Ok, First I should say that the picture above is by a company called Paradox and doesn't really illustrate my point, but now that I think about it, maybe it does.....
Things are going so well for me right now. I have an awesome new job, I'm making new friends, I started a running meetup group that has gotten great response, I'm going to a retreat today with like-minded folks, my runs have been going well this week and yet yesterday I felt downright depressed. Hormones (sorry gents)? I would say probably if I haven't witnessed this phenomena in me and in some people close to me before.
What is it about me, about them, that when things are going so well, that's when we feel blue. Is it because we are afraid that something might go wrong, that all the good things around us will start to turn into wormy apples, or that the smiling new friend will turn into an evil ghoul (going with the Halloween theme, sorry)? Is it that we feel we don't deserve all the good things that are happening?
Today, I have more questions than answers. I truly don't know why this happens to me. I have some suspicions it has something to do with things that happened earlier in my life (what doesn't?). My early childhood was idyllic and then all of that was shattered by the time I was 6 or 7. But, the pieces are coming back together for the first time in my life. Is this just a legacy that I can change? Can I turn the flashlight on the darkness that I sometmes feel stalking at my heels?
I believe I can. The old me of a year ago would have done something self-destructive yesterday to somehow sabotage the good stuff coming my way. Instead I came home and went to bed early and now I'm writing my post and will soon go to my retreat.
Maybe the picture above does illustrate this paradox....How can we live in a world filled with such wonder and mystery and yet still seek out the negativity instead of accepting the very miracle of our own lives? Pain is real, bad stuff does happen, but we do have a choice about the way we perceive and live our lives....I guess it's time to turn on the flashlight.
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I know the past few weeks I've been on a real positve kick, and I firmly support the positivity principle and have seen so many wonderful things happen in my life recently. But (there's always a but), it's been a tough week. I'm not sure exactly why - if it's that I go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark; if it's saying goodbye to my old team. Or, if now that I'm finally done criss crossing the country every week, I'm settling down and realizing that starting over takes work and it means asking myself some hard questions.
For instance, I have spent the past five years consumed with work and avoiding real personal connections with people outside of work. And, I want that to change, but wanting something and changing it are two different things. Recently I hung out with an acquaintance and shared some of the hard questions I was asking myself - why it is so hard for me to relate to other people, what I really want in the close relationships in life, what my Eiffel Tower is. The last reference is homage to a friend of mine who grew up in some pretty wretched circumstances. After his father died (a fireman), he would often stay in a firehouse because he couldn't go home to his alcholic mother. After years of hard work, he made his way up in a Fortune 500 company. We went to Paris together, and he desperately wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. I have to be honest I couldn't have cared less about the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to sit in a cafe and listen to street musicians and people watch. But, of course I wanted to go for him. And as we neared the top (after climbing about 700 steps -we had gotten in the wrong line), I could see the joy in his face. Afterwards when we were talking about the trip, there were tears in his eyes because he couldn't believe someone like him who in his mind came from nothing had made it to the Eiffel Tower.
I asked this acquaintance these questions the other night, and pretty soon this person got really sick of me - they hit the wall. It was too much. I admit I have been asking myself hard questions ever since I can remember. I recall a boyfriend saying to me when I was 16 that I was way too serious. I am very serious I guess in that I take living life seriously, but I don't really take myself seriously. I laugh all the time at myself - I mean doubled over laughing - and I try to find the humor in everything. But, I think the serious questions are important. We only get one shot at this life, right?
My Eiffel Tower is the moon. Seriously, I want to go to the moon. This week Richard Branson opened a spaceport in New Mexico which hopes to send a maiden voyage to the moon next year.
Sometimes I feel like a freak because I do ask myself the hard questions often and I feel a little alone in that. I often feel like people don't want to ask the hard questions, they don't want their lives to change - not even change for the better. And, I often feel badly when I see the uncomfortableness for asking other people the tough questions. But, maybe people do ask themselves the hard questions and they just don't want to tell me about it. Who knows.
But, my question for you this week, Sisyphers, is what is your Eiffel Tower? As always, please feel free to comment by clicking the link on the right or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the past few weeks on Freeing Sisyphus, I've been focused on a theme of being positive, of seeing doorways of opportunity instead of focusing on the what ifs of anxiety and fear that dominate so much of our life.
Yesterday as I was unpacking (finally) in my new apartment, I found a book someone had given me as a going away present. And, I decided I wanted to display the cover, this one word, that said simply believe.
For a brief moment I paused - wouldn't that look a little cheezy? And, then I thought this is who I am now. Which in turn made me think about a time when I wouldn't have even had to ask myself that question. When I was younger, I was a fighter, a positive person who believed in myself, believed I would make it despite some very bad odds. I guess it was sometime during college that it became uncool to be positive, to believe in anything. I think I was reading too much philosophy and it seemed to be more cool (to me) to be cynical. I was never one to follow the crowd blindly, but I found myself more aligned with the counterculture because I didn't fit in with the people who had cookie cutter lives (of course now I know no one has such a thing). Everyone around me for the most part wanted to tear things down instead of build them up.....but I always knew this really wasn't me.
I've been thinking a lot these days about positive thinking, about believing. And, I have to tell you that I see my life and the lives of others around me changing because of some very simple shifts in the way I approach life. With all the uncertainty, the joblessness that abounds, the bad economic news that bombards us daily, I've decided to acknowledge and ignore it. I've decided to make choices based on what I believe can be, not based on the shackles that I sometimes imagine holding me down.
Since making that decision, I have had some good news at work professionally because I took a chance, I have watched a friend who I have been supporting and listening to navigate a very difficult decision to end a 33 year marriage with a triumph of spirt and will that I find amazing, I have seen others in my life who were in fear of making an income start to make real progress in a career they enjoy, I have seen someone very close to me decide to retire early to become a minister and forego a certain amount of income. I have seen people believe that they don't have to accept the negativity and fear, believe things can happen and then act to make their situation different.
These people inspire me. Although we may have to put our shoulders to the boulder tomorrow as we start a new week at work, what if as we start to roll that sucker up the hill we start to think about what could be and make some plans to do something a little bit differently this week. For example if you are unhappy at your job, what if you decide to wake up just a little earlier tomorrow to start working on that resume, or to begin a list of goals that might help you to act to let go of the fear and anxiety. The first step is just to believe that things can be better.
As always, please share your comments, by clicking on the comment link to the top right, or email at email@example.com. Good luck this week navigating the pitfalls and opening your eyes to possibility.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about living with purpose in a destabilized economy and in uncertain times. Yesterday the market tanked again, and wherever you turn the news is not good.
In my own personal sphere, there have been ups and downs. Yesterday the first of my team who got laid off in MN worked his last day at my company. Although it was a sad day for me and for him, the amazing thing is that in this crazy time when people are fearful about keeping the jobs they have or fearful they are never going to find a job, he found a new job with a great opportunity for him with better pay. Instead of taking the severance package, he went out on an aggressive search and found a job that sounds like it will be the next step up for his career.
Is he just lucky? I don't think so....I remember a note he sent to me during his search where he wondered if he would be able to even find a job that would pay the same. I sent him back a note that I had no doubt he would find one and that I would support him in whatever way I could.
Enter the positive principle.
I used to believe that my biggest skill was contigency planning. I would spin what-if scenarios in my head nonstop all day long. If I lost my job, then I could do x, y and z. If my car breaks down right now, I can.......Do any of you do this? And, if bad things did happen, I was prepared and could jump into action. Recently, after reading a book called Appreciative Coaching which talked about the positive principle - the idea that "positive attitudes actions and connections influence long-term change (Orem, Binkert & Clancy, 2007, p. 14), I started to question the amount of time I was thinking about obstacles instead of opportunities. This is also the book that taught me to ask the question I asked you for the past two weeks, what would you do if your biggest obstacle disappeared overnight.
At first if was hard to let go of what I thought was a great survival skill I had learned a long time ago. That skill, I argued with myself, had garnered respect for me in several work situations over the years. Despite my resistance, I started "dabbling" in the positive principle. Instead of focusing on what I would do in the face of unforseen obstacles, I started to think about what I wanted to happen. To be clear I wasn't thinking about things. I was thinking about what I wanted my life to be, or to mean. I started to think again about my calling:
"A calling is about working with meaning, joy and a sense of contributing to the greater community. A calling means bringing spirit and livelihood back together again. A calling calls forth the deeper questions of work, such as how, why, and for whom we do our work" (The Power of Purpose, p.93).
Some of you may be saying that you can't think about finding a job that gives you joy while you are just trying to keep your job. What I am arguing is that if you start to focus on finding joy in your work instead of focusing on negative what ifs, you will keep your job, or even find a better one.
Is this some mumbo jumbo new-agey crap? All I can do is speak from experience. Since I started asking myself these questions I have seen the most positive seismic shifts in my life in 20 years. The thing I realized is that IF something bad happens, I already have the survival skills to take the steps necessary to survive, so I don't need to focus on what-if scenarios. Instead, I can shift that energy to thinking of what could be, what I want my life to be.
Even if you think all this is a little silly, or if you think that one of the biggest innovators in history, Henry Ford, said what he said above for giggles, what will you lose if you just try shifting that energy from negative thoughts and worries over the future, to positive thoughts about your present and what could be?
What if this week, you just try to find ways to create moments of joy in the work you are doing, or even try bringing joy to someone else admist all this uncertainty.
I'm not saying anything new, but try it out. I think you will be surprised. I know I have been. Even in the worst and scariest times, thinking the worst never gets you anywhere, but thinking about the possible can mean finding doorways and opportunities that would have remained hidden in the darkness of your own thoughts.
As always, please comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freeing Sisyphus (aka Melody)
Putting the shoulder to the boulder and taking small steps each day to achieve freedom from the mundane.