Thursday, September 1, 2016

Believe it or Not: Un-Learning, Re-learning, & Living

Yesterday I was in a coffee shop after work, writing what I thought was going to be a really good post about change, and unlearning things in order to build anew. 

About not only learning to see things differently, but learning to unlearn: learning to realize that sometimes to put new foundations up in life, we actually have to go back first and tear old ones down.

To almost retrace our steps, and figure out where in the story line of our life there was some lie sown, that said something like, 'that's impossible' or 'you can't' or 'this is just the way it's done- not that way.'  

In a nutshell, I was recalling times in my own life where I was under the influence of something that just seemed normal, but maybe wasn't necessarily good for me, or growth-inducing in the way I wanted to go in life. 

The message, 'you're not pretty enough,' from society, from culture, from relational hurt. 

The message, 'no one cares,' from a childhood where family conflict often overrode love and emotional support.

The message, 'you need to make money to be secure,' from insecure adult influences who depended on money to bolster an image of security, who relied on what money could buy instead of creating healthy relationships where security equated to being known and being cared for.
And in some form or another, as I grow up, I realize that a lot of people get these messages subliminally from external influences- from a very young age too. And then when we become adults, we wonder why we feel lost, or like something important is missing, or like, on the inside, we're not as confident as we should be. No matter how much we now know.

I think it's because a lot of times our foundations go examined. It dawns on most of us to evolve, to self-actualize in life to some degree- we all 'want happiness' and 'seek progress' and want to know ourselves: a fulfilling life is a human desire.

But do we have the real courage to face our wounds, and disbelieve them? That's the bigger thing. In a way, the bravest act is to weep. 

To look at who we have been and really mourn the endings of what no longer serves us, so that the past doesn't hold us back from anything. Can we replace those lies we internalized with a bigger truth about our worth that's not conditional, so that we can go on and live in a way unburdened by the pasts that so quietly and subconsciously hinder us?

These are big questions, maybe for another day. 
So I stopped my writing about them and spontaneously decided to check out a favorite outdoor shop in town, located directly across from a KOA campground. It was a quiet weekday night, and myself and another young woman, about my age, pulled into the lot right next to each other at the same time.

In her window I noticed a sticker for a simple website: As she walked in front of my car toward the shop's door, I asked her a question, sort of assuming the answer was yes.

'Are you on a road trip?'

She was- of 47 national parks in 47 weeks. 

It was actually what I was just writing about: doing things differently, unlearning what you thought, or were told, was 'crazy' or 'foolish' or impossible. I'm going on my first road trip in a week too, and if ever there was a perfect time to run into a solo female traveler in her twenties, well, this was it.

When you have something reinforced for a long enough time- years and years and years- fear of making a change or doing something different can often override the excitement of it. And it's wonderful to get support and reinforcement from those who are actually living the truth you want to believe is possible. There is a holy synchronicity in meeting with other souls who have something within them that you need.
When I was writing in that coffee shop just a few minutes before, I was thinking about how, a few years ago, I would never have traveled alone- and I was thinking about why. I think it's not until you really change, on the inside, that you can look back and see how different- how much less you- you were before.

I know that for me personally, the family (and general demographic) I come from all lives in or around the town they went to high school in. Cousins (I only have one, younger, sibling) are married and have families of their own; houses are long-term projects that get lots of time, attention, and money; jobs are stressful, conventional 9-5s, busy- but they pay the proverbial bills and provide the proverbial security. 

Evenings are dinner around the table and talk about work or the news; time in front of the TV; then bed and back to the grind. Stress and tension always seemed abundant, grace and joy- excitement, aliveness, adventure- always seemed sort of low.

At least, that's what I assume things are still like- no one in my family really talks to me any more because I'm the weird creative type who wants to make a living as an artist, climb mountains on weekends, go on road trips alone, and develop my inner character, like some kind of crazy person.

And I joke about it now, except at the time it as a painful price to pay: the disapproval and rejection of the people you thought would love and support you no matter what, because your dreams and values are different from theirs, and you feel the real, honest need to go live them.
I'm sure a lot of people have a similar story to mine- I've met plenty (most) out here in Colorado that would say the same thing. (That's been a huge blessing, I have to say: the realization that there are people like you who want adventures and fullness and richness out of life more than they want anything else.)

And the thing is, no way of life is fundamentally more right than the other. Each yield different results, of course, and it depends on what your priorities are: living outside a comfort zone and really craving growth, or being comfortable with staying where you are. There's nothing wrong with living five minutes away from the town you grew up in, or being near all your family, or working a traditional work week- nothing at all. 

But there's nothing fundamentally right about it either.

So I notice now, as an adult, that breaking ranks with that status quo that was always so deeply ingrained by the company I used to keep often triggers feelings of fear, or even guilt or extreme self-doubt. I know many people for whom traveling and moving and 'non-conventional' living is second nature and very natural. But not for me. I feel like everything I've done- as an artist, as a person, as a business owner, as a woman, as a traveler- so far, I've done scared.

For myself, when it came to endeavors of independence, I was always highly discouraged. Adventure was lunacy. Creativity was positively insane. Preferring a modest and nomadic living arrangement in the mountains 2,000 miles away from home to settling down and owning a nice two-bedroom house in my late twenties is and was grounds for not-so-subtle judgement. Giving up a comfortable, secure job for an exciting, uncertain life was just not something you did.

I heard those dangerous, soul-crushing words so often: be realistic. As though the reality I have envisioned is somehow 'less real' than the one from which I came.

Be realistic. Those words, thrown at you by other people, will kill you if you're not careful. They reinforce the lie, 'you can't do it.'
But reality is something you create- or it becomes something assigned to you, something you settle for. It's scary to take risks and go create it, but that fear is just a feeling. And I've noticed that in conjunction with fear is often excitement- another feeling (though much more plesant), but one that's also sometimes blocked with those old thoughts, those old lies, those 'what if's...' 

What if something goes wrong or I don't make it or I can't do it or it doesn't work? What if I get too scared or people judge me or I fail? What if this isn't comfortable? What if, what if, what if.

But, there could also be: what if I trust? What if I choose faith? What if it works? It's funny though that these are never the 'what if's' that we pick, instinctively anyway. But that's what I'm learning to unlearn: the statements of unfaith. The statements that come from the old lies, that are really rooted in my pride and ego, my selfish desire for protection and self-conservation, like I know how things are going to turn out. 

It's very different to pick faith. It's very, very different to walk in belief and trust, in love and the feeling of safety and protection, than it is to walk where I used to walk: not too far from my comfort zone. At first, it was like walking on a tightrope wire- you're relearning, literally rewiring your being to not just take in knowledge or learn or memorize concepts, but to live a different life. At first, you're careful. Your steps are small. You have to keep your balance; it's not second nature yet. And then, it became more natural. 

A new reality. The one they called impossible.
Probably over the past two or three years, the switch from 'what if this doesn't work' to being present to all the way it could has completely reconstructed my life. It's given me a better sense of love, and of what love should look like; it's given me a better sense of what's actually going on inside myself; it's given me a better sense of freedom and of life.

What if I keep trying to learn about life in a way that actually helps me live it?

You can have all the knowledge in the world, but unless a bigger faith is cultivated too, what good does all that knowledge do? Too much belief in 'knowing' all the time cuts off possibility- and growth, and imagination, and the reality that better things are ahead.

And we always have a choice: to believe it or not. 

To trust what we feel, or to deny it. But I know something about life now: I'm not going to get to the end and complain about how the middle didn't add up to what I wanted it to be because I made the decision to let fear win all the time. 

I'd like to get to the end having examined this thing. Having looked back and dug up, hard as it was, the things that were ever holding me back. The lies, the false beliefs, the hopelessness, the refusal of the idea of faith that has opened every door, and broken every chain.

And if I really pay attention- not to myself, but to what is actually being given to me in this life- it's clear: I am provided for. I look at the people I've met. I look at the conversations I've had. I look at the places I've been and the beauty I've seen, the freedom (financial, yes, but that's a byproduct of other freedoms); I look at the affirmation from an intimate and gracious God that the calling on my life is to live.

Adventure is more than just going places. It's a way of seeing. It encompasses more than just mountain climbs and weekend excursions. It's the idea that there are bigger, greater, more amazing things ahead than I can know or even imagine, and part of the richness of life is going after those things like my best, most authentic self depended on it.

Because it does.


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