The River Or The Dam? Pick One For Ultimate Happiness

Remember that scene in The Fugitive when Harrison Ford’s character, Dr. Richard Kimble, leaps into the fuming, foaming, rushing water of the dam rather than be taken alive?

Well, I’m not comparing myself to Harrison Ford here, if that’s where you thought I was going with this.

Nope, I’m comparing myself to the dude who had the tremendous power to stop the raging torrent of water over the dam so they could search for the body.

The turn of a key, the push of a button, and all goes from deluge to drip, drip.

That’s my superpower, too. Only it’s not with water.

I’m so very good at shutting feelings down.

If I had a dollar for every time a therapist promised I’d cleanse myself of some of my pain by allowing myself to actually FEEL IT, well…I’d be able to afford more therapy.

One strategy I employ is to intellectualize what I’m feeling. I jump out of my heart and go straight to my head, pseudo-psychologically analyzing every drop of blood out of my feelings until they’re a weak tea I can finally swallow.

Though my most common method for disabling the pain lever is: I use.

I use food, shopping, social media, sex, alcohol, and busyness.

There are costs to my pain-avoidance vices but they’ve been costs I was always willing to bear so as not to bear the discomfort of BIG SCARY FEELINGS.

When you’re younger, there’s more padding in your metaphorical “account” to get away with using those tactics to skirt the pain-debt-collector.

But what you don’t know or want to believe as a whippersnapper is that the bill always comes due. The pain will come to collect. It will find you. And what you got away with before suddenly tips the scales in midlife in such a way that causes you more pain.

At the outset, this sounds bad but it’s not. It’s the recognition that in order to be truly happy, I have to quit sweeping my feelings under the rug. People are starting to wonder what that big mound is anyway. What am I hiding? Do I have dead bodies under there? It’s getting weird.

We’re gonna need a bigger rug.

Or…

Or I could stop chickening out and honor that I’m just a human with my own unique tapestry of hurts and history and own all of it. I could appreciate the story of me, FEEL every drop, (because despite my long-standing belief: my feelings won’t actually kill me) and finally move past my past both wiser and freer.

I won’t always do this right. I’ll scurry to patch holes in the dam sometimes. But from now on, I’ll do my best to let the water flow.

Are You A Someday-Stockpiler?

I recently watched Doris, the Sally Field movie where she plays a quirky, colorful older woman who’s “stuck” in a few areas of her life and latches her Velcro affections onto a much younger man.

The flick took a darker turn than the previews had hinted at. It was strange to go from love to curious like to dislike to tolerant understanding of a main character. The arc felt backward and somewhat sad.

What I gleaned as the takeaway of Doris: We can avoid the truly meaningful aspects of living by getting too attached to and buried under our “stuff.”

Whether physical stuff or psychological stuff, it still piles up and boxes us in if we don’t deal with it.

I’m excessively tidy. I’ll not make light of those who struggle with OCD by throwing out the “I’m SO OCD about cleaning” (though I suspect that if there’s a spectrum, I’m on it.) I drive myself crazy sometimes with my inability to relax if I see dust-tufts under the chair across the room.

I’m the person who gets comments like, “You make me feel bad about my house.” “You make me feel like a slacker.” “Why do you have to make it so perfect in here all the time?”

Or…jokingly…maybe…

“If this is how clean your house always is, I’m going to have to rethink our friendship.”

People have told me that my home is so warm, inviting, and pleasant to be in. (Even teen boys who are walking combos of sweat, puppy, dirty socks and obliviousness!) I do glow at the compliment and I pride myself on engaging every sense and giving off a certain “vibe” in my house but that’s not really why it’s so clean.

It’s this way because I literally can’t let it be dirty.

It’s this way because I’ve learned to manage my anxiety by managing my surroundings. It feels like my house is the only thing in this unpredictable, messy life that I can control.

Doris was a hoarder. Seems her mother indoctrinated her into this lifestyle and it stuck. What Doris was holding on to prohibited her from letting go in ways she needed to in order to move forward.

Have you ever known a hoarder? I honestly haven’t. That’s a psychological pile of used yogurt containers that I don’t know enough about to speculate on.

I think I know stockpilers.

I call it “Someday stockpiling” It’s the compulsion to acquire because something’s on sale or you have a killer coupon or it might be useful someday.

You know…someday…when you get around to it. If it’s not buried under two dozen pillow forms, a case of white cannellini beans, and a box of duct tape in every-color-of-the-rainbow plus camo.

I suspect stockpiling is the baby sister of hoarding. Hoarding-lite, if you will.

When you spend more time “hunting and gathering” supplies for a hobby or activity than actually doing the activity, then Someday Stockpiling has stolen from your joy.

When your sewing room starts looking like the Room of Requirement, then you’ll likely feel overwhelmed rather than inspired every time you step in there.

Someday can be a dirty word if we use it to delay or entomb our happiness.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this but I do know that I’d rather collect memories and experiences. I do know that whenever I let go of excess in my spaces, I feel better, clearer, and freer.

Life energy flows better when we’re focused on what we’re giving out rather than what we’re taking in.

There’s something you’re supposed to be doing with all that time, money, and freaking glittery talent that will make the world a lovelier place.

I promise you, you have enough already. So, get to it.

In Which I Have The Audacity To Edit Thomas Merton

“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” – Thomas Merton

And then acting on that. <– There. See? Better. But still not quite right.

Upon further contemplation, I want to rewrite this statement altogether. Sometimes, you do have to rearrange the circumstances of your life in order to find peace.

Working backward, it seems to me that:

If you realize who you are at the deepest level, then change your circumstances to reflect that truth, you will find peace. – Tracy Clark

Go ahead, quote me on that.

I’m not just navel-gazing here. I lived this process a few months back and changed and rearranged things from every segment of my life. I called it my Total Life Course and it radically changed my life. Now I’m working hard to build a community for others to do the same.

For example, things that were at the bottom of my “Soul/spirit” list had to be moved and prioritized at the top. Meditation, for example.

In my “Emotional” area, I had to commit to not numbing out uncomfortable feelings. Instead of diffusing the fire with my compassionate attention, I’d douse it with food, shopping, sex, or alcohol. Of course those things didn’t make my difficult feelings go away, they only fueled the blaze. I had to rearrange my thinking and get brave enough to walk into the fire. I had therapists tell me about this superhero move, but I didn’t believe in it…until it worked.

Of course, the changes in what I put into my body affected my “Health” sector as well. It’s all connected.

Rearranging my life by…

  1. Listening to who I really was, and
  2. Acting on that inner truth

…had a ripple effect that flowed throughout my entire life.

I call Total Life Course a “whole life makeover” because that’s what it’s been for me. I believe that if you don’t realize the truth of who you are, then take the steps to BE that person, you will be stuck in a pattern of conflict within yourself. Peace will come when you stop the infighting and surrender to the wisdom that’s already inside of you. No one has your back like your Highest Self.

You might have to do some metaphorical furniture moving, but your space will be so much cleaner, clearer, and peaceful.

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Nasty Habitses!

Are you stuck in a cave of your own making, screaming, “My preciouuuus!” as you cling to habits that erode your happiness?

I’ve loved some of my habits. They wouldn’t be so ingrained if I didn’t. There’s a payoff to every behavior, even the unhealthy ones.

Would we indulge in them otherwise?

What I didn’t love before I began my Total Life Course, was the way those habits shaped my everyday life and how they made me feel. I didn’t love how my energy was sapped from the inside out. I didn’t love how I looked. My mental focus was a winged thing, flying from one distraction to the next. It was affecting my work and my feeling of mastery over the details of my life.

When we do things for the sake of enjoyment, there shouldn’t be a harsh blowback in our overall quality of life. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase, “Self-indulgence does not equal self-care.” That’s so true it stings. At the very least, the scale of our consistent habits should tilt on the side of actual self-benefit.

The enjoyment of my self-defeating habits was lessened over time when I saw, felt, and knew deep in my bones that those habits didn’t support me in being, looking, and feeling my best. I didn’t love what I was projecting to the world. I wasn’t being my best self and therefore, was giving a lesser version of my life to the world. The habits could be oh-so-fun but the cumulative cost was becoming too great.

I knew this.

Every single time I indulged in that which felt good over that which was good for me. I knew it.

I don’t keep secrets from myself.

My best friend, Lucy, says that she never worries about my decisions or harebrained schemes because she knows that I’m so overly self-analytical that everything I do or will do or have done has been examined with the intense focus of a researcher on the verge of discovering a life-altering drug.

That is to say that I’m onto myself.

I’m utterly aware of my own bullshit.

But my inner juvenile is so good at getting her way.

I hung on to nasty habitses with lines like, “I deserve it. You only live once. I’ll change tomorrow.” Foul word-poo and I knew it the minute they left my mouth.

My Highest Self would shake her head. She knew it, too.

We can ignore, delay, procrastinate, and stink-think all we want but the truth is still there, nagging with it’s…friggin’ truthiness.

The nagging feeling was akin to knowing there was another life waiting for me and that it would be better than my current life. I could sense it, beyond a veil between what I was willing to give up and what I was willing to work for.

Three of the worst Nasty Habitses:

–Believing that what you do today doesn’t matter.

(This is a rubber check that buys you time but not long-term happiness. This is how you pay for a counterfeit self, not your Highest Self.)

–Having a case of the tomorrows.

(Your tomorrow is a product of today. Every choice matters.)

–Using “self-acceptance” as an excuse not to make changes.

(If you truly accept yourself and your life as it is, then you will have no inner conflict about your actions. If there is conflict, then your habits aren’t in your true self-interest.)

We are the sum of our daily habits. That means that every choice today determines how we feel tomorrow and in the days to come.

Negative habits that aren’t in your best interest have the power to morph you into a creature that’s unrecognizable from who really are. Be strong enough to let them go. Be the Bilbo you want to see in the world.

***If you’re interested in learning how you can use the Total Life Course to banish those Nasty Habitses, sign up for our newsletter. Exciting news to come!

 

Ignoring Your Inner Voice? Whispers and Screams

“Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream.” Oprah Winfrey

Chances are, you’ve heard whisperings.

Or screams.

I sure as shit have. And every year/month/day I denied her was slowly dimming my spirit and leading me away from where I instinctively felt I needed to go.

Recently, I sensed my life was in a natural state of transition but that I was actively standing in my own way. I knew I was on the precipice of an awakening yet putting the chloroform over my own mouth to go back to sleep.

In your forties, you find yourself in a strange, misty bog between headlines like (insert typical Cosmo youth-obsessed vapidity headline here) and “Can’t wait to get your AARP discount?” and even stranger, spam emails for “Single Seniors.” What!? I’m still bleeding every month and doing a belly flop into a vat of chocolate with a baguette in my hand like a sword the week before!

I’m not there yet! Who was speaking to me—someone on the relative edge of old? Someone closer to 50 than 40 who was becoming more and more interested in looking forward than behind? Someone who was realizing with every passing year that my old ways of coping weren’t going to do sheisse to keep me thriving or even happy?

I’ve been journaling since my early twenties when rampant stress caused severe dizzy spells and a misdiagnosis of epilepsy. That’s the power of unchecked stress, folks. To say I can deny the screaming of my body, mind, and spirit would be an understatement. I’m the Queen of “No, no. I’m good. I’ve got this.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t have it.

I only looked like I did.

You know the drill… Hustle your ass off trying to show the world how very together you are but your A-game is the business of hiding your unworthiness behind the perfect facade.

In order to really have it, I’d have to give the reins to another part of me. She’d been waiting, fingers twitching to finally be the one in control, the only person with the skill to get us where we hoped to go. She knew this. She’s been trying to tell me for a long time.

Journal Entry: 8-20-14

“I feel like I’m at a crucial crossroads in my life…I feel torn in half. There’s a higher voice (I feel like the voice of my higher self has been talking for a few years and I’ve been ignoring it.) What’s the peril of that? Be still—HS says, “The things you’re struggling with (food, alcohol, anger) you are using to cover up. Get quiet. Really listen to yourself. Do what you can to be heard. Your soul has much to say.”

After years of ignoring that voice, HS was growing impatient. I could feel it like a warning.

“Please. Before it’s too late,” she’d urge.

“What’s the rush?” I’d ask, irritated that I was being pressured. Scared I was being asked not to have fun anymore. But I knew the reason she was pushing.

Tomorrow comes at you very fast.

Tomorrow is built on what I’m doing this very day.

…Tomorrow is a maybe.

Harsh, right? Make no mistake, the end is a destination no one will avoid. If I was going to BE her, I had to quit living like I had all the time in the world to course correct.

I needed wisdom to help me through the fundamental choice I faced—to stay where I was or make the changes my heart and soul asked of me. Time had come to admit that the voice that had been whispering and escalating to a scream was my own beautiful, wise voice and it had only my best interest at heart.

The truth was that living in a state where my younger (admittedly very juvenile) self was in charge was fun but was wearing on me, killing my spark, derailing my goals, and literally making me sick. I’d finally come to a point where I was willing to rethink EVERYTHING.

To allow the woman I wanted to become to emerge from inside of me, there had to be a true retirement of the woman I’d been—a changing of the guard. My Highest Self had waited long enough.

Doesn’t this precious gift—this one wild life—deserve our best and call upon us to show up as the highest version of ourselves? Isn’t that a place from which we have the most to offer the world? Dammit, doesn’t this world need that right now?

Many books I’d read over the years alluded to a Higher Self. I understood it as an existential idea, maybe an all-knowing observer hovering above my life that could only be accessed through meditation or drugs or inherent holiness, which I was sure I did not possess.

Now I see that I was always holy enough to receive her. She was the angel on my shoulder when my devil wanted to play, she was there in the advice I somehow gave friends that was more full of grace and wisdom than I thought I possessed, and she was ever-present as my intuition. She was always there, not that I always listened. But she never abandoned or ignored me in return. Now she was asking for me to allow her into being, to walk our walk, talk our talk, and love and work and mother and create and strive as her—the highest version of myself.

It’s time.

Shhhh… Listen. Do you hear that? Is it a whisper? Or a scream?

Total Life Course – The 90-Day Plan That Changed My Life!

I want to talk about getting real honest about the course you’re on in your life.

Are you headed in the direction you sincerely want to go?

I promise you that you’re going somewhere, it just might not be a destination you’ll like very much.

We all go through phases that cause us to rethink and reevaluate our lives. Life’s not meant to be a mundane continuum. Nor should it always feel like an uphill climb where your Highest Self sits on the mountaintop waving frantically while you spin in circles, lost or stuck, with no idea how you’ll reach the peak.

For some of us, these phases of reexamination can be periods of major upheaval and change—a radical shift from who we were toward who we are meant to be. A rebirth. Not to over employ the caterpillar/butterfly metaphor but c’mon…they’re badass when it comes to transformation.

Metamorphosis is a messy, stunning business.

Two months shy of my 47th birthday, I got honest and sat (and cried) with the uncomfortable truth that I felt pressed and contorted and irreversibly breech in nearly all aspects of my life. I felt like every limb was employed in the effort to stay exactly where I was—a nice little psychic hidey-hole of my own making. The rub was, despite my obstinacy on staying put, I didn’t like where I was.

And I sure as hell didn’t like where I was going.

I’m self-aware enough to realize that my personal gridlock was a classic preference for the ‘devil we know.’ I resisted change because change is scary, difficult, un-fun, and risky. Who needs that when you can have another glass of wine, another slice of comfort-pie, and binge-watch Outlander so you can numb out from all the unpleasant truths crashing around like bats inside of you?

Despite the fact that people have described me as brave, I didn’t feel courageous in my day-to-day life. I felt gutless, stuck in my own thick quicksand, and was doing nothing to save myself. Deep inside, I knew what I had to do.

Go ahead. Try and tell me you don’t know your own deep inside truths.

For years, I’d heard (and blithely ignored) the calls of my Highest Self. I think she stopped waving and just plopped down on a rock with her chin in her hands, wondering if I’d ever get off my ass or quit putting boulders on my own trail.

I wanted to change but didn’t, if you feel me. I justified, procrastinated, denied, and lied myself out of genuine change. The more I did that, the more frustrated and lost I became.

When I learned to fly, my instructor gave me a great lesson on the importance of regular compass checks. What did she do? She let me get lost. I had no idea where we were and only a vague notion of how long we’d been off course. It can happen very fast. Imagine a compass with the directional lines fanning out from a dot in the center, much like the spokes on a wheel. At the very center, the lines are close together, but as you continue outward on any one line, the lines get farther and farther apart.

The longer it takes you to figure out you’re off course, the more off course you will be.

I realized with the bracing acuity of a dump truck-sized ice-bucket challenge that I needed a major course correction.

Fundamentally unhappy about too many aspects of my life, I was sick and tired of the fact that I’d been sick and tired of the same issues for so long.

Do you ever just get desperately weary of your own bullshit?

The bottom line is that I was suffering because I kept ignoring my Highest Self calling for change; changes only I could make. Changes that I knew intuitively would usher in a radical life shift; spiritually, physically, and energetically.

That Self—the most intuitive, honest, wise part of me—knew what to do.

I spent a weekend writing about everything that wasn’t working in my life and got real honest about why. How had I arrived here? What did I need to do to orient myself? I looked through volumes of my journals and could see that my “HS” had been talking to me for years.

That time was spent doing the most important thing I’ve done for myself since 2008 when I lost 50 pounds and transformed my health.

I created at 90-Day Plan—a whole-life plan—that I called: TOTAL LIFE COURSE.

I assessed the various issues I grappled with, divided my life into 5 sections, and created the “Course Correct Rules” by which I vowed to live for those 90 days.

My thinking was that it would need to be a significant enough amount of time to heal my body from years of carelessness. To shore up areas that were faltering such as work and finances. It would have to be long enough to truly break some self-defeating habits so that I could begin to heal my body and soul. It would need to be long enough to make lasting changes that would become a lifestyle.

Why’d I call it TOTAL LIFE COURSE? Because what I decided I had to do felt utterly radical and across the board. Some of the changes would be extensive departures from how I lived my daily life and would go against some of my very ingrained (and very enjoyable) habits. To commit to 90 days of across the board, sweeping changes felt utterly guerrilla and revolutionary in tactic.

In a very real way, I wanted to boldly wipe the slate clean. My gut told me to brush off the notion that it’s easier to make small, gradual changes because I believe that all aspects of our lives work in concert with one another. You can’t fly just by focusing on the engine of the plane and ignore the wings or the instruments. Everything works together. Every aspect of my life either supports or destabilizes the whole of me.

I knew I needed to shut the door on the old me with the old ways of coping, and gracefully step into this new phase of my life being more wholly authentic and brave.

Getting older and getting better takes guts, y’all.

The results were amazing.

My Total Life Course truly changed my health, my work, and my life!

I began to realize that I couldn’t be the only one grappling with the awareness and frustration of not being who I was truly meant to be…

Reaching out and sharing my journey made me realize how many people felt the same way. An opportunity and a challenge presented itself—to create a positive and supportive community with the goal of helping others overcome their own stalemate and move toward the best in themselves and in their lives.

This isn’t about striving for the “shoulds.”

“Should” is the gnarled stick we beat ourselves with.

It’s about what you deeply want. The core of you.

It’s about the willingness to let go of all that isn’t truly in your best interest.

The litmus test for that is a ‘no’ answer to anything that you can’t honestly say represents your best life or your highest vision you have about who you are.

If you’ve been feeling the same pain and frustration, if you’ve been putting off the necessary changes to reorient yourself on a route that will enable you to cross the gulf between who you are and who you want to be, then it’s time for a Radical Reset.

It’s never too late or too early.

Take my hand. We’ll climb that mountain together.

Our Highest Selves will be so glad.

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