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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Channeling Stewart

Al Franken as Stewart Smalley
I know I write about this sort of topic with regularity bordering on obsession, but I can't help but think that if the right person 'gets it' that something good could come of it. If just one person frees themselves from the shackles of their pre-programmed inner-dialog, it's worth it to me. The reason this topic is so important is because it's something I struggle with daily. I think I'm winning for the most part, but maybe my whole life would have been different had I come to certain realizations sooner. Or more likely, I had to deal with all the kaka to come to the appropriate realizations. I can accept that. In any case, I feel like I'm always trying to channel my inner Stewart. If you aren't old and aren't a Saturday Night Live fan, you may have to click his name on the right to go to his Wiki page to even know who the hell he is, but it's worth if for no other reason than a good chuckle.

It's not his self-affirmations that are so hilarious (though they are funny), but his constant struggle with self-doubt, which is easily brought about by a word or two from the people around him. Who does THAT sound like? Pretty much everybody, right? It kind of makes his self-affirmations useless and futile, since he entirely misses the point, which is to ultimately become a confident, self-contained entity. Now THERE'S a goal. You know, I don't think any of us is really ever supposed to be entirely self-contained, and that's...okay (a little Stewart humor for ya), but I think if we can summon even a shred of autonomy and self-belief, great things can happen.

What brought on this meandering and random post? It's silly, really. I just happened to pick up Marguerite Henry's book, "White Stallion of Lipizza ", which was one of my favorites when I was a child. This particular copy was my daughter's but it was sitting on a shelf at eye-level so I grabbed it. Yes, it's a kid's book, but written with enough nuance and impeccable research for an adult to enjoy it too. It immediately took me back to when I was a horse-crazy child and could identify immensely with the main character, a boy named Hans. I won't re-write the book for you, but let's just say that Hans was passionate about horses and was told by almost everyone that it was a waste of his time and out of his reach. He would do better to focus on more sensible pursuits more suited to his station in life. Fortunately for Hans, his heart spoke more loudly than any of those voices of "reason". I knew, even then, what Hans knew: You can't choose your passion, your passion chooses you. You can listen to the nay-sayers and take on their pessimistic point of view, and in fact that is the easiest thing to do. Especially if you are a child and have no power of your own. You're more or less at the mercy of folks who believe they know better, like teachers who think the box they want to put you into is more relevant than what your own heart knows. But that's a whole 'nother story and not really the point.

The point is this: Your life WILL follow your inner-dialog. Make it YOUR inner dialog, and make it a hopeful one. Have the audacity to think you can do outrageous things, and you'll do them. Start today. I'm not saying I'm some uber-successful person who followed my own path and now all is hunky-dory in Kristel-land (yet;-). But I DID notice something really cool: When I started listening to myself and believing that I deserved good things as much as the next guy, my hard work started paying off. The bleak sort of desperation, the idea that everything meaningful to me will be forever beyond my reach while I struggle to keep things afloat, it started to melt away as the Universe began to cooperate with me and show me the way forward. And this is real, not a fascinating work of fiction that I identify strongly with, but LIFE.

I'm not suggesting anarchy here, and there are lots of you out there saying "Well, SOMEBODY has to be responsible". Responsible to whom? Yourself, or your family? I get that. Why does following your passion preclude being responsible? If you look up responsible in the dictionary (which I did for you because I'm that awesome), it says nothing whatsoever about being miserable, unhappy or trapped in drudgery from which there is no escape. So there. No excuses. Channel your inner Stewart (or who Stewart is trying to be!) and mean it, because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it PEOPLE LIKE YOU! On that note, I leave you with a song that used to resonate with me when I was a young teeny-bopper and my mind was just absolutely beginning to rail against years of confinement (which could be yet another story that I will probably never tell you, lol). There is no "official video" so I chose a version with good audio that someone (not me) had done a really nice slide-show for. Enjoy :-)


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Revolutions

Photo: www.birthdaydirect.com
I don't how I feel about the idea of New Year's Resolutions. I have a pretty good record with them; last year I resolved to get my book published and I did. But I don't like the implication that I have to change something about myself because something is wrong with me, and I have to be particularly resolute about it because well, it's January 1st, dammit. It reminds me a little bit of Lent. I feel kind of guilty if I don't give something up and eat fish on Fridays. It's a thing. The reality is, I have nothing to give up. I already quit smoking several years ago, and coffee isn't optional. But as a woman of a certain age, I do particularly appreciate that all my junk email assumes (naturally!) that I'm desperate to lose weight and to sort out my wrinkles via some miracle cream, creme, serum, etc.

Newsflash, junk-email generators: My resolutions tend to run on a deeper level. The things I would really like to sort out have nothing whatsoever to do with my lumpy little body or my (well-earned!!) wrinkles. I am happy to share these things publicly, and in fact have an innate sort of belief in the idea there's magic in sharing. There's power in words and intentions, and if you put them together and make them public, it leaves room for possibilities that may otherwise just be a wistful sort of inner longing that never amounts to much.

My resolutions this year are all about resources. For starters, I would like to develop some better inner-resources. I'm not a "people person", or an extrovert, and I'm not going to be. I'm okay with that. But like many sensitive people who have been emotionally sucker-punched a time or two (thousand) too many, I tend to avoid all-things-emotional. It doesn't mean I don't feel or don't care (for those of you who openly enjoy harboring that delusion), but quite the opposite. When things get emotionally intense it's overwhelming and I panic, which manifests outwardly as logical objectivity (weird, right?) or me actively running away. Like sometimes literally. Also weird. I know I'm at an age where most of the people I deal with should have the maturity to not emote forcefully at people, but it's not always the case. I think there's some erroneous belief that forceful emotions will somehow get through to me, when in reality the opposite is true. This year, I would like to work on my response and my ability to cope with this sort of thing. I realize that the behavior of other people is really about them, but it still really gets to me in a "please pass the Klonopin" sort of way, and that means it's having a toxic effect on me. It would be much more helpful if, instead of shutting down or running away (or taking Klonopin), I could simply ask that people use their words like grown-ups. THEN I could feel okay about exiting the situation until that is possible. Maybe I could eventually be less avoidy, and more comfortable in social situations? Crazy, right? Something to work on, anyway.

But it's not just the inner-resource thing I'd like to deal with. I have been given a perspective in the last several years that I never would have had just based on my upbringing. I had no idea how sheltered I was or how little information I really possessed about the world around me, and would have remained blissfully ignorant had I not been through hell myself. I used to believe that people who struggled financially were lazy, or that they brought it on themselves somehow. That life is all about the choices we make for ourselves, and if we're struggling it's our own damned fault. Personal experience has taught me that that viewpoint is, well, a crock of sh** if I may be blunt. Perpetuating this fallacy amounts to abuse of the most vulnerable people, and yet it remains acceptable in some circles.  Sometimes, doo doo happens that is beyond our control and it's outright hubris to believe otherwise. Now that I know better, I can't help but believe that I went through all that for a reason, and I resolve to work hard enough to have the resources and the position to do something about what I know. The idea drives me. The idea that I might someday be able to do something tangible to help, inspires me. How? I don't yet. But the book is feeling like a good start. It could have a decent run and fade into obscurity.  Or, it could inexplicably (with a bit of a nudge) go viral and get made into a movie. Who knows. That's the cool part: Anything is possible, and the odds are much more favorable than buying a lottery ticket. For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like the best days are behind me. I have faith in my future. I want more people to feel that. There's no bad there.

Okay, and the rest of it is to be expected, I suppose. I want "home". For me, that means roots, both literally and figuratively. Something that's mine. And a horse. Always a horse.

So, I won't be buying a gym membership anytime soon, or purchasing some kind of $20 melon-based facial-miracle-in-jar, but I suppose if that's what you're into it's okay. It's just not for me.

Thank you for reading! Wishing you ALL a joyful, successful and HAPPY 2014!