You are you.
And I am me.
Sounds simplistic, right?
But how well do I really know who “me” is? For that matter, how well do you really know “you”?
Would we be able to pick ourselves out of a lineup? Sure – if we saw a picture. But what if the only thing we were given was a written description – our likes, dislikes, personality type, strengths, weaknesses, preferences…..would you know you? Would I know me?
Answering just for myself here, I am not sure.
Years ago, my mentor, Lynn, told me, “if you are feeling anger, then it is not the right time to act.”
Lynn is still my mentor today, and she still tells me this from time to time.
I have also learned that it applies equally well in situations where I am feeling sadness or grief, anxiety or indecision, and, well, anything other than peace, basically.
Peace, Lynn has often explained and re-explained to me, is like finding true North on a compass, or the North Star in the midnight sky. It is always reliable. I can trust it. I can walk in that direction with confidence.
But anger might be pointing me South.
Sadness might ask me to go West.
And anxiety might have me heading off far to the East.
So if I don’t feel peace, it is always the right time to wait.
Not too long ago, I made a huge breakthrough in my self-work.
I had long been aware that there were certain walls – protective or otherwise – that I had through the years erected and even for a time maintained against others, be they situations, people, places, or even memories.
But it wasn’t until more recently that I realized I also had a wall up, and in place, against myself.
It started with my morning meditations.
What is a preference?
What is a priority?
Common definitions would indicate that a preference is something we like more than something else, and a priority is something we think is more important than something else.
Already, it is easy to see that a preference and a priority are not always the same.
Sometimes they are the same. It is great when this happens. For instance, my preference is to keep my body healthy. After 15 years battling an eating disorder, this is also my continual priority.
But other times, they are not the same. An example – my preference is to sleep in late every day. But my priority is to earn rent money, which sometimes means getting up early.
It can be problematic if we don’t learn to tell the difference between a preference and a priority.
Learning to live in the moment is no skill any child, pet, or insect has to learn.
It is the only skill they possess – the only one they know is possible.
This is also why pets, children, houseplants, and houseflies make such valuable mentors…..because we so easily tend toward forgetting this, and they are experts at reminding us.
If we are paying attention.
Moments matter for so many reasons. They matter because, quite literally, they are the only “life” we truly have. The past moment – the future moment – one we have already relinquished, and the other is not yet ours.
At the risk of sounding too existential, this is the bald-faced, incontrovertible, conscious truth.
If you are like most people (or at least like me) you probably struggle with certain emotions more than others.
For instance, with practice, I have gotten used to – habituated to, even – emotions like sadness and anxiety. But I still arm wrestle feelings of anger daily.
For me, anger is the no-no emotion.
For you, it might be grief. Or fear. Or even joy.
I have also noticed that I am actually kind of afraid of happiness feelings.
Happiness, identified and expressed, feels like a very concentrated emotional pill as compared with more familiar feelings of sadness and anxiety left over from more than 20 years of eating disorder recovery.
In other words, I am still getting used to happiness, whereas depression and fear have become old friends of sorts.
In this, my life coach and I have been working on what I like to call the art of emotional release. This technique is quite different from emotional clinging, emotional distancing, or simple disavowal of having emotions.
About five months ago, I made one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made and hired a life coach.
My life coach, Teya, is part therapist, part friend, part mentor, part cheerleader, and part (of course) coach.
This week, she said something so remarkable – I mean, she does that every week, but this week in particular I was just amazed that I’d never picked up on the subtle dangers of “wanting” before now.
She said, and I quote, “It is vulnerable to want things.”
She was speaking to my oft-expressed fear of late that I am not sure what I want.
I am often quite sure of what I don’t want (noisy neighbors, bird poop on the shirt I had planned to wear out later, having to wake up early) but I almost never feel as sure about what I do want.
Recently, a friend and I were catching up, and he asked me an interesting question.
“Do you believe in luck?”
I stumbled and fumbled around for awhile, and finally had to admit that no, I didn’t believe in luck.
I discovered that I do believe in hard work.
And I believe in serendipity (in my world, this is something like a cross between fate and divine intervention, which I suppose some might call luck).
But given that the formal definition of “luck” refers to something called “chance happening”, I guess my real issue is with the word chance.
If you’ve been following “Mentoring & Recovery” for awhile, you’ve probably noticed I write a lot about my bird, Pearl.
Believe it or not, this is not just because she is the smartest, cutest, most entertaining avian on the planet.
Although she is all those things.
It is also because she is the prettiest.
This is not an opinion.
She knows it, and I know it.
And everyone else knows it the moment they meet her.