When I go through challenging circumstances of any kind, my first inclination is to blame myself. I look for ways that I must have been at fault to cause the hardship. This is even more the case when the challenges are from difficult relationships.
In fact, the single biggest thing that gets me in trouble in relationships is that I am so tuned in to what I think other people are wanting, needing, thinking, feeling that I am unable to honor my own wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. This leads me to ignore my intuition under the assumption that I must be the one that’s wrong when there’s a conflict between what my intuition is telling me and what someone else wants.
It’s precious to watch a young child (or a newborn animal) just learning to walk. They pull themselves up and stagger along on unsteady legs as they build their strength and learn to balance themselves upright. It often involves more than a few tumbles and moments of abrupt sitting down before their gait becomes natural and steady. And they must learn to walk before they learn to fun.
This process is not unlike my own process when it comes to learning a new way to approach life or replacing an unhelpful pattern with a new one. I begin practicing that new pattern (or new outlook) is unsteady ways that involve lots tumbles and shaky moments. Eventually, though, the new pattern becomes my new normal, and I can navigate it without effort.
Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?
Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.
I have tended to be hard on myself when I catch myself offering excuses for my behavior. I think of excuses as attempts to justify bad behavior by refusing to take responsibility for my actions. I still catch myself doing that more often than I’d like, but I’m really working on trying to own up to my mistakes and accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. I think this is a good thing and a sign of continued growth and maturity.
I’m running my link love post a little early this week to collect resources for helping out the Hurricane Sandy victims. While many of the resources I found and have listed below focus heavily on the U.S. east coast, please don’t forget that Sandy also did a great deal of damage in the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti where many still had not recovered from the earthquake in 2010.
The resources I list here are by no means comprehensive. Many religious organizations (like Christian denominations) have their own relief funds that could also benefit from additional donations at this time and may be a great choice for people who belong to those organizations, although those are not mentioned in the lists that I found.
I am not a big fan of spiders, and I am even less a fan of their webs—especially if those webs touch my skin. The feel of them with their stickiness creeps me out. And yet, I do marvel at the beauty of the those webs, particularly when covered in early morning dew that makes them glisten in the sunlight.
The dogged persistence of these creatures in creating such beautifully fragile structures is something that I can appreciate. It amazes how quickly they are able to rebuild their webs after one is destroyed using only these small threads that come from their own body—threads that are strong enough to catch their prey and yet remain so vulnerable to larger creatures and objects that pass right through them.
It reminds me of how easily the circumstances of my own life can be shredded by things much larger than I. When those times come, I have acted as the spider and rebuilt using the resources that I find within my self when I am forced to dig deep within. I am very fortunate to face such destruction and rebuilding much less often than the spider and to have much more outside support in the rebuilding process when it is necessary, but I am still inspired by the powerful image of her patiently rebuilding her life/web over and over again every time she needs to using the resources she finds within herself.
We’ve finished reading through the Pentateuch in my Introduction to the Hebrew Bible class this semester. It’s striking how much of instruction (torah) in these books is about how to actively live out one’s faith in the context of the world in which they found themselves at the time. While many of the instructions given for that time period in that setting no longer apply to our world today (like the animal sacrifices), it does make me think about how to best re-apply the fundamental concepts of loving God and loving neighbor in the world in which I find myself today.
As I look around me, I notice that there seem to be two primary ways that people go about this intentional practicing of their faith in the real world. Both have Biblical precedent, and both seem to be common approaches throughout human history.
I’ve been working hard lately at observing my thoughts and choosing to change the stories that I tell myself about my life and the things that happen to me. It’s making my entire experience of life radically different as I begin to see myself and the world around me with new—and much more positive—eyes.
As I’ve continued to observe my thoughts, however, I’ve begun to notice that I tend to default to asking “Why?” about the things that happen to me in life. I can spend many hours careful analyzing (and over-analyzing) why a situation turns out the way it did, why someone responded to me the way that they did, why I feel the way I do about something, why did what I did or said what I said in some situation. I do this about events, situations, feelings, or responses I don’t like—and about those that I do.
“The biggest disease of the mind is over-thinking, especially too much thinking about others. Thinking too much is like eating too much. The heaviness makes it impossible to remain light and flexible.” ~Unknown
I’ve had several conversations recently about over-thinking with a friend who is a self-proclaimed over-thinker, so the topic has been on my mind. There’s something about watching the impact that over-thinking is having on my friend that is making me more aware of just how much of an impact this tendency has on me. It’s not pretty.
“It is tempting to think that in order to change our experience of our world we need to force others to change. Such thinking is an abdication of our power to change ourselves.” ~Michael Lee (Founder, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy)
I’ve spent so much of life trying to force others to change in order for my experience of my own world to change. I have many years worth of experience to show that this approach does not work. As I have worked on my co-dependency issues, I’ve gradually been letting go of this pattern in the attempt to replace unhelpful and unproductive patterns with new ones that actually work.
Even as I’ve worked on releasing this pattern, though, I’ve never thought of it as an abdication of my power to change myself; I’ve only focused on the fact that it isn’t working for me. But the moment I read this quote, I recognized it as the truth. If I think someone else needs to change in any way in order for my life to change, then I am giving up my power to change myself. I am making the other person more powerful than I am in my own life.