A few thoughts on focusing on what you can control.
Consistently, throughout my life, I’ve had the same reoccurring dream-mare. It’s mixed of one-part wonderful dream and two-parts terrifying nightmare. It always begins the exact same way. I am standing on the ground next to my grandparent’s little farmhouse and I take off running, after I gain enough speed, I lift off the ground and suddenly, I begin to fly.
I’m relaxed and joyful as I start to gain altitude. The problem is, I’m terrified of heights. And apparently, that also applies to my unconscious state. Because as soon as I get high enough, I look down, freak out, and suddenly begin plummeting toward the earth. The only thing that ever saves me is if I relax once again, settle my mind and stop focusing on the horror of the moment. Then I feel the rush of air once again lifting me.
I think that applies to life. The more you freak out, the worse it gets. And bringing ourselves back to the moment is never an easy feat. I oftentimes think we are built with a propensity to remain in the chaos. We erroneously believe if all our focus is on the problem at hand then we have the ability to change it or fix it. The problem is, there’s so much we have zero control over. We can focus and obsess on it all we want. But attempting to exert control, where we have none, is well, insanity.
I have yet to meet anyone who has been exempted from the human struggle. We ALL have our thing. The degrees may vary. But the truth is, we all have had an overwhelming difficulty to deal with. And if you are sitting there saying you haven’t, well then, yours just hasn’t shown up yet.
I know people who have dealt with abuse. I know people who have been homeless. I know people who battle depression, daily. I know people who struggle with their weight. I even have family members who have had to struggle with a lifetime of physical pain. I have friends who have been left by the love of their life and are still seeking some semblance of reprieve and hope. I’ve even had friends this week who have had their chests cracked open while Doctors repaired their heart.
The truth be told, the human condition is called life, and it’s never really easy.
If you’ve ever been part of a 12-step program you will know that the Serenity Prayer is a highly regarded key. I don’t think I ever really appreciated it until I came to the place where I had to sink my teeth deep into it. Various versions began showing up in the 1930s but you are likely most familiar with this.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
And that is how you transcend your life. That is how you overcome those difficulties. You do your part for the things where your efforts would be rewarded. But to the rest, you say f*** it! You grow a pair in situations where it calls for you to make an effort. But you let go of those things you have no control over and you focus on that which truly matters. The more you focus on the negative and those things you can’t control, the more you will lose altitude and move away from everything you want.
You can remain in the middle of your difficulties or you can rise above them. That’s what transcending your life is all about. But it can only be accomplished when you relax into the positive forces in your life and move your focus away from the problems and especially the fear.
And yes, that applies to the most severe and dire of situations. Anne Frank always comes to mind when she said that “despite everything, I still believe people are good at heart.”
Since I lived in California last year, I’ve had a new appreciation for writers I hadn’t given much attention to before. As I’ve blogged about previously, my amazing little spot in Sacramento was Beer’s Books. I’d frequent that store more for therapy than anything. It really was magical to me. I found a meme recently that hilariously emphasized what I likely look like when shopping in a used bookstore and what my mind thinks I look like shopping in a used bookstore.
One of the authors I began reading more and more about was Jack Kerouac. I always sort of wrote him off as a poster child for the 60’s counter-culture which I had no interest in. But, when I picked up a copy of On the Road and focused on the prose, I fell in love. It was actually written in the late 1940s and as Kerouac described it” a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.” But the way he wrote, especially for that time, was groundbreaking.
One of my favorite Jack Kerouac quotes is this.
You can live, travel, adventure, bless and never be sorry.
I loved the shared sense of wanderlust and searching. I really loved his political incorrectness. But what I loved most was that I could immediately tell, he got it. He got what you get when you show up on the other side of the struggle and that’s this unbelievable appreciation for life. It allows you to rise above most all issues that show up once you have come through your fire. And sometimes, you don’t come through your fire until you do “get it”.
You aren’t bound by your disabilities, economic status, sex, location, pain, marital status, and so on. There is no stone around your neck other than the one you keep there. You really can fly. Regardless of your situation. And no, as a matter of fact, it’s not always easy.
You’ll have to have the courage to change the things you can. You will have to let go of your problems that you have no control over. Then, you can live, travel, adventure, bless, and never be sorry. Life was made for living, even in the midst of struggle. It’s about the little things, like dragging a carefully crafted piece of bread through olive oil and spices at your little table outside a corner cafe. It’s about blessing others, just because you can. It’s about soaking up every perfect breath while you have them.
Do what you’ve always wanted to do, rise above your circumstances and go live!
And don’t you dare ever be sorry.