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Archive for May, 2012

It’s great to look forward to something. The anticipation of an event can often be as enjoyable as the event itself. But I think we can create unnecessary problems for ourselves when we have expectations that something will go a certain way or a person will say/do something specific.

Expectations say that life should always go the way I want it to and people will say and do what I want them to, the way I want them to and when I want them to. So expectations are a bit narcissistic, often unrealistic and set ourselves can lead to disappointment and sometimes even hurt.

Sometimes we even expect someone to behave in a way that is uncharacteristic of them. If someone is typically self-absorbed, for example, but I expect him to be conscious of others around him, or if someone is generally a rollercoaster of emotions and I expect her to handle a situation calmly and rationally – I’m just setting myself up for disappointment (and probably annoyance).

I totally believe that people can change – if they choose to. Unless a person recognizes a need to change and chooses to change, it’s best to accept that they are going to stay the same and then make my own choices about my interaction with them.

Remember the old expression “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck”?  Well, it works the other way, too. If it’s a duck, it will probably walk like a duck and quack like a duck. It is unfair to expect someone else to change their ways just because I think another way would be better, even if it would be better for the relationship. I can voice my request, if appropriate, but it is still up to the other person how they choose to respond to life.

It is important to believe the best in people. It is important to hope. It is essential to have faith in the possibility of a person making the choice to change.  But I think it is a mistake to expect it. I need to give people the freedom to be who they are, make their own choices, live their own lives.

When I trade in my expectations for reality (combined with faith and hope), I save myself some disappointment and annoyance. And then I am also better able to know a person for who they really are, accepting that are imperfect  – just like I am.   If what they are doing is hurtful to me, then I have a choice to put limits on my interaction with them.  But I am doing us both a favor when I let go of my expectations of them to be anything other than who they have always shown themselves to be.

This might sound kind of defeatist, but it really isn’t. I’ll keep hoping and believing for the best in them, just as others keep hoping and believing for the best in me.

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just a moment

Just a moment. That’s what life really is. One moment followed by another. This moment goes by and there’s a new one. There are no spaces between the moments. There is no pause button. No rewind. No fast forward. The moments just keep coming.

Sometimes it seems to happen too quickly. We want to hold onto life exactly as it is right now. But we can’t, because the new moments bring change. So we need to experience the “now” while it is “now”.

Sometimes what’s happening right now is unpleasant – maybe even painful. But the good news is that we’re not stuck here. It might feel like this will last forever, but it won’t. It’s a series of moments that will eventually lead into something else. This moment will pass.

We miss out on really experiencing the “right now” moments if we’re dwelling on the past or just focused on getting to the future. I can look forward to something in the future and I can remember the past and learn from it, but the only moment I can live is this one right now.

So whatever the moment contains, be in it, because it’s where life happens –  in this moment –  right now.

Love now.

Laugh now.

Live now.

in this moment.

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me…of course

me…of course
 *
Looking ahead
to the next five minutes  – or the next five years
who will determine the choices I make?
what  direction to take?
I can talk with others and hear what they say
give consideration to how my actions affect them
but when it comes right down to it
the choices are made by
me…of course
*
Walking into
a room filled with strangers.
hearing the awkward silence
someone needs to break the ice.
I won’t sit around and wait
for someone else to reach out their hand.
I will offer my own.
I’ll do what I can.
When everyone else waits,
the first one to speak will be
me…of course
*
Disagreeing strongly
we don’t see eye to eye
someone needs to find a way
to bring this disturbance to an end.
I don’t have to be right. You don’t have to be wrong.
we don’t have to agree – just agree to move on
life is short. I won’t waste time
expecting someone else to make it right.
I’ll do what I can.
who is going to swallow their pride
and take the first step?
me…of course
*
Looking back
at the end of the day
at the end of the week or the end of my life
thinking over what I’ve said and done
where I’ve been and how I spent my time
sometimes I make mistakes, but I learn from it all
who will know if I’ve done my best?
who can say whether or not I made the most
of the time I’ve been given?
me…of course
*
So I’ll keep this in mind
as I go through each day
with all that I do and every step that I take
there is only one person responsible
for the life that I live and the choices I make.
me…of course
======================

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We’ve all been there at one time or another. Someone does something that causes pain. Whether it was intentional or accidental, it hurts. I’ve been dealing with one of those situations over the past two months, so if you’re in the middle of one, I totally empathize.

In the best case scenario, forgiveness might just mean acknowledging that the other person is human and made a mistake. But when it’s someone we care about who has said or done something that brought us pain, forgiveness can be a tough choice – a complex choice that goes beyond saying the words “I forgive you”.  Sometimes forgiveness comes along with setting new boundaries. Even though we forgive, a relationship might need to change or maybe even come to an end.

In my current situation I have done all that I can do to deal with the person. I have tried the direct  approach twice and there was no acknowledgment of either the hurtfulness of their words or the pain that I was feeling.  So then THAT hurt, too. It seemed like it was snowballing – going downhill fast and gathering momentum on the way.  Something had to change.

Forgiveness, in this case, is a choice I am making for my own well-being. For my emotional health. The other person hasn’t asked for forgiveness and would probably be offended if I said the words “I forgive you”  because they don’t acknowledge any wrongdoing.  But I still need to forgive so that I can let go of it and move on. I can stop expecting remorse or acknowledgment of the pain they caused me. And I can make my own choice about limiting the contact I have with them.

I  still continued to think about all of it, replaying everything in my mind over and over again.  I was holding onto it. I know – letting go of that pain or anger can feel like we’re letting the other person off the hook or even seem like it’s saying that what they did was okay. It is not. What they did was still wrong, but letting go of the pain and anger helps us move forward.

I once heard a speaker say that forgiveness is when you stop expecting the other person to pay a price for what they did. That perspective can be really helpful, not only for how I treat the other person, but also regarding my thoughts. When I keep going back and revisiting everything in my thoughts, in a way I’m “making them pay” by reactivating my hurt and anger.  But they aren’t really paying, because they aren’t there in my thoughts. The person could be 500 miles away or they could be in the next room, but they are still not inside my head. So it only affects me. And I’m the only one who can do anything about that.

We choose to forgive  because it’s the right thing to do, but let’s be honestwe don’t forget.  Telling a person to forget the pain someone caused them is about as effective as telling them to forget the color of their own eyes.  Our brains just aren’t wired to forget on command.

So how do we break that cycle? What do we do when we can’t focus on work or can’t sleep because our minds keep going back to thoughts about what happened and we keep reliving the pain and anger?    This week I tried something different.  Something that is so absurdly simple you might roll your eyes when I tell you.

I thought about something else.

See? I told you it was absurdly simple.  But the thing is, we can’t just NOT think about something. Go ahead – try it. For the next ten minutes, do not think about pink elephants. Whatever you do, be sure you do NOT think about pink elephants. What’s the first thing you thought about?  I’m guessing it was pink elephants.  The only way to not think about pink elephants is to think about something else.

It’s the exact same principle for the  “letting go” part of forgiveness.  Seriously. The only way for me to not think about the current situation that I’m dealing with  is for me to think about something else. Anything else. It doesn’t matter. It’s absurdly simple, but also absurdly effective. The most challenging time for me is at night when I’m trying to quiet my mind down enough to get to sleep. I was replaying the events of the past couple of months over in my mind and feeling the hurt and anger starting all over again. Then I just got annoyed because I realized I was giving this other person more influence in my life than I wanted to – more than they deserve. I was letting another person’s words and actions affect my peace of mind. And I was determined to not let that happen.

I turned my mind to something else. I thought of something more pleasant. When my mind started drifting back toward the unpleasantness, I intentionally shifted it back. At one point I even resorted to just thinking about a number. Imagining the number in my head. Writing it in my mind. It might sound crazy, but it worked.  It could be thoughts about a scene in nature or a person who is loving and kind or anything. It shifts my mind away from thinking about a stressful situation and restores my peace of mind. That is what allows me to move forward.  I might have to do this repeatedly. It doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven – it just means I need to intentionally shift my thoughts to focus on something else as many times as it takes.

Yesterday afternoon I realized that in spite of this week’s part of this whole situation, I felt at peace. I’m still going to have to have occasional contact with the person who hurt me. There will quite possibly be some challenging times ahead in that regard.  I will handle those when the time comes. For now, for today, for this moment, I am at peace.

So I wanted to share this with you, in case you find your self in a similar situation and you find that your thoughts keep going back to something you have chosen to forgive.  It’s absurdly simple, but amazingly effective. Try it – and then try it again…and again.

Forget about forgetting. Think about something else…even if it’s pink elephants.

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