Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just get out of our own way. Learning a new language or a new job or how to care for a new baby or how to play a musical instrument — none of these things seems as difficult as learning how to do something we have always done, in a different way.
Or maybe that’s just me?
I tend to cling to my convictions pretty hard. I am a red-headed only child; both nature and nurture have predisposed me to stubbornly dig in and try to fit the world to my view of of it, rather than amend my world view to accommodate new possibilities. Almost every hour of therapy I have done in my life has been basically about trying to overcome this tendency in one arena or another, to change my view of, or response to, or persistent feelings about something in my life.
At various times, I have actively sought to push back against the paradigm that is no longer serving me. When I left to study abroad in college, I consciously did so with the intention of becoming different, expanding my ideas about the world, seeing how other people thought and acted and re-acted. I find that, more than 20 years later, I don’t often require such dramatic efforts; sometimes simply having a stimulating conversation with someone new is enough. The point is that these moments — these small experiences — are expansive opportunities for growth.
Around the time I gave up battling the Year of the Dragon, I had one of my “Fine. You win.” conversations with the universe in which I generally concede that I have a lot of learning to do and need lots of help to do it. Then I wait. And always, without fail, the help I need appears.
This time, my first teacher came in the form of a fellow blogger, whom I shall call “Achilles.” At times, he has been a regular commentator on my blog, but it was our off-line conversations that were really interesting. Quite often, we approached things from differing viewpoints; my posts frequently challenged his truths and my positions could easily have offended his feelings and/or his sensibilities. But rather than turn away from me and seek the comfort of like-minded bloggers, he kept at me — asking me probing questions and for further explanations, sharing his own reasoning without much concern for altering my own. And so began a dialogue that focused moreso on me providing my perspective to situations and concerns we had in common.
Through the course of these conversations, I gathered certain things about him that led me to believe that he was, in some very important, fundamental ways, very similar to my ex-boyfriend, James. Despite being broken-up for the better part of a year, the late autumn found me still struggling with a fair number of unresolved questions about my relationship with James. Questions I was too afraid to ask him, even though I could see clearly my need to. So, I turned the tables and sought out Achilles. I asked for his perspective, rather than his advice. I wanted to understand his reasoning and his feelings and his motives, not to support my own tired ideas about my relationship with James, but on the off-chance that they might provide a different outlook or understanding than I’d been able to gain before.
Achilles answered my questions honestly and directly. Some of his answers made me cringe, but even those gave me pause. Much of what he said consisted of angles and approaches that were foreign to my way of thinking. “Really?” was a common response of mine during that chat. And that night I went to sleep turning over in my head the things he said, feeling comforted and wondrous at the same time.
The next month saw a veritable march of caring, unexpected souls who extended simple words of wisdom, thoughtful perspectives, or unsolicited support. It is almost mystical to me how every single question I asked of the ether that evening after the job slipped away has now been answered. I find myself in the happy posture of feeling grounded, and hopeful, and confident, and content. The issues that crushed me in 2012 have not been resolved, but my faith in my ability to resolve them has returned because I no longer feel constrained by the thoughts and fears that held me captive so much of last year. I once again have confidence in my ability to adapt and consider and be present in the moment.
So often we think we need a change to make us happy. But sometimes what we need — first and foremost — is a change of perspective. That can be really hard to do on our own, but the teachers are all around us. Every day. We just need to be open and willing and available to the messages and experiences and wisdom they’re offering. And then watch what happens…