his snoring). I told him I was struggling with the injustice of the world and described some of the pictures that run like a slideshow through my mind. What purpose could this kind of suffering possibly serve in the universe? Quentin, in his gentle, sleepy, voice explained his belief that it is all part of a bigger process and we don’t know what that is. No one knows the ending to this movie called life. No one knows if it’s meaningful or not. It wasn’t the most helpful explanation, but to be snuggled in his big arms and to have shared my fear helped stop the rotation. Figuring out ways to muddle through this life without going completely insane is worth a standing ovation. If you are reading this now, I’m talking to YOU. You are amazing and resilient and I admire you.
Back to 21-day commitments.… I’m starting another one tomorrow. I believe I have a PhD in self-help / self-reflection. I haven’t read a good novel in years. Every now and then, I’ll pick up Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead (my two favourite books) but even those are tests of the mind and of our belief systems. Lately, the two theorists who are resonating with me are Teal Swan and Alan Watts. Teal Swan is a modern day spiritualist who can deliver her ideas using analogies and up-to date examples. Alan Watts released “The Wisdom of Insecurity” in 1951. I need a thesaurus to read his book, but he also uses wonderful analogies and I find him to express a similar confession as Teal Swan….which is that he is NOT a Guru. Yes, this is what Tony Robbins’ documentary is entitled and he, too, speaks of the same thing. These leaders are/were trying to encourage others to find their own pathway to, let’s call it “the divine.” To stop trying to copy the methods of other people and to learn how to sink into our own deep waters and connect with the amazing power within ourselves. Each person’s path is different from the next and there is no right way. I think I’ve grown a bit lazy. I like teachers. I like right and wrong answers and check-off boxes. Every morning during my Ang-yoga routine, I watch YouTube videos of some spiritual or psychological theorist explaining why I feel the way I do. And I get relief from this. I can categorize which experience I’m having and why. I’ve gotten so good at knowing which category I’m experiencing that I know EXACTLY who to search for when I need relief. If I need inspiration: Tony Robbins. If I’m sick or my muscles are sore: Greg Braden or Bruce Lipton. If feel shame : Brené Brown or Dr. John Demartini. There are so many “Gurus.” YouTube is like the most exciting medicine cabinet ever made! I know that if I’m trying to feel better about something, there is someone who can help me on YouTube. And sometimes this IS a necessity. But lately I’m suspicious that I’m taking medicine in case of headache rather than allowing my body to tell me. In other words, I’m continuing with self-reflection when there is no inner calling to do so and it’s preventing me from allowing my mind to go where it needs to go. I also have a suspicion that I’ve forgotten how to manage on my own. I think my self-helping has turned into a coping strategy similar to Spider Solitaire. It’s like I’ve been telling myself. “Don’t look at that emotion. Here, take this pill and play this game.”
And THIS is why it’s time to take a break. 21-days without reading or listening to any spiritual or psychological leaders.
It’s going to be a nail-biter of a month. I’m terrified by the thought of not being able to read Eckhart Tolle on the nights when I can’t sleep. But, in the same way that a baby must one day free themselves from a soother so that their teeth don’t grow to be fixed in one way, I think there is a calling for me to free myself from the soothing belief that everything can be explained so that my beliefs don’t grow to be fixed in one way.
It starts tomorrow. New Year’s Eve.
Oh, and in 5 more days, I will renew my commitment to not playing computer games. My cravings were gone on day 14, but I still think another 21 days will solidify the new habit : )