In my early thirties, I was examining my life as I think many folks do when they get to be that age. For me, I was in the midst of a life change that would chart a new course for my life. Old patterns, habits and behaviors that had served me well as survival tools in my teens and twenties had worn out their usefulness for adopting a more mature and balanced adult life.
THE BOOK OF LIFE
There were many lessons learned during that time, but one of the most profound was to address personal issues that had caused me much distress: the book of my life. This was the book of how things were ‘supposed to be,’ not the book of life as it was. Perhaps (ironically) it was also during this period of my life that I was most active with journaling. My journals were epic tomes detailing the great chasm that separated the life I thought I should be living, and the one I was actually living.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that the life I was living was not (perhaps?) ideal in many ways, and I’d suspect that this could be objectively verified. But, I can also say that in many ways it was far better than how I was experiencing it. Whatever it lacked could almost always be attributed to the direct result of daily action I was taking, or avoiding. This is not to say that each of us is not subject to some amount of fate, or luck or cosmic randomness, but for most practical purposes, what we do in reaction to life is more important than what happens to us.
LEAVE THE PAGES BLANK
The book of my life was my mental image of the present day, and also far into the future. Anxiety soared when the contents of the book did not match my actual experience; what was actually happening versus what I thought should be happening. In other words, I woke up daily to a landscape and a map to which the destination of my imagined life could not be reached, “you can’t get there from here.”
With the pages already written into my imagined future life that had become seemingly less and less achievable, the downward spiral into an abyss of self-pity accelerated with even greater force– the race to the bottom was on. So from this state of psychological “lock in” what is the solution? Very simply, keep the pages blank.
DO NOT COMPARE AND DESPAIR
The simple solution to the kind of “compare and despair” thinking that can send most of us into a tail spin is very simply to put down the crystal ball and allow the book of your life to unfold organically. The great liberation in “leaving the pages blank” was that I was no longer tied to a fixed idea of what my future should be. The biggest challenge is when we believe that if the future we see for ourselves does not come to be, it will surely be some lesser version, or perhaps even the tragic version of our lives.
FAITH OVER FEAR
Over the years however, experience as taught me (quite often), that when I’m open to limitless possibilities, there is more often than not, a greater destiny ahead of me. The limitless tomorrow reveals a chain of events that I could have never anticipated while attempting to connect the dots and lines from one point in my life to another. But here’s the snag. Blank pages require faith. Faith requires the abandonment of fear. And this is where we get to the root of all of our problems.
FEAR MANIFESTS IN TWO PRIMARY WAYS:
First: that something I have will be taken from me.
Second: that something I want will be withheld from me.
To move beyond both cases of fear, acceptance is the answer. It is acceptance of what is, living in the now, that allows for the pages to remain blank. Here’s the upshot of this: Blank pages are an adventure and an opportunity. This however requires that I surrender my attachment to the mental book of written pages.
The greatest challenge in this type of world view is balancing the blank pages with adult responsibility and planning. Everything from car payments, rent, mortgages, retirement planning, etc. But the truth is, no matter how much planning we do: life is going to happen and it largely happens in unexpected ways. The things that are mostly likely to throw a wrench into your life are not the things that can be planned for anyways, so embrace the chaos. (Sure, have the retirement savings, too.)
WHERE WILL THE DAY BRING YOU?
Today, as best I can, I attempt to embrace each day as an adventure. Where will I go today? Where are we going? And this is the bottom line. If I chose to see the world as an opportunity to be of service, then the future is less scary because where ever I am, that’s where I must be needed to provide assistance to the best of my ability. This is the game changer. See, it’s really not about me, which is why the book really doesn’t matter. It’s about being of service where ever I am, and the rest takes care of itself.
GET OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF AND SHOW UP FOR SOMEONE ELSE!