If I asked you to tell me about your life, what would you say? Would I hear about your accomplishments, your family, your dreams? Would you tell me of your heartaches, loss or needs? How do you define your life today?
Think about it for a minute.
Let’s take this anxiety test together. It’s not a hard test – the folks at Psych Central offer it for free in their self test area. It will take about fifteen minutes. Ready? Go!
What does your anxiety score say about how you feel in your life? My score was a 3/100 ~ yep, I’ve gotten so comfy in my skin that not much rattles me anymore. So what about a person fulfills that popular phrase from Paul, one of the authors of the Christian bible? Philippians 4:12 is one of my all time favorite texts. For all you non-Christian types, bear with me here. You see, it is the documented history of this guy that fascinates me. When he talks about a tough day on the job, he’s often saying it from a jail cell that would put social justice people into orbit. We’re talking knee high in sewage as the Roman’s often put the sewers and the prisons in the same space. Daily life for this guy included the possibility of being beaten senseless, starvation, long treks or long stints in jail…not a pleasant life, overall. When you include the next two sentences, this particular passage means a lot because in this society at 59 -60 C.E., if you were in jail with no community you also starved. Food, clothes and needs were not provided to prisoners.
We can agree most of us don’t have these kinds of daily stressors. What about Paul’s life says “I am stable and strong. I am okay, just being me?” This text is one of my favorite inspirational self help writings ever. It says:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
You see, anxiety over “situations” is a life killer. It may not kill you outright with a heart attack or stroke, but it will lead you to things like drug/alcohol abuse, co dependency, over eating or eating poorly, fatigue, listlessness, surges of cortisol (leading cause of serious subcutaneous fat that will give you that heart attack), lack of sleep, depression…and the list goes on. With all these negatives, why do we continue to live in stress? Paul found his answer in his faith v. 13. Don’t stop there though – v. 14 says “Yet, it was good for you to share in my troubles.” We can learn two really sound psychological principals here.
First, being content with who and where you are will lead you to a more fulfilling life – and increase your odds of making those dreams come true.
Second, there is an amazing moment in your self actualization that you’re in community – the right community – at the right time. That is different for everyone.
What is your situation today? I am in the midst of writing an article followup for several correspondence I’ve received about the next step in letting go – each with a valid point of pain. The short answer? Everything that you need is inside you. Your life…is about you.
We began this article together asking this question: If I asked you about your life, what would you tell me? Would I hear about your accomplishments, your family, your dreams? Would you tell me of your heartaches, loss or needs? How do you define your life today? Now, think of your answer and consider how your stress or anxiety are changing how you might feel about your life if you simply approved of who you are and where you are? If you changed your state to accept your life and encourage your spirit?
There is another man that wrote to we future folk, in a similar time and space where justice was not well served. His influence is also still felt today. Dr. Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, chronicled his experiences as a Nazi concentration camp inmate. Frankl lost his practice, his wife, children, home, possessions – everything. He watched inhumane things happen, suffered terribly, starved beyond anything we imagine… and still did not lose hope or his life. You see, Frankl managed his emotions, his anxiety, his fear through confronting them with meaning. He did not have a superpower, or the ability to get away. By finding meaning in all forms of existence, Frankl lived in a world that few around him could imagine. He created his reality in hope. He found a reason to continue living. Frankl later was one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still knows bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. — P.37, Man’s Search for Meaning
You see, the love that you have for yourself communicates into those that you love as well. It is deeply rooted in self awareness. Frankl later developed his experience into six “propositions.”
- Human being have the innate capacity for self-awareness.
- We live in a condition that expresses the tension between personal freedom & responsibility.
- Our self actualization and meaning are deeply rooted in the creation of an identity & the ability to establish meaningful relationships.
- Our life has a goal: the search for meaning. Who are you? Why are you here? What does your life mean?
- Accepting anxiety as a condition of living also gives you the power to manage your emotions, to confront and accept your fears or anxiety and to live a whole life.
- The awareness of death and non-being is the final proposition ~ what do you honestly beleive of your soul (if any), life after death and the meaning of it all.
The point of these two great men is the same as my own for this article. Ready? Here we go.
This is your life.
You live it both in yourself, and in a community.
The way that you feel about those things I asked of your you life?
They’re your choice….
The anxiety, the stress, the fear, the pain…
You can change it. You control how you look at life, your own attitudes.
You have the power to be and become.
How do we change? How do we change when we’re hurting?
- First, we accept that we cannot control that which is not ourselves. Letting go is hard. Having a person or a relationship, a job, town, friends ~ leaving anything behind that causes you heartache is a tough road. It’s made so much better when you can do it in love. Don’t wish the person or place you’ve left behind ill. Wish nothing but love and happiness out in the universe. Live in active peace, active forgiveness. It’s to your benefit.
- Second, we accept that which we cannot change. I accept that I cannot change my decisions, the love that I offered, or the loss that I felt. Are there hard days? You bet. Even now, there are still moments that I feel so brokenhearted I can barely breathe. Of course, if you loved someone that is now gone, it wasn’t for no reason. Celebrate those things about them that you love, and let go in grace. There is something about that person that made you pick her/him out of the billions of people on the planet. It’s okay to move fondly away. If you’re stuck stagnant over the loss, seek help.
- Third, acknowledge the tension between what you want and what your responsibilities are. It’s okay that you love, and will love again. In talking with a person through her heartache this week, I realized that part of letting go was acknowledging my feelings toward my former flame. I understand that the life you wanted to continue is in direct contrast to how you are living – or is it? You see, my “preferred” life before my heartbreak couldn’t have led me here. This is my dream. I had no idea in the pain that I was headed toward the happiest days of my life. Without that heartache? No THM, no book, no bestseller. All the things that I value in life would be altered or destroyed. Not worth it. Yes, it was a powerful thing to see my former flame both as the man that I trusted so much, and as the welcome end of a chapter in my life. I never said that I didn’t love him honestly – I did. I am so thankful for unanswered prayers. I accept that feeling as part of was, consider it for a time and let it flow away from me. My responsibility is the meaning, the life that I lead now.
- Finally, see life in the light of a real, soul based being. Why am I here? I am a helper. What is my purpose? To Love. What does it all mean? I don’t know just yet – but the adventure of a universe awaits me with things I can’t even imagine.
You see, I found meaning in it all.
Would your situation make more sense to you if it was allowed to simply be? If there is no great “why” but instead meaning that you seek as you go on with life? Maybe no concrete reason…but a condition change that puts you on a new course? Can you be like Frankl and see the hope in any situation…without it being a bargain for the return of what you think you lost? My reasons were left behind so that my meaning could take on the form of a new life with Brian, here in our home, with our kids and the crazy guinea pig, Zoey.
In great need or in plenty…I am content.
Try that on.
Swish it around in your soul.
What do you think?
Life is much different now that I have let go of my former 65/100 anxiety scale and found meaning in my daily life. It’s got those ups and downs….and I am okay with them. I don’t hide it – I confront it. Every so often, I have to remember: in my recreated graceful state it is okay that I once loved and lost. There was something special about that person that made him unique in my world. It’s good to know that those memories are there. Still, it’s enough that those memories linger in a relatively dusty place in my mind, and that I have moved on with hope, love and faith. Honestly, I have no idea where his flight from Michigan took him, nor will I ever. In truth, I think that he’d be happy to know that I’ve found my place in the world. I am not who I should be…I am who I was created to be.
Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be. Sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you? ~Fanny Brice