Getting out of self, and into joy.
It seems so logical. We have a problem–or something that’s bothering us–we think about it. We spend time rolling it around in our brain, dwelling on it, maybe trying to “figure it out.” This seems like such a normal course of action for any human being. We all do it. Unfortunately, for some of us, it’s a shitty solution. It doesn’t work.
Last week I came home from the office whooped. Although it was late, I didn’t hop to making dinner like I normally would. Instead I plopped down on the bed and waited for my hubs to wander in; I needed my sounding board.
He laid down on the bed next to me and asked what was wrong. I sniffled a bit. Rolled over on my side to elucidate my anguish. Then I began, I told him everything that was “wrong” (please excuse the whiny and pessimistic voice, the drama was real that night):
- I haven’t managed to find any coaching clients yet. I doubt I ever will.
- Trying to “sell” myself as a coach feels awful and awkward and unnatural. I hate it.
- I am trying to work on the coaching thing more, which means writing a bit less. Is that right? Is that a stupid decision? Shouldn’t I always be writing writing writing?
- Why am I even talking about writing? I am not a real writer. A real writer is published. Even bad writers are published. I’ve sent in a few things to publications. I’ve been rejected and ignored. Now I blog instead. Real writers submit and submit and submit until they get through. Yeah. Not a real writer.
- My running. I have been trying to get faster. It’s not really working. Even if it was, what’s faster to me is still not fast. What’s the point? I’m never going to achieve anything impressive athletically. I’m not going to qualify for Boston. I’m not going to place in some yoga championship. I’m not ever going to be elite or exceptional at anything I do.
- If I’m never going to be exceptional at anything, what is the point? What is the mark I will leave on the world? What will be my legacy? Nothing. Mediocrity does not live on. I won’t have anything to show for my life. I will be gone and forgotten.
Big reveal: My biggest fear is probably that I am not special. That I am mediocre. That I am just one of many and was not put on this earth for any specific reason.
So what’s the solution to all of this? How do I navigate these negative feelings? Do I listen to my hubs who of course tells me that it’s all bullshit, that I have plenty to be proud of? Do I leave this list here and wait for you all to assure me that my efforts are not a waste? Do I call my sponsor and cry to her about how nothing I am doing is working? Hoping she will have the right words to encourage me and send me off in the right direction?
No. It’s taken me a few years, but I have finally come to understand that using these solutions means I am misidentifying the problem. The problem is not all these things that aren’t going right. My problem is much more simple: ME.
A good indicator that I am not in a good place is when there’s a predominance of the words “I”, “my”, and “me” in what I’m writing or saying.
How am I going to succeed?
What is my purpose?
How are people going to remember me?
You see, my problems are most often of my own making. Once I let my ego take over, my world gets small and dark. I focus on what I want and what I need, and somehow, I end up miserable.
In AA, especially when you first get sober, people tell you all the time to do service. They say when you’re overwhelmed with your own problems–go help someone else. This sounded crazy to me, especially in early sobriety–when everything I was dealing with felt big and real and extremely deserving of my attention. But I wanted to not drink so I did what they said. I helped someone else. I cleaned up coffee at a meeting. I asked other people how they were doing. I listened to their problems.
It was magic.
When I took a break from my own worries and listened to someone else, I started to feel better. “Issues” I had would fall away. Solutions to problems that were real became clearer. Life became manageable. My world grew. More seemed possible.
Years later I still forget this shit. I get wrapped up in self-centered fear and forget that my solution is to help someone else. This concept isn’t just for getting sober–it’s for being able to live in my own skin. It’s for keeping my world big and full of light. It’s for maintaining an environment that I can thrive in.
What’s going on inside my brain today:
- I’ve got to do whatever I can to make myself visible–so the person who needs me to coach them can find me.
- I’ve got to write for that one person who needs my story–fuck a whole audience. I’ll write every day for that single individual who needs to know that they are not alone, that they are not the only one.
- I have to maintain my athletic pursuits and reach even further–so that woman who might see me, who’s sure she can’t run a mile, tries anyway.
- I’ve got to use what I’ve got, to help as many people in this world as I can before I leave it. It really doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.
I never knew before I got sober that focusing less on myself, and more on other people could make me happier.
I can’t imagine what the world would be like, if we all knew this, and practiced it at the same time. How happy could we all be, helping each other?
As you can see by the beginning of my story, I forget this concept all the time. Hopefully leaving this here will serve as a reminder. When I’m miserable, (or in other words, quite sure the world is revolving around me), I’ll come back here to remember that the surest and swiftest way to joy is to be useful to another human being.
I leave you now with what my best days start out with. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in something greater than myself. The bible turned me off until I took a “Bible as Literature” course in college and realized that there is a wealth of human wisdom in there. I actually don’t know if this prayer is anywhere in the bible. I, and thousands of others, have found it in AA literature. To me, it is the single most beautiful and constructive way to start my day. It’s how I understand: when I serve others, I am provided with everything I need.
*If you don’t believe in God, replace the word “Lord” with “Universe”, or leave it out altogether. You don’t need those words to set your intentions.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
I’m so glad we’ve found each other in the blogosphere, let’s connect on Instagram as well! I’m entering a new phase so while I’ll post here every so often, this site is a bit under construction. However I am up and “running” on IG daily ; ). Please come find me! x
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