Tag Archives: frustration

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Lately, I’ve been very aware that I am in a period of recapitulation. I’ve been in this place before, but mostly I just reeled against myself in resistance because I couldn’t stand the uncertainty that comes with the territory.

To recapitulate something is to summarize and restate again the main points. In terms of growth and development, it’s a period of introspective evolution — an expansion of consciousness, if you will.

I admit at times, it’s damn uncomfortable. It’s also very sweet and this time around I’m savoring the sweetness of it and being ok with letting things inside of me germinate at pace slower than to my liking. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

As most everything in life needs a period of “rest” after it’s been worked (soil after it’s been tilled, dough after its been kneaded, our bodies after a good work-out and our souls after a challenging period), all of this comes on the coattails of three very challenging years.

In 2011, I walked off a cliff and started a music festival–a blues music festival to be more precise. I also publish a magazine. In this latest issue, I wrote about my experience starting this Festival, which was a totally harrowing experience, and one I wouldn’t change for the world. The journey of the last three years inoculated me against everyday fears that frequently plague all of us. It shined a light in the dark corners where these fears hide and exposed them for the frauds they really are. Where I was once blinded by darkness I can now see, and I am fortified with some truths that I might never have known any other way.

As I look at my blog, I’m realizing the extent of my neglect has been almost a year. So it’s time…time for me to share with you what’s been keeping my attention. Here I share with you my story of starting something new and how that helped me to cultivate authenticity. Starting Something New: The Birth of Tall City Blues Fest

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

I’ve often felt there exists an invisible boundary that tempers the goodness of virtues, a sort of diminishing returns when relied upon to the extreme.

I term this experience ‘running riot’ with the virtues. It starts out with a good, pure virtuous motive, but then very subtly our experience becomes something else–something not so virtuous.

Let’s take for example, acceptance. Acceptance in its purity is about loving others in spite of their exasperating qualities, while at the same time having and honoring boundaries that prevent us from taking ownership of someone else’s poor behavior (see another blog post I wrote about acceptance here). But acceptance run riot to the nth degree becomes resignation. We resign ourselves that the world, our marriage, our kids, our jobs, (fill in the blank) are doomed, so why bother anymore. That’s just the way things are. So it’s not surprising when we find ourselves abruptly detaching with resentment and putting up a wall to cope. This is not acceptance; this is resignation.

Resignation is acceptance run riot. Acceptance is swathed in love; resignation is seeded with resentment. Let’s look at how this works with other virtues:

Honesty run riot becomes brutality;
Truth run riot becomes self-righteous;
Freedom run riot becomes lazy;
Kindness run riot becomes self-serving;
Ambition run riot becomes domination;
Adventure run riot becomes frivolity;
Strength run riot becomes caustic;
Humility run riot becomes self-sabotage;
Leadership run riot becomes controlling;
Willingness run riot becomes overcommitted;
Diligence run riot becomes dogged;
Assertive run riot becomes aggressive;
Tolerance run riot becomes self-neglect;
Patience run riot becomes procrastination;
Silence run riot becomes withholding;
Solace run riot becomes isolation;
Concern run riot becomes criticism; and
Love run riot becomes suffocation.

And, of course, this is just a sampling. The list could go on and on.

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

Acceptance of our limitations or circumstances does not mean that we will remain stuck in them forever. Interestingly enough, it is only by accepting them that we become able to grow beyond them. But let me caution that acceptance and resignation are not the same thing! Acceptance is a big lofty word that seems to be open to this wide chasm of interpretation. And, to some extent, I think this wide-openness precipitates confusion just as much as it allows for for freedom.

So what is acceptance and what is it not? Let’s first look at what it is not because most of us are guilty of practicing the ruinous side of this coin much more often than the virtuous side.

Acceptance is NOT

throwing a tantrum; pouting; judging or spreading ill about other people; plotting revenge; replaying or projecting conversations in your head; repeatedly telling everybody you talk to about an incident in which you were wronged; and accepting unacceptable behavior, just to name a few.

This last one is a biggie! There is a train-wreck at the end of accepting unacceptable behavior. How often do you allow someone to dictate your actions, either because they are overtly forcing it on you as if you’re their captive (and you buy into the idea that you deserve it) or because you are choosing to allow someone else to take up free rent space in your head? Their words permeate your actions, not because you want them to, but because they are already embedded deep in your thoughts. You find yourself doing or allowing the same thing over and over again and wondering why you can’t change that part about yourself or your life. And then you resign. You resign yourself into a deep abyss and call it acceptance.

Just as acceptance and resignation are not the same, acceptance and tolerance are not the same either.

It’s like this: Acceptance run riot becomes resignation. Tolerance run riot becomes self-loathing.

So what is tolerance, then?

Tolerance is temporary and external. It is allowing someone else the grace of poor behavior and not taking it personal or making it your personal quest to rake thru sorting it out with them. It is giving someone the dignity to take ownership of their own poor behavior by telling them the truth, by setting boundaries, and by not going back for more. It is honoring your own self-worth, while letting others to choose to destroy their’s.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is more about an internal state of being. It is a mental, emotional and spiritual resolve; an energy signature. Acceptance and tolerance (in its virtuous side) go hand-in-hand. Acceptance is what makes tolerance possible.

Intentional Life Legacies

Intentional Life Legacies

I spend a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life. I once had the very powerful experience of writing my own funeral eulogy as a coaching exercise and it was unforgettable. At first blush that may sound morose, but the point is to project what you would want people to say and feel about you, how you impacted their lives when you still had clay feet; and to let this be a governing light by which you can live your life now.

I’ve also heard it put another way, which is to write a 200-year life plan. Again, at first glance, this seems ridiculous; the vast majority of us don’t live to be 100, let alone 200 years old! But that is precisely the point—the impact of our lives reaches well beyond the limitation of our physical existence.

While it’s impossible to always live our lives congruently with our own long-term projection of ourselves, that doesn’t mean the projection (or plan) isn’t worth having. And having a plan certainly doesn’t alleviate our lives of friction and conflict. Actually, I’d suggest having a planned legacy might create more collisions, because when we’re working toward (or on) that which is part of our soul work, the obstacles are a necessary and essential part of the process. If it weren’t for the obstacles, we would have no milestones—nothing over which to triumphantly prevail!

I read this recently in an issue of Backpacker Magazine:

We make choices, and nearly all of us start out incubating some grand, youthful ambition. We want to write novels when we grow up, or scale unclimbed peaks. But then we do grow up and we become practical. We choose [paths] that are easier, more conventional. We limit our adventures to what fits in the vacation schedule. (Bill Donahue)

WTH? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of getting to the end of my life (whenever that may be), looking back and living with the realization that I didn’t do anything that mattered, that I didn’t make a difference in the people’s lives that intersected with mine, that I didn’t live my life authentically to the best of my ability, that I didn’t stretch myself beyond what I thought were my limits; that I lived a wasted life, squandered my gifts, skills, abilities and opportunities, and that the only legacy I might leave behind is bitter resentment and bad memories for all the things I could have done better or differently and instead chose only actions in service of myself and my own immediate gratification. Yuk!

This is not to say that I have the expectation I won’t ever violate these ideas in the course of my life, and it’s certainly not to say that I am above situational regrets or having to fight on the battleground of my own frailties and weaknesses; BUT it IS to say that somehow in the grand sum total of my life as I lived it, I want the fact that I had one to have made a difference! And the only way I know how to do that is to have spent some time purposefully contemplating what I want the end to look like, so that I have a guide for the middle.

Living a life guided by an intentional legacy is not an easy life , in fact, it may be harder. But it’s fuller and purposeful. And if my choices are to pay the day-to-day price of a purposeful life now or to live a careless, unguided one—well everything comes with a price and I’d rather pay the price daily than the balloon payment at the end!

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

What the hell does that mean? And who would use ugly wrapping paper–especially on purpose?

I’ll tell you who….Life, the Universe, Nature, God, the Life Force, the Divine!

When we ask for Divine Guidance and Intervention, sometimes the Help we get comes in the form of another frustration, headache, embarrassment, more of the same crap we’re already sick of or a pain in the ass situation we now have to deal with. That’s what I call a gift in ugly wrapping paper. But why is that a gift?

Because it’s exactly these type of situations that put us at wimp junction–that crossroads between choosing to keep doing the same thing over and over or to triumph. Wimp junctions are always uncomfortable (did I say always?), usually don’t give us very much time to make our choice and are always rooted in fear (did I say always?). When we emerge victorious from wimp junction, we have learned a lesson that is paramount to our own unique development. We are released from its bondage.

Let me give you some examples:

Having a client that treats you like crap (gift in ugly wrapping paper)
Risk losing the client and the income they provide (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Deciding the abuse is worth the money, or
(2) Informing the client that the way they treat you will not continue to be acceptable
CONSEQUENCES
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) The client moves on and makes room for better clients or changes they way they treat you (gift)

Losing money on a big project (ugly wrapping paper)
The impact of this on your future (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Letting the situation define you as a failure, or
(2) Deciding to do the work necessary to learn from it
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Being armed with new knowledge and insights that can be applied to the next project (gift)

Having an alcoholic spouse (ugly wrapping paper)
Losing the relationship (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Continue to accept their unacceptable behavior and be miserable, or
(2) Seek help
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Building new relationships or deepening existing relationships (gift)

Are you catching on? It’s the messes that are the gifts in ugly wrapping paper! They give us the opportunity to stand in the middle of wimp junction and decide for ourselves if we’re going to rinse and repeat or do something different. I read recently in a book that the only people that have their shit together are those that are standing in the middle of it! We all have shitty, uncomfortable messes in our lives. The question is not “Why is this happening to me?”, but rather “How can this help me to grow if I choose to see it differently?”.

Funky Feelings, Faulty Sockets & Voila!

Funky Feelings, Faulty Sockets & Voila!

So I spent 21 days in a funk and if there is anything good I can say about a funk, it is the coming out of it. The brightness of feeling alive and connected again stands out sharply against the dark backdrop of feeling like a blob of existence. I didn’t plan for 21 days (do we ever plan for a funk?); to be truthful I didn’t even realize it was only 21 days. I would have bet money on 45 days and felt sure that I was being conservative.

Getting out of the funk wasn’t easy. Somehow, I was under the grand illusion that I had moved thru other funks, traumas, tragedies and catastrophes much easier than I was working thru this one. This only served to whip me further into the gridlock. I also relentlessly dug the trench deeper by obsessively wondering when it was going to be over. What I finally learned is that I had to take action–in particular, self-care action. Oh how this was elusive! The whole time I was in the funk, I thought I was taking care of my self by resting (read, sleeping) alot, mindlessly escaping into TV and solitaire. It is clear to me now that was a cleverly disguised form of admission into the funk and it was easy to get away with it because it “looked” so normal. Normal just means alot of people are doing it; it doesn’t mean it’s sane!

A vital component of recovery from the funk was relating to other real people. We all have people in our lives who could fit in the “not-real” category, as in you’re supposed to be close, but you never really feel like you know them. So I purposely got with the REAL people in my life and shared the REALity of what had been going on in my world. Sharing with others has a way of diffusing the potency of the funky feelings. It also pastes next steps vividly on billboards!

I had to inventory my funk! Repeatedly playing the circumstances over and over in my head wasn’t working. And neither was trying to answer my own questions with the same mind that created them. So I had to sit down and take stock. This exercise helped me to get clear on WHY I was feeling so bad. It was laughable when I finally saw it for what it was. My character liabilities were in full swing with my full participation, but not my permission! I was bathing in woe (self-pity), obsessing over not meeting others expectations and what they were thinking of me (pride), feeling entitled to better than what I got (entitlement), stubbornly unhappy with what I had (ungrateful), fervently wishing the circumstances could be different (resistance) and waiting to be struck wonderful again (unwillingness).

After having a good laugh at myself, I once again felt worthy of good and this started the re-connection. It was a little like plugging into a faulty socket; the juice is intermittent at first, but with a little concerted effort and attention, it eventually starts working the way it was designed–to be of maximum service when plugged in-to. Funny, how that is reciprocal!

Voila! Now we were getting somewhere!

Meltdown’s Make Butterflies

Meltdown’s Make Butterflies

So I had a meltdown on Tuesday. I’ll spare you details except this one tiny, ugly part that might be worth sharing. And not because I want to tell you this, but because I have the nudge that sharing at this level of vulnerability honors the authenticity in me; and I know that when I am authentic, that is what opens the way for you to relate; and because, really, to not share this one tiny, ugly detail, well it would most likely just make the rest of this blog post something similar to Charlie Brown “teacher-speak”—“WaaRah, WaaRah, Waa….”.

Soooo, the ugly little detail…….I threw up months and months of suppressed anxiety, worry and stress….literally. My body convulsed and heaved all thru the night on Wednesday puking up the poison of my stabled headless horsemen; you know those ones: terror, bewilderment, frustration and despair.

Once I reached the end of my rope and gave into the long overdue and necessary “becoming a glob”, my metamorphosis began in that same instant, even though that’s only clear to me in hindsight. I had the warning signs of its commencing, but I didn’t know how to interpret them. So as my body was wringing itself clean of emotional poisons it could no longer stand, I was completely powerless to stop it. It had my full participation, but certainly not my permission! And yet, the cleansing could not have taken place any other way. Apparently, I’m hard-headed!

One thing I can say that was vitally important to my meltdown, cleansing and metamorphosis was being surrounded by safe people around whom it was ok to behave badly….to use foul language, to be unreasonable, to beat myself up, to play the victim, make ridiculous requests, be rude and otherwise just act plain insane; and they would still love me anyway.

Somewhere along the route of this lifetime, I learned that people chose to love and support me based on what I brought to the table and how I acted. Bring alot to the table; let’s get it on! Behave badly; see ya! Is it really a wonder(ment) that our ‘problems’ are of our own making? And aren’t our ‘problems’ really our greatest opportunities? A dear friend of mine says “God gives us brilliant opportunities disguised as impossible situations.” Of course they feel impossible when we’re right in the middle of them, only to be clear as crystal later.

Aren’t we all living to “tell the tale”, so to speak….to move thru the experience, infuse it into our soul, harness the lesson as another treasure in our chests and be poised and ready to share the essence of our authentic lives to relate to another, or another to us? Relating and Relationships….isn’t this the space of life where the fruit is the sweetest? And aren’t meltdown’s how we learn to become butterfly’s?