Monday, December 24, 2012

Some Lessons from 2012

Everything has their own season, this blog included.

I'm preparing to move into a new phase of my writer's voice, so I'm getting ready to take this blog down and spend more time blogging about things that really excite me: writing, movies, and music. I've used To Someone Likeminded to hash out my own feelings and opinions, and this has been invaluable to me. I have changed a lot during the past four years I've had this blog going. My sentiment is such that I now value myself and my talents more. I don't need to grope my through my insecurities and beliefs so publicly. I don't think this blog is my format anymore; despite the openness, I feel constrained. Despite the ability to recreate, I feel stuck to voices and thoughts I've had before. I feel a certain expectation and weakness that sounds a lot like apology. The things I know about, I know about, and do not feel inspired to share with just anyone.

That being said, I am inspired to share a list of things I've learned this year! ("Do I contradict myself. Then I contradict myself.") This has been a year of growth, even as all the days this year have felt like one big day wherein not a whole lot has happened. But a lot has happened and I am thankful for this time and for this space to feel more like myself than I have ever felt as an adult. I am thankful for the strongest friendships and relationship I have ever had as an adult. I am thankful for this body I have, which lets me enjoy this world. And, more than ever, I am grateful to have the best kitties, which remind me, more than anything or anyone, that the world is not made solely for my head. It is made to experience. I am grateful to my cats as a gateway to see outside of myself and see this world around us for what it is. (And I don't care if loving cats is cliche!)

Some Lessons from 2012:
7. When people talk about money, they are usually talking about something else. This year brought us a Mitt Romney presidential candidacy and continued discussions of the 99 and 1 percent. I have had conversations with people who tell me what wage they cannot afford to work for. I talk to people who have dated or whose friends are dating people who are wealthy. I have seen people fall onto hard times and come out of hard times. I have seen people make bad choices and see situations that I never thought they'd be in. I have seen my circumstances change and have tried on new definitions of myself based on class that I never thought I would use.

I have been solidly middle-class and have relied on this definition. It meant something for me to use this definition when I was going to a private college, for example. It has meant something to me when I struggled financially and when I list the pros and cons of my profession.

Yet money is not who I am. It is not what makes Mitt Romney who he is. It is like any other neutral thing we load with meaning--it is what we make of it. I happen to think that being middle-class has given me a fluidity that I possibly couldn't have if I first had to deal with crushing poverty or the stiffness that can come with maintaining upper-class. Yet, for some, crushing poverty and stiff upper-classhood is a choice. For most of us, how we deal with money is a choice. Wanting more money is a choice and is not bad in and of itself. Worshipping money, however, is bad in and of itself. Viewing wealth as power is a great falsehood that this country lives under.

6. Consider that all heroes have failed while pursuing a passion. This is something I like to think about when I feel down about myself. I imagine what a great back story I'm going to have someday! Trials that I've gone through have made me a Aguilaran fighter ("Makes me that much stronger! Makes my skin a little bit thicker!"). And the hard times, even at their hardest, seem to vanish quickly in my memory. There is nothing like the myth that as soon as we know what we are meant to do that we will not only do it expediently and flawlessly, but will also achieve much fame and fortune for it!

Many people lead ordinary lives full of mundane pleasures. But their place means something to someone and it usually means a lot to them. We all deserve a place--and this can be difficult for some of us to justify--where we can pursue a life of our own meaning. I think such a life happens in small steps, but that in taking a step we are finding a richness that brings out who we are and how we relate to our world.

5. That being said, I also think there is something to be said for leaving other people alone. Most people are hot, holy messes who cannot see past their own eyelashes. It is good to befriend these people and to have their friendship, in return. Yet we cannot change them. There are times for words of wisdom; these words, depending upon the person or circumstance will remain unheard until the right time. Friendships have changed me, yet I know now that they come and go in waves. I'm not one to let friends go, but that doesn't mean that all times are ripe for any given friendship. Sometimes, for example, I might have years' worth of anger and confusion to work through. I retreat in these moments and I am starting to realize that if I stay in hiding, then that may be exactly what I need. I figure I can always stay put and see what happens, get closer to a confusion and see if that can allow for insight, or withdraw and take care of something I need. All of these are great options, I think, when it comes to dealing with any relationship. It's ok, for example, if things are not bubbly and cheerful at this moment. I refuse to be the one taking all of the responsibility in a relationship just like I would not place the responsibility on another person and create a sense of burden or guilt for someone else to bear. This is something, anyway, that I am learning to do.

4. Part of learning how to do this is learning to trust intention. I know my shit stinks. I can't really apologize for that, try to cover it up, nor never shit again. But I can go forward with my actions knowing that I have good intentions to make the world a better place and to learn what I need to learn so that my life reflects joy and love--so that I can love myself and others.

I feel stronger when I look on the past, which is something I think happen almost always out of guilt, and say that I never meant to cause pain. This helps me trust myself. I make mistakes, yet I can also learn from them and not repeat them. This is an ability most everyone has. And when we own up to our mistakes, we can also see the good parts of ourselves. And even if there are many things outside our control on a given day, we can control our intention.

3. Giving good thoughts and breathing for others helps. For years now, I have been a big fan of breathing. When I am doing something that I don't like to do, I think, Give it five more breaths and then see what's goin' on. When I am trying to build up to do something I don't want to do, I just try to breathe.

But one of the most powerful things for this year has been to breathe for people and situations that most upset me. I do this through

2. a gratitude box. I created this from Melody Beattie's suggestion. (I blogged about this, too.) I picked up a thin wooden box and a couple of acrylic paints from the craft store and painted my gratitude box. Then I made strips of paper and listed everything and everyone that was causing me grief. Than I listed everyone and thing that I wanted God to bless. Then I listed things that were a problem for me. I put them all in the box and then I try every day to pick one thing out of that box. I send some peace to what is on the slip of paper. I give some intentional breathing. Then, as I go through my day, if I feel anxious about something or get caught up in my head about something, I remember that I've already put it in the box (or remember to put it in the box) and I go back to breathing for the one thing that I drew from the box. When I'm breathing for someone I don't really like, I remember that it's best for all creatures to be happy. And it makes it more exciting to breathe for someone that I do like.

1. Because, in the midst of all this breathing, is the deep understanding that we work to end fear through the process of gratitude. My job has brought me to many people that I really can't stand--all in one town!--and many people who are inspirational and, if not inspirational, then at least a pleasure to be around. Without my struggles, I would not have the stronger boundaries and deeper insight that I have today. There are a handful of annoying people I know who I've breathed for and they, eventually, have turned out to be less annoying and, at best, have become problems that no longer bother me. Being grateful for these people and experiences helps me understand that I am human and that I am having a breadth of experience. I know that I can open myself up and take in what I never thought I could or would have to handle. And I can do this by choice.

I have realized that all of my negative feelings about myself and about the world tend to arise out of fear. I am afraid of messing things up (perfectionism), of being not good enough (insecurity), of not having enough (greed). I have been afraid of my emotions and talents and how these emotions and talents do and do not manifest. But this is the human experience. This fear signals lessons to learn. It shows me what I have inherited and what I have acquired. Gratitude towards my triggers helps me calm down and it places me inside myself. I am a person with a personality. I need to pay attention to that. Gratitude helps me realize what is around me; it is a way of taking stock, even when the inventory seems overwhelming or junky. And the benefit of gratitude is understanding that there is always more to be seen and more ways of understanding.

Whew, this has been a lot to learn! (Especially in the midst of current events, most of which have been tragic and painful this year.) In the year ahead, I have many wishes. But mostly I wish for more art--more beautiful ways to relate to ourselves, our world, and each other.

Much love and peace during this season!