I am now 37 years old and I am at a point in my life where I am making definitive changes for the better. For so long I have dwelled in this basement of negativity and regret that it has done nothing more than stunt my emotional growth as a person. Hard to be a fully functioning member of society and a good father when all you do is sit around wishing things had gone this way or that in the past. As I have already discussed that in a previous post I’ll spare you, but the point is, I am making changes.
The first and foremost is my physical health. I have begun working on improving my health through my diet and have started to exercise daily. The start was hard, as it always will be. The runs were short, no more than 3 miles and the time ran was often less than 30 minutes. When I did weights I would quit after a short time with sore arms and legs, wondering why I’d even gone in. But after three months I am now running 5 miles at a time and feeling good about the run; my weight routine has become a routine and I push my limits each time, and I notice I am getting stronger as the weights I am using now are heavier than they were in the beginning. To say it simply: I am improving. I am losing weight and getting stronger daily.
But that cannot be enough. Part of my overall change has to be an emotional and spiritual reorganization as well. If I get it into peak physical shape and yet maintain my mental state as is, I would surely gain the weight back within a year and be right back where I started. No. I need to open my mind to a more spiritual cleansing, and I am finding it. I used to be a person of faith, who attended church regularly when I was much younger. I have begun to step back toward that point in my life, slowly. I turned my back on my faith of my own volition so long ago and for purely selfish reasons and it has been a very long time since I have been back. So stepping back toward it with caution and a bit of humility is expected. But I know it is the right decision because I find I am happier lately. I find that I can be a better husband and father with the right combination of physical and spiritual rebirth. And I am more than happy to leave behind dead weight that has done no good for me this past 13+ years.
Looking forward to discovering what I can be both on the inside and the outside.
You ever have one of those days when you wake up and for no reason that you can think of, or maybe a multitude of general reasons, you feel down? I don’t mean stressed or angry, but a general sadness. Today I am having one of those days. I have no idea why. I had a great weekend and things are fine. But for some reason I am just feeling an overall sense of sadness. Maybe it’s a sense that I have little control over things rights now, or that I have been faced with a couple of incredibly and terribly ironic issues in the past week and a half and while they are nice in and of themselves, I find myself feeling a bit down over the results.
So today….it’s just one of those days where I feel more than a little blue.
In the year 2000 I left the Army and came back home to Nevada with a grand plan to go to college, have some fun, and then join the workforce. I can remember how isolated I felt initially, going to school in Reno. I didn’t know anyone and I was a student rather than a soldier. Where just two months before I was living in the same building with my friends and colleagues, I was now living with family. The transition was jarring (and I can’t imagine how it feels for those in the military for a long period of time) and I remember feeling distinctly one thing: alone. I didn’t know how to talk to anyone, because I couldn’t even relate. I was usually older than most of the people in my classes (I was 24 at the time) and it was pointed out quite literally in my English 101 class when a female student stated during a class group work sessio, “Oh my God you are old!” That didn’t brighten my spirits any and caused me to reflect on my place in the school.
All around me everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, but I continued to struggle. I didn’t like my major, and just felt lost among a sea of young people. It was during this time I had taken out a credit card and burned through it so fast it would make your head spin, wasting it on food, and entertainment, and I didn’t make enough money to even start paying it back. I started to resent many of the students and their happiness. I didn’t understand why they were so happy and having so much fun while I was just “old.” I really had no idea. So I walked around campus with my headphones and wallowed in this big mess of self pity.
I remember talking to counselor about my loneliness at the university and she had recommended I join a club on campus. I never really did. I couldn’t find one that met my interests and I didn’t feel good about just jumping into a group of people as the “new guy.” I even considered joing a fraternity for about a day and even went to the Frat House to tour around and meet people. I realized immediately I would not fit in with those folks either.
Overall, I was a very lonely and somewhat depressed guy in college. Focused on schoolwork to keep me busy and made some friends, but they were so focused on school that they weren’t they kinds that liked to just go hang out after class, etc. But again, similar to my other experiences, I made decisions that impacted my college life. I had the chance to live in the dorms, which would have forced me to interact with students and I opted to live with family instead. I chose to wear headphones, which immediately shut down any potential communication I could have had with others. And when offered a simple choice to join a group, I decided to not because they didn’t interest me (when I could have maybe expanded my own view a bit and learned something new).
So yes…college was a tough time for me and I was definitely lost. But it doesn’t help when I was offered a map and a compass, and I threw them away before even trying to use them.
We often talk to each other as though the world will always move along peacefully for us and that our relationships will simply move along with it. We talk in real time, on the phone, through video, and on the computer. We use so many interfaces that I think we get lost at times at how difficult the art of communication can be. I am often guilty of sticking my foot in my mouth in a conversation or saying something that is offensive, even though I had no intention of doing so. And that brings me to today.
A friend of mine said something to me in an online chat that was completely well intended, and yet it hurt me when it was said. Why? Because I ALLOWED it to hurt me. Rather than following up with my friend, I let the comment sit there and in the time I could have used to ask for the statement to be clarified, or ask what was meant, I simply interpreted it through a negative lens, and assumed (ah yes, my ever faithful companion, assumption) what was meant. I went to bed after that, without even bringing any closure to the discussion, or even following up on the statement. I simply read it, got upset, and went to sleep. This was a mistake, because I woke up this morning stewing over the statement and what it “meant.” Remember, I had no facts to back up my interpretation. I simply allowed my assumption to guide my mindset for the morning. When we finally talked, I found out what had really been meant and I felt so foolish. I had overreacted and my assumption was way off base.
Had I taken just a few seconds to ask what was meant….to actually engage in conversation with my friend, I’d not have lost nearly an entire morning stewing in my own self-imposed stress cage. And this is one of major faults. I often fail to follow up and engage with people in dialogue. I often leave comments, words, or statements just hang out there even if I disagree with them, or don’t fully understand them. And by that I risk hurting my friendships and other relationships. I could have done major harm to my friendship this morning if I’d allowed my unthinking emotions to run amok. And I am so glad I did not. By discussing things I gained a clear understanding and feel much better about the whole situation now. All of that negativity and stress I was feeling was self imposed and unnecessary. I allowed words to hurt when they were not meant to, and this is a habit I need to break in order to move forward toward a happier life.
Have you ever spent time wondeng “What if I had done this?” Or “What if I had done that instead?” Sure you have. We all do it. We invest so much time, or at least I do, that we lose sight of what we have now. We play the game in our head always to the positive and build things up much better than they probably would have been. And in the time we invest doing so, we have lost precious time in our own present, trying to make things better in the here and now.
An example I often used to wrestle with is, “Well, what if I had asked so and so out? We would have made a great couple.” But how do I know? Because in my head I’ve romanticized the image? What if we would have made an awful couple? See, we rarely spend time thinking of what ifs in negative terms, but I’m confident that if people did that more often, they might actually stop, or at least minimize the amount of time for the what if game in the first place. I’ll play out the scenario with full context so it makes sense.
What if her and I had gotten together? It’d be great….right? Or maybe not. Maybe we would have argued too much. Maybe she or I would have cheated. And even without all that, if her and I had gotten together, I wouldn’t have my family now. I wouldn’t have my career or my understanding of life as I know it now. Experiences are so valuable, whether they are positive or negative and to trade those in for some sugar coated fantasy would be a terrible thing. I would lose so much ACTUAL happiness for IMAGINED happiness. I can always sit and wonder about what could have been, but instead, shouldn’t I focus on what’s right in front of me? I have a great family, great friends, a good job, education, have traveled, and I’m a better person for it. Why would I want to waste a second wondering how things would be different had I not taken this job, or met this person, etc.?
I choose to be happy with my life, regardless of the choices I’ve made, because the choices were mine. And I choose not to dwell on something that isn’t even real, because in the end all those thoughts do is distract me from what’s important, and that’s living my real life to its fullest.
I started writing this last week and yesterday it dawned on me….who am I writing this for? I mean, I know the events, so I can’t really be writing it for myself, can I? Surely someone wants to read this thing. Or again, maybe not. If I shared this, then people might read it. If they didn’t, then the result is the same as it presently is, so no loss, right?
But someone might ridicule it, right? Sure, but would that change the fact that you’ll still write anyway? Of course not. But what if people don’t like it? What if they don’t; does that change anything?
But I’ll be embarrassed!
Why? Why be embarrassed? You say nothing ill about others and primarily are talking openly about yourself and how you peceived events in life. So why be embarrassed?
Because people might make fun.
And that is the rationalization that has paralyzed you for decades. And I’m not doing that anymore.
I used to sit and wonder why everything happened to me the way it did. Why was I poor? Why did so many people dislike me? Why couldn’t I have done a, b, or c? It used to be such a huge part of my mindset that it caused a lot of undue stress, and for what? So I could sit by and assign blame or find fault with others? It was a ridculous and somehwta masochistic exercise. The futility of sitting back and getting upset with the past is overwhelming.
Since I have started to reflect and go back over things with fresh eyes and new perspective, I can see how much time and energy I had wasted over the years. What I could have done in my life, had I simply done the right thing and “let go.” Let go of the past…what’s done is done. Had I let things go emotionally and moved FORWARD, I may have been more productive, definitely happier, and wouldn’t have been so hesitant to reach back to those folks from my past when it was time to do so. I spent so much of my young adult life blaming the past, and all that was part of it (my home, my family, my school) that I missed the opportunity to make new friends sooner and to mend the fences in my own mind.
So do yourself a favor and forgive the past now, because unless you have a time machine the rest of us don’t know about, there isn’t anything you can about it now. All you can do is make peace with what happened and move forward.