Old Ghosts

Photo by Daniel Schwabe

Life events big and small occur without provocation.

One day you’re at the top of the mountain, another day, you’re arm-wrestling with an Octopus and the next you’re grappling with the shadows of yesteryear.

Those shadows can play havoc with your sense of self and your well-being in the present moment.

We all have people who never saw us for who we truly are or fought against exactly that, having wanted us to fit their image. And when we didn’t, when we walked away or they did, we believed it was done.

Maybe it was physically over, but what about emotionally? What about the exes? Whether they were a friend, spouse or some other significant relationship, did you heal?

You could be over it; you don’t really think of the person at all, unless you have kids, relatives or common friends with them. And that could make them a constant reminder of what “went wrong.”

You run in to them, or someone mentions a conversation in which you were the subject; it’s like yesterday is today AGAIN. You listen and “boom” it grips you; that emotional jackhammer! You feel the anger, pain, frustration, hatred or a strong emotion, and it can surprise you!

You thought this person had no more influence over your emotional state than an ant, BUT whether it’s for a minute or days later, you still react to them.

I don’t care how much therapy, meditation, electro-shock therapy or coaching you may have had…you’ve been side-swiped.

This person knows just how to upset you or make you feel off-kilter. They push your buttons; say things about you, which have nothing to really do with WHO YOU ARE in its entirety or they bring out some deep hidden desire inside of you for re-acquaintance.

It seems they knew a different you.

The “you” who was in relation to them. That part of you, they knew, they figured was the whole you.

But, it wasn’t.

It was just a part of you in reaction to them or the only part you felt safe showing to this person. It could be the role you took on in the past, liar, cheater, caretaker, victim, rescuer, lover, fighter, etc… and this person brings back that memory of those pieces of you.

Not the whole picture, just the parts they interacted with and “believed” you to be, their perception, which has stayed unchanged by time or growth.

The time warp of emotions that stopped a long time ago, may have just been in a deep freeze, especially if they are related to shame, frustration, insecurity or any other of the dark parts we try to shield.

I was married in my twenties. I was married to an alcoholic.

When I met him, we were both having a great time, partying and being responsible (yes, not irresponsible; two work-a-holics makes for an interesting combo). I mention this, because it took me a long time to understand how I ended up there and why. Even when I left, it wasn’t because of his “ism,” it was because I had lost myself; I had a big empty emotional hole and I was never seen for who I truly was as a person.

I couldn’t even see me, or understand on the deeper levels, what I required and how to break through my own walls, because they had always been there…so how would I know  to break through?

It took years for me to understand, how I had been seeking “emotionally unavailable,” men, because I was too.

I liked being independent and deluded myself into believing all sorts of reasons as to why.

And when I got real with myself, understanding the attraction, another thing happened, what had been “abnormal,” but I had made appear “normal,” really never was okay with me.

And so, when I hear things pertaining to a warped idea or derogatory remark from the past, I look at the context it was made in and why. I look for the harm it causes, not to me, but to the self-infliction, the children, friends and other family members.

Yet, my first reaction, is the same one I had years ago; the one in which I was never seen for “me” and instead, myopically distorted into a caricature.

And what these ghosts show us, is our perceived limitations, our lack of trust in our authenticity, the fears of vulnerability, which meant accepting our darker parts. Not through the eyes of another, it isn’t about defending oneself.

When old feelings emerge,it’s an opportunity to empower the darkness we want to run from. Giving light to the shadows and admitting how we hid, put up with, punished, suffered or any other self-induced pain we believed we deserved at the time.

Have we grown in self-acceptance?

Can we discern if a statement truly fits who we are RIGHT now?

And discard it by realizing, it’s someone else’s perception.

There is no fight or reason to change it; we never had to take it personally.

If you want to defend or prove you are not who the past believes you to be, ask yourself “why” it matters? The discovery is no matter what someone else thinks or says….

There is always the choice.

Ghosts or present-tense, when you can open and BE you, all of you, there is no apology, excuse, shame, or blame. Just an acceptance that you are human and ghosts are fleeting,  just shine a little light on them and watch them dissipate.

Tripping off the Pedestal

Why do we hold others to expectations that are truly impossible to fulfill?

Do we enjoy disappointment?

What part of placing someone in a “light of perfection” do we actually think is a happy and healthy place for anyone to live ? And what about being the one placed on the pedestal trying to live up to some unfathomable expectation?

I have encountered in the past couple of months (make that years), personally and professionally, quite a few situations in which I am on both the giving and receiving end of this wonderful phenomenon. Even better, what about the expectations you place on yourself? (This is a great starting place for seeking inner peace)

By others placing me in this position of their own entitlement or expectation rather than appreciation or just letting me be who I am, it taught me how I have done this with someone in my life.

My expectations hit me square between the eyes. Thankfully, by the time I understood how I had done this with him, I had stopped to a large degree. My expectations are not for someone else to absorb and throw on their back.

Dig Deep and what do you find? Gold or coal?

I have found that relationships with people in my life rate as most important alongside my relationship with me.

I want to hold everyone in a place of love.

It just makes it easier for others and myself. When I start “holding people accountable” in a way that is detrimental to the relationship, I have to ask myself why I want to sabotage the situation, especially if I care about the person.

We can hold others accountable, but remember the goal. If you are to hold another accountable, it must be clear, concise and understood by both parties as to what is expected from each other in terms of action or words. It is simple, because even if someone does not come through it is discussed and resolved.

Instead, when it is unclear and assumed (assumptions are the gateway to hell), all hell can break loose.

There are times, someone may just fail, not come through or disappoint us even though everything was clearly laid out.

First, we have to show compassion for our own self and the other.

It’s okay to f—k up, we all do. And if it is not, then the relationship does not have a healthy, honest and trusting foundation.

The greatest gift we give each other is acceptance. Accepting of who someone is and where they are in their life.

Acceptance does not necessarily mean we keep the person in our life (but it makes it a helluva lot easier to really BE in a relationship with someone without resentment), it may mean we understand, have compassion and accept that we can love people, but not choose to engage or invest as a core relationship in our life.

At times in my life, living on the pedestal was a welcome challenge.

Appearances of having it all together and being Wonder Woman were important. I put others needs ahead of mine, attempted to be a fairy godmother and worked hard for approval. I really have made strides in not sacrificing myself too often, but once in awhile it happens. And it is my responsibility when I place myself in an awkward position for approval. I blame no one else.

You realize no matter what you do or how you do it, if someone is looking to be let down, they will find a way to be let down. And you get to be the source of the disappointment, deserved or not.  There is no right or wrong in reality, although one or both parties may want to draw a line down the middle. Perception is where we all operate from and that is subjective.

I have been working diligently at changing my own perception of my life.

As I encounter challenges, I ask myself if I must fight or can I just go with the flow?

It’s as simple as realizing when you sit at the border waiting to get back into your country that the snafu, which is keeping you in a holding tank of sorts is out of your control. And so, you relax and go with it, knowing it will eventually work out (this coming from me, a retired AAA personality), doing this in relationships is not a bad idea too.

In letting go of the expectations of others, especially if the situation was unclear can be a little more difficult.

The ability to not take on another’s “stuff” and remain neutral, compassionate and open is a way to peace (inner and outer). Every time you can understand another’s perspective and their chosen reaction, BUT at the same time let go of making it your crusade or trying to fix it for them, yet still care, you have made an inroad to peace. It is difficult to do, because if you have false core beliefs…this may hit those buttons.

Honesty is very helpful, real get down n’ dirty authenticity is at the base of a healthy situation. And I don’t mean honesty and authenticity, which says I am a bad person, you’re a weak liar or anything meant to assuage guilt. It is where both people own their shit. Own it! When we stop piling it on others and take responsibility for what we want and who we are, a world of change can happen.

In the past, I had people tell me I am intimidating at times. The label always fascinated me, yet it has become clear as to why people found me that way. When it came to situations where I was willing to be honest and authentic I could be a force to reckoned with if someone else wasn’t able to come from the same place. I would hold people accountable to something they had no interest or understanding of inside of their perception.

I did not understand how someone did not clearly see they were complaining or giving an excuse.

I had no tolerance for either, I wanted people to just say “I am human, I screwed up.” Or “this is the issue, how do we resolve it?” or “I promised you this, but I can’t come through.”

I realized that even though I held a door open to honest communication, that some couldn’t come through the door and would blame me for it, as though my wanting honesty was a travesty and I was a bitch for standing firmly in that space. It made me realize I had an expectation of others they couldn’t possibly live up to in any form. My righteous position gave me a ton of heartache. And I had to stop. I did. And with the letting go of holding others to communicate with me in this fashion, either those relationships naturally fell away, or through many missteps our relationships grew HAPPIER, deeper and wider.

The point is no one belongs on a pedestal.

Expectations more often than not lead to disappointment.

Clear and concise communication about shared goals is the quickest route to peace.

Work with your core beliefs; the ones, which keep you stuck in pain and expectation.

Let go of the perception you have of others or yourself in which you are seemingly always placed in a position of disappointment.

And let everyone “be” just as they are, miracles happen this way! I know!

Nope, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

While on the elliptical this morning, I happened to glance at the TV (The only place I catch any news, accidentally). I asked myself, “Why is the president speaking about birth control?” Why?

Doesn’t the president have more important things to do? I don’t know, maybe solving the issues that have us on the verge of bankruptcy and wars we can’t afford to create?

Now, it doesn’t matter to me in terms of the “real” why to those questions.

What matters to me is why in a country built on a declaration in 1776 of inalienable rights are we constantly invading the space of others, giving unwarranted opinions and advice, to tell “individuals” how and what they should do in their own private life. Especially when no one on the face of this planet is the paragon of perfection (whatever that is, and by the way, for me, no thank you to trying to be something that makes me miserable, insert smiley face “here”).

Where did it change that not just as a country are we in the business of everyone globally (invited or not)…but that people in this country feel entitled to the right to focus on what their neighbor is doing, when its none of their damn business (as long as they are not causing physical harm or duress to anyone else)? Is it the media who has made “news” out of items, which should remain a private, personal choice? The politicians?

The thing is, none of these questions are really what my point is of this post.

If we look to our leadership for ideas on how to engage with others, what do we see? (I’m actually not going to answer that question, because it would require an entire other post on the subject)

Instead I believe, the president (figurehead) aka government like everyone else needs to allow people their freedom. Just because you don’t agree with the lifestyle of someone else, or the religious choices of others or naturally born differences; it doesn’t give anyone and I mean anyone the right to infringe.

This isn’t about politics (and as an OPINION, both parties are the same—I don’t favor either, I actually favor Lincoln’s party of the 1860s, insert smiley face “here”).

My post is actually about happiness.

We focus on others and not our OWN self. Focus on others distracts us from our “self”. We become consumed by the actions and words of others; what they do, don’t do or say, most of the time. We become passionate about defending our stance when half the time we never looked deep enough inside to know WHY we feel the way we do. We are disconnected from our own truth. We avoid the most important person in our own life, us; meaning: you and me.

I am generalizing, because I know many people don’t fall into the pit of self-despair and ignore it, while they TRY to fix someone else or their view, so they feel better.

If you are not looking within, now would be a great time to focus on who you are, what you want for you (not anyone else), and being KIND TO YOURSELF, then world peace could prevail.

If you focus on making you authentically happy, your days aren’t filled with the desire to control the behavior of others or wanting things to be different; your days are filled with being kind to yourself (which makes you a whole heck of a lot happier to be around too) as you participate in your life. Not venom spit at others. Not power through conquering others, power through self-empowerment.

As long as the focus is outside of you in terms of desiring change, then true peace and happiness will never reign, because outside factors will rule your inner sanctuary.

Leave thy neighbor alone. Let others figure their lives out or not.

No one and I mean no one changes their mind or heart by others for the better, unless its what they truly want. When you exude force it gives the false impression that someone has acquiesced, but in reality they will still think and believe what they want. They will disappoint you and that is their right.

The idea of a perfect world doesn’t exist, because EVEN if the outer world was perfect it will never make you happy.

Only you can have happiness by accepting all that is, taking action that is in alignment with happiness and not the opposite… Battles fought and won are never won for good; it is so much easier to just give up the struggle and live. And when the outside world temporarily cooperates, great! Embrace inner peace; it is not temporary. The struggle ends when you stop getting involved in the lives of others; when they don’t want or ask for you to help or to fix them or for your opinion. Whew! What a relief! I can already breathe easier with that weight lifted!

The more we give up the fight of what we can’t control, it makes self-responsibility an actual option. The individual becomes the collective and it leads to PEACE.

I’m not writing to change your personal beliefs. We all have the right to honor and value our own beliefs… So it makes sense to allow everyone else that same right.

Spending time judging others is painful. It is actually more tragic than that, because whatever bar we use to judge others is turned inward on ourselves…. the inner critic prevails and creates a constant state of battle inside.

The heart and mind will duke it out when the sense of self is so fragile it must have agreement about its beliefs or it fights, it fights for its very life. It lives in pain…and all that is inward is brought outward.

Again we all have the freedom to believe what we want; although it would be a far more peaceful world if we could dump our personal beliefs which make a person feel unhappy, disconnected, unworthy or alone. 

It is why I took up coaching; I witness people taking action to counter those beliefs, which keep them stuck rolling in the mud. I watch the tension relax of holding these painful beliefs as true, which in turn allows self-acceptance, self-love and empowerment. And amazingly the more we accept ourselves, the more we accept the rest of the world.

So, it really isn’t a political discussion; it’s really about how to establish world peace, starting with each individual FOCUSING on their OWN beautiful self.