“In my dream, the angel shrugged and said,
if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination
and then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”
— Brian Andreas
Today is my birthday.
My birthday is usually a sacred day to me. One of quiet reflection for the year just passed, and of hopeful intention and planning for the one that lies ahead. This year will be no exception, of course, and circumstance has provided an extra catalyst for that purpose.
Early this morning I posted something witty (at least I thought so) on Facebook:
Today is my birthday.
Instead of leaving kind messages or donating to a worthy cause on my behalf, please just send presents. I’d like an iPad. Or a girlfriend.
The message got plenty of response. Some laughed because they also thought I was witty, but other responses were on the “girlfriend” issue. Some were surprised that “a guy like me” didn’t have a girlfriend (whatever that means). Some were plain curious as to why, a very kind bunch offered to help fill the position (thank you ladies [and gentlemen]), and then another group seemed skeptical – almost accusatory – as if there were something wrong with me for not having a girlfriend.
So, Do I Have a Problem?
Plenty, of course. A post to detail all of my flaws and faults would take up more space & time than even Einstein could calculate. But, to be fair, isn’t that the way it is with everyone?
It’s not a question of whether we have baggage or not, but more a matter of how well we carry our baggage.
We all have our issues, but having issues doesn’t stop us from having a girlfriend, boyfriend, hamster, goldfish or even a parking space. Apart from a recent & minor case of “trust-issue-itis” I’d like to think that I carry my baggage well. I’ve made it a priority to do the work necessary to, as Paulo Coelho would admonish, to “not let my wounds turn me into someone I’m not.”
In fact, not having a girlfriend for the last year has been a huge sign of success. I’ve been mastering my current “homework assignment from the Universe” to say no to the ones who are not the one. (Reading this post will help explain the rest of what I’m going to say)
This homework assignment has been an insightful one. Difficult, at times, to go on dates and say “you are a beautiful, amazing, wonderful woman and would make a great life partner…. for someone else.” Difficult, but necessary. I’ve learned that just because I get along really well with – or am attracted to – someone, that it doesn’t mean they are the puzzle piece I’m looking for.
During the summer I posted this:
People have been asking me about my dating life lately, so here’s the update.
I’ve met someone special.
He is a tall, handsome, kind Canadian man. I’ve become quite attached to him and the feelings of appreciation for his goodness grow stronger every day. It is safe to say that I’m in love.
His name is Joseph.
I intend on seeing him exclusively until I find something comparable in a female version.
While slightly humorous, it’s also accurate to where I’ve been for a while.
In this past year I’ve met countless amazing people and went on a zillion first dates (a couple 2nd dates, and even one 3rd date) and have had a lot of great experiences. Many times, if I were only listening to how I felt in my heart at that moment, I may have landed myself a girlfriend. But, I’ve learned that the “inner whisper” speaks to both our minds as well as our hearts. Finding this harmony between the head and the heart is where true spiritual alignment begins, and when miracles can begin. (Yes, perhaps some might even consider me finding a girlfriend a miracle…)
But in the process of saying “no” more times that I ever expected I would, something beautiful has happened: I have gained some perspective on this puzzle called life. While I was steadfastly saying “no”, I was also quietly putting many of other puzzle pieces together… And, as with any puzzle, the more pieces you put in place, the more obvious it becomes which piece you need to fill the space that remains.
As saying “no” has become easier, it has also become incredibly clear what the “yes” piece will look like. I know who she is, and she’s amazing. She’s worth the wait…
“If you want to identify me,
ask me not where I live,
or what I like to eat,
or how I comb my hair,
but ask me what I am living for, in detail,
ask me what I think is keeping me from
living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
~ Thomas Merton
Learning one principle, I believe, has empowered me, more than anything else, in dealing with life’s challenges.
Every sunshine has a shadow, and
every adversity carries a beautiful blessing.
Instead of seeing things as either good OR bad, in reality, each situation is both good AND bad. When we acknowledge this, we are then empowered to make a choice. We can choose to learn from our challenges. We can choose whether we want to focus on the good OR the bad.
What I have discovered is that knowing that there is both a sunshine AND a shadow, is liberating. Just the possibility that each situation could be interpreted differently, or looked at from another perspective, makes us less attached to the pain we’ve associated to our difficulty.
Experiencing the shadow
Death is one of these situations.
It is very easy to look at losing a loved one as a bad thing. Understandably, we can feel dark, cold, alone, empty.
Today, my grandmother passed away.
I was there with her, in her room, sitting beside her bed as she took her last breath. What was once the woman who loved me, taught me, gave me lemon cookies & the best homemade cinnamon rolls on the planet, was now just a body. Cold, lifeless.
That’s the shadow side…
Finding the sunshine
But then, I looked over to the other side of the bed. Sitting on the dresser was a lamp that hadn’t been there before. Someone had placed it there a few days ago. Quite simply, it read:
Live. Laugh. Love.
On the other side of the cold, lifeless body, was a bright, warm light, burning with the reminder to live, to laugh, to love.
In the adversity of my grandmother’s death, was the beautiful gift of a reminder to live life.
Move out from under the cloud
Often, when we are standing under the cloud, in the shadow, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to see that the sunshine is really there. Trust me, though, it is.
If you find yourself under the cloud, and can only see the shadow in your life, try these ideas. I promise they’ll help:
- Sit down with a pen & paper and ask yourself, “How could this adversity be a blessing?” or “What can I learn from this challenge?” Force yourself to write 20-30 different answers, even if you don’t believe them. They can be completely fictitious, the key is to get your mind out of it’s current rut and start entertaining other possibilities.
- Speak with someone who has already gone through the same challenge and is already on the other side of it. Ask them what they’ve learned, how they grew, etc. If you don’t know someone who has been through the same challenge, check out a book (or movie) from someone who has.
- Ask someone to play the “what if” game with you. Find someone who will do more than just support you in your current rut, but will help you see things from a new perspective. To get a different result, you need a different approach. Find someone who approaches life differently and ask for their take on your situation.
Most importantly, remember that adversities are not obstacles to living your purpose… they are a part of your purpose. We arrive at the full expression of our divine potential, through the refining process of our adversities.
Embrace them, they are life’s greatest gift.
It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are,
without any self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events,
by which the path to success may be recognized.
The most beautiful people we have known
are those who have know defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss
and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation,
a sensitivity and an understanding of life
that fills them with compassion,
gentleness and a deep loving concern.
Beautiful people do not just happen.
~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Today I did a backflip off of the top of a park bench; it was my first time ever.
And, considering the fact I am still alive and here to write about it, I suppose it turned out okay.
Here’s the proof:
Doing backflips makes me happy. It brings me joy, actually.
But, to understand why, you first have to understand that:
I wasn’t born with the ability to do backflips.
Now, that part may be obvious, but let me clarify. This wasn’t a talent I developed in elementary school or middle school. I didn’t even learn this magical feat in high school…. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The Strength of our Dreams Determines the Size of our Action
As a young child, I always wanted to be a ninja, with amazing acrobatic skills. I dreamed about it for years, and finally, in the 8th grade, I took massive action on it. I attempted a backflip. In the gym at school, I set up a big foam pit and launched off the bleachers. It was glorious and magnificent… until I landed, on my neck. To say that it hurt was an understatement.
Young & foolish, I decided to try again. Weeks later (after my neck healed) I tried it again. This time, I did it in pool, where I thought the water would be safer. Somehow, I managed to land in a very awkward way that my grandchildren felt… and once again, it hurt. It hurt bad.
No more backflips… I give up. I resign to the thought that I can’t do it. I’m too afraid to even try.
How You Do One Thing… You Do Everything
Fast forward 15 years. I realize that backflips aren’t the only area of my life in which I have fear holding me back. I realize that fear holds me back from chasing after my dreams in so many areas:
- In business, I wasn’t taking risks…. because of fear.
- In relationships, I wasn’t going after what I wanted… because of fear.
- In life, I wasn’t pursuing my passions… all because of fear.
Fear was controlling my life.
Change Is More Than Possible, It’s Necessary
I knew that if I wanted to no longer be controlled by my fear, I needed to change my approach. Like Jim Rohn said:
If you want to amend your errors, you must begin by amending your philosophy.
My philosophy consisted of letting fear hold me back from that which I wanted. That’s a pretty sucky philosophy.
Long story short, I sought out a coach who taught me how to overcome my fear and adopt a philosophy that fear is a green light to take action. With this new mindset, I run in to face my fears, head-on.
And so, at 28 years of age, I decided to be a gymnast.
Here’s one of my earlier attempts:
Imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination.
I landed on my head. I hurt my neck. I looked like an idiot. I’m okay with that, because it didn’t stop me this time. I kept moving.
It was a baby step, but it was a step…
- a step in the right direction
- a step in the face of fear
- a step toward my dreams
Now, almost 4 years later, I do backflips. I do them off of park benches, in the grass, on concrete, on first dates, for my nephew, off of cliffs, near, far, with a red fish or with a blue fish, etc. (Okay, maybe the fish part isn’t true, but you get the point)
I do backflips now, to symbolize that fear has no claim on us, except that which we allow. I am happy when I back flip, because I am reminded that I am bigger than my fears.
What is something that you fear?
Will you take action on it today?
“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life,
and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence,
is the proof of your moral integrity,
since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty
to the achievement of your values.”
~ Ayn Rand
“All negative emotions, especially anger,
depend on your ability to blame someone or something else
for something in your life that you are unhappy about.”
I believe that our closest relationships are the greatest catalyst & incubator for personal growth.
This belief may not be a scientifically validated truth, but it has certainly been true in my life.
I see how my relationships continually reflect back to me the lessons I need to learn about myself. Specifically, the things I’m doing wrong in one area of my life – but choose to ignore or suppress – will be reflected back to me in my most intimate relationships.
Learning this principle alone has made any heartbreak or pain I’ve ever felt completely worth it. (I wrote this post: 3 Ways to Deal with Challenge or Conflict a few years ago and created a list of 16 painful truths that became sobering & liberating realizations.)
“There are no failed relationships. Every person who enters and exits your life does so in a mutual sharing of life’s divine lessons.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Lately I have been filled with gratitude for all of my past relationships… and the lessons they’ve all brought.
In addition to the above lesson, some of the other significant treasures I’ve unearthed in recently include:
- Hurt is not a bad thing. I learned this after the most painful breakup I’ve ever experienced. I had never felt pain to the degree that I did at that time. I thought it was a bad thing; something I wished I could avoid. After what felt like crying for months, I realized that… sorrow increases our capacity for joy. Instead of wallowing in pain, I embraced it, and appreciated it for what it was: a sign of how deeply I could feel love. Learning this lesson made a subsequent breakup approximately 10,000x easier. (See this post for a bit about how I applied it on the 2nd go-round)
- Shakespeare was on to something when he penned the famous words “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Pondering the question “What is love, really?” lead me to discover that we don’t fall in to love, we don’t fall out of it and it isn’t defined by the feelings we get from another person. Real love is having an undying commitment to the well-being of another person. Though the nature of a relationship may change, if it you truly ever loved someone, you will always want for their best interest… however that may look.
- Most clichés are founded in wise truths. We’ve all heard the saying: “If you love something, set it free… If it comes back to you, its yours. If not it was never meant to be.” There is timeless wisdom in this adage, and by applying it I’ve learned that Letting Go Opens The Door To Receiving.
Living life Outside The Boat, has brought a lot of painful mistakes… all of which are my own doing, but it’s a process I wouldn’t trade for anything. These lessons have forged me into the person I am today. A very imperfect person, but one that I love.
What I’m Currently Learning. (Or at least trying to…)
The most important lesson, though, is the one we are currently learning. (Then, when we learn it, the next one becomes the most important… see how it works?)
So, here’s mine:
Learn to say no to the ones who are not the one.
This takes a lot of faith. A lot.
I love people and often find myself connecting with people in a very deep way, very quickly. I see this as a good thing, but it also makes it easy to get caught up in a good situation, instead of focusing on the best. It takes faith to say no to the ones who aren’t the one.
Now, I’m not talking about being overly picky. That’s nonsense. It’s not about seeing some people as better than others and trying to get the best one… or someone “good enough” to meet an unrealistic standard we’ve set (that we often don’t meet ourselves). It’s about finding the right one.
I believe that people are all just like puzzle pieces. We all contribute to a beautiful painting called life, and we are all equal – just one piece in a big masterpiece. Some of those pieces aren’t even close to the same shape to fit together, no matter how hard we try to jam them. (Been there, done that) Still, others may be a close enough shape to fit, but they don’t make the right picture. (Check) But then there’s one that fits, perfectly. It’s not necessarily better, or of more value, than the other pieces, but… it fits.
(Now, I don’t necessarily mean that there’s only one person on this planet we can build a successful life with, but that’s another post…)
We know when we’ve got the wrong piece. Both in puzzles and in relationships. Every “wrong” relationship I have been in was preceded by an intuitive nudge that I chose to overlook. I’ve dated, proposed to, and even married… despite the inner voice whispering, in one way or another, that: “this isn’t the one.”
And, when we ignore those lessons that first come in the form of a whisper, they usually come back with a sledgehammer.
The inner voice knows the end from the beginning – it takes faith to listen.
And it takes faith to say no the ones that aren’t the one. But faith always precedes the miracle. I’m learning to have faith that even if a puzzle piece is almost the right one, no matter how many great the connection, that if I exercise the courage to Let Go… that just around the corner, I will find my perfect fit.
Until then, I’ll patiently exercise the courage to say no to the others…