Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fear of "What If?"

It’s not an ancient and mysterious secret that fear keeps us from doing many things. It’s actually a completely well known and “duh” kind of concept, yet for some reason, a lack of willingness to take a leap persists in so many ways in life. “What if” nags at the back of your head… “What if I do X and the result is less than desirable? What if I say ABC and the response is hurtful? What if I crash and burn? What if I end up alone? What if I lose? What if I get hurt?” What if, what if, what if…

Some people seem to have more ambition and drive than others. Some people seem more willing to take chances, to take leaps; some people seem to have a fearlessness that the rest of us can’t comprehend. Some are brave in some areas of life, and not in others. There are so many times when fear can stop you from doing what you need to do, want to do, or dream of doing “someday.” We admire piss and vinegar in people who seem unafraid to do things that, to us, seem to be a high wire act, and, one that we would not be willing to perform.

Intestinal fortitude can be a fine line kind of thing. I look at someone willing to attempt to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle as a completely suicidal moron, but some people may view that kind of thing as daring and gutsy. When I was younger, I remember thinking a friend of mine was crazy for quickly shedding all of his large belongings, packing the rest into an unreliable vehicle and moving across the country without any kind of landing pad, plan, or even a job lined up. Now, I see it as brave as hell and I wish I’d thrown caution to the wind and gone with him. Interestingly, he recalls being frustrated with me back then for my lack of drive and ambition in life. Truly, what that lack really was, was a lack of backbone. I feared the unknown. I feared the “what ifs” and I feared falling on my proverbial face.

But that aspect of bravery in me seems to be limited to things of that nature. Where emotions are concerned, however, I am fearless, though some see me as reckless and emotionally suicidal in that arena. I believe from the depths of my soul that taking chances in this part of life is one that we cannot fear. I believe that where our feelings are concerned, we MUST be fearless and determined. We must be willing to take the chances that could make us the most happy, or leave us the most sad. If we don’t, then we actively cultivate regret.  Perhaps in business ventures or extreme sports you are ballsy, but in spilling your guts you’re chicken.

Think back to the worst emotional hurt from taking a leap that you’ve ever had. Maybe you’re in the midst of it now… or maybe it was years ago. Either way, you lived through it. Painful though it may be, there was life experience in it; there was learning. Most times, where a hurt comes into play, there are good memories as well as bad in whatever the situation was. When the pain is at its zenith, even the happy memories are painful. Everything is painful during that time, but slowly you emerge from it. You learn from it. You honest to God do get stronger as annoying as that cliché is: That which does not kill you truly does make you stronger. (*yeah, you’re not getting out of my blog without a cliché. Sorry.) I think for me, it may be this aspect of getting hurt that keeps me willing to take emotional leaps. I know that if I don’t take the leap, I’ll regret it later. I’ll wonder if it could have been the thing that made a really positive difference in my life, and I know in the back of my head that even if it ends up hurting me… somehow… I’ll still gain in the end.

I get completely irked when I’m watching a movie and a character wants to say something and holds back. It makes me crazy. I scream at the screen, I get so frustrated that I have to remind myself it’s only a movie. In real life when I see someone who has something to say and won’t spit it out, it’s all I can do not to smack them on the back of the head, especially when I know it’s something they need to say to ME. There is only so much guessing you can do in life, and only so much you can coax someone into a comfort zone where they can tell you what’s on their minds. Some people just never find the place inside themselves where they can say “I have to tell you something” take a deep breath, and leap. Even if they open their mouth, sometimes they just can’t get words out. In my eyes, these are the crippled people in the world. I don’t believe you can achieve personal happiness until you’re willing to take emotional risks.

Hurts heal; they’re temporary, believe me. But risks we don’t take can nag and fester for a lifetime at the back of our heads, wondering what might have been. You have one chance at life. This isn’t a video game. If you screw up, you don’t get another guy, and there is no bonus round. If you love someone, TELL THEM. If you tell them and they don’t say it back… yes, you’ll get hurt. But if you love them and you take that leap, and they love you, too, then what wonders you’ve just entered into. There are going to be times you’re going to get hurt. It’s a fact of life. This is not a fairy tale, this is a sometimes incredibly cold cruel world we live in, but it’s the risks you take that pay off that bring you the joys that life is all about. It’s the risks you don’t take that breed regret and unhappiness. So take a leap from time to time. Let go of your fears and say what’s in your heart, even if you fear the outcome. And, if you get hurt, know that this is part of life. We don’t stop having growing pains when we get our diploma. We don’t ever stop having them. Leap, and when you’re hurt, learn. But leap… because some of those leaps will land you in places more glorious than you can imagine. Some of those leaps will land you in the heart of someone amazing and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that, now, would you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Counsel of The Foolish Souls

For those I love.... ANYTHING.
Believe it.
So many foolish souls...

If you must stay in your cave,
I hope the fire is warm
and the wood pile endless.

When you emerge
I’ll not interfere
Merely watch from the forest
Until you’re strong enough
Sure enough

I leave offerings

Foolish souls…
Now in your tribes
Fighting off those who seek to overthrow you
Looking back to days when I hunted by your side

Yes, there you are,
Still in your cave
Frightened that you may end up
One of the many
Foolish souls

Warm yourself.
Feast well.
Call to the Gods,
Seek their council.

How long does she wait for me?

Rest well in your cave,
Letting time steal everything
But do not endeavor to join them

Foolish souls
Wishing I still hunted at their sides.
Settling for offerings at the feast
That I have left as gifts
But never knowing the safety of my tribe again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mental Spam

This morning, as I was waking up, I was in that sort of half asleep / half awake place and I had a surge of writing energy, which, obviously I couldn’t do anything about because I had to go to work. Also, in the shower this morning I had about a half dozen ideas for blog posts that escaped me by the time I was done drying off. That REALLY perturbs me, how ideas can just leave me like that. How does it happen? The same way that we all have those moments when we say “Oh, crap…. I totally forgot what I was about to say!” It’s because my head is filled with nonsense. You know… every day bullshit that takes up hard drive space? I hate it. I think that as kids, that’s why we have so much pure and fiery creativity and imagination. Our brains aren’t full of spam yet. Now, in adulthood, my head is full of account numbers and driving directions and to-do lists and names of people who aren’t even a part of my life and news stories and all of that horseshit, and there’s really no way of clicking on “delete cookies” … which… by the way… I’d also like to be able to do to my fat ass.

I mean really, is it necessary for me to know that Lindsey Lohan pleaded no contest to stealing a gold necklace? Is it necessary for me to know the names and ranks of the Royal Family or what they wore to William and Kate’s wedding? Is it really going to benefit my life to know that crap? But I know these things. I can’t get away from that sort of useless information, and it’s taking up space in my cranium that I want for other things. I’d much rather be able to remember the recipe for Toll House Cookies or any ONE of those six ideas I had this morning in the shower than to know any of that other garbage that has no bearing on my life or my goals or my family or my health or my happiness.

It’s frustrating as hell that my head is full of this mental junk mail, construction debris and plastic. There’s basically a landfill in my noggin full of shit I’d really like to throw out. When your computer gets slow you delete files to make room. When your house gets too full you have a yard sale. When your closet gets overstuffed you give things to the Good Will. What do you do when your brain is too full? Can I see a hypnotist and ask him to “delete cookies?” Can he make me dump all the useless information that’s causing me to have a system crash whenever I come up with a great idea for writing and then 20 seconds later it’s just… GONE… like I accidentally hit the delete key and there’s not a damn thing I can do to get the file back?

At one time I thought… meditation! That’s it! I’ll clear my head… I’ll make all of that every-day baloney that makes life in the 21st century stressful and makes it impossible to pull up the files I actually want to use line up and march single file into a little prison cell in my head and I’ll lock the door… meanwhile the creative thought process and all of my wonderful ideas and my happy, intelligent, imaginative thoughts will come out and play and when I return to an upright and locked position it will just flow out and I’ll write like wild fire!!! Unfortunately, as fab as it was in theory… it didn’t work. There was this giant bouncer standing there with his arms folded, looking at me like “All right, lady, you’ve got exactly one weekend to accomplish this, and then it’s back to reality.” I have never been good with deadlines.

Thankfully, my frustration and anger at this situation prompted me to vent to a friend via email. There’s something about writing an email to a trusted friend. It brings out an unedited flood. I guess it’s the fact that he is there to be my friend and listen and understand when I’m being a raving lunatic, so my email is just a stream of ferocious aggravation that, when complete, makes me step back and figure out what’s really bothering me or at least purges some of my mental garbage. That’s how writing is for me. I’ve described it before as a bucket you’d put under a leaky roof. The roof drips, and the bucket fills. Every so often you have to dump the water or you’ll have a flood. That’s why I write. I fill up with words, thoughts, ideas, theories… eventually I have to empty the bucket.

Writers block is horrible for me. It’s like a drought, I guess. When crops don’t get water, things start to shrivel and die. The roof doesn’t leak. I have no ability to function when no words are slowly filling the bucket. However… a tsunami is pretty friggin’ frustrating, as well. I can’t write fast enough, I lose half the ideas, I sure as hell don’t have enough hours in the day to devote to it even if I manage to notate all of them for later use… and that brings about a whole other aspect of 21st century life that infuriates me…. But that’s a post for another day.

For the moment, I’d like to thank my best friend in the entire world, Jay, for helping me out by being there for me and always being the giant wrecking ball that obliterates that insurmountable wall. Writer’s block literally feels like a wall has been built between me and my creative process. So many brilliant writers have given the advice that you should write every single day, even if you think you have nothing to write about. Entire books have been devoted to ideas of things to write about when this happens. Today, I had to write about writer’s block. It’s amazing to me how much I actually had to say, most of which I spared you from, and how the subject itself actually poured out like that proverbial bucket being dumped. Maybe now I can get on with things.

So, you ask, why bother posting this? I mean, really, what’s the point of making it public? I guess it’s this: Sometimes you have to vent. And by you I mean YOU. Maybe you don’t purge your issues through writing, but whatever it is that seems to be blocking your path in life… kick the hell out of it, whatever it takes. Ready for my cliché of the day? Here it is: We all have our crosses to bear. The thing is that each one is different but no matter what the cross you’re carrying around is, it’s just has heavy and cumbersome to you as this is to me. So get rid of it. Holding it doesn’t help. Leaving stuff that isn’t working alone doesn’t help. Continuing down a path that you know is leading to nowhere doesn’t help… and worse… continuing down a path that you know is leading to  your own annihilation is just… NOT GOOD. So don’t do it. Rise up and fight!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Taking Care of YOU

I know the whole world is sick of the saying “Life is too short.” But, it is. Especially in adulthood and in this society that’s paced at warp factor nine. Days fly by in a blur; weeks are gone before we know it, and months slip away at what seems like an impossible speed. When I think of something that happened ten years ago, I can scarcely believe a decade has passed since … well, in the case of the current year, can you honestly believe it’s been a decade since September 11th? I can’t. Also that year, Lifehouse’s “Hanging By A Moment” came out and the remake of Lady Marmalade by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Maya, and Pink was in the movie Moulin Rouge. Doesn’t seem like a decade ago, does it?

As time ticks away we work like ants in an ant hill, going about our tasks almost robotically… get up, shower, get dressed, leave on time… fight traffic, park the car, get to your desk, check email, answer phone calls, attend meetings, meet with customers… before you know it the day is gone and your “to do” list might not have been scratched. Fires sparked up and had to be put out, interruptions happened, things were unavoidable. Meetings had to get moved; personal appointments had to be cancelled in order to accommodate business. And when 5:00 comes each day – are you able to head home to your family? Do you have to work from home in the evening? On weekends?

I call the difference between work and home “The separation between church and state.” Honestly, it’s the best way I can describe it. When talking about the concept of over-eating, people will often say “eat to live; don’t live to eat.” It’s good advice. Simple, to the point, and makes perfect sense. When it comes to separating church and state (or, if you prefer the corporate American term “work/life balance” which I happen to hate,) the same rule applies:

Work to make a living; don’t live just to work.

When was the last time you did the things you’re supposed to do in order to take care of yourself? Not your spouse, not your kids, not the dog, or the house, or the bills… but YOU. When was the last time you had a full physical? When was the last time you had a dental cleaning and check-up? When was the last time you had a night out with your friends? When was the last time you engaged in whatever your favorite past time is? When did you last eat at your favorite restaurant? When was the last time you spent time by yourself doing absolutely nothing? When was the last time you went shopping for yourself? When was the last time you bought something you wanted just for fun? Not something huge; maybe a music download or a favorite old movie on DVD… but for yourself.

Do you ever go into a bakery? Not the one stuffed into a corner in the supermarket, but an actual bakery. Not for any specific reason; not because it’s someone’s birthday or because you have a dinner to go to and need to pick up a dessert – but just because it’s a bakery. Just to look at the gorgeous confections and maybe get a cookie or a really good loaf of bread that’s still warm from the oven. If you don’t: THEN DO IT! Walk into the bakery, inhale the delicious smells, look at all the enticing things in the case, and pick out just one small treat for yourself. Something that looks amazing in its decoration, or something that looks so scrumptious that your mouth waters, or something you haven’t had since you were a kid.

Do you ever go into a pet store? Not because you’re looking for something to take the smell out of a sofa, but just to look at the tropical fish? Do you ever blow off the housework in favor of doing something relaxing and fun? How often do you make it to the beach in the few months we have to enjoy it here in New England? Do you play in the sand? Do you jump in the waves? Do you take walks with no destination, and no purpose other than to be outdoors?

Maybe none of these things appeal to you, but I guarantee there’s things that you love that you haven’t done in a dog’s age. The bakery, the tropical fish tank, the beach… these are all things that feed the soul. Things that get your brain out of that stagnant work mode and remind you that you are alive. If you don’t find the things I’ve mentioned here appealing then do something YOU love. Even if it’s only for a half an hour.

And your doctor, and your dentist… call the optometrist if you go there, too. Make appointments and keep them. Bring everything up to date. Take care of yourself and feed your soul. When you do that, you’ll be happier and healthier, and it will carry into every aspect of your life. It will rub off in your relationships. It will make the sunshine a little brighter, the food taste a little better, and the absurd in life a little funnier. We all have to work. We all have to take care of business, but life is a gift and when it gets tedious and stressful and frustrating… that’s when you have to step away from the ordinary routine and remember the small things that bring an enormous smile to your face and actually go and do some of them. You weren’t put here on this earth just to be an ant in an ant hill. So, get out in the world, and remember why you’re really here. Remember why you have a job in the first place: To support yourself so that you can have a life.