All to be shaken into remembering

More information isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes we simply need to remember. Trusting that we already know what we need to know, and that if we reconnect with that part of ourselves, we’ll be able to move forward.

After all, the word remember derives from the term memorari, which means, to be mindful of.

That’s all we’re doing here. Bringing perspective into our awareness to soothe ourselves.

Cognitive behavioral therapists might call it a psychological intervention. With that, we’re going to explore a few examples from my own experience. Think about each of these situations relates to your own inner life.

Beating yourself up about making mistakes? Remember that you’re a good person, you’re doing the best you can and there’s no reason to feel guilty.

Stressing out about a major decision? Remember that all the people in your life love you, and they’re still going to love you no matter what you choose.

Feeling disoriented in the world? Remember that you are in the stream of life and can never truly be lost.

Not employed as the world defines it? Remember that there are other ways to build your identity besides through work.

Feeling sorry for yourself during a particularly hard time? Remember that it’s hard for everyone and things could always be worse.

Hopelessness starting to creep in on you? Remember that meaning is a renewable resource and you can make as much of it as you decide to.

Vanderkolk, whose book has transformed our culture’s understanding of trauma, reminds us that the benefit of mindfulness, among many, is that it puts us in touch with the transitory nature of our feelings and perceptions.

When we pay focused attention to our bodily sensations, we can recognize the ebb and flow of our own emotions and, with that, increase our control over them.

That’s what happens when we remember.

What can happen if we start remembering that we’re no longer helpless?

The knowledge that your choice is unconventional

Oftentimes the thing that inspires moral outrage in others is when we choose not to do something.

Sobriety has historically been my version of this. Drinking or doing drugs never had any appeal to me. And no judgments to those who imbibed, it simply wasn’t my thing.

But in a college setting, I was definitely the freak at the table. Because when you disrupt that flow, there’s clearly something wrong with you, right?

My classmates made me acutely aware that my choice was something most people assumed was unnatural, and became yet another aspect of society where I didn’t fit in.

Awesome. Kind of made me want to grab a beer or pick up a joint, just to shut people up.

Isn’t conformity fun?

But there’s an upside to making unpopular choices.

If we choose to pursue fulfillment in ways that are outside of the norm, there’s a little dancing smile of satisfaction that comes over us.

Personally, the joy of arranging my life in the way that felt most right to me was more important than any temporary high. Getting to show how happy I was with a choice that confounded others made the rebellious part of me feel like a million bucks.

Sounds righteous and smug doesn’t? That’s fine with me. Any life choice closely examined could appear that way.

But in a world where people feel the need to constantly and publicly criticize every goddamn choice you make, you have to take your meaning where you can get it.

An old colleague of mine used to do this all the time. Every time he made a strategic recommendation for my business that didn’t seem right for me, and I said no thanks, he would always shake his head in arrogant disapproval and say, dumb move, man, dumb move.

As if his threat of regret was going to change my mind into living the life he wanted for me. As if emphasizing a lack of something I never wanted in the first place would convince me.

Nice try, but my job is to make my life feel meaningful in whatever way feels most right and true. And if you’re waiting around for one of those I told you so moments five years down the road, don’t hold your breath.

Frost said he took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference. When you view your life as a choice rather than a destiny, you feel the same way. 

Next time people are morally outraged when you choose not to do something, get out of the hot seat and back into control.

Don’t apologize. Own your life as a choice, not a destiny.

And it will make all the difference.

How will you navigate the once you fall outside the path that others have envisioned for you?

My throat closes just thinking about it

The thing about your wedding is, no matter how much you may dislike being the center of attention, there’s no stopping the indescribable experience of receiving that much love in such a short period of time.

It’s sweet, raw, pure and unstoppable.

And it’s particularly difficult if you’re a giver. Anytime there’s a prodigious amount of love energy coming back to us, we can’t help but get overwhelmed at receiving it.

Being seen in that way, at that resolution, makes you about as out of control and vulnerable as you can possibly be.

But holy valentine, what a gift it is to receive.

We should all be so lucky to have a crowd of people who truly love and support us, despite our most embarrassing imperfections.

Within ten minutes of walking into my own wedding reception, hyperventilation nearly took me over. I even had to spend a few minutes in the bathroom doing deep breathing exercises. Not only to lower my blood pressure and heart rate, but also to make emotional and spiritual space for all the love that was coming my way.

It was intense. And in fact, it wasn’t the last time the walloping experience of receiving pure love en masse would happen to me.

On my fortieth birthday, my wife instructed all my friends and family mail me letters telling me how much they loved me. She presented them to me in an oversized shoebox, and after about an hour of poring over every word, that very same indescribable feeling washed over me. Both experiences were similar in several ways.

First, in that human words could not contain the immensity of the experiences. To say my moments were full of gratitude, sadness, joy, connection, it wouldn’t do justice to the gifts that all those people gave me. To quote my favorite screenwriters:

Maybe when we die, the things we don’t understand will be clearer there, like when a fog blows away. Maybe there we say all those things they don’t have words for here.

Wow, my throat closes just thinking about it.

The second similarity of those events relates to the universal law that undergirds them. Both the wedding and the birthday taught me me that giving and receiving are not separate events. They are counterparts. Inextricably connected in that moment when human love is freely exchanged.

One doesn’t exist without the other. We can’t call ourselves generous if we don’t allow ourselves to receive gifts. We can’t call ourselves generous if we haven’t committed to accepting love from everyone and everything.

We must be, as the great poet says, blessed by the ability to receive love through many channels.

Another similarity between those two events was the perspective each one gave me on my own habits as a giver. Because in many cases, I personally become so excited by my gift that I forget the receiver’s need.

People look at me as if to say, dude, was this gift for me or you?

Crap, guilty as charged. That’s totally happened to me before. And it’s a sobering reminder that the intent behind the gift matters more than what’s inside the box. If we’re giving from a selfish place, people will sniff it out. And we will end up doing more damage than if we hadn’t given them anything at all.

Finally, here’s one last idea.

Jenkins, the founder of the award winning benefits software company, authored a beautiful meditation on the giving receiving continuum. He writes:

There are two types of givers. Ponds and streams. A pond is a closed loop. A stream is simultaneously open on both sides. And the most generous people are like streams. They have learned the art of both receiving and giving, and it seems effortless. They have the flow of generosity, as opposed to ponds, who struggle with anxiety about experiencing lack. Their body of water is only so large.

Which one best describes you? Are you a stream with a healthy flow, or a pond that stagnates?

If you’re the latter, next time you get a chance to answer the call to love, stop long enough for your heart to open. Allow the people giving to you to experience the benefits of generosity.

Playing defense is too much goddamn work. 

Are you trying to outrun suffering, or trying to accept love wherever you can find it?

Are you quite sure there is no strand of rebellion?

Rebels aren’t necessarily energized by flouting the rules.

What really motivates us is our desire to determine our own course of action. To view our choices as expressions of our identity. Whereas rebelling for rebellion’s sake can be overreactive, immature and potentially reckless.

It’s the moral equivalent to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And there’s a ton of nuance here. Rebellion is all about mindset, intention, posture and a host of other psychological factors. Not just raising a picket sign or a pitchfork.

What’s more, being a rebel comes with a cost. When we don’t conform with the group, we’re labeled as deviants, possibly less liked and even punished by the tribe. Unwillingness to conform carries the risk of social rejection.

The worst part is, constantly defending our valid choices is frustrating and exhausting. The price to pay for being a rebel, huh?

And so, we owe it to ourselves and those we love to really think about the place we’re rebelling from. Here’s a useful exercise that rebels can try.

Take one part of your life about which you’re deeply rebellious. Think about the last time you made a decision based on that mindset. Now ask some of these questions to dig into the psychology behind your actions.

*Were you pushing back against people’s pressures from an empowered place, or were you needing to be accurate in your opinion?

*Were you trying to be yourself, or just trying to be the opposite of everyone else?

*Were you joyfully claiming your own life choices, or were you closing your heart and acting in a reactive manner?

*Were you expressing your authentic individuality, or were you trivializing something meaningful just to appear edgy or cool?

*Were you following a genuine need for change, or were you another rebel without a cause?

Clearly, being a rebel is no joke. Making choices that are not sanctioned by society can establish us as the other. People might treat us like a child who doesn’t know our own mind. And that can be a lonely place to be.

Take it from someone who has isolated himself through his fierce individuality far too many times. If you’re going to go your own way, pray you’re doing it for healthy reasons.

Ultimately, we should all be careful about the degree to which we build our identity around how unlike everyone else we are.

Because if it comes from a place of empowered choice and genuine values, then it’s worth it.

But if it’s only done to preserve ego, then the result might backfire.

Have you accepted the cost of choosing to pursue fulfillment in ways outside of the norm?

Sign up for daily updates


Daily updates straight to your inbox.

Copyright ©2020 HELLO, my name is Blog!