Beginning Anywhere

Featured Image: “New Life a New Beginning,” © ♥Adriënne -for a better and peaceful world-, Mar 2010. CC BY 2.0.

Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…

~ Gilda Radner

Well, it is the sixth of January, and my New Year’s resolutions are still fomenting. Perhaps, that isn’t such an awful thing for someone working to overcome an all-or-nothing outlook on the world. At my last E.D. group session my therapist reminded us, “Any moment can be the instant when you start over. You don’t need to wait until tomorrow, or the beginning of a new week. You don’t need to wait until your next meal. You can start over now. And now. And now.”

Begin anywhere. ~ John Cage

Even though I don’t need a New Year to set new goals, it is still a nice opportunity for a little personal reflection. I began that process well in advance of the New Year, but… one thing led to another, and you can read the rest of the story here.

There’s no arguing against the statement that I am impatient. And perfectionistic. Especially when it comes to my recovery, which at this point, is expanding to encompass this whole, messy metamorphosis of becoming. I’m a bit rigid, inflexible, and demanding when it comes to what I should be and when.

Nothing retards progress in a virtue so much as wanting to acquire it with too much haste!

~ St. Francis de Sales

These words of St. Francis de Sales sound so wise and sweet to my ears, but they just aren’t sinking into my stubborn, frustrated brain. Which is, itself, frustrating. How can I explain the dichotomy of my warring sides? I am partially stuck in the idea that there is an end-point to the process that I began when I entered recovery. I am operating under some notion that I am supposed to reach a stage of completion, or at least some state at which I am more complete, more balanced, more centered, more wholehearted, and living more authentically, genuinely, and vulnerably (i.e., more perfectly) than I am now. In direct opposition to this idea is the basic premise of my new value-system – there IS no final state. The authentic life is not static but is dynamic, because nothing ever stays the same. It is a life of continuous re-balancing, renewal, and re-centering. It requires ongoing becoming, and it won’t ever end until THE end. There is no such thing as perfect, and making myself vulnerable enough to be genuine and wholehearted means accepting all of my beautiful, eclectic, idiosyncratic, even dark and scary, imperfections.

Fresh Start
1/366 – Fresh Start,” © Ravi Shah, Jan 2016. CC BY 2.0.

Over the past few days, I am becoming alert to the pervasive and oppressive underlying monologue in my subconscious. On a continuously repeating loop, it broadcasts, “I am not good enough.” Sometimes, there are different iterations of this phrase. “I am not smart enough, tough enough, diligent enough, focused enough, hard-working enough. I don’t love enough. I’m not outgoing enough.” Underneath it all, though, the message is the same. “I am not enough.” Not yet. As in, the place I occupy right now, this person, this life, this self, this being, is not enough.

About a week before New Year’s Eve, I started compiling a list of the habits that would make me enough. My brainstorm mushroomed until it covered the surfaces of 11 (ELEVEN!) note sheets. Much of it was repetitive, but is it any wonder that I finally broke out in hives on December 31st?

So, I decided to take a break and let this whole resolution-making business settle down. After some kinder, gentler reflection, I was left with these goals for 2016:

ONE – Cultivate silence. Practice being comfortable with being quiet and still. I am a bit better at this than I used to be (although I think I was at my peak a year ago when I left Walden, and my skill eroded as the chaos of life gained momentum). These days, it remains exceedingly difficult for me to sit down and do nothing. No writing, no reading, no scheming or planning, no art, no talking, no television, phone, or computer, no chores… How am I supposed to find myself if I can’t even sit with myself? For me, meditation, contemplative prayer, and guided mindfulness practices are extremely beneficial, yet I never pause long enough to actual DO them! There is never enough time. There is always more that I “need” to accomplish. I am beginning to more consistently remind myself, “There will never be enough time to do everything that I want to do, and it always ends up working out anyway.” In 2016, I want to nurture a calm, peaceful, inner place where I am already enough, where there is nothing to prove, where I don’t need external validation, and where uncertainty and incompleteness are expected. From THAT place will blossom courage, love, empathy, and growth.

TWO – Practice bringing into my conscious awareness that nasty, undermining “I’m not enough” voice. If I can acknowledge and accept those thoughts when they occur, then I can eventually move toward changing the message and replacing the underlying core belief. As long as the tape is playing in my subconscious, however, or just beyond my active awareness, I think I may remain stuck.

THREE – While I’m chipping away at #2, continuing to wade through my emotions is probably in order. I am the queen of secondary and even tertiary emotions. I get mad about being anxious, and then I get even more mad and frustrated about the fact that I am mad over being anxious, because it means I’m not practicing acceptance. (Lost yet?) I also tend to use anger, self-righteousness/indignation, and defensiveness so that I don’t need to face uncertainty, admit that a situation is outside of my control and I must simply accept it, or block feelings of hurt/pain/injury/vulnerability. Becoming more self-aware of these patterns is not going to be easy. Why do I think that identifying my emotions and opening myself to experiencing them fully, without pushing them away, clinging to them, or judging them, may be a resolution that I make every year for the rest of my life?

FOUR – Try new things. New foods, new activities, new people, new experiences. Travel to new places. Do things that scare me, but that are going to help me become the person that I want to be. Stay connected to my old things. Invest in my relationships. Continue to write, to read, and to create. Allow that there will never be a perfect “balance.”

LAST AND ALWAYS – What am I to do when I fall short? What do I do when I’m not practicing self-awareness of my thoughts and emotions, when I am being mindless, when I am being critical of myself, when I am not spending time being quiet and still, when I am caving into the chaos around me and my extraordinary, self-imposed demands? What do I do when I am being reactive and when I am acting out of fear? A little mindfulness-based self-compassion may be in order. Accept myself as I am, accept the situation for what it is, and begin again.

Begin where you are. It would be unscientific to begin anywhere else.

~ Ernest Holmes

 

A new beginning
A new beginning…” © Venu Gopal, Nov 2008. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

 

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16 thoughts on “Beginning Anywhere

  1. Number 1 is a powerful thing. But it takes practice. And it feeds into the rest of your list.
    Yoga is the best way for me to find my inner silence.
    I call my class finding stillness because that is where I believe the true power yoga exists.

    I never ever could sit in silence. I hated me. I couldn’t stand that voice. I used to work out hard to try to quiet it, but it often fed the idea I wasn’t strong, thin or fast enough.

    In yoga I was encouraged to just be. I was trapped in the room for the hour. Sometimes it was really hard to stay. But sometimes it wasn’t. And those times got more and more regular. Especially in slow, quiet yoga.

    So I added some meditation classes. Because if I sign up I usually follow through.

    So, find ways to add it to your life that are scheduled. And see what develops.

    Inner peace. It’s in there, just waiting for you to find it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, Anne, you helped inspire Number 1! The way you end each of your posts with “stillness and peace” is becoming my little mantra. You do so much more goo than you realize! I signed up for an all-day yoga expo in my town this weekend that’s being hosted by all the local studios. It’s both scary and exciting. There will be active, restorative, and meditative sessions, so maybe I will learn something new that I can bring into my life! And I’m starting to “schedule” meditation time for myself by setting multiple alarms on my phone every day.

      Knowing that you’ve walked this road and have found a healthier, more fulfilling way is the most encouraging and hopeful message. I am so happy that your life is so much more peaceful and balanced! And thank you! ❤️

      Like

      1. That all makes me happy
        I tach yoga at the recovery centre in town. Because it has actually saved my life.
        I love all your plans! And remember, just because things done fall into place immediately doesn’t mean that they never will.

        I planned to meditate in the mornings for a year before I actually started to. And now it’s just my routine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This is a very gradual progression for me, too. It’s also been somewhat unexpected at times and haphazard. Even when I plan well, things usually don’t turn out accordingly, but if my intentions are true, they work out for the best. Thank you again, for all your inspiration!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So much good here, lady … SO MUCH!

    It’s funny that you posted this, because I’ve been contemplating this similarly. I’m resisting the urge to make resolutions. Instead, I’m using this new week to quietly contemplate all the good I was left with at the close of 2015, and to imagine the good that might be ahead without making too many commitments yet.

    It’s a gentler way to ring in the new year, and so far I’m enjoying it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a hard post to write, actually! To begin, I think that yesterday was just a hard day. But I agree, the gentler approach feels so much better than setting firm, committed, measurable goals. Plus, it’s much more in keeping with the idea of who I want to be, which is a sort of a mindfully fluid, always adapting, inconstant *thing*. Right now, if anything is undermining my peace of mind, it’s comparisons – between myself now, where I think I ought to be, and where I think I was doing better at this time last year. I have never been one to spend much time relishing my successes. My old way of thinking would be, “Any good I achieve is behind me, and I need to focus on the parts that still need work.” I can’t believe how easy it was for me to come up with my 11-page list of “resolutions.” Some of them were *very* black-and-white. Even as I was flipping through my notes last night to write this post I thought, “Oh, well, a couple of these aren’t too bad…” So the stack of note pages is still sitting on my counter.

      I want to just trust myself that if I take care of ME, then all the rest will fall into place, and if it doesn’t, then it was never that important to begin with. The stack of resolutions is moving closer to the trash…

      Wishing us both a very gentle, very kind 2016… ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I so understand all of this.

        I’m a little further down the road from you, in terms of years post-recovery, and I can honestly say that shedding those high expectations for myself and going gentle has left me so much healthier and more fulfilled.

        I’ve lost a lot — and I do mean a lot — of my need for success and affirmation. The result is that my life looks messier, and the journey has far more bends and loops in the road. But I’m also a lot happier, and I have some beautiful stories to tell.

        I’ll be thinking of you. It sounds like you’re shaking free of the old Western linear narrative that forces life’s journey into a constant upward climb … And that’s hard. But really: as much as our upbringings tell us otherwise, it’s okay to stop and enjoy a sunset, or double back now and again to say hello to an old friend, or to take some time off to pick flowers by the side of the road. It’s okay to get lost, as long as you don’t stay lost. And it’s okay to fail, if failing leaves you freer to try something beautiful and new. All this is part of the adventure.

        I hope I’m not sharing too much, or sounding like a know-it-all (oh, gosh, I have so much left to figure out. And that’s okay, too.) Please just know I believe in you, and I believe in the magic of the winding road for you.

        Excited to see what 2016 brings you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. YES!!! Yes to all of this! Oh, goodness, that is *IT* exactly! Yes, I want to cast aside my expectations, get lost on the side roads of a messy life, shake myself free of what society tells me I should be… I want to stumble and pick myself up, see the beauty in that, smell the flowers, and paint them, too! You are so far from being a know-it-all. I would say you are a comfort and encouragement! I can’t wait to see how the coming year unfolds for us 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes I also have this feeling to be not good enough. I could be better in a lot of things, but then I remind myself of those things that I did, that I can do. I also get mad whenever I am too much afraid to do something. Last year I took my first one week trip on my own. Flew 8 hours. I never did something like that before. I always traveled with friends or my family, but never alone. But I knew that I wanted to do it, and I would regret it if my fear would win. So I did it. And it was the best time ever. It also made me stronger. I realized that I can do it, and there was nothing to be afraid of. There is no better feeling that overcoming fear. But it is not easy. Too often it holds me back.

    Overall I think you are your own hardest judge. At least I am often too much criticizing myself. I heard, that when it comes to resolutions, you should think of how you want to see yourself in six months from now. Setting yourself small goals. Think about what you like about your life and things you wanna change, and set priorities. And don’t try to change completely. Always stay true to yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Sanny! Thank you so much for sharing this story and your wonderful insights! You are absolutely right! I think we are our own toughest critics, and the feeling of facing down a fear and overcoming it is unlike any other! Congratulations on your amazing travel experience. I often ask myself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” We each have such potential, and there is so much out there in the world to experience, but you are right, it isn’t easy. The threat of failure or of getting hurt is often real, though sometimes I exaggerate the consequences in my imagination. I like your approach of staying focused on where I want to be in the future and making very small changes to get there. A little bit at a time. And staying true to myself!

      I hope we both can have a year of working through some fears, discovering our inner strength, and creating magnificent experiences along the way! Thank you so much for your kind words.

      ❤️ Lulu

      Liked by 1 person

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