Just Show Up

As we were celebrating my birthday over a candlelit dinner, my husband told me that his company was demanding that he use his vacation days before the end of the fiscal year.  What exciting news, right?  I was thrilled.  I immediately imagined him handing me an envelope.  He’d look lovingly into my eyes and say, “Honey.  I’ve been wanting to take you here for a long time and this just seemed like the perfect time to do it.  I’m whisking you away on a 13 day trip around Europe.”  My jaw would drop.  Tears would pool around the bottoms of my eyes.  My bottom lip would start to quiver just a bit.  You get the picture, right?  Man, I raised the bar on my expectation pretty high up there, didn’t I?  So, when he told me his actual news of getting two days off, which couldn’t even be used sequentially by the way, I was well…. a little disappointed.

Disappointed?  Did I just type that correctly?  How did some really great news about my husband getting two much needed and deserved days of rest turn into a feeling of DISAPPOINTMENT for me?  It’s all because one of the ugliest spoilers of the present moment…. expectations.

Have you noticed that you automatically set an expectation about an event before it even occurs? “We’ll go to this birthday party.  So and so will be there so it won’t be that bad.  But, I’ll want to leave by 9 o’clock.”  “This movie is going to be AWESOME!” “I’ll go to this dinner but I won’t know anyone and I’ll hate every minute of it.”  You are setting the bar on how you predict a future event will occur and once you do that, you are left with three possible outcomes once the moment actually arrives:

  1. If you set the bar too high like I did, you will be left feeling disappointed.
  2. If you set the bar too low, you risk possibly having a wonderful moment missed because you set the intent to be miserable.  Or even worse, you didn’t even show up.
  3. The moment was exactly as you predicted- neither good, nor bad.  Blah.

I’m not going to lie.  All 3 of these possibilities are a big downer.  By setting expectations on an event THAT HASN’T EVEN HAPPENED YET we sabotage the moment before it has even arrived.  Crazy to think about but so obviously true.  So, how do we turn the negative thoughts of expectations off?  Become aware of them.  When you catch yourself about to make an expectation about a future event, turn that thought off.  By not having expectations of how we think an event is going to be we can just let the event be what it is.

Going even deeper into expectations, what about the expectations we make of others?  We again set a bar and we can be pleasantly surprised (this rarely occurs), we can resent the person we were with for not living up to our expectations, or our meeting together will be absolutely predictable and boring and we will learn absolutely nothing new from each other.  What if we just stopped setting the bar and saw each other for exactly who we are?

What about the expectations on yourself?  These are probably the worst.  Why?  Because many of us set the bar at an impossibly high level.  The bar of perfectionism is completely unattainable no matter what we do or how hard we work.  When we feel like we aren’t measuring up to the bar, we are left feeling disappointed in ourselves.  We are left feeling unworthy.  We are left feeling like we fall short.  What does this mean for us?  It means that we are missing the most beautiful moments of our life.

The irony is that the closest thing to perfection is in being able to be present in the moment, which the perfectionist never attains.” –Mel Schwartz– A Shift of Mind

When we set the bar too high for ourselves, we only feel valued because of how much we accomplish or achieve.  We have learned to value ourselves only on the basis of other’s approval and have become excessively sensitive to opinions and criticisms.  Not only that, high expectations on ourselves prevent us from shifting into who we were created to be:

“Perfectionism is a crime against humanity.  Adaptability is the characteristic that enables the species to survive- and if there’s one thing perfectionism does, it rigidifies behavior.”- Psychology Today

We have to remember that perfectionists are made and not born.  We do this to ourselves by allowing our thoughts to set impossible goals for ourselves.  This not only robs us of the complete joy that is ours for the taking on this earth, but it keeps us from engaging in challenging experiences and discovering who we truly are.

Want to really know yourself?  Remember that you were created in the image of the Creator.  You are worthy.  You are enough. You are loved.  Stop measuring yourself against an impossible, invisible goal and just show up, exactly as you are.  That’s really the secret to life, you know.  Just show up.

~ala

 

 

Lessons from Eddie

Row B center seats to see Eddie Vedder.  We couldn’t have been more excited.  As you can imagine, the tickets weren’t cheap, especially on a budget.  (One of the nastiest “b” words, ever.)  But, to us, Eddie is completely worth the splurge.  We traveled to Seattle for our anniversary just to see him play in his home town, so of course we had to go again when we heard he’d be coming to ours.  The fact that he was playing in a symphony hall made it that much better; the acoustics are amazing.

Glen Hansard (LOVE that guy) played first and totally put a spell on the entire audience.  Then, Eddie came out with his ukulele.  The set was arranged to look like a camp site, equipped with a tent, stars, and campfire.  It was a very intimate setting and it honestly made you feel as if you were on a little camping trip with Eddie Vedder and a few of your closest friends.

I was totally loving the concert when I suddenly become very distracted by two women a few seats down from me who started having a very loud conversation.  Not only were they talking, but one of them seemed to be typing a novel into her phone.  Her face was purple from the glow of her phone and the light was blinding to those around her.  I did my best to tune them out but it became more and more difficult the longer it progressed.  The people behind these two women put up with it for as long as they could and then they obviously had enough.  The women were repeatedly asked to stop talking and to be courteous but they refused.  The ushers became involved, shining their flashlights at the women to try to get them to stop.  This seriously went on for about 40 minutes.

My first thought as an observer to all of this went something like this: “Why in the world would these women pay good money for these incredible seats and not pay attention to the show?  They are clearly not being a part of this moment but are off in their own little world, totally oblivious to the fact that they are ruining the show for those seated around them.  It’s sad, really.  They are like little children that need to be told to be quiet, to put their toys away, and to sit down.”

A few minutes later, the quiet voice in my heart had a different message for me: “Why are you allowing these women to control this experience for you?  By paying attention to them, you are taking yourself out of the moment as well.”  Instead of keeping my focus on the concert, I had allowed a distraction to keep me from enjoying something that I had waited months to see.

In this life, it is easy to rob ourselves of joy because we are distracted by our thoughts.  It is also very easy to lose focus of our purpose by allowing others to irritate or bother us.  When I was able to accept the situation as it was and to cease passing judgement, I was able to enjoy the rest of an amazing concert.

Thank you, Eddie Veder, for putting on one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen.  Thank you also to the two women who taught me a valuable lesson about keeping my focus set on my purpose.

~ala

Here’s a little Eddie for you:

 

 

Lesson from the Three Trees

If you would have told me a year ago that I would go camping in the woods without a bathroom or running water for an entire weekend, I would have laughed in your face.  However, since starting on this journey, I have been craving leaving the hectic city I call home and heading out to nature.

For $30, we had the best “room” with the best view we’ve ever had, and we’ve stayed in some really amazing hotels. Our campsite was on top of a cliff with a panoramic view of the lake.  Trees surrounded our cove making us feel as if we had the place to ourselves and three beautiful trees stood proudly in the middle of our site offering us shade during the day.

On the second night of our camping trip, the wind really started to pick up.  We had to scramble to put rocks on our things to keep them from blowing away.  When we finally got everything settled, we sat down around the campfire to talk and enjoy the stars.  I could not stop starring at the three trees in the middle of our site.  Trees never try to fight the wind- they dance with it.  What a beautiful sight.

As the night became later and we headed to our tent, the wind continued to pick up to 20- 25 mph.  We had set up our tent to face the water.  The wind was blowing from the side.  Instead of being able to blow through our tent, our tent was acting like a wall trying to keep the wind out.  Our tent, although well anchored, began to buckle in with the strength of the wind.  Because of our mistake of not taking the wind direction into account when we set it up, the tent could not dance with the wind as the trees were doing; it was instead being forced to stand and struggle against the strong force.

As I was trying to sleep in the tent, I began to see the beautiful lesson that nature was teaching me.  When strong winds (hard times) come into my life, am I more like those three trees or am I more like the tent?   I can either dance as the tree does, letting the hard times direct me as they may; or I can stand firmly anchored like the poor tent facing the wrong direction and fight it with all my might.  Or, I can realize that maybe the hard times are a result of me being in the wrong place and that all I need to do is head a different direction.  Then, instead of fighting the wind, I can fly with the wind.

If you are going through a hard time now, do you feel stuck?  Do you feel like your feet are firmly rooted and that you are holding on with all of your might? Are you exhausted?  Consider shifting just a little.  It might be that this hard time is just the push you need to get you headed back into the right direction.

~ala