When I’m overtired or especially hungry, I can sense my ears ringing, my temple aching and a steady pulse behind my right eye — the spot where my concussion, following a bike crash, lingered the longest. The pressure, instead of a curse, is now a faithful reminder that I need to check in with myself. It presents itself when I’m neglecting myself — whether from too much stress, not enough rest, hunger or some form of overlooked self-care. I’ll feel it and eventually I’ll know I need to tune in to myself.
Initially I made myself a little nuts over this relentless ringing. I wanted it to stop. I am one who craves quiet and recharges in solitude, so a steady ringing was not something I thought I could tolerate. I told myself it would stop eventually, but it has not. And so, I have learned that tolerating the ringing would, in fact, become something I could do.
Learning to live with the ringing meant that I needed to first let go of my desperate desire for it to go away. The more I clung to my need for it to be gone, the louder it rang and the more suffocated I felt. When I finally let go of the claustrophobic panic and accepted that it might always be with me, I could live with it. I have come to realize that occasionally I may have a moment of quiet — but it is nothing I can attach myself to or hold on to. It’s fleeting and the ring will pick up again where it left off. Never really leaving me.
So it goes with time. It ticks and ticks — steadily. Reliably. We can look at any device and be locked in to real time without even taking a breath. Time is there and we are always aware of it. I find that time ticks more persistently these days as we are unwinding ourselves towards the close of one year while winding ourselves back up for a new one. Yes, there is beauty in renewal and hope in letting go but there is also stress in expectations and resolutions.
Our human condition leaves us attached to time and to the measurable and quantifiable outcome of our lives. Ringing to the tune of life’s one big existential dilemma is this inquiry that gongs the loudest: “Does my life have meaning?”
We are not beings who have mastered the art of being unattached. We torment ourselves with our longings and desires to be free from our aches and our human-suffering. Maybe if we can just let go of that — this fear of our feelings and the belief that our feelings are hurting us — we might see that we can live a deep and rich life in connection with our feelings. All of them. And dare I say, with them guiding us to listen. To stay awake. To be present and attentive to ourselves.
I’d like to ponder the idea of letting go of this need for evidence and proof of existential meaning in our lives and move towards the belief and acceptance — the inherent knowing — that we are enough already.
If we accept ourselves as inherently good then we are. It’s when we question and second-guess that we get ourselves into trouble. We wind up walking up to non-experts and find ourselves passionately inquiring, “Am I okay? Did I do a good job? Am I a good person? Do I matter?” After about three weeks of a vulnerability-spiral and losing my perspective, I’m left with this for an answer: “Why on earth would we ever give our power away that much? Why would we ever ask another person to measure our self-worth and our life’s meaning? There is no better expert about you than, you. Truly.”
Instead of looking outside of ourselves this New Year, I’m inviting us to step inside of ourselves and take a deep, honest look at what we see. No critical voices. Not today. Just open-hearted curiosity. What do you see, really? You know yourself deeply. You really do — and if you can be truly quiet and still — you can feel within your own heartbeat a beauty that is just yours. Push all of the rubbish away, find the quiet, beyond the fear, and you’ll see yourself as you truly are.
With New Year’s we look for new beginnings. New fixes. New remedies. We don’t really need them. I’d like to ask you something we are so often afraid to ask, “What do you want?” I’m not sure if we’re afraid we won’t like the answer or maybe we think we’re selfish for asking. Or perhaps, we think it will be unattainable. Whatever your reasons for not asking, it’s time to put them aside and ask the one question that really matters, “What do you deeply, truly and whole-heartedly want for yourself?” Once you can honestly answer that, you then have to ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t I do whatever I need to do to make this happen?”
I believe we can write our own stories. We can find existential meaning in our lives. We can have purpose — we already do. But we have to be willing to do the work, invest in ourselves not because we believe we are broken or because we think we need fixing, but because we know we are whole. We already have everything we need inside of us. We have to want to live with that intention. Celebrating ourselves instead of getting in our own way.
If you step back, as I have, you may find that you get in your own way over and over again. That pattern will be there. Like the ringing in my ears and the throbbing behind my eye — old patterns and thoughts will always be there — but we can learn to use them as guides and reminders of how we want to be in a relationship with ourselves. And then choose a different dialogue and make choices guided by the belief that we are worth the good stuff. We actually can get what we want for ourselves if we navigate our lives from a place of self-acceptance, self-worth and self-love.
The firefighters have it right when they tell us to stop, drop and roll. They warn us: “Don’t run like a lunatic when you’re on fire or you will be engulfed by the flames!” And yet we do … or I would. If my sleeve caught on fire, my first response would be to try to shake it off and then to run from it. To run like hell! I wouldn’t slow down and assess, stop, drop and roll. And yet this is what I’m inviting us to do this New Year. To change.
Let’s stop running from our emotional sparks and the flames of our feelings. When we do this, we make the fire blaze, we believe our feelings have consumed us and we lose hope. We forget to pause, to breathe and to assess. To simply take notice of our experience. To hold it. And then mindfully choose our response.
We are our own bosses. Our own experts. We are good-enough already. We are whole. Jack Kornfield describes our human suffering as something we are destined to survive. I like that. The irony is that we are often just as afraid of feeling good as we are afraid of feeling bad. Think about that.
Please don’t make an unattainable New Year’s resolution another opportunity to feel bad about yourself. Why do we do that — make a resolution to make ourselves better? We aren’t broken. We are whole. My wish is for each of us is to see this in our daily living. That’s a life that has meaning and intention. We do the things we do because we are worth it — not because we’re making up for a shortcoming.
I am continually challenged with how I choose to respond to myself and to the people in my life. The only behavior I can control is my own. I make my choices. I set my goals. I meet them or I don’t, but the ball is always in my court and I have a choice about how I want to be in a relationship with myself. A loving one? A damaging one? A full one, or not? It’s my call. I won’t get it right all of the time. I know this. But I can begin again, and again and again with kind-hearted compassion. Taking each moment at a time. Staying with the moment I am in.
I just have to listen to the firefighters and stop, drop and roll. That’s my New Year’s resolution.
Take good, good care. Happy New Year to you.
Categories: Tri-Umphant Living