Fortunate Mishaps

Does it seem like an oxymoron? It really isn’t.

Think back to a time when something that you thought was misfortune actually turned out to be a stroke of good luck. For example, the personal and professional struggles I’ve had has led me to this path of authenticity and pursuing the work that I love.  Dad calls these fortunate mishaps.

What about you? Have you ever been rejected, gotten lost, reprimanded or discouraged, only to find later that something better came along?

I believe that most people can name an example or two from their own life or the life of someone they know.   Somehow we forget that lesson when in the midst of a new challenge. Often it seems that we need to wait for the dust to settle before we can find that wisdom. We needn’t wait for hindsight to find that lesson and the silver lining. We can find it now.

What is currently challenging you in your life? You can try these reflection/writing exercises to find the good fortune in your challenge, trauma or anything that is interrupting the flow of your life.

Write or reflect upon your trauma or challenge from the following perspective(s) (from Heal Yourself With Writing, Catherine Ann Jones):

  • A hero undergoing a trial, that is never daunted and stays focused on overcoming the challenge.
  • Your soul, where you gain insight from this challenge or trauma.
  • A wise guide, using metaphors and characters to describe each perspective.   Consider developing a dialogue between your need and the wise guide.
  • The person who is causing you to feel challenged, if applicable. Assume that they overall are a reasonable and reasonably intelligent person.

And from Annie Roepke:

  • The best possible outcome. Consider how this challenge or trauma actually can create positive change and growth.

Sometimes looking inward with honesty, vulnerability, and forgiveness can feel impossible. We turn inside only to find anger, sadness, indignation, or a sense of feeling unworthy.  However, releasing the blockage of your life’s flow and returning to peace is a relief compared festering anger and bitterness.

Your challenge is actually a gift, though you may have to look past the surface to find the fortune within that mishap. Become an expert at excavating to that essence and you will never suffer another day.

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Toxic Recycling

In this era of reduce, reuse, recycle, and combined with my Chinese upbringing, I’m loathe to actually dispose of anything. There’s always another use for an unwanted object rather than dooming it to the landfill. Yet there are certain interpersonal dynamics that probably just need to be dispensed with.

I feel almost every couple goes through this dynamic: You’re having what seems to be a perfectly calm day and then the next minute you’re sniping at each other. It’s always the other person’s fault, of course. I was just minding my own business when your attitude happened to come along.

One day during an unexpectedly turbulent moment, Chris observed that we both were noticing the others’ negative energy. Both? Negative? We were both carrying around some crap and then blaming it on the other when an argument escalated. Ohhhhhewwww.

Right then we realized that we have a tendency to recycle our internal garbage/unresolved issues between us. When Chris is feeling peaceful and tuned-in, he will realize that I’m just having a bad day and give me space, and/or he’ll let it roll off.   But when Chris is having his own stress or unresolved issues, the dynamic turns into fireworks. And visa versa.   If I didn’t initiate it, then I did escalate it, so we’re both responsible.

Awareness of our dynamic means that now, when things start to get touchy, usually we can stop and acknowledge that we’re recycling our garbage. That’s usually sufficient to stop the dynamic in its tracks so we can return to what we want to grow, recycle and regenerate: love, gratitude, affection, interest, warmth, kindness and compassion.   You can never have enough goodwill in a relationship, and it should not be squandered with mindless bickering and arguments. After all, waste not, want not.

Recycle

Working Through It

You can probably tell from this blog that I put a lot of effort and attention into being more aware of myself, the world, and the interplay between the two. Becoming more conscious of these factors and dynamics is a life-long lesson that has been so incredibly worthwhile.

Learning to be more conscious in my life has also become a commitment beyond what I had bargained for. After all, once you’re aware of these unseen factors and understand your responsibility in them means the genie is out of the bottle. It’s like the movie The Matrix. Once you know, you can’t go back.

Sometimes I want to go back and pretend I don’t know any of this. Sometimes I just want to let someone else deal with it, so that I can remain in that blissful ignorance of believing it’s someone else’s fault. It’s someone else’s responsibility. It’s someone else’s problem.

Though it may not be 100% my fault, responsibility or problem, it is also not 0% my fault, responsibility or problem. It’s also true that I may not have an appropriate sense of my fault, responsibility or problem, it is also true that I know that the challenge to understand that allocation is still my own.

In some ways, it was easier to not know. To feel vindicated, wronged, superior, smarter, or entitled is pretty delicious and fun. I can talk about what another should be feeling, doing or saying and ignore my own need for what I should be feeling, doing or saying. However, I would then have to spend more time and effort with dealing with the fallout of not taking ownership of what I have control over, and trying to control factors outside of my sphere of influence.

A ton of effort, both. The difference is in the former case of being conscious, the outcome tends to be generative and affirming, whereas in the latter case of being unconscious, the outcome is depleting and discouraging.

Though it’s really a no-brainer, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it. It’s taken me almost 20 year of earning a paycheck to not feel resentful that I don’t get the summers off like I used to when I was a kid. Maybe it’ll take me that long to not feel resigned to the path of consciousness whenever life throws me a challenge.

Or maybe not?  Instead of summer vacation, I can do mini versions by  indulging in little doses of whining, complaining and blaming.  A pina colada to go with couldn’t hurt.  Then vacay is over.   I feel ready and recharged to return to the real world.  The results are so worth it!

Is This What It Means to Thrive?

People have been looking at me strangely lately. I don’t blame them. I’d be suspicious too if I saw what I’m doing/saying these days.

When people ask me how my day/weekend/holiday was, I have an unusual response. I use words like joyful, blissful, inspiring.

(Turn around, walk briskly away, and call 911)

I can’t help it. It’s just how I’m feeling these days.   The smallest thing makes my heart go soaring, or makes me tear up. I feel I’m overflowing with abundance and gratitude, and my optimism has few limits. I’m energized and have a bounce in my step. I’m thinking really clearly and I feel I can tap into my creative juices in a blink of an eye. I’ve never felt more love and in love for my friends/family and with my husband, respectively.

Maybe this is what it must mean to really thrive.

Perhaps I’m an extreme (head) case, or going through a really great spell, I don’t know. All I know is that the experience of being alive feels like a miracle almost every minute of every day.

I don’t think that one must be in a state of almost constant bliss to be thriving. I do, however, think that it goes to show that a recovering perfectionist/control freak can make big and meaningful changes for a better quality of life. I am that person who, at some time in my life, dropped out of graduate school, quit a full-time tenured job, and got a divorce. Not exactly the world’s best resume.

We can grow to make changes and improvements. Failure, pain and disappointment are not necessarily bad things; in fact they often provide access for a much-needed change, including inviting bliss into one’s life.  Maybe we’ll all be looking at you strangely soon too.

 

Gifts, Great and Small

presents

The best gifts don’t come in packages at all

Sometimes clichés are actually true. “It’s better to give than receive” has actually been shown to be more beneficial for the giver than the receiver both psychologically, and when at work, professionally. And you don’t have to necessarily be like my friend Mimi, who each year on her birthday gives a gift or random act of kindness for every year she has blessed us with her presence on this earth. You don’t have to wait for Christmas either. And, even better, these gifts are free, don’t need to be wrapped, and take no additional time on your part.

Ah, I’ve turned into a snake oil salesman, you think. Is this too good to be true?

You be the judge of these gifts:

Your Undivided Attention, With Openness and Acceptance – You interact with others all day, ranging from the few seconds it takes to pass a stranger on the street to lengthy conversations with loved ones. The quality of that interaction has more to do than just the duration of that meeting: it also has to do with whether the recipient has your undivided attention. Furthermore, if you approach that interaction with positivity and openness (as opposed to negativity, judgment, and the need to control), that 2 second to 2 hour interaction is its own gift to the recipient.

Your Forgiveness – We live in a complicated society and culture where it seems like even the most benign gesture, action or words can hurt or offend.   If you feel someone has wronged you, consider your own failed attempts to avoid offense. Others most likely are trying their best to avoid trespass, despite what may seem like malintent. Forgiveness is a big gift to them, and an even bigger gift to yourself when you can let go of resentment and hurt.

Space – Sometimes others just need space: space on the road, space around their physical being or home, space without interaction or pressure, or space to just make their own decisions, process, and reflect. Maybe you need your own space. Give it to yourself as a way to give love to yourself.

These seemingly small gifts can actually be major even though they are free and take little or no extra time. Remember, like any new habit, these practices may feel awkward at first but will feel more natural with time. Observe the gift’s impact on others and how they make you feel, as the giver. My guess is it will feel like the best part of Christmas, every day!