Here’s what I know: you’ll take that borrowed courage and like the results so much that you will start creating your own. Yeah, this is sounding very Wizard of Oz, but it’s true. It was in you the whole time, but maybe you buried the courage with fear. We all have some digging to do.
Ask for what you need and want. Then do whatever it takes to make that happen. You *can* be the dreamer and the doer. You can fix what’s broken.
So, hunters, are you on the path that works for you? Have you picked your targets? Have you mapped your journey, loaded your quiver, selected the right arrows, sharpened your aim? Just know that I’m here to help you do that if you need a brave hunter by your side.
In that same lobby where I met the old couple who embodied unconditional joy in my first Get Happy post, the receptionist asked me if I own a boutique in town. I shook my head and told her, “No. I’m a writer.”
“Oh,” she replied. “You look like you’d own one of those really cute shops.”
I knew she was basing this on my looks, which is fine, and that she likely meant it as a compliment. After all, “looking like a writer” would have a totally different connotation. Believe me, I have writer mode look down to a T.
Upon meeting the dermatologist, he asked if I was an aesthetician. Again, I repeat “what I am” – a writer and brand strategist. I didn’t ask him why he assumed that. (My questions? My obvious love of lipstick? Again, looks?)
In another meeting this week, an owner asked how I describe myself since I’m a novelist, a marketer and even a paid decorator. I told him, “I’m a creative spirit.” Not only did he “get it” but he wanted to work together. I felt free enough to NOT have to define myself in any limited way.
These interactions made me think about the LABELS WE WEAR and how we are perceived by others. In self-identifying with Parent, Occupation, Hobby, Religion, Political Affiliation, Wife and so on, we can become so attached to those labels that we lose ourselves in them. What We Do is NOT Who We Are. Even are ROLES cannot do justice to the magic of our true selves, which is much deeper than the sum of all of those labels added together. We know we are more than our personality types, too, though they help point us in the right direction of understanding. (I’m ENTJ who really wishes she wanted to sit in the back of the room and doodle instead of wanting to be the person on the stage giving the presentation, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve worked on going from Type A to Zen with some success.)
We are so many multi-faceted things which is what makes humans and our soul journeys such a glorious mystery. Our culture likes to pigeon-hole us, to know which shelf to stack us on. We try to make sense of others by using these labels, but that can be confining, not only in how we relate to others :: oh you’re ONLY this :: but also that we begin to believe :: I AM ONLY :: and may stop trying to BE something else or what we truly FEEL we are inside. DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR WHO YOU ARE.
In trying to “return to wild” we are trying to honor not only our true purpose for being here in this life so beyond truly knowing ourselves and awakening. We discussed vulnerability and shame and passion last week with some tips from Brene Brown on Daring Greatly. This week I’d like to share some insight from Dr. Susan Campbell in her book, Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. The book was synchronicity. I was in Hawaii on vacation with my family when I discovered the book in a used bookstore in Maui. I read it almost to entirety on my trip and highlighted the hell out of it.
Here are some of those highlights which can help us to “unmask” and start living and interacting authentically from the book.
You engage with others in what I call a social meditation practice in which you support one another in unhooking from your self-image and your ideas about being “better” and risk being seen just as you are. The result in self-realization – making real the parts of you that you thought you had to hide to survive.
Shoulds prevent us from seeing how our life really is – and from taking appropriate action. Shoulds are pretenses.
Shoulds keep you from owning your power to create the life you want. They keep you in denial about your actual feelings and situation.
Asserting what you want affirms your right to want what you want – even if you imagine it’s an unreasonable demand or that there’s little chance of getting it.
On sharing mixed emotions – when you are ambivalent, confused or “of two minds”, go ahead and express this fact. You may be pulled equally in two or more directions. The ability to express complex feelings is important. Most self-aware people experience mixed feelings fairly often.
Experiencing what is means allowing yourself to feel what you feel without inhibiting yourself shutting down.
Allow yourself to feel it and notice whatever shows up next in your awareness. Experiencing what is requires that you be willing to step into the unknown. You cannot control where your experiencing will take you.
Notice your intent – is it to relate or to control?
Projections are useful because we often need to get our buttons pushed so we can notice what they are.
Holding your differences with another person can produce an inner expansion or transformation that enables them to experience a deeper level of what’s real for each of them.
As you grow in your capacity to experience what is, you stop trying to manipulate reality to conform to your comfort zone.
Questions to ask ourselves:
Do you feel safe enough to express yourself authentically – in conversation, dress, and behavior?
Do you have “shoulds” you need to let go of?
When something isn’t working, are you brave enough to confront it and change it? Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone to live authentically?
Are labels keeping you “boxed in” when you want to “break out?” Which ones?
I don’t believe labels have to be self-limiting as long as we don’t self-identify too much with them. As I’ve let go of some of my attachments to these labels and “shoulds” I have found more peace and happiness, but it’s not easy. It’s tough to watch my kids grow up and not need me in the same way, but I remind myself, they still need me. Even if they seem like they are pulling away, I still need to stay present and find ways to interact with them without trying to control them. In my work life, I decided I needed to work with people again, for someone, which was a huge decision and will be a big transition since I’ve worked for myself for eight years. I believe I self-identified with entrepreneur and became too attached to the freedom to perhaps the detriment of my own fulfillment and need to be social and part of something bigger than myself as a solo entrepreneur with so many interests. It’s scary but yet liberating at the same time. Even my novel writing has taken a pleasant departure as I’m working on a novel that completely challenges me in every way, a non-fiction book that delves into spirituality and living our truth, and even a very divergent book that’s titillating and sensual. How’s that for a tease?
Next week I’m devoting my post to the amazing Sam Keen and talking about love and the man’s journey. I’m reading three of his books simultaneously and have a huge crush on his wisdom. I do believe so much in life is kismet :: this summer I found ee cummings poetry and fell in love with it. When I visited Sam’s website, it begins with this ee cummings quote:
The frail elderly woman picked at her short curly hair with a comb, her back against her husband’s chest. “Did I get it all?” she asked.
“Yes, honey, but don’t make it too big.”
She laughed. “I had to wait until it dried.”
“Remember how wild and crazy it was when we were younger, baby?” He teased.
She laughed at the memory.
This went on for several minutes, cooing affectionately at each other on the aptly named loveseat.
When they were quiet, I couldn’t help but comment from across the small waiting room. “You two are too cute.”
They went on to tell me that they had been married 42 years and despite the wife’s bad health the last few years, they figured they looked better laughing than crying.
What better segway into my new six-week blog series on unconditional joy (Get Happy) than this couple who obviously lived happily together despite all of the obvious health problems and likely much time spent in waiting rooms.
What does it mean to be happy?For most of us, happiness is conditional, the circumstances all leading to or away from a feeling of joy or bliss. As a fiction writer, I get to create those difficult journeys for my characters, putting them through hell and back to a hopeful ending. In real life, I struggle as much as the next person, but I’ve come a long way, baby and want to share because I think that’s why we’re here. Happiness, connection and growth.
One of my favorite mantras since 2003 was “I shall not let circumstances dictate my joy.” That mature couple in the waiting room totally get this. People who have cancer or are dying yet are happy know this. Why can’t we know this now?
All year I’ve been blogging about getting real, including getting fit and getting out(side) and for the next six weeks I’m focusing on unconditional happiness, a joy that comes deep within, unfettered by the jerks or bad luck or cranky kids or tough work day.
I’m starting the series at a time of transformation for all of us, summer’s end, when the carefree feelings of sunshine and vacations and sleeping in are replaced by a new school year for kids. The seasonal shift to more responsibility with kids back in school, hectic schedules, and a “buckling down” mentality can add extra stress to our already busy lives.
The great thing about unconditional happiness is it isn’t based on a beginning or an ending, but a knowing that life is good and worthwhile and precious despite what’s happening around (or to) us.
Like everyone, I struggle with moods and mostly with my “monkey mind” which I refer to as a squirrel circus. Because I have obsessive compulsive thoughts (which works GREAT in my work life for finishing projects and writing books), it can wreak havoc on my personal life, presenting as both worry and anxiety. I’m also extremely empathetic (and a little empathic) so I’m sensitive to energies around me as well as dealing with my own high energy. (My friend Carie’s fiance said she and I share that “hummingbird on crack” personality.) Well, it is what it is.
As Dr. Susan Campbell writes in Getting Real, we can’t be authentic if we aren’t self-aware, so knowing yourself is key.
Being self-aware, I’ve realized what I need to balance my energies, pay attention to ruminating thoughts and assess how I feel and adjust my attitude or actions if necessary. For me, I need a lot of physical and intellectual stimulus in a day so if I don’t work out every day and get some good input and output (usually reading and writing) then my day can feel “off.” I also know my mind is better off giving it a break with daily or twice a day meditation – getting in touch with my “spirit” and making sure the window to my higher self is at least always cracked open to get through. Keep track of your day and how you are feeling and see how you might need to adjust your schedule to help you feel energized and “optimally you.”
What about when shitty things happen?
Last week someone took a cheap shot at me via an email to someone I love. My first thought was, “How dare they?” (Ego) And then I felt hurt. (Ego) And then I felt my loved one’s pain at being on the receiving end of a spiteful remark. (Empathy) As a bit of time passed, my Ego calmed down and I knew THIS TOO SHALL PASS and later that evening, I was even able to smile about it, because really? Try this quote on!
‘Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.’ –Scott Stratten
In a nutshell, those hard times just don’t bring me down and ruin my days/week/month like they used to. Better coping mechanisms and a more positive attitude + appropriate actions equals CHOOSING HAPPINESS (even while holding an opposite emotion like grief or sadness or dealing with ambiguity). It’s not easy and I wish I could do it as easily as blinking an eye, but it has gotten better with time/practice. More on that when we discuss Getting Real, a book I serendipitously found at a used book store in Maui. Amazing.
We simply can’t live authentically without getting real about our lives and the choices we’re making and what’s holding us back.
Here’s my list of 7 Keys to Getting Happy and I’ll blog about each of them in more detail in upcoming weeks.
1) Remove roadblocks to happiness
2) Change your attitude (as the song goes, “take your life from negative to positive”
3) Practice gratitude and self-care
4) Live with intention (on purpose) – which can begin with saying yes or no when we really mean it and setting intentions and sticking with them
5) Feed your passions
6) Take time for stillness/ be mindful
7) Be an adventurer. Stay curious. Play more. Be silly.
If you were honest about your state of “unconditional happiness” how would you rate yourself? Do you depend on other people or things going a certain way to “be happy?” What fed your spirit this summer? As summer ends, what are your intentions for autumn? What would you like to accomplish? Who are the people, places and things that make you happy? Review the list of 7 Keys and answer how you do or don’t do those things. Schedule how to make them happen and then DO IT.
Thanks for reading. Happy End of Summer!
Happy pics of the week:
Excerpt from my work in progress non-fiction essay book on letting go and living authentically, inspired by nature, Return to Wild.
Psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness” talks about our inability to accurately depict our future selves. We believe we’ll be more or less the same as we are right now…forever. We believe our interests won’t change that much and who we like to hang out with is fixed and we think we’re pretty darn good at predicting what will make us happy in the future. We aren’t. In fact, in his research, it showed we’re poor at predicting what we’ll like ten years down the road and that’s because we do change. Knowing this can keep us from feeling like there’s “something wrong” with us, when in fact it’s simple biology and beyond our control. We can’t grow if we stay in the same place and stagnate. Growth is why we’re here. Let’s give ourselves a break.
Excerpt from my work in progress, a novel about a war vet amputee struggling with life and love after war. My character Jake is certainly struggling with happiness.
My gut burned as we turned the corner at the big Oak tree. We were close.
The air turned cooler as the brush thickened. We ditched our bikes and began crawling through, over and under the limbs and fallen trees. I should’ve been more worried about Ben getting cut up, but I felt hypnotized, unaware of his thick little body behind me as I pushed on.
The sun shone through the clearing like a spotlight on the burnt limbs for a good quarter mile radius. The trailer had blown up just seconds after I’d been shoved out the door. The door had fallen on me, which is likely why I only had the slight burns that I did.
Grams said it was a miracle I hadn’t been burned to a crisp.
Said it was an angel who put that door over my frame.
No one wanted to give my meth-coooking mom credit for my survival, but I don’t think that’s fair. Even though she shouldn’t have been doing what she was doing, she did respond the way a mom should when she saw her kid in danger.
Besides, it was me who brought that flame to the fire.