Homework, specifically my son’s homework; that is the problem. My son has an appointment. In the waiting room, I read and grapple with the problem of the homework. The Voice in my head says, “It’s not the homework that’s the problem. It’s how you are perceiving it.”
I reply enthusiastically, “I’m the problem. I am my own problem.”
The mental challenge of a good puzzle grips me and I start to think of creative ways to re-frame this picture.
These last two weeks have been full of obstacles. Huge, grey boulders of pain and frustration cropped up everywhere. I want the problem to be outside of me. I want some one or something to blame. I want to shake my fist at all the small minded and callously indifferent. A cause celebre, that’s what I thought I wanted. Tossing dramatic phases and bits of bad poetry at the ugly grey wall wasn’t getting me anywhere. In fact, it was making things worse. Something was wrong but I didn’t know what.
Some times,it takes a while before I catch on. My attitude, my limited perspective was the source of the problem. Problems do exist outside of me and some of them are really big ones. The frustration I was feeling was my problem. I wanted it to stop. Expecting that to magically happen from the outside would trap me inside my frustration forever. I had to own it. Accept it as mine and determine what I could do about it.
First, I had to tackle the problem of other people’s perceptions when they didn’t match my own. Which perception would I choose? Don’t laugh. Choosing my perception over another isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to me. A large part of my frustration came from trying to buy what they were saying when I knew that wasn’t true for me. I had to remind myself that I live inside me. What I think or feel doesn’t have to be right or wrong. It just has to be mine.
Second, I had to acknowledge that some of the boulders I was running into weren’t worth the struggle. It was time to find another way to move past them and beyond. I started looking at the people in my life. Were they supportive, consistent, trustworthy? Did they demonstrate their friendship through actions? Were they there when I needed them? Did we share something vital and important in common?
Wanting them to be different, wanting the relationship to be different didn’t make it so. They make choices and I make mine. Listening to my heart, I finally heard what it has been trying to tell me. It is ok to let some things go.
Finally, I had to look inside myself and determine which struggles are worth the effort. My life is littered with obstacles. I don’t need to accept other peoples limits as my own. I simply need to deal with what is limiting me in this moment. Nothing limits like the restrictions of one’s own thinking. Seeing things as obstacles makes them obstacles. It is time to see them as opportunities.
I listened to the weariness I feel when people talk about their problems. Such talk focuses on lack or what stands in the way or whose to blame. It focuses on a weird sort of one-up-man-ship.
The two things I miss most about San Diego are the weather. It is perfect. . . well as perfect as it gets on this planet. . .and The European Cake Bakery. http://www.europeancakegallery.com/
Today, on my 54th birthday, if I were in San Diego I would be eating one of these:
If there is a perfect cake on earth, then it is found at the European Cake Bakery. If only there were a cure for Southern-Californian-Lifestyle Syndrome. Then again, not. Everyone would live there and the planet would be totally out of balance. Balance, not cake, is my real topic for today. I’d rather talk about cake but balance lasts longer.
Stumbling out of bed at 8:20 a.m., I’m not loving what is. Maybe, I’m still dreaming. Life doesn’t feel real yet but then again it doesn’t feel very real very often. Something is missing. It’s a something that has been missing for a very long time. This morning I see what that something is. It’s me!
Sure, I’m conscious. I’m functioning. Odd, how one can be alive but not fully present. I haven’t given this much thought. Haven’t wanted to . . . until this morning amongst the inspirational reading I get in my e-mail box I read these three simple words:
The air is damp and heavy. It feels thick and moist with each breath. Walking the trail is a challenge today. I want to turn around and go back home. Something doesn’t feel right. Maybe its the wet warmth that presses down on my shoulders. Maybe its the battleship gray of the sky. Maybe. it’s the invisible suitcase I drag behind me. This morning it is full of rocks. I pretend it isn’t there and keep walking.
(This clip shows my favorite song from my favorite episode of Spongebob Squarepants. It’s the perfect contrast in opposing perspectives.)
Defining what I want has been a big challenge. My life has felt like a puzzle with lots of missing pieces. I’ve crawled around the nooks and cranks in my mind filled with angst determined to find a way to define myself and what I want from life. The search became a “have to”, a job, that nasty four-letter word: “work.” Isn’t it supposed to be easier than this?
Time for my walk. I head out the door, taking my concerns with me.
Inside my head, I see an image. It’s me in a race car. I’m a passenger without a seat belt. Racing through life, I lurch and tumble over every bump every swerve in the road. I’m not having a good time. I want to feel like the driver. I want to see where I’m going and be the one to steer toward it. I’m supposed to be the driver, aren’t I? I walk with this image in my mind. I feel the road under my wheels. I tumble, I bounce.
Then I remember the lesson from last weekend. Visiting a senior community garage sale, I finally discovered what I want to be when I grow up: Retired. These seniors were having a great time. They were relaxed, enjoying each other’s company, chatting with strangers, having fun. Simple, good, clean fun. That’s what I want, what I’ve always wanted: fun.
It’s not deep or altruistic. It won’t earn me fame or fortune. I won’t go down in any history book. It doesn’t matter. I just want to have fun.
At first the bits and pieces of internalized voices, challenge this dream. “You can’t always have fun.”
“How childish!” says another.
“Life isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s work, hard work, and then you die,” whines another.
I smile at my joy killers. I do not argue. I can see that having fun isn’t their objective. They cling to their own special brand of misery. It’s a misery that I understand well. I’ve just decided I don’t want it. I give myself permission to have a dream of my own. I give myself permission to be a passenger in the race car called life. It’s OK to enjoy the ride. It’s OK to have FUN!
I say, “Whee!”
Now that I understand what I want from life, I know that I won’t always feel it. Fun, often requires some preliminary ground work that doesn’t look or feel like fun. Fun is often hard work. Most of that hard work takes place between the ears. It requires a constant commitment and renewal of perspective. Misery is easy. Fun, on the other hand, often requires effort. It needs a stage built, a set designed, a cast of eager characters and the courage not to tamper with the result. It’s sort of like, “If you build it, they will come.” Building something requires effort and an effort I won’t always feel like making. When the bleachers are full and the game is on, the effort it took to get there will be so worth it.
FUN! IT’S WHAT I WANT AND I CAN FIND IT ALMOST ANYWHERE.
Insert: Giddy laugh, lively dancing and general celebratory spirit. I’ve left the building. I’m having fun.
Listening or reading to people talk about politics when they are full of anger is upsetting to me. It upsets my peace. Then I remember what a problem I have with conflict and having people upset about one thing or another. I’m amazed at how upset I can get over things that haven’t happened yet, or things I imagine will happen, or things that I think are happening. My perception makes all the difference.
This morning I let my anxiety about imagined future events affect how I acted in the present. I made a major case out of Nutella on a dish towel. On a chart outlining crimes against humanity, this infraction would never be included. Yet, this morning, I acted as if it was a much bigger deal than it is. It came with a great cost. I robbed my children of a pleasant morning because I was hell-bent on receiving justice and a confession.
I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.