Perspective

I recently came across a psychological model that makes a lot of sense to me. It is called The Adult Chair, by Michelle Chalfant. The podcast can be found at MichelleChalfant.com (or TheAdultChair.com will redirect to that site.) It has shown me straight forward solutions to things I hadn’t been able to understand, like why I continued to feel like a child in an adult body, and what drives the voice deep within me to flee from what would seem like reasonable risk.

As I explored my automatic reactions to circumstances, I noticed that a great many cautions were attached to a desire to have my natural father back in my life. The last time I saw him was when I was 4 years old. I was standing in the driveway with him, and I remember clearly that he told me “Always do the right thing, and always tell the truth.” He also said something to the effect that I should obey Scott (who became my adoptive Dad), as I would him. I’m not sure what he said that caused me to believe that if we did well enough, we would be together again. I established that as my sole mission in life – to do well enough at always doing the right thing, and always telling the truth, under Scott’s authority, to get my father back.

With those parameters firmly in my 4 year mind, instructions became law and the rules became more and more complex to try to accomplish. By the time I realized I couldn’t figure out how to do well enough, I had erroneously received the message that it wasn’t okay to disturb others with my concerns, that I had to take responsibility for myself.

I pressed on, doing my best, day by day, year by year, always seeing that I was not capable of fulfilling my responsibility. I lost track of why I was trying so hard, and feeling so bad about failing. As I grew more and more ashamed of who I was, and my inadequacy, I had to create a bigger barrier between my shortcomings and the image of who I thought I needed to be. The more I concealed behind the wall, the more I became afraid of letting anyone know me.

After learning self-compassion freed me from despising my ability to fit the false image, I learned to love my faults, along with the noble character I had worked toward.

Recently, a counselor asked me to share some of the challenges of my childhood. After I gathered them together, recognizing I hadn’t felt acceptable to ask for help, I thought “That was one tough kid!”

The next day, doing some inner child work, I told “little Eric” that I wanted him to have a nickname that could expresses how courageous and strong he is. I heard “Leo”. I thought that was perfect. Leo had been the name of our giant stuffed lion that I had since I was 5. He was a best friend to me. I told him everything. He helped me through countless challenges. He gave the best advice. He was wise and courageous.

Then I recognized that the problem with Leo was that he had the same rules, restraints and knowledge that I had. He could only help me to do the best I could with what I had. He couldn’t give me another perspective. He was a reflection of me. What I recognized next encouraged the snot out of me – everything I had ever admired in Leo came from me. How could I ever deny myself acceptance again?

Most importantly to me, I recognized that my foundational belief, that I needed to become good enough to be worthy of my father’s love, was false. I was released from chains I had put on myself, thinking they would give me what I wanted in life.

Today I am a beautiful mess, fully worthy of love and every good thing. I am celebrating more of my shortcomings each day. I am tearing down the walls and allowing people to see me, just as I am. It is very un-appealing to many, and that’s okay. The most valuable people in my life have always cherished what I tried so hard to hide. Now I get to embrace their love instead of shielding from the pain of disappointment. I even get to be open to other perspectives, that didn’t fit with my distorted mission.

I was thinking about a closing statement, but I think I’ll just leave it open…

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Calling All Less Thans

There are some fortunate people who have already learned that all people are of equal value, including themselves. They may have had healthy, mature people to teach them, or they may have gone through great struggle to come to that understanding.

There are also those who believe they are better than some or all others. I don’t know much about them. They seem to be better off without me.

There are, what seems to be a vast number of people who believe, as I had, that they are less than at least many others. Sure there were many times in my life when I thought I must somehow be equal with everyone else, but there was something deeper that rejected the idea.

The image of what I thought I needed to be, to be acceptable, was unattainable. I hated who I was.

It took a change of perspective to find love and acceptance for myself.

If you have struggled with feeling less than, please talk with me. I would be honored to share with you how you can live with as much value as the most amazing person you know.

You are welcome to email me at – tootalltale@yahoo.com

I know you are worth it!

Worthy

There has been a lull in my writing. I had been practicing writing about my observations. However, I went through a season where I could not find clarity. A number of triggers had brought me back to the distress of my youth, that this life is a torturous existence, where we should consider ourselves fortunate if we are not currently being tormented. 

Fortunately, along the path, it was pointed out to me that things weren’t so much happening to me as much as they were simply happening – nothing personal. The world we live in is decaying and corrupt, overflowing with hazards. There will be loss and pain. The only way to avoid that would be to value nothing or anyone. That would be a greater loss than losing everything. 

I returned to core beliefs – nothing in life compares in value to relationships and compassion. Unfortunately, a lifetime of distorted views of life and myself left me extremely inexperienced at developing and maintaining relationships. When others offered friendship, I regularly hid in fear of them discovering I was unacceptable, under the fragile veil of the image I thought I needed to present. 

When a course in self-compassion revealed to me that I am enough, with all of my shortcomings, I began to face my fears. I have made much progress. Recognizing that I still let opportunities for connection pass, due to fear of the unknown, I set intentions for the new year – releasing reactivity to nurture awareness, and releasing unworthiness to nurture requests. A few days later, I began asking “What is the most loving thing I can do for myself at this time?” It is working out to be the fulfillment of all of the intentions I set. Awareness and honoring my needs, at a simple requests, has has a profound effect on my sense of worthiness. 

The practice is quickly branching out to those around me. If I ask you what the most loving thing I can do for you at this time is, know that it is because I believe you are worthy of my time and resources. 

I am deeply grateful to many who have treated me as worthy, even when I could not see it.

As a friend, what loving thing can I do for you at this time? 

Today

I was recently encouraged by an odd, yet powerful statement, “One day you will die… all the other days, you will not.”

Much of my life, I was easily discouraged because this world is so volatile that efforts are frequently lost. I also tended to look at an uncertain project through the lens of the difficulty I can have with the most basic things in life. I would reason that if I couldn’t manage the small things, how could I hope to accomplish great things? 

Here, the words of the philosopher, Hillary Duff, “You can never get to Heaven, or even to L.A., if you don’t believe there’s a way.”, give me the perspective I need. 

I see that if I behave as though I will live an insignificant life, there is no chance of anything better. True, if I aim big, I could still come to nothing. Still I have the power to open the door to infinite potential. 

Today I choose to live as though I will take part in filling the world with people who know how valuable they are, how precious life is, and the joy of compassion. 

Today I will take a great step on this magnificent journey by taking out the garbage. (Okay, slightly larger than that, I am getting rid of clutter in and around the house.)

I look forward to walking with you as we journey. 

Recalibrating

In my high school years, I was desperate to find hope for life. When my Grandma was murdered by my aunt, her own daughter, in the name of God, I lost all hope that God existed, much less cared about humanity. 

I was lost, and found no joy in life. Numerous times, strangers passing by would say things like, “Cheer up, it’s not that bad.” or ask their friend about me “Is that guy walking, over there, alive?”

I needed a guide. After high school, a coworker cleared up some misconceptions I had about Jesus. When I learned that his death was his plan to bring us back to relationship with God, my faith took flight. 

In my new faith, I had many supernatural experiences. My faith became strong enough that as I experienced extreme challenges, rather than wavering in my faith, I sought purpose in the challenges. I came to believe that the challenges were to prepare me for a greater work. When I felt as though I was unable to go on, I leaned into hope that this was part of the path of God healing his people through me. It carried me through many seasons when I could not find the strength in myself to go on.

Recent events revealed to me that my strength to cope with my circumstances has been artificially elevated through unrealistic hope. I chose to reexamine my expectations. When I looked at the reasonable possibility that my life could continue to develop much like it has over the past decade, I was reunited with the desperation of my youth. If my struggles were not preparation for something extraordinary, I found myself unable to bear the burden. 

I returned to a group that supports living life on life’s terms. Within moments I remembered events that led me to tell God that, if I never saw a miracle, or heard His voice, still I know that He exists. These memories also reminded me that what is yet to happen is already known. 

Although I don’t know what will happen in life, I know that it is mine – to do the best I can, with what I have, while remaining open to a future greater than I have yet imagined. 

This is my foundation. This is my standard. It is enough. By this I can be comfortable being uncomfortable. 

First Half Century Wrap-up

With my 50th birthday coming tomorrow, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection.

I was asked if I was excited for this milestone. When I responded “I wish my life wasn’t such a mess.” I was told “You can’t say that. You have a job you really enjoy, and your son is doing well in college.”

I have tried not feeling that way, even writing a gratitude list. It didn’t make the feeling go away. It just made it restless behind my activities.

Finally I got a moment to sit with the feeling and explore it. After a while, I recognized that more specifically, I was feeling that I wasn’t making progress. Sure, I had accomplished a great deal in the last year. But each time I pushed forward, something came up that set me back. When I put full effort into my transportation company, I began to get past breaking even. Then the cat got sick and needed surgery. There went all of the surplus and then some.

By the end of summer, I was exhausted. I surrendered. Then I was blessed with an amazing job opportunity! I felt like things had turned around. Then the transportation issues began to spiral out of control. I had the engine in my wife’s car apart, due to a damaged cylinder head, so she was driving our backup car. Then my van was struck by a falling branch, and has been in the body shop for over 6 weeks. (I still don’t have it back yet.) I was blessed by a friend loaning me a car. Then our backup car broke down. The only car I had to drive my family around in was the one I was borrowing from my friend. I got my wife’s car back on the road, then my friend’s car was stolen from in front of my house. I got my backup car back on the road, but both it and my wife’s car have check engine lights reminding me that the work is not finished.

Then I looked at my personal development. Over the last year, I have come to understand some major issues that have plagued me throughout my life. I have learned to release poor coping skills, and work through intense grief and trauma.

Holding as much of the truth as I am capable, I am glad to recognize that I am far better off this year than I have ever been.

Has this deeper understanding eradicated the feeling that I wish my life wasn’t such a mess? No. It has helped me to accept the feeling, knowing that I have invested in far greater value than the appearance of my mess.

Time and time again, throughout the year, I have seen that an image in my mind, usually of how things “should be” has been the source of countless poor decisions and intense pain.

In my second half century, I purpose to continue to develop as I believe appropriate for me, and relieve myself of the burden of my appearance.

I’ve heard that if you don’t grow up by the time you are 50, you don’t have to. I only have to hold out a few more hours, then I’m free to live as I see fit.

Blessings to you all!

Too Much

There are times in my life that there is more to do than I have the ability to manage.

In the past, when I would become overwhelmed, I would hide from the pressure, do something comforting, and do the minimum on the responsibility that threatened the most damage, if neglected (the most “urgent”).

These days, I am learning to practice pausing, considering what is important to me, including taking care of myself, and moving forward with the most important matters.

Some of the most challenging development has come in the form of communicating with those who have expectations of me, that I regret that I will not be able to meet their expectations at this time. It was a major point where I had misunderstood my fear of people’s reactions. I behaved as though telling someone I didn’t have the ability to perform for them would mean that I was not worthy of them. I realize now that not communicating with them was more likely to be taken as though I thought they were not worthy of me.

Since practicing simply sharing what I am dealing with, I have confirmed that people are much more understanding than my fears.

People aren’t always happy they don’t get my support that they had hoped for, but they always seem to feel better having an accurate view of the situation, rather than a guess as to why I disappeared.

Occasionally, this works out to accomplishing all that I thought was too much, and I feel like I am pretty incredible. 😀

Regardless, this practice has always resulted in accomplishing more, especially more of what is truly important to me.

May you always have enough time for what is important to you.