The Plate Tectonics of Blame & Regret

life-is-a-reflectionI recently took one of those online quizzes that is designed to assess Who You Are and Where You Are At.  These were my quiz results: “Your results indicate you must stop blaming yourself.  It’s not your fault.  Your thoughts and feelings are simply disconnected creating Stuck feelings.”  

I like the gentle reminder that these encouraging words impart.  And I wonder how many other people received exactly this same message.  In other words, do these “results” hold true for everyone on the planet?  Or am I the only one who is feeling the disconnect of thoughts and feelings?

You must stop blaming yourself.

This is much easier said than done.  There is always going to be some second guessing going on in life that is going to lead you to blame yourself.  So many things.  A bad decision you made.  A time when you zigged when you should have zagged.  Words that slipped out of your mouth like thirsty little toads seeking a water source.

A detour that you should have taken instead of charging ahead into those warning signs of danger.  A job that you declined.  A house that you bought.  A health decision you made.  A lover you chose.  A friend that you trusted.  A horse that you bet on.

Self-blame.  What is it exactly?  Self-assigning responsibility for things that you have said or done doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.  After all, I am responsible for my own stuff, right?  But blame goes beyond this when you dwell on it, feel horrible about it, and then do nothing about it.  It’s okay to give yourself permission to stop blaming yourself when you take thoughtful responsibility and attempt to rectify the wrong that you have committed with compassion and empathy.  You can apologize.  You can ask for an opportunity to re-frame your thoughts in different words.  You can give someone a hug.  You can back up and try it all over again. You can ask for a pardon.  You can ask if you can try to make it right.  You can write a letter.  You can bake banana bread.  You can be patient and allow the other person time to feel angry or hurt.

And the effects of prolonged self-blame?   Prolonged self-blame quickly reduces to an ongoing state of regret.  We become mired in our own selfish thoughts of how badly we feel.  This, in turn, focuses the original action or words solely on us and robs us of the chance to make it right.

We might blame ourselves for something rash that we did or something foolish that we said . . . but to continue blaming ourselves over and over and over?  This is where blame evolves into regret. And it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that regret is joyful living’s natural assassin.  Regret robs us of any opportunity to be brave and to do the right thing.  There are certainly things that we are responsible for that are tough to make right.  But that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying.  This is where we call upon our Brave to kick into action.  It is a brave soul who can admit that he or she was in the wrong. This is not stuff for sissies.

It’s not your fault.

But isn’t it?  Isn’t it my fault?  No one held a weapon to my head while I said those hurtful things or made that bad decision.  There was no little cartoon devil on my shoulder urging me to max out my credit card buying heels and boots.  If it’s not my fault, then whose is it?

Fault is one of those concepts that gets tossed about with little regard.  It’s a hungry ghost that rides the backs of air molecules and never really lights.  It gets tossed about, bandied about, and argued about.  It gets assigned to others in nilly-willy ways and has no substance.

It’s true that if we accept the toss that’s aimed at us and we catch it, fault will linger for a while.  And maybe it is our fault to begin with, right?  But to carry it about will only lead to us, ultimately, sinking beneath the weight, most often forcing us to toss it to someone else to carry for a while.

Shift happens. 

If we are going to talk about the word fault, I prefer to think in geologic terms and plate tectonics.  A fault, geologically speaking is a situation where the earth’s crust has been stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form.  Imagine having two sections of your soul, Blame and Regret, moving relative to each other.  This action causes us to become stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form in our spirits and souls, creating chasms and pockets that become too dangerous to explore.  Dangerous because one never knows when there may be yet another seismic shift between the two relative forces.

Is there a better way to deal with the Plate Tectonics of our soul?  Understand that Fault Lines exist.  Be a scientist, measure, and plan for catastrophe accordingly.  Keep away from the the edge of the plates when possible.  Move inland to safer ground.  Take a deep breath and hope for stability.  Fault.  It does no one any good.  But it’s there, so be smart.  And if shift happens?  Channel that energy into something positive.

Your thoughts and feelings are simply disconnected . . .

Well, now.  This is something that feels like familiar ground.  Nothing newsworthy here.

Yes.  My thoughts and feelings become disconnected.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  But now what?  What’s next?  By taking this little quiz, I have implicated myself into wanting to better myself . . . to make my life better.  So what’s going to help me to re-connect my thoughts and my feelings?  How do I go about planning the big reunion?  I think part of the answer is in Un-creating Stuck Feelings.

. . . creating Stuck feelings.

Stuck is as stuck does.  Like love, debt, and what shoes to wear today, Stuck-ness is a decision.  Making a decision is a mental activity.  Making a decision makes the Stuck feelings go away.  There is some magic in this . . . magic that involves you feeling inspired to make the decision to be Un-Stuck.

My best self-advice when I am feeling stuck?  

Deep breaths.  Think.  Meditate.  Dance.  Call a friend.  Be mindful.  Breathe life’s goodness into my soul.  And above all: Try something new.  Albert Einstein is famously quoted for saying: Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  He also said, Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

You can’t stay stuck if you aren’t standing still.  Try something new.  Say something kind to a stranger.  Dance like a goof.  Join a marimba band.  Say you are sorry and make an action that shows it.  Take the risk of making a mistake that, yes, might create even more self-blame and stuck feelings.

Like trying to get the stubborn lid off of a jar when you have wet hands, it ain’t going to happen until you take a moment to dry your hands. Tap the jar lid a few times with a knife.  Run some hot water over the metal lid.  Get out your handy-dandy Cap Snaffler.  Do something.  And you’ll get the lid off of the jar and, with any cosmic blessing, you’ll reconnect your thoughts and feelings into a better place and allow yourself to see a kinder reflection when you look around you.

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Embrace Your Inner Honey Badger & Make Some Mud Balls

Escape your present reality and think like a honey badger.  Every time I watch this BBC documentary clip of the honey badger, I am so inspired by this animal’s persistence.  The honey badger’s focus on escaping the enclosure is nothing short of amazing.  It uses any and every resource it has to get to where it wants to go.  This animal truly is a marvel.  And what a lesson to all of us who doubt or fear or give up or don’t believe that something is possible.  The message straight from the honey badger itself: It is possible.  Just watch the video (4:12) and you will see what I am saying.  It is a hoot!

When I watch this video, I think about my life and about where I want to go.  Where I know I want to be. What I want to accomplish.  I am reminded of that quote by Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  Well, the thing is: I do know . . . and I am expending personal resource: time, energy, creativity, etc.

But still . . . am I using every resource that is available to me?

This honey badger’s tenacity shows me that the answer to my question is Absolutely not.  The thing is: I know that I am capable of so much more.  Perhaps this is what drives the pistons of life’s dissatisfaction or confusion or self-defeat within my inner world.  I know that I have so much more inside of me to create, to offer, to be.  In the video, the honey badger even makes mud balls (!) to stage its escape.  Mud balls . . . an escape prop out of dirt and water.  Maybe I am easily moved, entertained, and inspired, but I find this very inspiring.  This honey badger never ceases to execute the next escape plan with what diminishing resources are available.  It uses ingenuity to make its goal happen, no matter what “tools” are available.

The word escape has so many different connotations.  It can mean that I am escaping from something that isn’t pleasant or that is demoralizing.  Or it can mean that I am experiencing a moment of escape, like the feeling of reveling in the sunshine on that Maui beach . . . but still with life’s root-of-reality reminding me of that which I will be returning to once vacation is over . . . something that isn’t bad but that isn’t all that great either.

Watch the video below (4:12), be inspired, and then click on the aqua-blue link to a fun and inspiring journaling prompt below.  Have fun with the prompt.  It could very well have the power to create a ripple effect into how you choose to live your life.  I wish you the very best of energy with your respective dreams and goals.

pencil stubClick on the aqua-blue link below for today’s journaling prompt: Your Great Escape Plan

Your Great Escape Plan

[Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and add it to your journaling binder.   Take the writing journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.  Relax, read, think, feel, listen, write.  Repeat.  And enjoy the journey.  It is a fine one, and one that is perfectly-made just for you, I promise.  Life is meant to be grown.]

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Your Personality . . . & the Glory of the Choice

Vision Board 058Your personality . . . what is it exactly?  Aside from the usual adjectives of fun or moody or sunny or temperamental or intense or Type A or laid back or . . . what exactly? What does it really mean to be assigned a personality type?

We’ve all pondered the big debate of Nature vs. Nurture . . . how the spark of life is blessed/cursed/or combination-therein by congenital behavior . . . or wait!  Is it actually shaped by environmental and emotional factors?  And then these is all of the vice-versa stuff that leads one to accept and embrace both and then not think much about it.

Fascinating research points to many interesting findings that help us to understand Who We Really Are, our emotional and social intelligence, and our perception of positive and negative influences.  Nature or Nurture?  It is an enormous question that no one can really answer with total authority.  Take the story of the two children — identical twins, actually — standing on the ocean shore.  They are enjoying themselves while the salt water is gently lapping at their toes.  Suddenly, a rogue wave washes over the top of them.  The same wave, the same temperature of water, the same element of surprise.  One of the twins starts to cry and scream and run from the water. The other twin splashes back at the wave while laughing.   While this story would neither withstand nor support the rigors of a research study focused on Nature vs. Nurture, I like it nonetheless.  It gives me pause: Why not laugh?  It’s a heck of a lot more fun than crying and screaming.

And in the midst of all of this wondering and debating and agreeing, I do believe that there is much to be said for the concept of timshelthe Hebrew word for thou mayest.

When I think on topics of this sort, my mind wanders back to a Time of Great Impressionability in my life, and I was reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  What a book!  Well, “the story bit deeply into me,” and Lee’s treatise on timshel has stayed with me all of these curious years later — a testimony to the notion that life is one great impressionable moment after another.

It is my hope that sharing this gem of Steinbeck’s brilliance and wisdom will not act as any sort of spoiler.  The book is brilliant and one worth reading.  Like life, Steinbeck’s writing is intense and provocative and profound.  He writes the sort of story that stays with you throughout the years.  I thank Mr. Steinbeck for opening my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and my sense of wonder to the notion of thou mayest“the glory of the choice.”

Last week, I came across this quite lovely Personality Test online.  I normally don’t click on these tests, expecting some sort of hook to be set before you receive your “results,” but something prompted me to go ahead and try this one.  Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the link and visualize your responses to the prompts.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/this-cube-personality-test-will-absolutely-blow-your-mind?utm_term=.onK9zJNbz&sub=4259074_8744597

All done?

What do you think?  How much of the explanation of your visuals did you feel was accurate?  At the very least, I felt that I was given a sideways glimpse into me — parts of me that are actually true that I generally don’t consciously associate with my “personality.”  I think about Steinbeck’s artistic weaving of timshel into East of Eden . . . and I am reminded that thou mayest carries with it a personal(-ity) responsibility of creative and paradigm-shifting mindfulness that requires daily cultivation, acknowledgement, and celebration on my part.

Personality assessment aside . . . overall, we need not be so hard on ourselves.  I think we sometimes embrace the opinions of  people — people who truly don’t know us — with far too much zeal, and we assign too much authority to the editorializing that is done by others.  We have a proclivity toward jumping into the sinkhole: a morass of self-blame, regret, and guilt that we assign to nature- and nurture-defining personality quirks . . . epic actions that play with our hearts and attempt to define how we choose to forge present moments into future goals and dreams.  Or . . . is this just my personality?

I used to have a quote taped up in every room of my house: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  In the midst of one particularly Challenging Time, I was re-reading the quote, and I realized that I needed to make an edit.  I crossed out about to happen and scribbled in happening right now:

Always believe that something wonderful is happening right now.  

The current paradigm of Overwhelm in that moment screeched to a halt, and life felt like it took a gentler curve toward heart-healing and happiness.  When I realized that I had a choice to become someone new on the inside, my whole life shifted.  This epiphany didn’t segue into some neat and tidy story-book ending, but it did nudge me into a new place, such that I could get back into a timshel state of mind: “the glory of the choice.”

toaster ovenI leave you today with the prayer, the wish, the hope, and the thought that today is a good day for you.  A truly good day.  One of gratitude and filled with micro moments that tell you that Now is Now and life is evolving, constantly evolving, as something that is wonderful.  If this moment isn’t all that great, just wait for the next one.  It will be here before you know it — full of promise and full of timshel.  With some refining, life really can be borne from “the glory of the choice:  . . . keeping “the way open.”

Click on the highlighted link below to download today’s free journaling exercise.  Have fun journaling and putting a new spin on perceptions and keeping your way open!

The Glory of the Choice. A Different Spin. journaling prompt

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A reminder that gifts of beauty await when we keep our hearts open.  So lovely.

 

[P.S. Here is the real Spoiler Alert: To read a longer excerpt that discusses timshel in greater detail from East of Eden, click here.  If you are planning to read the book . . . do not click here.]

Just say Yes. Take a chance.

take a riskThis quote speaks directly to my heart.

I think of the times in my life when I have simply said Yes.  No lists of pros and cons. No SWOT or Force Field analysis.  No seeking of advice from another person.  No flipping of coins or swaying of the amulet.  Just pure trust in pure dumb luck.

I am thinking of those times when I didn’t doubt.  When I sidestepped land mines of fear.  When I took the labyrinth of detours with neither complaint nor concern.  When I let go of my attachment to an anticipated outcome.  Moments when I looked fate in the eye and said, “Pleased to meet you.  Tell me more.  Show me more.  This is awesome!”

honey-beeHappy chances of serendipity.  When I allow myself to love.  To fall in love.  To be myself.  To trust.  To embrace the promptings of my intuition.

These moments are enormous beyond wonder.  They are the moments when life is richly rewarded with the most unexpected of gifts.  Amazing and beautiful gifts.  In retrospect, these moments surprise me because they are the times when I surprised myself . . . when I allowed me to be true to my own self with no interference.

Being willing to take a chance that is True to Self is one of life’s richest rewards.  It is like reading a thick novel with a heroine you can admire.  She is someone who is willing to take chances and to live a life of no regret . . . someone who is willing to trust herself.  Although she has flaws, you cheer her on precisely because of her flaws.  She doesn’t let her less-than-stellar experiences and choices hold her back from fulfillment.  Who doesn’t want her to find her bliss in the final chapter?  I certainly do.

It feels so great — magical really — to take those humbling chances and live a life of no regret.  Many times we question our common sense, our motives, our resources.  We wonder if we are ever going to be truly happy or feel whole.  And then it happens.  toaster oven

We receive the reward of taking a chance.  Life is magnified when this happens.  We still see our own flaws but they are diminished by the courage it took to take the chance that would propel us out of darkness into light.

History is being written in the finest of ways.  There are happy endings.  They do exist.  Life may not appear to be perfect on the outside.  But a life of no regret as a result of taking chances?  It is perfection.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is one of those epic poems that has spoken different things to me at different times in my life:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .”

These days, I read these words, and I no longer see me standing at the trailhead as a solitary traveler.  And I am not standing in one place to ponder in long-I stood mode — as I once might have.  I am discovering the beauty of the African proverb: “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.”

suitcasesI want to “travel far” . . . be the path well-traveled or wildly untrammeled.  Be there a light backpack or a fabulous amount of luggage.  It’s all good . . . to be traveling far and taking chances with no regrets. To saying Yes.

When does life begin?

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I wonder what experiences led Eleanor Roosevelt to write or express such wisdom.  Today, they are words on the page that inspire . . . but I would suspect that there were some sleepless nights that provided the wisdom and the conviction to be brave, take risks, and look fear in the face.

I have not read any biographies about Eleanor Roosevelt and I would suspect that Eleanor experienced her share of uncertainty and doubt.  Looking “fear in the face”?  You can’t make this stuff up from fiction-based imaginings.  It would be like writing a story about miracles without having experienced one.  You just can’t make it up.  It is necessary to have lived it.

I take her one quote to heart: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  I don’t like feeling fear.  Fear is one of those queasy feelings that goes to my stomach and rests there like an ugly orc — ready to smite me down to smithereens if I steal a glance at it.  Fear is unpleasant, unpredictable, and unlovely.  It does not bring out the most attractive parts of me.  It gives me cause to doubt in my belief that something wonderful is about to happen.  It messes with my chi.  It gives me bad advice.  And it does not inspire me to lead by example.  Fear overpowers any other emotions.  It disallows my willingness to take a chance.  To do something risky.  It is a detour from bravery.  It is the absence of love.  And without love, what is life?

I have another Eleanor Roosevelt quote on my desk: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift.”  A gift.  Which leads me back to the reminder to do one thing every day that scares me.  This is all so much easier to write about in the wee hours of the night in my cozy house than to actually do.  Some days this gesture is a little thing.  Other days it is huge.  I have never regretted one single thing I have done while keeping Eleanor’s words in my heart.  I always feel better when I have chosen to beard the lion in its den.  If I succeed, my friends are there to celebrate with me.  If I fail, my loved ones are there to help me re-hash it with some degree of humor.  What is failure without a little light of humor shone on it?

People who are nearing the end of their lives have said that they didn’t regret the things they did.  Rather they regretted the things they did not do.  The same message with fancier language was written by Sydney J. Harris: “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

life begins quoteWhen does life begin?  “At the end of your comfort zone”?  Today is a celebration of looking fear in the face and going for it.  Pushing past your comfort zone.  If you are feeling a lack of confidence, remember: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  We are as free as we choose to be in the face of fear.  By disallowing fear, we invite love to enter.  And what an amazing thing this is.

When I think on these things, I feel a strange Muse entering my office.  Like a sobering calm has entered the room, and I long for spontaneity and laughter to overtake the moment.  But these moments have value in that they embolden me with the rootstock courage to be spontaneous, to take risks, to take the chance of making a mistake, “to do that which [I] think [I] cannot.”  I want to be wildly unhindered by a lack of regret.  I have been accused of being foolhardy and goofy.  Ditzy and capricious.  Irresponsible and risky.  Maybe these adjectives are the encouragement that I need to tell me that I am on the right track, and I don’t even know it.

Today . . . I am going to do something that scares me.  I am familiar with my fears . . . one of them being the fear of failure.  The fear that I won’t have enough time in my life to do all that I hope to do.  The fear of not having tried to accomplish that one dream within.  The fear of feeling regret at the end of my life.  Do I live this way?  I try not to . . . still, these little nagging doubts linger on occasion.  Eleanor believes that we “gain strength, and courage, and confidence” by trying to do something that we cannot do.  It is time to shake things up, go forth, and do something a little scary.   toaster oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skipping in Place

I was thinking last night about how stuck we feel when we realize we are in a negative place.  Stuck like a needle in a skip on vinyl.  

We feel that there is no hope for forward movement, and we can hear the inevitability that it is we who are going to have to make the skip stop. Sometimes we hope that the scratch is sufficiently insignificant such that we can wait out the monotony . . . when all we need do is pick up the needle and move it to the next track.  I sometimes “kick myself” after realizing that I have invested time into something that is, in all actuality, cancelling out forward movement and quality of  life.  But maybe this is part of life’s learning, and I should be easier on myself.  

Regret is an emotion wasted.  It is the groove that is holding the skip in place.  By being present and freeing ourselves from being stuck, we are renewed with the energy that fuels our happiness in the present and our dreams for the future.  By taking action and removing that needle, we allow self-forgiveness for those What was I thinking? moments.  Time to move on.  Time to put on a new album and move to a new rhythm.unstuck-2

Life is brimming with gifts and treasures and happiness.  The discovery of this abundance is the best part of life for me, like opening a box that is filled with exactly my heart’s desire.  Perhaps bumping up against those not-so-positve places is not the villain after all . . . knowing that I have the strength and the courage to get up from my spot of stagnant acceptance, pick up the needle, place it on its holder, remove the album, pick a new album, reset the needle.  And enjoy.  Sigh.  It wasn’t that hard, truly.  Time to move on to a better-feeling place and dance to some new music.

Who knew that being brave could be so liberating?  Certainly not a unique concept for those who regularly beard the lion in the den before breakfast . . . but definitely something to consider when feeling stuck in a groove that shows no promise of movement.  Move the needle or change the vinyl.  Take a chance.  You never know what wonderful thing might happen.