Wednesday, April 6, 2011

surviving or thriving..?

In an effort to clear out a lot of mental clutter, I've been examining a lot of preconceived notions, assumptions, and some long-held beliefs which are no longer applicable to the person I am today, and it's been quite an eye-opening experience. The biggest revelation has been of my own gullibility, but I'll get to that later.

One assumption which I've given the boot is the one which has directed me to invest my emotional energy in every person I admire, that everyone is worthy of it. Recent experiences have taught me that people demonstrate by their behavior how much emotional risk they represent and the degree of trust I should assign to them, and I've learned that sometimes the risk to my self-esteem is greater when I assign respect and affection where it's not wise to do so. On re-reading that statement, I realize it could be interpreted as arrogant: I think it's honest. I also realize it may represent a statement of judgment--and I've always thought people should never stand in personal judgment of others--but it occurs to me that judgment calls aren't always mere subjective perceptions; sometimes they represent the human spirit looking out for its own well-being. 

A judgment call may represent the manifestation of a kind of survival skill.

I've heard the phrase "survival of the fittest" in the past, and thought it to be a terribly cold statement, but I'm not so certain that's true anymore. The word survival is loaded with a great deal of emotional implication, and may call to mind a Mad Max scenario in which brutality overwhelms gentleness, but I see in it the opportunity for a discerning spirit to live a fulfilled life. Fitness may be linked to the human ability to think with discernment, compassion, and wisdom--to examine relationships and life circumstances and determine if they contribute to peace of mind or personal upheaval. It may require time taken to discern people's trustworthiness based upon their behavior, and, to be fair, the time could be very lengthy.

Taking time to arrive at a decision or judgment call isn't easy for me, as I tend to be an impatient soul, but it may be the single quality which has created the most emotional upheaval in my life experience; I understand this now. I have assumed that a quick decision will bring happiness faster; that assumption has rarely proven true...I understand that, too.

This leads me to another assumption of mine which hasn't been helpful: the assumption that I must be happy NOW. I heard once that anyone who promises you happiness is most likely selling something; there may be some truth to that. It's begun to sink into my pea brain that happiness carries a weighty price tag, that it sometimes requires sacrifice and no small amount of discomfort...sometimes it takes a very long time to transpire. Happiness which comes easily isn't impossible, but I have doubts that such happiness will prove to be lasting.

A preconceived notion which I've held all my life is that maturity is a destination one reaches in later years and at which one remains until death. The past decade has proven to me that maturation is an ongoing process and growing pains don't stop at adulthood; wisdom arrives at many times along the way, if we're open to it. In fact, some of my most poignant growing pains occurred within the past month and surpassed any I suffered as a child.

In recent days, an insight has presented itself which was so blinding in its truthfulness that I was stunned that I hadn't understood it sooner: sadness, loneliness, befuddlement, and anger are necessary in the human experience--how else can a human being fully appreciate and experience happiness, fellowship, clarity, and peace? The important issue is how one deals with the sad, dark times: to not be daunted by them, but to accept them as signposts along the way, directing a willing spirit to aspire to better ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

I can't offer answers for anyone else--Lord knows I've spent most of my life being therapist and healer to others. The problem with that kind of behavior is that, although it appears to be a noble aspiration, its a selfish, foolish one. When a needy soul is finished with the therapist or healer, it tends to move on in its own journey, leaving the therapist/healer behind. I've come to understand there's nothing wrong with offering solace to a troubled soul in need, the danger lies in neglecting one's own spiritual shortcomings. In my efforts to help everybody else--and I have been pretty good at it and enjoyed the success--I've been distracted from the hard work of fixing myself...and I realize now it IS hard work.

So, now I come to the gullibility I mentioned at the beginning--and it may not even be actual gullibility, but a desperate desire to believe; to believe in unrealistic things that have no bearing on life as it is. Idealism is a powerful motivator in the human experience: it can lead us to great accomplishments and, just as easily, to utter failure.

I think I understand now that the fear of failure (or any kind of fear) isn't inherently bad--hanging onto it is. Fear, I think, is simply the soul requesting more information. Sometimes it's a little fear, a whisper which nags at the back of the mind when a minor obstacle must be overcome; sometimes it's a kind of terror which screams that facts will be the only means of survival.

The process I face now is letting go of the fear which cripples me and prevents me from moving forward through the last decades of my life. It is up to me to determine if I will thrive in the final third of my life, or merely survive.