This post is nearly a year in waiting. I remember writing a poem one night that captured its essence and the blog’s been bubbling, but unwritten ever since. Its time finally came...
I live from lists. Mental lists and physical lists adorn my world, offering continual productive bait for my seemingly waning attention span. I have so much to achieve and many expectations to live up to. So many tasks, people to contact, things to write, stuff to organise. I wonder what mood I was in when I wrote my last list. I am surprised it didn’t remind me to clean my teeth and check I was still breathing. And with this, I wonder if I have lost faith in my own motivation. Instead, I’ve started relying on bits of paper to keep me on a track; as an acceptable functioning member of society in the 21st century.
I returned to England a few weeks ago. Flung immediately into the Christmas period and surrounded by family and friends. The transition from USA life to UK life is never seamless. It seems to take several weeks for me to fit myself back into the groove of those around me. All the while, recalling and relearning my own history. Today, writing this, I remind myself that each moment brings an opportunity for recovery. At Christmas I’m reminded of those extended family members who’ve slipped quietly into my past. Unable to shake from the chains of our earlier mistakes and judgements, we’ve become strangers. As I grow older though, I’m beginning to see these moments of awareness as an opportunity for change. In the past I may have drowned in the fear of judgement rather than embracing mine and my family’s vulnerabilities. Moments of awareness are now opportunities for recovery. It’s never too late.
So, I’d like to share this because I think it’s what we do. This is the human part of us. Relationships are part of human life, whether they are negative, positive or neutral, they are there and with every interaction follows a ripple effect. Like a pebble dropping into water, each conversation or silent interaction we have will bump together with those experiences of others and momentarily create unknown ripples of their own. The law of unexpected consequences means really that, that they are unexpected. We can’t know what consequences will come from our actions. We can only guess, wish or even deny our part in it. Like it or not though, just being alive means you are a pebble thrower! Creating ripple after ripple, every moment of every day. So with being human comes a huge responsibility. How do we choose to ripple out into the world around us? Do we want to cause gentle splashes that tickle those around us or tidal waves that shunt them into reaction? How can we responsibly throw pebbles without exhausting ourselves?
Several years ago a friend, in jest, asked me if I was catholic. I appeared to him to be carrying a lot of guilt on my back which was disorientating me. This observation helped me enormously. As an experiment, I recall removing ‘should’ from my vocabulary. Just say that word, ‘should’ aloud and be aware of its impact on your body. For me, it feels heavy. So over the years, as the word has popped up in my mind, I’ve respectfully allowed the thought it was contained within to pass me by. With thoughts come feelings and following a heavy feeling isn’t going to lead you in a healthy direction.
As a result, I’ve learned that I am best help to others when I am genuine and in order to be genuine I have to be present with them. By present I mean, fully in the room. Not thinking about my plans for later that day, resenting them for taking my time and not swimming around in my own fear or judgement. All this requires a genuine commitment which often doesn’t spur from a ‘should’ driven action.
It’s not that I let others’ pain pass me by, quite the opposite actually. I have found that there is a time and a place for deliberate action. There is also a time and place for deliberate inquiry and unpicking of the past. So now, allowing myself to act upon genuine feelings rather than any guilt-driven means I have genuine and healthy intentions. We humans are hard wired to care and feel compassion. We don’t have to try hard to have wonderful impacts when our intentions are genuine. This is what I call responsible pebble throwing. I can feel the difference because when I’m not genuine, actions feel like I am wading through treacle. In contrast, a genuine action feels light but focused, with little to no second guessing going on in my mind. Over the years it’s also allowed me to look after myself properly, which in turn has offered others ‘the best of me’. It’s been a win, win development. I am excited to trust that things will happen when they are supposed to, instead of forcing something into being and suffering from the unintended consequences.
So what if, in the moment that we became aware of an inclination, we just followed it? What if we unlearned the rules, discarded all the shoulds, coulds and can’ts that we’ve acquired and instead, what if we just moved forward into the unknown? Trusting our intuition to reflexively guide us; step by step, moment by moment. What if pain is unavoidable, but continued attempts to buffer against it is actually creating unnecessary suffering? There is nothing wrong with being kind to your self.
I believe that at the heart of all of this is learning to trust that underneath any concerns or fears you have, you have a silent list of genuine tasks that present themselves at the right moment. Much like my previous GPS analogy! With our wisdom we are always recalibrating. You just have to be able to be quiet enough to notice those inclinations and silent, but guttural tugs to take you back in the right direction.
If we believe that we are more than the loud words in our heads, what impact does that have? If you believed that you were more than the churning of memories and or insecurities, or even that you are more than the incredibly important list of tasks you have to accomplish. How would that change the way you related to those around you?