Midlife Rebirth

I stumbled upon another brilliant talk from Brené Brown. Not sure what the full interview was about, but what was shared here is about the growth that comes midlife when we realize that most everything we have been working toward doesn’t make us happy. Whether you are in a midlife crisis, or in your 20’s and choosing your path, she has some sage advice. Here are some things that resonated with me.

Know Your Theme

Like any good fictional character, I believe we all have a theme, a challenge that we work through in this lifetime. Our key challenge usually centers around similar issues which we are here to learn and grow from. What is your whole life defined by? My lifepath is an exploration of self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-empowerment. Whether in my personal relationships, my career, or even my health, every obstacle in my path usually relates to one of these themes. Knowing that we have a theme can help us get out of the weeds, see things from a broader perspective, approach worldly challenges differently, and see our life in an expansive way.

Let Go to Grow

We learn a lot of tactics in our youth to survive when we have little choice in matters. That is all well and good. What becomes a problem is taking these survival tactics, our armor, into our adulthood. Oftentimes what protects us in youth, no longer serves us in adulthood. When we see this intellectually, it may still be difficult to release these old tools and tactics, but when we can, we open the door to growth and becoming who we are truly meant to be.

Define Your Joy

As I started my midlife rebirth decades ago, this was the first lesson I embraced. When we can stop looking at our peers, our families, and our communities for what is prescribed as the best life, we can begin to explore what really makes us happy. Taking the time to discover, define, and accept what makes you you can help you make better choices as to where you spend your time and energy.

Enjoy the Ordinary

In our youth, we look for accomplishment and acclaim for our worth. As life provides us with trials and challenges, we begin to be grateful for the ordinary moments. It is hard to imagine someone going through the past year and not now being grateful to move about freely or to hug their loved ones. Unfortunately, it often takes tragedy and hardship to help us realize what really matters.

Share Your Gifts

Once you stop playing society’s game and embrace yourself and your purpose, have the courage to share it with the world. There is only one you. You may have something the world is to receive. Maybe it is just something for your community or family, but there is a light, a gift you are here to share. Stop holding yourself back. Embrace you. Embrace your purpose. Gift it to the world.

What is your experience of midlife rebirth? Share with us.

curb your ego

I get in the way of my happiness

How I get in the way of my happiness may not be what you think. You may be thinking I refuse to accept things that would make me happy or don’t allow myself to ask for what I need. Both of which I have done in the past, and still do more than I would like to admit. No, the other way I keep myself from joy is focusing on my ego, my needs, my perspective, without allowing myself to see and be in the bigger picture. When I focus on my ego – my little insignificant self, my perspectives, my assumptions, my expectations, my intellect, my public image, ad nauseum – instead of being more secure and happy, I am less.

Years ago, I wrote a post about how taking on a different persona when playing Wii made it easier to take risks and not to take failures so personally. Since then, I have been receiving lesson after lesson about how surrendering myself, my ego, brings more happiness. My new favorite book, The Art of Living, explores this topic. Here are my thoughts on finding joy by releasing one’s ego through living in the moment with humility and equality.

curb your ego
Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash

Live in the Moment

We humans tend to live in the present through the filter of our past. Using our past experiences and perceptions, we create a story about what is happening currently. We are not in the present moment. We are in our minds playing out a story about the present moment. The story we create is not the truth about this specific situation. Just because a red car cut us off in the past, does not mean every red car is going to cut us off.

We feel more secure when things are known and predictable. We don’t do well in the unknown and therefore we create certainty by assuming that things will be like they were before. It is a story we create in our minds to understand and make things concrete. We would rather believe a lie than to sit in uncertain unknowing. We want to believe this manufactured truth, because we think we will find peace in the certainty. We don’t.

When we try to define a situation or predict the future based on the past, we miss the reality of this very moment. The past can inform and instruct us, but when we assume that things will be exactly like they were before, we are creating expectations which usually fall short. Instead, if we can be in each moment, experiencing everything fresh and new, we can see the reality of the situation without bias from our previous experience.

Live with Humility

Humility is usually thought of as making one’s self lower than, less than. Humility is actually defined as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” It is arrogant to believe that our firm, ridged views are 100% correct and infallible. We think that being certain in what we know will give as safety and security. I have found the opposite to be true. When I can release my strong beliefs and approach the world with wonder and openness, I feel calm and at peace. Certainty is a rigidity which takes away our power and strength.

If I swear that the sky is green, if my parents believed the sky is green, if their parents believed, I would fight and dispel anyone with contrary beliefs. I need everyone and every fact to align with my thinking to feel safe. Instead, if I thought the sky was green, but had an open mind I could then analyze any new opinions and thoughts, discerning if they were valid. My self-worth would not be victimized and traumatized by new information. I would not need agreement from others to feel ok.

Many philosophies talk about the “I don’t know” mind. Even if you are well-versed in a subject, instead of assuming you know what is right or what is going to be said/done, be open to the reality of the moment. You may have predicted it correctly. You may not have. But holding on to arrogance that you know exactly how things will be, or how they should be, causes stress. Give yourself a reality check. How much of what you knew five years ago is still the hard-core truth of today? Things change and shift. Nothing is set in stone. Be open to receive and discern new information.

Live with Equality

The ego also takes us out of happiness by telling us we are better than, or less than, others. My husband and I listened to a great podcast the other night that showed how a sense of entitlement seems to be invading our society. Humble your ego. Level the playing field. You are not above – or below – anyone else. Stop judging others by self-created differences. Stop putting others down to raise yourself up. Everyone is equal. Nothing raises us above another – not age, race, gender, education, finances, celebrity. We are all one.

To release your ego and find true peace, live in the moment without the taint of previous experience, act with humility and an “I don’t know” mind, and accept everyone, including yourself as equal.

eeyore and friends

Emotional Contagion & the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, Christmas everywhere, and a plethora of holidays around the world, no doubt idyllic Norman Rockwell images pop into mind. Or maybe Norman has been replaced by the formulaic sentimentality of the Hallmark holiday movie industry. Either way, we are transported to visions of sugar plums, loving connection, and unconditional support wrapped up in a perfectly tied silk bow and served alongside steaming hot chocolate with two heart-shaped marshmallows.

And then we go home to our families.

Now don’t get all huffy my family of origin, I am referring to the Royal We family. Not any of you specifically.

When people get together, even people who love and care for each other, things are not always perfect. The reality of our lives is that we are all human and imperfect. We have bad moods. We have differing opinions. We have expectations which are hard to live up to. And it is gosh darn hard to maintain a joyful attitude all the time, especially if we have someone experiencing a Scrooge moment around us.

eeyore and friends wallpaper

But it is important that we try. I recently read an article which explores Emotional Contagion. Emotional Contagion is basically how, like we can catch a cold from those around us, we can also catch others’ emotions. Because humans mirror and mimic each other, one person’s bad mood can ruin the mood of everyone around them, and then everyone around those people.

What can be done?

First, don’t be “that guy.” Be aware of your own emotional state. What are you experiencing that you might unconsciously transmit to others? Clean up any Negative Nelly thinking before you hit the party circuit or share anything on social media. It may feel good to scream out the negativity, but if you knew it would not release you from your bad mood but instead spread the crud to others, would you still do it?

Next, watch out for “that guy.” It may be an Eeyore at work, crotchety Uncle Bill, or your best friend on a bad day. Doesn’t matter who it is. What is important is to keep your eyes open for someone who might be spreading holiday anti-cheer.

Once you have identified the ground zero of negativity you have two choices. First, try to help the poor soul. Usually the person experiencing a bad mood is not enjoying being grumpy any more than you enjoy being around them when they are grumpy. Empathize, distract, encourage, instill gratitude. Look to your toolbox of things that make you happy and see if any of them can break your friend out of their mood. Second, run away. If someone is in a funk and you are not able to help them escape it, get yourself a safe distance away so you don’t catch – and spread – what they are exuding.

During the holidays, and every day, decide if you want to spread cheer or negativity. Acknowledge your ability to make this a happier, better world by controlling your emotions and if/how you take on the emotions of others.

a delicate dance

The Delicate Dance

It has come to my awareness recently how much of my anger, sadness, resentment, and victimization all stem from focusing on my ego. It is important to differentiation what the ego is and is not.  Lately every time I am triggered by something it is because I assume someone is doing something to me or not thinking of me, therefore bruising my ego. The truth is, I’m not that important. Others are taking care of themselves. They are thinking about themselves. They are doing what they are choosing to do. All with zero or minimal thought of me. And rightly so. I do the same. We are all the lead character of our play, while everyone else is but a small bit part. My ego takes over when I assume I am the leading character in everyone’s play therefore making everything being done because of or to me. Not true.

Our ego gets us in trouble. The ego is constantly wanting to be seen, protected and focused on. The truth though is we are not our ego. We are not our career; we are not our role as mother/sister/daughter; we are not the labels we have adopted (conservative, liberal, feminist, gun rights advocate). We are not the star of anyone’s play, even our own. What we truly are is what I choose to call our soul. Our soul is our being without any title or label. It is that ephemeral drive which makes some of us love horses and others love Shakespeare. It is what has created our theme and challenges in this life. It is what exists no matter where we live, what we do, and who we interact with.

Our ego is of this world. Our soul is beyond it.

What is fun – and challenging – about this lifetime is we need to be in this world, but much of our happiness steps from being beyond this world. When I returned from Peru, I did not feel or act of this world. I stopped playing the game of wanting a certain job, being consumed by the latest television show or fad, and being worried about anything this transitory world produced. I had never known peace like that before. Think about it. Write down the top five things you are focused on or concerned about right now. Would they matter to someone on the other side of the world? Will they matter in five years? Is your belief about its importance based solely on your chosen societal values? Did you value the same things ten years ago? Will you still value them ten years from now?

a delicate dance
Photo by 7 SeTh on Unsplash

All of the anger, sadness, and resentment I experience is based on and in the transitory world. Remember being devastated at not receiving an A on your college thesis or not being asked to the dance by the person you were smitten by? How important is that class now? Can you remember your crush’s name? Remember the 5×5 rule and release any pain being created by the transitory. Releasing the focus on our ego world is what gives us peace.

And yet, we have to focus on the world around us. Unless you are a monk cloistered away for the rest of your life, you need to be in and deal with the world around you. That is the dance of life. Meditate in the morning to touch the great beyond. Deal with traffic going to work. Open your heart to a friend who needs love and support. Spend five hours on hold with your cable provider. Use music, movement or creativity to release your passionate soul. Spend an hour making a meal that will be consumed in five minutes.

As the saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It is amazing and wonderful to touch on the enlightenment of seeing beyond this world. While we are simultaneously loving and dealing with living in this world. That is our delicate dance.

bunny on the subway

The Definition of Insanity

I saw a little boy learn a lesson the other day. At least I hope he learned from the experience. I was at the bank and the front of the bank was all glass. Even the doors were glass. The doors were not trimmed with metal; there were just two brackets top and bottom and the rest of the door was all glass. I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the glass doors. A young boy was playing with the door. He opened the door enough so he could touch the difference between the wall glass and the door glass. And then, unfortunately, someone left the building and the boy’s fingers were stuck between the door and the wall. I have never heard someone scream out in pain like that before. And then it was heartbreaking to see his mother have to open the door, causing more pain, to get his fingers out. It was traumatic for him and everyone who witnessed it. I can’t blame him for the incident. The door was cool and I can see how it would be fun to play with it. I am guessing this was his first time seeing this type of door and he could not have known better.

bunny on the subway
France mass-transit system Photo: Melissa Heisler

What I would blame him for is if it happens during his next visit to the bank. Sometimes we need to have painful experiences to learn lessons from them. It happens. But if we constantly repeat painful experiences, we have to ask ourselves why? How many of us have painful experiences, but instead of learning from them we keep repeating them again and again? We know bad boys are only going to break our heart, but here we are again dating a tough guy. We know we have to take heartburn medication after eating certain foods, yet our next meal we choose the same dish that upset our stomach the last time. Why do we keep repeating our mistakes? Why do we not learn from our mistakes and decide to choose differently next time?

I think it has to do with our expectations. “Men are always going to hurt me.” “My family all have stomach issues so I will too.” We think we are predestined to pain and disappointment. I do not believe that is true. Yes, we could have been born into a social setting filled with people we could not trust. Yes, we may have some genetics which make certain foods irritable. I do not believe however, that we must continue to choose to bring pain into our lives. As adults we have a choice of who we hang around, what we put in our bodies, and how we approach life. Yes, we can choose to repeat things that bring us pain. And we can also have the courage to choose to do something different and ultimately better for ourselves.

What is causing you the most pain right now? Is this the first time you have felt this pain or can you point to other similar issues? Are there any thoughts which make you feel like you deserve this pain or that this pain is inevitable? Are those thoughts 100% provable true in a court of law? Do you know three (3) people personally or in the larger world who act as if your beliefs are not true? How would your life change if you did not believe those thoughts?

As you go about your day, watch for painful thoughts and incidents that you are repeating in your life. What thoughts make you believe this is just a part of life? Even if it is just a little bit, how can you choose differently?

conformity

I’m Not Normal, and it’s Awesome!

For my entire life, I thought I was not normal. Not being normal, not fitting in, made me sad. I had a hard time relating to my peers. I wasn’t good in groups.  I laughed at what others didn’t laugh at, and it was awkward. I perceived the world in a way that others did not. I was not like other people. I felt alone and longed to fit in.

conformity
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In my 30’s, I had a brief stint with the cool kids. I was accepted as normal.  I was part of a group.  We did everything together. At first it was exhilarating. Until it wasn’t. What I realized was that to be part of the group, I need to think, act, and speak exactly how they did. Individuality was not welcome. I watched as they all started to have the same catch phrases, clothes and haircuts. They had to do the same things and were always together. They were lemmings. Identical little robots. To fit in, to be normal, I could no longer be me. As soon as I began to be me again, the group went away.  And that was ok with me.

Today, I may not be fully and utterly myself each and every moment. But I am certainly more myself, more not-normal than anything else. I don’t fit anyone else’s mold. I don’t look and act like others.  And I am pretty happy. Normal is defined at “conforming to the standard or the common type.” If to be normal is to be made to conform, to be like everyone else, then no thank you. I’d rather be me.

I saw a terrific TED talk the other day by Caroline McHugh. She is in the business of helping people to know, accept and truly be themselves.  She believes that we all know who we are and what we are here to express. We see it clearly as children and then begin to see it again in our later years. We see our truth without the fear of what others will think of us and without the restrictions of other’s expectations. We are boldly and unapologetically us. Being oneself frees us from comparison. I am not trying to be someone else so being more than or less than them doesn’t exist. I am not comparing myself to them and their accomplishments. My only goal is to be fully, completely and solely me. As is mentioned in the TED talk, when “we have our own thing, that’s the magic.” We can never excel by imitation. Success, achieving our life purpose is found only by embracing the true self we were each meant to be.

In being our self, we not only remove comparison, but we can accept ourselves completely. I have been listening to an Insight Timer course by John Siddique called Self-Acceptance through Authenticity. In one of the modules, I finally felt a piece of myself integrate making me whole, maybe for the first time. For many years, I have rejected the judging part of myself because I thought it was bad. The Myers-Briggs assessment told me I was a judger. My honest appraisal of myself tells me I am a judger. I felt this was bad. Judging others is bad, right? But it is innate in me, so did that make me innately bad? I have tried for decades to get rid of it, but I can’t. Judging is second nature for me. What finally clicked through this course, is that my ability to see defects and flaws in others is what allows me to be a good coach. I don’t attack people with my judgment it as I did when I was younger. I use this ability to see clearly and deeply into someone helping them to see themselves fully, so they can use the information to become the best person they can be.  I can not help from seeing people’s glitches. And that is ok. It does not make me a bad person. It is actually one of the things that makes me, me.

Being normal, adhering to a standard is restriction. We are not meant to conform to a standard. We are not meant to be anyone else. We are not meant to fit a certain mold. We are each unique and different and are here to bring something special to the world. Stop blocking your purpose. Be weird. Be abnormal. Be you. And notice how much happier you are and how the world is better because of it.