Sunday, July 27, 2014

What If . . .

There isn’t enough room
in your mind
for worry and faith.
You must decide
which will live there.

Tortured - MHopkins - Trim Castle, Ireland © 2014
I passed a neighborhood church with a sign that read:  “Worry is the dark room where negatives develop.”  Something in its message resonated to my core, not because I’m a worrier by nature but because, when I do, the train of “what if’s” can carry me to a dark and fearful place in a flash.  It’s not logical.

Like one of my students who, after nearly making herself sick with worry, suffering from insomnia and a whole host of physical symptoms that mirrored her chaotic mental state, confessed that she was worried that if she didn’t do well on the LSAT she would never be able to buy her own home.  What?  Let’s unravel that thought process; break it down for me.  I insisted.  She explained that if she didn’t rock the LSAT then she wouldn’t get into law school.  If she didn’t make it to law school she would never realize her dream of being a lawyer.  If not a lawyer, she wouldn’t make enough money to support a mortgage payment.  In a world full of homeowners who are not lawyers, it was easy to see the fault in her logic.  But it wasn’t logic that cast such a dark shadow on her thoughts. 

It reminds me of the parable about the young business man traveling along an unfamiliar road in rural America when he was stopped by a flat tire.  He couldn’t find a jack in his rental car, and it was impossible to change a tire without a jack, so he set off on foot for the closest home or business where he might ask to borrow a jack or at least a phone to call for help since his cell phone didn't have service.  As he walked, he imagined his conversation with the homeowner ending in rejection.  “No I don’t have a jack.”  “No you can’t use my phone.” And so on.  At one point, he even had an argument with the man he had yet to meet who had yet to refuse him help.  By the time he arrived at the nearest house and knocked on the door, he was so bent with anger and frustration that when the homeowner opened the door he screamed, “Never mind!” and walked away in search of someone who would help.

Worry, at best, is a misuse of the imagination!  At worst, it is the shackle that keeps us trapped in self-doubt and defeat.  Either you have some control over the situation or you don’t.  If you don’t, all the worrying in the world won’t make it so.  So next time you find yourself chasing that parade of horribles, ponder this:  What if all went pleasingly well?  What if you realized your greatest success? What if most of the things you’re worrying about never happen? 

What if…

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Come What May

Let go of what has happened.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

Maybe I was born this way, or perhaps my work as a lawyer informed my instinct towards this particular complex behavior: analyze what’s before me, anticipate what might happen next and plan around it; never be caught unawares.  Name it.  Label it.  Define it.  As if by doing so I can somehow prevent or create the inevitable.  While this may be a real strength for my business clients, or when planning an event, it can wreak havoc in my personal life.

Like when trying to have a baby.  Who knew it would be so complicated?  I monitor my basal body temperature each morning before I get out of bed.  Then I pee on a very expensive stick to see if I’ve ovulated.  My husband and I time “the deed” around all of this data, at the risk of sucking the joy out of sex.  I take fistfuls of supplements to strengthen my immune system and improve egg quality.  I haven’t had real coffee in over a year, worried about the impact of caffeine on my body and future baby, which may or may not come.  When I do get pregnant again, I’m certain to walk on eggshells for fear of losing the baby to miscarriage like the other two.  I spend a lot of energy trying to shape the outcome of something that time has proven I have very little control over. 

How many times have I tried to make something happen?  Waiting; so focused on what happened in the past; striving to make something happen in the future; trying to figure it all out.  It’s exhausting. 

We’ve all done it to greater or lesser degrees.  The offices of psychotherapists are filled with people who can’t quit doing it—this inclination to look to the future and dwell on the past; to micromanage the way it will all turn out.  It’s maddening, and quite possibly our greatest obstacle to finding true happiness and peace of mind.

Yet how can we be expected to stay grounded in our experience moment by moment when filled with dreams and desires that require some measure of forward thought, planning, vision and movement to make them real? Anyone who has pursued higher education, written a book, started a business, built a house, had a baby, or lived their dreams with any measure of success will tell you that it doesn’t just happen by waking up in the morning and wishing it so.  It takes action, commitment, planning and patience, while the crop ripens or the idea matures.

I’m learning that while having a vision is crucial to creating the life that I desire, things go much more smoothly when I let them unfold in their own time, when I give up control and let the how and why reveal itself, which is no easy task.  I’m not very good at it.

Still, I try. . . to let go, to not try, to just be; to relax right now, and rest; come what may.