As some of you know, I have lived a pretty secluded life over the past few years. House on the Swedish countryside, no internet at home, limited cell phone use, long distances to my friends and not very travel-friendly (or super travel-friendly, depending on how you look at it – pretty much every outing was a trip in its own rights).
I am grateful for the experience. It taught me to appreciate and value things I didn’t use to pay much attention to – or that I even used to avoid. Being close to nature. Being alone with myself without any distractions. Stillness, both on the outside and within me.
On my good days, I could appreciate the gift that this period of my life was, even then. On my bad days, I hated that I didn’t have a choice.
If I allowed myself to give up my resistance and surrender to what it was I would have wanted to distract myself from, I always came out on the other side being thankful for it. I don’t know if I’d had the strength to make myself do that if I’d had a choice.
More often than not I was glad to have an excuse to switch my phone off and not be available all all the time. I found that I am not as adverse to being outdoors as I thought I was, moreover: I discovered the deep feeling of connection to all living things that you only experience when you find yourself fully immersed in the beauty of nature. There’s no cell phone plan for that.
Having gone through those experiences, especially through my own resistance, I can see how I benefit from them now that I am in a different place, where I suddenly do have all those choices I wanted so badly back then.
I can actually feel the need to go outside and find a place where I feel close to nature because I know now that these are places where I connect with myself. I can feel the need to turn my computer and phone off at a certain point during the day. I am not afraid anymore of missing out if I’m not connected to social media 24/7. I understand now that when the feeling arises that I am losing touch with myself, the answer is never to be found outside of myself, in distraction. I always find it by turning inwards, towards whatever shape that feeling comes in. It may be triggered by my mind getting hung up on something someone said, or something I read somewhere that struck a chord.
Therefore I continue to be grateful for knowing the place where the lack of choices forced me to turn to the only thing that was left: facing myself. Now that I am in a place again where I have many options, this makes it easy for me to choose.
Facing ourselves, tackling that resistance even when we technically don’t have to, when we could distract ourselves, is always worth it. For all the things we try to avoid seeing in and about ourselves lead to great treasures.
How to deal with conflicting emotions
Recently, I have been through quite a few emotional roller coasters. Since my intuition and I have become pretty good friends, I was able to accept this state even when I didn’t understand what triggered this process at first. Nevertheless, my mind wanted to know. It always does. Here’s the answer I’ve come up with, and what I’ve found to be a good way to deal with conflicting feelings.
The major change in my life has been that I have made some decisions that broke my routine. Well, actually, there hasn’t been much of a routine, that’s the thing: I ended my life as I knew it, and after a period of regrouping I am now at the point where something else is starting to fill the space. Since I have been making a conscious effort to shape this new life, of course, the new that is coming or about to enter means a great deal to me! Somehow I just hadn’t factored in that that is enough to trigger all kinds of emotions.
I finally realized that there is nothing „wrong“ about this process, there is no mistake. Whenever I am engaging in something I care about, I always have seemingly conflicting emotions. I am never only overjoyed. I am never only terrified. As long as I am not indifferent, there is always both – excitement and anticipation at the prospect of change, but also fear and anxiety over the possibility that things might not turn out the way I wish for.
I wrote „seemingly conflicting“ because I believe that those emotions are not in fact conflicting. They are two sides of the same coin. Whenever I feel like there is something to win, naturally part of me is afraid of not winning = losing. I have done enough things I didn’t really care about either way, so that I can confirm that that is the best recipe for complete loss of energy. So that is not the alternative I am planning on applying.
Then what to do without becoming the figurative stoic that says „I knew I had fathered a mortal“ when confronted with the death of his son? Because I definitely don’t want that kind of indifference, either.
Here’s what I’ve found works for me:
1. Accepting that I have feelings and ideas about how I should feel. On everything! It appears to come with the being human gig. It’s only when I step into that trap where I try to deny or fight my feelings that things get ugly, and they end up controlling me.
2. Therefore, the number one priority is to allow all my thoughts and feelings to be heard. I make a point to check how it would make me feel if I listened to any of them. For instance, when the prospect of doing something makes me really happy, but there are some concerns, I accept the concerns but go ahead anyway. Either with a plan on how to tackle the concerns or with the confidence that any problems will be resolved if the need arises. They’re probably not even actual „dangers“ but just my fear’s way of saying „Don’t go there!“.
However, when I realize that the thought of not doing something I had set my mind to actually fills me with relief, and the reasons for doing it are mainly ideas of of what I am „supposed to be doing“, it’s safe to say that it’s a good idea to lay low. Maybe it’s not the right timing, or maybe I the underlying idea of why I should be doing this is misguided. This is the part where it’s helpful to trust that gut instinct, even when I can’t see all the whys at that time.
I believe that I came here into this life with a plan, where the most important milestones are already decided upon. Our ego is a lot less in control than it likes to make us believe. When I look back at my life, I was hardly ever aware of the significance of the events that really shaped its course. The things that seemed important, which I worked myself up over, turned out not to be. The things that were, were never entirely up to me. In fact, I could even „mess them up“ and „somehow“ they worked out anyway – because that was the way things were needed to be for me to stay on my path.
3. The real challenge then is to achieve that balance where I accept that I have feelings but where I also trust that they are not the complete picture. Yes, of course achieving certain goals makes me happy. And yes, sometimes I experience loss and it feels awful. But the thing is, that is not the totality of life, there is a happiness that is not tied to any achievements or fulfillment of desires – or loss thereof.
This moment right now is something I’ve once longed for: having alone time, being able to use my cell phone and my computer at home (long story, another time). And it’s also something I’ve once been afraid of because I got here losing things and people on the way.
There is nothing wrong with having goals and desires, in fact I am only now beginning to (re-)discover their importance. The happiest life is the one where we can gracefully combine the two: setting goals, acknowledging our heart’s desires, and setting out to achieve them with the confidence that we in fact already have everything we need to be happy right here and now. Anything we set out to do is all about experiencing a variation of happiness, not earning the right to be happy if we achieve a certain goal.
Everything we need along the way will be provided for. No feelings (our own or others‘), mistakes or accidents can jeopardize what is truly meant to be ours. Detours are part of the road, getting lost is, too. Whichever path we choose, it will lead us closer to home – our true self.
On blogging again
So. I guess I’m blogging again. Yay! How terrifying! There has been an ongoing internal debate over the past weeks (months?!) on that issue. 1. whether or not to blog at all, 2: if so, why and why now, 3: what and what not, and finally: how to begin.
In case you are a more result-oriented person: 1. Yes, 2. Because I want to, because now’s a good time 3. Whatever I want to, 4. Like this.
In case you are
a womaninterested in the journey as much as the destination, lhere’s a more detailed version:
1. Yes or no?
When I noticed the wish to blog again, two sides of me emerged: one wanted nothing more than to get started, it even felt that it was absolutely critical that I start immediately, that any delay would be terrible, and that I absolutely must go ahead. Right. Away. The other side felt like I had nothing to say, nothing to share that could possibly be of any value to anyone. And the internet is already full of people who do that.
Also, the side of me that felt hesitant was concerned about the obvious risk in the instant nature of blogging, or social media in general: you think it’s a great idea to share something you’re going through – and then you realize it’s not. Because you don’t get the reaction you weren’t even aware you’d wished for, or maybe you didn’t want to any at all. Or maybe you did and nobody said anything. Bottom line: All that happens is you add drama to your pain.
At the end of the day, conflicting feelings arise no matter what I do when I do it for the first time (or the first time after a long time). And there are always valid points to both sides. (Coming up: a post on how I deal with these conflicting feelings.) For now let me just say that at the end of the day it’s a good idea to be aware of all your emotions involved in a decision – and then to make a choice and do what makes you happy. That doesn’t mean the other side disappears but you can make active choices on how to handle that side of you.
2. Why, and why now?
I realized that my reason for not blogging had been that for a very long time I was afraid that being visible in that way would trigger emotions within me which I could not calculate beforehand. It was a good thing I listened to that feeling for as long as I did feel vulnerable, and people’s reactions (or lack thereof) to what I would have shared only would have caused drama.
Eventually I came to the point where protecting myself by not putting myself out there didn’t feel good anymore. I understood that, yes, if I do allow myself to be visible, I make myself vulnerable, and that will stir up emotions in me regardless of any external reactions. But I had begun to feel unhappier about not allowing anyone to see me. I realized that I would feel a lot better about just doing what I feel like, and there was even curiosity as to what kind of emotions that would trigger, and how I would deal with them. I simply came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to avoid any potential emotions anymore if that meant not doing something I really enjoy. Because no matter where I go, they are always there with me anyway – emotions, thoughts and ideas of how I/things „should be“.
There is a middle ground. It’s possible to face my doubts without forcing myself to tackle anything I’m not ready to take on. To be honest without unnecessarily exposing myself. To write and share what moves and engages me without navel-gazing. To be spontaneous and following anything that intrigues me without being random and all over the place.
What is the thread connecting it all? I’ll write about what I wish someone would have told me. My earlier mission statement(s) for this blog still passes the test of time: I want to live my life deliberately, and I want to document and share that journey. That is the thread tying it all together, it’s what I’ve been interested in ever since I was fourteen, read Sofie’s World, and understood what it meant to be self-aware. Then came Thoreau’s Walden, and the notion of living deliberately impressed me equally. And a bunch of other books and experiences that are too many to list here (that’s maybe another post – or a gazillion).
My idea of what deliberate living means have changed. For a while I even attempted to follow Thoreau quite literally (although he was never expressly the reason behind the path I’d chosen): living on the country side, growing my own veggies, being close to nature and contemplating what the necessities of a good life really are. I came to the conclusion that for me they were something else. I think Thoreau would have approved because deliberate living is just that: not blindly following someone’s concept of how life should be but coming up with your own.
For me that means whatever makes me happy. I still want to fill my life with as much awareness as possible. Being aware of one’s self is crucial in the pursuit of happiness. At the end of the day, happiness is the meaning of life. Of mine anyway.
What not? I will not share anything that I know still has an emotional grip on me. True, there are no guarantees, comments (or the lack thereof) can hit you unexpectedly. But that is a risk I am willing to take. In fact, that can be a good thing, if you want to know where you still have buttons to push. And I do! (Have buttons, and want to know where they are.)
A way that works for me to put myself to the test, regarding where I really stand on an issue – in this case, whether I think it’s a good idea to share stories about my personal development in a public forum – is asking „How would I feel if everyone did this?“. I have to say: I would love that! It’s in fact the number one thing I am interested in. Not interested in what cause you think I should support, not interested in what political party you support or hate, not interested in what ongoing atrocities you think I should be aware of. If I am following you on a social media platform, I am interested in you. Pictures of and by you, and your perspective on life. I appreciate honesty in social media. That includes pretty pictures, words of wisdom and encouragement. That also includes descriptions of how people deal with the not so pretty stuff. At the end of the day, social media profiles show less of how someone is than how they want to be seen. And I appreciate people who dare to show their shadows as well as their light. I was waiting for someone to ask me to be one of those people, respectively to give me the permission slip. Then I realized, that none of the people who do claim their space do so because they were „tapped“ – they just do it, and that’s all there is to it!
4. How to begin
That’s the one my mind can easily get stuck on, a good place to look when I don’t know what’s keeping me. Often it’s simply that I overburden the beginning with significance. The point, of course, is really just to jump in anywhere. Maybe that was one of the best lessons my philosophy studies taught me: there is no „easy“ place to start, you just start anywhere. In the beginning it’s all uncharted territory but the more you dare to venture out there, the more you learn how to be an explorer.
This is the story of how my head came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to blog again – and also what it deems worthy of sharing. And I can appreciate it’s job . It’s not like I have a choice anyway, my mind is debating, rejecting and glorifying stuff all the time, so I might as well involve it in a productive process. You know, like those dogs that need a lot of exercise or they’ll trash your home.
However, the true reason is undebatable, undeniable, completely illogical, and beyond rejection and/or praise: I enjoy doing it. I cannot count the number of blogs I have started and deleted over the years since I was 18 or so. They never made me any money, they never changed the world – but I’ve always had so much fun writing them! When you find yourself enjoying something in and for itself, regardless of external reward, you have to trust that you found the best way to spend your life (or as much time of it as possible).
I have found myself coming to this conclusion over and over again, and sometimes I still keep forgetting it. That writing (and sharing that writing) is that for me. The thing I can do no matter what, the magic process that opens up a space where I am the most me. Just out of curiosity: What’s that thing for you? Is it always there with you, or do you also forget/doubt it? What happens when you do? How do you re-discover it? Do you make any conscious efforts to re-discover it, or does it just sort of come back on its own accord?