Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to the individual circumstances of my life. Why did I get cancer? Why is my hair thinning? Why doesn’t my husband buy me roses on Mothers Day? Why can’t my teenage daughter say nice things at a family gathering, instead of using that scathing, condescending tone that makes me want to crawl under the buffet table?
The hair never did grow back the way it did before cancer, but I am alive. And I really don’t care about the flowers. He likes to give me gift cards to buy my own flowers, and I rather enjoy that. And the cancer business? Well, that was an eye-opening catastrophe that turned out to be one of the best life-changing things that has ever happened to me. It literally shifted me on my axis and has been molding me for six years. I don’ want to change that, but how should I handle the biting remarks that my daughter says at a family event? All I really want my kids to do at family events is make nice, polite small talk and smile a lot, and I do not think that is too much to ask. I think most parents want others to think their kids are spot on with every single thing they wear, utter, think, and do. Isn’t it the same level of pressure that we put on ourselves in similar social circumstances? Is it a crime for me to want her to say something nice about the centerpiece when the hostess walks by? Instead, this kid will pick that exact second to announce, to nobody in particular, that the potato salad tastes like “butt!” Aye, carumba!
Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering? Because it was MY reaction to the whole ordeal that really bothered me. Immediately, my heart rate accelerated and I began cautiously looking around, terrified to know if my relative heard her scathing words. So far, one of my biggest goals in life is to have people like my children, just like I truly want people to like me. So why am I so worried about being judged by the actions of my children?
Truthfully, I have no room to complain about this…I have done it myself! If I heard my sister’s kid talking that way, or my friend’s, I probably would have formed an opinion about the kid right on the spot. Maybe he is too opinionated, or she is too vulgar, or maybe she should have worn a sweater over that revealing shirt! And the sad thing is, I am “judging” people all the time! I would love to not admit that in writing, but I know it to be true. Bad, bad, awful bad Carrie!
Unfortunately, we all live in this egocentric world that makes us feel like we are all the main act in this big top circus of a life. Why do we feel the need to walk around evaluating what the other is wearing, saying, doing, and thinking? A good friend of mine has a quote that seems appropriate for this weird ego-style of thinking, and I think I’ll use it here. Do we really think we are “all that and a bag of chips?” Individually and collectively, are we really that narcissistic of a society to think we can judge others? Is everybody else sitting on the edge of their seats, just waiting to critique, criticize, condemn, or complain about what it is that I am doing right and wrong in the world on any given day? It sounds pretty lame when you say it, doesn’t it?
I am 50 years old. I am old enough to have made plenty of mistakes, and to know plenty of regrets. It is the half-way point between zero and 100, so it probably should be time for me to know what it is that I want out of life. In the past, I have been consumed with fear about what people thought about me, or about my family. Frankly, what I really, really think I want is to not give a damn anymore! I want to shed the negativity of my thoughts and past deeds, so I can live a more freeing life that is based on what makes me happy. I want people to like me for me, and not judge me because the towel in guest bathroom looks dirty. I want to be thought of has having a great capacity for inclusion and acceptance of people, even when they say or do something I do not agree with. I want to know that I am judged on the validity of the way that I connect with others, and not because my child is wearing something that looks as if it were pulled out of the bottom of a damp hamper. I want to know that my words cause someone to smile, cry or emote whatever honest feeling that is required for the moment. I don’t want anyone dwelling on the fact that my hair is thinning and that my roots are showing, or that I am still wearing my 14-year-old winter coat. I want to live in a world where I am not judged about stuff that does not conform to other people’s views of what is and what is not acceptable to them. I am finally learning to be okay with me, and I want others to be okay with me too!
My life is messy, but I don’t want to “explain” it anymore. I am a 6-year-survivor with a blue-collar husband, four completely cool kids, a hearing-impaired cat that breaks anything made of glass daily, and 7 chickens that run wild in my yard. Nothing matches in my house, and there is usually some kind of crud on the floor. I am proud of who I am and what I have become, and I don’t want to feel pressure to be something perfect all the time. My children say things that make me cringe at times, but they are individuals who are on a path that will undoubtedly self correct. Instead of feeling bad, uncomfortable, scared, nervous, tense, angry, scared, and all those lower energies that only bring me down, I am choosing to elevate myself into a higher frequency; one that is intrinsically spiritual and intimately personal. But before I can do that, I first have to let go of my “ego.”
The ego is that niggling voice in your head that causes you to doubt yourself. It is the voice that compares you to your friends, your boss’s spouse, your kids’ friends’ moms, or to your own family members. It is viciously correct with its judgement of you, if you really listen to it, and it is just as cruel to those around you. For most of my life, my ego has caused me nothing but conflict and pain, so why would I have any knowledge about how to tame it?
First of all, if we could see the inside our head when we were in the midst of an ego-centered crisis, it would probably look like a cluttered mess of negative words, clouded perspectives of ourselves and others, and there would be an undercurrent of fear permeating throughout everything. These are all lower energies that make us feel depressed, anxious and doubtful about ourselves. Nothing good comes from these lower energies, so we need to change our way of thinking. We need to focus all that outward negativity into something that brings the focus back on peace and oneness within ourselves. The easiest way that I have learned how to do that is through focused breathing. Breathing is life, and each breath brings new energy into the physical body. The act of focusing your attention on your breathing will force your heart to calm down, which forces your thoughts to focus on the task at hand. The very process of inhalation and exhalation, and the physical feelings associated with breath coming in and going out of your body, forces you to close out everything around you. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. When you feel a sense of chaos in your life, be it big, little or imagined, you can immediately start to refocus everything with the mere act of your breath. It is easy to do this anywhere; in the car, watching television with your kids, at work, and even the playground.
To some people, this is the act of meditation. They may do it each morning for 10 minutes, or maybe for a full hour. There are websites, books and lots of interesting tools that you can use to learn about the formal process of meditation, and yet, some people will still have reasons to not do it. They may worry about not having the time, or the right kind of clothes to wear. Some of them will have houses filled with chaos, so where would they find a special “quiet” room? I am here to tell you that focusing on breathing can be done anywhere. It grounds you in the here and “now,” and it focuses your attention away from the “ego” that can be inside and all around you. Once you begin to bring that into your life, you will learn that it can be very spiritual; returning you to the beautiful life source that is a road map to inner peace.
All this negative ego is not good for a body, so it will not serve you in any positive way at all. Instead, it segregates you from others. It causes you to compare yourself to your friend, or your sibling. It limits your potential by pitting you against everything that could be good and amazing in your world. The act of comparing yourself to another person means you are putting yourself above or below someone else, or some thing. Think about all the times that you may have thought about someone like this in your past. Then think about how some of us can do this hundreds and thousands of times a month. Just imagine being summed up by someone you just met, just by the sheer madness of being seen wearing sweat pants and having a bad hair day in the grocery store. Sounds pretty crass, doesn’t it?
We can use this training to calm the negative thoughts that scare us about cancer. Will it come back this year? Does my spouse think differently of me after surgery? What is that pain in my back? It’s terrifying being a survivor! This focusing on our breath will help us to focus on the quietness that is within each one of us. When we focus on this quietness, we are focusing on the oneness that we have with the “divine.” This communion with the divine is what nurtures and enlightens us. It gives us clarity about how beautiful and amazing the world around us is, and shines a light on how amazing we are. We do not have to change a thing! We do not need to compare ourselves with anybody, or with anything. We just call the breath in, and we let the breath go. This may be a peaceful way to begin and end your day, and it could be a peaceful thing to do when you start to feel the stress rising. When you feel like you are about to judge and compare the acts of others, or when you are worried that someone is about to judge and compare you, center yourself with some calming breaths. In this calming breath, remember that we are all beautiful creatures of light and love, and each one of us deserves complete and total love, compassion and forgiveness.