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Posts Tagged ‘possibilities’

Well.

This was supposed to be a bright, happy, bouncy post. And we will get there, never fear. But now that I’ve sat down to write it, I find I want to provide a little context for where we’re going.

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I believe there is value in documenting the grieving process, so this is what has been happening.

My friend Jay died two months ago now. And in those two months, I have taken an emotional beating. Close readers of this blog apparently already know this, so now I’m just taking the final step and being explicit.

Very little of this beating has had much of anything to do with Jay’s death. His death was a catastrophe that put me in a vulnerable place, yes, and apparently that’s all it took to allow floods of bullshit to wash in.

I was going to call it drama, but let’s call it what it is, shall we? And sadly, much of it is bullshit, plain and simple.

I’m exhausted. And my tolerance for such things has dropped to historically low levels. I am considering keeping it there.

An unfortunate side effect of all of this is that I’ve had to put my grief on hold while I deal with other things. Yes, it’s a luxury to even be capable of doing so, but it is still not a situation that makes me happy. In my experience, putting grief on hold has a tendency to backfire in unfortunate and sometimes unpredictable ways. Not ideal. Not at all.

But that is what is happening. Hey presto, context!

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In more fortuitous news, I’m going on vacation in a few weeks. A blissful, well-deserved, drama-free, AMAZING vacation. I can’t wait.

And in the meantime, I have signed up to participate in GISHWHES, otherwise known as the GREATEST INTERNATIONAL SCAVENGER HUNT THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN.

At this point, I think my belief that sometimes things need to be shaken up is well documented on this blog. And there is no better time to shake things up than when life is being unfortunate. So I am extra super excited to be spending next week doing something completely different and outside of my comfort zone.

It should be especially exciting because improv makes me nervous, doing strange things in public makes me a little nervous too, and me crafting doesn’t so much make me nervous as it often yields results that are suboptimal (and possibly hilarious). Or else I’m just kind of slow. Seriously, the only C I’ve ever gotten in my life was in 6th grade art because it took me so long to complete each project. Pushing Amy out of her comfort zone? Check check check.

On the other hand, writing a real online dating profile for Nala? I am so all over that. (Yes, this was a real task from last year.)

I am sweet little dog who enjoys traveling, going to see movies, and pretty much all adventure sports. And of course, I love to bark!

I am a sweet little dog who enjoys traveling, going to see movies, and pretty much all adventure sports. And of course, I love to bark!

The founder of GISHWHES, Misha Collins, has this to say about the hunt: “GISHWHES is about creating art, pushing boundaries, perpetrating acts of kindness and, ultimately, redefining our perception of “the possible.””  And I am 100% behind all those things, as a creative person, sure, but more fundamentally, as a human being. It’s so easy for our view of the world, and of ourselves, to become limited and stagnant, and it is so important to do what we can to work against this trend.

I’m hoping I’ll have time to post updates on the blog over the course of the next week on how things are going in GISHWHES land, but I’m not sure how all-consuming it is going to be. So I will be playing it by ear. (Gasp!)

Meanwhile, I’ll be remembering, and gleefully celebrating, that life is what you make of it, one day at a time.

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A few weeks ago I got to have a conversation with a respected Buddhist teacher. I asked him if it ever got discouraging, working with people who are stuck in one place and seemingly unable to dislodge themselves. And I’ve been thinking about his answer ever since.

People change when they want to change, he told me. And if they don’t want to change, there’s nothing else to be done. Even when they do want change, the process is difficult and sometimes the desire alone is not enough. And sometimes people are so caught up in their own stories that they really don’t want to change. They’re comfortable in their suffering.

I know exactly what he meant, because I’ve been comfortable in my suffering in the past. It’s a strange way to think about things because of course, being comfortable in suffering is often vastly uncomfortable. The key is in its relativity: that however uncomfortable the suffering might be, it is less uncomfortable than the alternative. It is less uncomfortable than the prospect of what change might mean.

Photo by Graham.

However, it is not only fear of change that is a driver here. It is also an inability to imagine anything different. It’s so easy for us to become caught up in our worldviews to the point that we don’t remember that other worldviews even exist, much less have the possibility of being equally valid. It’s easy to become blinded to anything outside of our experience. It can be easy to expect the worst, and by expecting it, summon it into our lives. (And we might not even realize we’re doing this, because it might not feel like expecting the worst; it might simply feel like maintaining the status quo.)

We act based on what we know. So when we wish to change, we often must change not only what we are doing but also what we believe to be true. We must question what we believe to be within the range of possibilities for ourselves.

I believe in our capacity to change with an almost desperate fierceness. I have to believe in it that way because I’m right in the middle of it, and it’s hard, and I don’t want to falter in my resolve. I often feel like I’m working five times as hard as usual. This process rinses and repeats, often from the tiniest stimulus: how do I feel? where is that feeling coming from? is there a way I can think about this differently? is this part of the new me or the old me, the new world view or the old one? if it’s the old one, can I let it go? how can I use this to open more to the world?

It is quiet work. For the most part, the outside world remains unaware that it is happening. Sometimes a friend offers me a helpful hand. Sometimes that help is a distraction, the space to laugh at it all, or just the reminder, “Take some downtime, Amy.” Because while it may be quiet work, it is also tiring, making myself new.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. My imagination is working, and I can picture it now: where I want to go. Where I am going. And who I’m going to be. There was always that part of me imagining what I secretly wanted but thought could never happen. Only now I believe in it. That belief makes it almost close enough to touch. (Maybe I’m already touching.)

Whatever it is I’m doing, it’s no longer a comfortable suffering. Instead it’s something that reminds me what it feels like to be alive.

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I’ve been learning to play the game Go for the past few months. For those unfamiliar, Go is a strategy game that originated in China at least 2,500 years ago. Like many strategy games, it focuses on controlling territory. Its rules are fairly simple, and it has a huge number of possible combinations of moves.

I was sitting in a cafe playing Go yesterday, sipping on my pumpkin spice chai and pushing my brain through the equivalent of a complex gymnastics routine. And as I struggled to choose my next move, I realized how so much of what I was learning on the board could be applied to life.

Photo by Chad Miller

So without further ado, a list of insights inspired by playing Go:

1. When there are a huge number of possibilities, it’s harder to decide what to do next.

2. Sometimes focusing in tightly on one area means you lose sight of the big picture. This can end very badly.

3. Cultivate humility, because there is such a large number of possible mistakes, as a beginner you are bound to make a whole lot of them.

4. Feeling cocky is usually a sign that something is about to go horribly wrong. (If nothing else, it tends to lead to a loss of the necessary focus.)

5. Sometimes you need to play further out than you feel entirely comfortable with.

6. If you get stuck playing a largely defensive game, it is harder to achieve any of your real goals.

7. It’s easy to become distracted, either by something shiny or by your opponent. This also makes achieving your real goals more difficult.

8. Mistakes and experimentation are both necessary in order to learn and improve.

9. The entire board can change very quickly when you are inexperienced. Situational awareness is invaluable.

10. To become a strong player, it’s better to play with and learn from more than one person.

11. You have to find balance between risk and safety and between expanding outwards and consolidating what you already have.

12. Discomfort is a sensation that can be practiced and settled into.

I suspect I’ll be learning a lot more from Go in the coming months. Maybe soon I’ll even graduate to a larger board!

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Photo by Ali Leila

Some people know they can’t change the world. They are beaten and dreary, prone to complaining about things they know they can’t control just for the sake of complaining. The world is a hostile place, and these people are its victims. Nothing will ever be better for them, and nothing will ever change. They live in a haze of “can’t,” and therefore they spend their lives in a prison of impossibilities, devoid of hope.
Some people hope they can change the world. They realize there are a lot of things that could use some changing, and that many of the needed changes are on such a large scale they can’t even begin to fathom how they could make a difference. So instead they focus on what they can change. Sometimes these people start out small, with a smile or a twenty buck donation, or by educating themselves further so they gain a greater understanding of the world around them. These people understand that affecting one other person can have a ripple effect, therefore giving their actions meaning.

Some people think they can change the world. They have big ideas and even bigger dreams, and when they speak about these ideas, a certain brightness creeps over their features, serving as a beacon in the long, cold night of apathy. Not only do they have ideas, but they act upon them. They tend to try many things, and sometimes they fail. We might expect them to slink away after such failure, but inevitably they brush themselves off and either tackle the problem from a new direction or find another problem to address.

Some people are changing the world. Are you one of them? Do you want to be?

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