Embracing The Silence Of An Emotional Winter

Embracing The Silence Of An Emotional Winter

So quiet you can hear it.

Silence.

It’s the start of November which means here in New England winter and it’s own version of silence is but a few weeks away. I don’t have a favorite season, but I’ve come to appreciate the lessons each season has to teach us.

The seasons of life each come with their own lessons as well.

Especially winter.

More specifically, emotional winters. When your own world grows coldly silent, even isolated…when familiar voices and noises go somewhat dormant. Life wants your full attention and temporarily removes the comfortable distractions in order to do so.

I would often resist these emotional winters. I didn’t ask for them, I certainly didn’t like them, and I had no idea why they were happening. Loneliness wasn’t something I was looking for. When I’ve been receptive during these barren times of my life, though, Continue reading “Embracing The Silence Of An Emotional Winter”

Your Circle Wants To Keep You Encircled

Your Circle Wants To Keep You Encircled

Your carnivore friends won’t understand when you tell them that you’ve decided to give up eating meat. Or when your drinking buddies find out that you’ve quit drinking. They’ll just see you as weird. Or going through a phase.

But when your actions show them you’re serious, tensions will inevitably rise.

Tension is a force which breaks things. In these scenarios it will either break your commitment to eating only veggies, break your resolve to embrace sobriety, or it will break the Circle which needs you to remain who you are.

Circles. Our own tribal communities built upon common bonds. The influence our Circles have on us is quite strong. Standards, expectations, and compliance. Circles aren’t typically an encouraging place to grow or change. Your Circle wants you to stay in the Circle, gravitationally pulling and pressuring you to remain exactly as you already are. That’s why you’re in the Circle.

The growth you want requires joining a different Circle.

That’s a huge factor as to why many people choose to never grow. They feel safe and even somewhat obligated to their Circle. They fear being ostracized so they stay exactly where they are to maintain exactly who they are. Even if remaining exactly who they are no longer serves them. Because that’s what the Circle demands.

You’d think personal growth and the changes that come with it would be a universally supported ideal. After all, we do want those who matter most to thrive and live their best lives. Don’t we?

Or perhaps our true motives are far more self serving?

Unfortunately personal growth often comes with a healthy dose of raised eye brows and resentment. As if your personal growth is some sort of de facto pronouncement that the life you’ve built within your existing Circle is now somehow not good enough for you. You’ve rejected them, they’d surmise, and rejection is never very well received by the rejected. Their resentment and hostility can even lead us to question our own worthiness of attempting to become anything more than what we already are, which, inevitably, will keep us in the Circle.

At some point you’ll find yourself at a crossroads. Will you remain loyal to who you’ve always been and to your Circle, or has your loyalty shifted toward who it is you know you were created to become?

Leaving stagnant Circles for new growth Circles isn’t easy. We are creatures of habit. We crave the comfort and safety of the familiar, even if the familiar is keeping us from creating the life we know we are capable of living. But finding a Circle to support our growth and evolution is extremely beneficial. We do become more of who it is we surround ourselves with.

Most of the important growth I’ve experienced in my life has come from finding Circles aligned with my vision of what I wanted to create for me. As my vision has evolved, so has my need to find Circles which support my evolution. New people, new situations, new opportunities…all located in unfamiliar places outside of my existing Circles. And as uncomfortable as stepping outside of the familiar can be, staying within the limiting Circles of “What Is” comes with it’s own degree of discomfort. Consciously deciding that comfortable stagnation is preferred over stepping into your own growth is the perfect garden for the seeds of regret to grow in.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced enough regrets to know that I have no intentions of create any new ones.

In our ever-connected world, finding new Circles is significantly easier than at any other point in history. Whatever it is you wish to become or experience there are those who are also walking a similar path, who’ve shared a similar experience, who are willing to support and encourage, to collectively help move their Circle closer to who it is they wish to become.

Is your Circle moving you closer to who it is you want to be?

Moving forward. Staying put.

There’s a circle for each one.

Which Circle will you be a part of?

Photo by Pablo Guerrero on Unsplash

A Quick Fix Guide To Emotional Self Maintenance

A Quick Fix Guide To Emotional Self Maintenance

The blood was everywhere.

The sharpened edge of the paint scraper I was using to get the front window ready for a new coat of paint caught the index finger on my left hand. Ouch.

Summer. The beach, cookouts, endless sunshine, and house painting. Our house, now almost 30 years old, is at that stage where something always needs to be painted. Windows, doors, trim, siding. The weather extremes here in New England certainly push paint to it’s limits.

I actually enjoy the painting part of painting. What I really don’t enjoy is the preparation before hand.

The painting part goes pretty quickly. And it’s rather gratifying. Sometimes the temptation is to throw on a fresh coat of paint to spruce things up a bit. A quick fix. But unless I properly prepare the surface for painting, I will find myself doing a lot more repainting sooner than later.

Quick fixes usually don’t fix things for very long.

Experience has taught me that a good paint job requires a lot of sanding and scraping. Sanding and scraping are not something I look forward to. It’s difficult, tedious work, but unless I am willing to do the hard work and address the stuff underneath first I’m never going to get the results I am looking for.

I’ve found that in my life, house painting is a perfect metaphor for my own self maintenance. I’ve often gone with the quick fix approach when dealing with some of the challenges that life has presented. Instead of sanding and scraping to address my own inner unseen issues, I’d simply thrown on a fresh coat of whatever I thought would spruce me up emotionally. Shopping, denial, blame, alcohol…all fresh coats of distraction to cover what was peeling and cracking underneath. Going deeper into yourself isn’t easy, often very daunting, yet unless I was able and willing to get down to the bare wood of the problems I was dealing with, no new coat of anything was ever going to last.

And they never did.

I’ve now learned to sand and scrape, to seek that emotional bare wood, to work to understand as to why the new version of me I tell myself I want to create never quite sticks. I work to resolve those lurking unseen issues and to then build a base in which the new paint, the new me, can adhere to and last. But unless I do the work and have honest, often difficult conversations with myself, compassionately, I find myself repeating patterns and behaviors which at some point will require me to fix them yet again.

How about you? When it comes to growing more fully into who you really are, what’s peeling and cracking underneath that may be preventing your highest vision of your life from adhering?  What needs to be sanded and scraped in order for you to prepare yourself to be elevated to that place you’ve always longed to be?

I’d grow tired of simply re-fixing the same broken parts of me over and over again.

I deserved better from me.

You deserve better from you, too.

Photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash

The Environment of Growth

The Environment of Growth

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Ambrose

It’s been about a year now since I joined a gym. Not from a desire to become a body builder; rather, to regain some of the muscle mass we all lose as we age. Preventative maintenance of sorts.

I’d never been in a gym environment before. Certainly, I had heard of the gym being a place full of performance enhancing substances and people looking to hook up with each other. That’s not something I had any interest in, nor have I seen any evidence of either.

Mostly the gym is full of individuals who pretty much keep to themselves, there to take care of their own fitness goals and then they just leave.

I have had plenty of false starts attempting to gym at home. Weights, dumbbells, exercise bike, treadmill. For some reason, though, I never was able to stick with my home routine. I’d dabble, watch the DVD’s I bought on how to transform myself in 90 days, yet I never quite got transformed. I never stuck with it long enough for that to happen.

I guess the living room wasn’t such a great environment.

As I’ve observed the gym life for the past year, what I’ve seen is a great many of people just trying to get better. Better at their physical conditioning, whatever their individual goals may be.

Me? I’m there taking care of me.

And the environment has been a key component in me taking care of me.

Fitness doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a great deal of work, consistency, and commitment. In the gym, you can easily see those who’ve made the commitment. An environment of committed growth is quite infectious. The energy is different. It collectively breeds more growth. That’s what I’ve found at the gym. No one is judging, they’re busy doing. Big bodies, small bodies, young bodies, and old bodies. Everyone silently goes about their business of working toward their own personal targets, surrounded by others driven to do the same.

All of our environments influence us. The productive ones as well as the stagnant ones. This is true for friendships and relationships as well. Our circle matters. Our community matters. Seldom will we ever outperform the collective expectations of our circle or community. Surrounding yourself with others who share a common goal, outcome, or vision greatly increases the probability that you’ll hit your own goal, outcome or vision.

If you want to grow, place yourself in an environment populated with people who are actually growing, who are doing the work, who are actually in a position to support your growth, who actively encourage your growth.

Growth isn’t always easy, especially when surrounded by those driven by, well, nothing.

Does your environment support who it is you desire to be?

Perhaps it’s time to find a better circle?

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

Is It Worth The Fight?

Is It Worth The Fight?

It always seems to happen this way.

March is often a month of weather extremes here in New England. This month we’ve seen temps in the low 70’s and this morning we reached back down into the teens. Opposing forces in the form of changing seasons can create epic battles as they both attempt to assert themselves. Spring is ready to take over but Winter isn’t ready to let go.

The battle between Spring and Winter reminds me a great deal about personal growth. When the new version of you wants to rise up, the old version of you often would rather have you stay exactly as you are. It can create its own epic inner battle, the vision of who you are not quite ready to accept the vision of who you tell yourself you want to be.

With the laws of nature, seasonality lets us know that Spring will eventually prevail no matter how much Winter doesn’t want to let go. For us humans, though, there is no specific seasonality to the inner battles between who we are and who we tell ourselves we want to be. There is no pre-determined outcome. Change, especially when it comes to changing long-held ideas of who it is we believe ourselves to be, is always met with some level of inner resistance. This resistance is strong, quite convincing, and thinks it has your best interest at heart.

Get ready for an epic battle.

Get ready for the fight for your life.

The life you want is worth fighting for.

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash

Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

It’s rather paradoxical. And perhaps can only be done from a detached sense of self awareness.

But it’s an important part of the process.

Life often uses rather unconventional teaching methods to get us to learn what we need to learn. Many of those lessons unfortunately involve a degree of pain, quite often repeated until the lesson is eventually learned.

Like heated steel is reshaped between the anvil and the force of the blacksmith’s hammer, life, too, can heat us and beat us and reshape us through its own hammering process. The people and situations which at times can confusingly hurt us will often reshape us, change us, but if we look deeper we will often see there was a purpose to the pain.

It’s not a pleasant process. Even with a detached sense of self awareness. And usually it’s not something we express gratitude for.

Perhaps we should.

It’s not easy to thank those who’ve hammered us. But that hammering is what has changed us, often against our will, but often for the better.

And for that I’ve learned to be grateful.

Thank You, Unselfish Veggies

Thank You, Unselfish Veggies

And that was it. The last cherry tomato had been picked and all of the weathered vines were now finally stripped bare. It was unusually late in the season to have a fresh tomato, but this year has been anything but usual.

As I walked back from the garden and into the kitchen I started thinking about that little just-picked tomato now nestled in my hand.

It’s entire journey was never about itself. From seed to harvest, it was never about ego or accomplishment. It simply grew fully into what it was created to become and gave itself away for the benefit of others, to feed and nourish and yet asking nothing in return.

Maybe the little tomato was trying to tell me something about life. That maybe I, too, should focus on my own growth, to become all I was created to become, not for ego or accomplishment, but for the benefit of others, to help feed and nourish their lives and asking for nothing in return.

The natural world has so many lessons to teach us.

Playing Big By Playing Small

Playing Big By Playing Small

New Year’s Day.

I’m invincible.

I’ve been fine tuning my resolutions. My intentions are confidently set and I’m ready.

“This year will be different” I confidently tell myself. “This is the year I stick to my resolutions.”

Because I usually don’t.

Maybe the best resolution is no resolutions at all.

I’m not quite sure why I have such a challenging time with resolutions. I know there are things I want to change and things I want to accomplish, and there are things I tell myself I no longer want to do. Yet within a few weeks the resolutions I enthusiastically and boldly ran into the new year with feel like work.

They never make it to February.

Change, even change we tell ourselves we really want, can often be quite difficult. We’re often undoing things that we’ve spent a lifetime doing. Change is always much easier Continue reading “Playing Big By Playing Small”