Some people can affect change in their lives by triumphing over willpower. I am not one of those people. Beacons of inspiration have overcome illness, disability, obesity, disease, financial ruin, and the like: all through sheer determination. Not me.
My past efforts to feel more alive through exercise, diet, investments, meditation, affirmation, or organization had all failed. It seemed that the only thing I could succeed at was “failing”. Like so many other people, I believed that if I could only overcome my obstinate willpower, I would achieve great things.
We live in a time of unprecedented availability of empowerment advice, yet our society is faced with an enduring sense of powerless at our failure to create lasting fulfillment. The endless provocative testimonials touting the astounding success of each program we purchase only deepens our sense of personal failure when old habits reclaim their seat at the head of the table.
A triumph over willpower is a hard battle of inches, and that battle is never over. The slightest slip can send you right back down where you started from . . . or worse. You have to stay vigil. You may have achieved your goal, but at what cost? Now you have to maintain it.
My hat goes off to those people who have triumphed over willpower: it is not something I have any interest in even trying anymore. I discovered that there is another way. It was quite an innocent discovery. There was no master plan other than to just get out from under the weight of seeming failure.
(If you enjoyed this excerpt from my book-in-progress, email me by 7/31/14 and when it’s done I’ll send you an advance pdf copy for free!)
I Was Hacked
It all began innocently enough yesterday: My email wasn’t connecting to my server. I ignored the error, figuring the anomaly would work itself out.
A couple of hours later, it still wasn’t working. A couple of hours more: still not working. Finally, I went on the server: my domain wasn’t listed there anymore.
I call my host, Register.com, looking for insight into what in the world happened to my domain. She said it had been cancelled earlier that day, and then asked if I remembered calling and cancelling it.
Ummm, what?!? Of COURSE I didn’t call and cancel it!
Then it sinks in: I must have been hacked or something. Oh…dear…God.
Shock: I am flooded by a wave of emotion as the reality begins to set in. I open my web browser, type in my site name, only to see a generic template with a link to buy the domain. I can’t believe my eyes.
Victimized: Who did this to me?
Devastated: All my most sharable writing in the last five years…gone…
Violated: Who DID this to me?
Idiot: For not backing up my site
Lazy: For having only one password for all my logins
Shattered: My writing…gone…
Naïve: For not changing my passwords the other day in response to “Heartbleed”
Desperate: Does my host still have a copy of my site?
And then I notice a smile arising from the steady calm at the depth of the experience. I saw a clean slate. A chance to start fresh. A hidden doorway within the wall in front of me. I slip excitedly through it, anxious to discover what is on the other side.
First thing I did: change all my passwords, starting with my bank accounts. Next: marvel at the new fallen snow before going to sleep. This morning: reactivate McAfee. And then: back up my computer.
I can’t change “what is”, and the need to do so would interfere with my ability to see and take the next step. I still have no answers. My domain still resides on someone else’s server. Register.com was baffled, and escalated it for resolution.
But somehow I know that only good things will come from this experience. A similar sentiment carried me easily through the surgery I had Monday to remove a spot of skin cancer on my left temple. It’s not about “making lemonade”, it’s more about marveling at how all the pieces fit together so seamlessly, and trusting that this is yet another momentary disruption as the next piece clicks into place.
This moment is all we can affect. Do what is in front of you to do. Take this one step with integrity. String enough of these quality moments together, and the picture of your life will reveal a wondrous story beyond anything you could have ever written for yourself.
So I am taking this opportunity to officially transition to my new site. It’s not fully developed yet, but it has a simple charm. :) The site name is “caremycue.com”, drawing on the name that my friends and coworkers anointed me with a few years back. These days I identify more as Care than I do Carolyn, and it fits so well with my life’s work, so I figured I would make it “official” and bought the domain two weeks ago.
So that’s all the news I have for the moment. Oh, my surgery went well, and I expect a full recovery. Hoping my friends and coworkers won’t now anoint me with a new nickname of “scarface”. (haha!)
Have an inspired day!
Each time I receive a notice that some brave soul added themselves to my blog, I get a fleeting rush of stage fright. For just a moment, I feel terrified of writing a single word, and want to shut the blog down entirely. That notice touches the nerve of an old, conditioned worldview of “worthlessness” that carried me through the first four decades of my life.
As this new energy courses through that old nerve, it pulses and feels a bit like labor pains. Having learned to simply allow this sensation without needing to remedy it, I am able to breathe through the discomfort and begin writing anyway. Each time it gets easier, and each time I am born just a bit more fully into the world.
Truly at this point, that initial sense of terror is quickly being transformed into a deep sense of thrill. Having sat with this feeling enough times now, I know it to be a signal of great things to come.
So thank you, Tony, for helping me further rewire those old neural pathways today.
Thank you also to Tom, Robin, Amy, and Don for your roles in this evolution. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of sharing myself and my story with you. You help me see myself more clearly, and I hope that my insights and stories somehow do the same for each of you.
I’ve never had a single bad thing happen in my life. Some people would say that’s denial. Some people would say that’s deluded. I don’t expect anyone would believe me.
Don’t get me wrong: There have been things that have seemed bad at the time, but ultimately they led me to a higher understanding of myself and of the universe which I am an inextricable part of. That expanded understanding empowers me to step boldly into new arenas, allowing me to experience myself in new ways and disenfranchise long-held limiting conditioned thoughts and behaviors.
It took some time to integrate that higher understanding. There was some serious resistance and unhinging uncertainty along the way. But I trusted that new worldview more than I trusted my old one. Compassionately over the course of a few years my standing worldview shifted.
I’m in that same boat again right now. My worldview is shifting. It’s happening much more quickly this time, because I have discovered firsthand that the fear of “bad things” is the boogie man standing between me and the fullest possible expression of myself in this lifetime.
We want our lives to count for something. We want our actions to impact the world in profound ways. Yet that notion can undermine our ability to even get out of bed in the morning. Unless we feel we have some ambition or some person to devote our actions to, we often feel incapable of doing anything.
I have been on all sides of that coin (including the edges). There was a time when I felt hopeless and useless, like a target in need of an arrow. Other times I have felt inspired but ineffective, like an arrow in need of a target. It seemed like this unsolvable riddle. I didn’t know what to do, so I wouldn’t do anything, hoping instead to be found: by some person or some ambition.
Then one day, quite unintentionally, the riddle was solved. I was in the midst of a crisis in the summer of 2009. The debilitating quandary at that precise moment: “I don’t know what to do. What can I do?”
The question arose from a place of utter futility. Those words were the last of everything I had. Once spoken, even though it was just to myself, those words emptied me of any hope of finding an answer.
In the pristine stillness that followed, a steady, rather nonchalant question met mine: “Well, what can you do right now?”
I looked around: I was standing in the midst of a kitchen overflowing with dishes and papers and spills and chaos. I answered emptily: “I can clean the kitchen”.
A disinterested reply followed: “Then do that.”
Heaving a sigh at the pointlessness of it all, I resigned myself to the task at hand. As I started hurrying through the dishes, awareness shifted away from the task and onto the rich warmth of the sun on my face. My pace slowed, igniting a spark of curiosity. What other richness was I overlooking?
My actions slowed even more, and I began to notice the wonderful play of energy within and around me. All of life had led me to this one epic moment. The miracle of it all unfolded before me. This was no dish I was washing: this was a pinnacle result of a rather extensive and daunting chain of events.
I felt humbled. My actions slowed even more as I created space to take in the magnitude of it all. As I moved through the kitchen, each area revealed a deeper sense of wonder. Each area served as an opportunity for me to experience and express humility for my prior arrogance of discounting these every day activities as burdensome.
Somewhere along the way I realized: I wasn’t cleaning the mess in the kitchen, I was cleaning the mess within myself. By the time I was done, I felt cleansed and alive. I was inspired: I was an arrow that had found its target. This was something tangible that I could share with the world.
The answer to the riddle: Purpose is not a question of what profound thing we can do, but simply a matter of doing what we can do in a profound way.
So let me ask you: What is one thing you resist doing because it seems burdensome? Is it possible that this task can become a gateway to inspiration? Perhaps our purpose is not a matter of what we do, but a matter of how we do what we do. A far more empowering question than “what can I do?” is the question: “What can I do right now?”
The journey winds its way through me, like a snake in search of a morning meal.
Ultimately, his shadow became the light which exposed me so completely to myself.
The warmth of your coldness is hotter than any sun ever was.
I cannot be released from what I am, and that remembrance is all that is necessary to release from a state of mind which is momentarily (though purposefully) blind to that truth.
Standing in the fires of hell, I look around from a platform of peace. I fully realize my part in the creation of this experience, and I choose not to feed the fire anymore. Instead I choose to love that fire as it burns through my veins, incinerating every shred of who I and others thought I was.
And even though the fire rages on, it too is dying, because now it has one less life to take. In my damnation, perhaps another will be saved. It is a sacrifice I make willingly, from a place of deep compassion and love for all who do not yet know peace, as well as for those who had paved the way for me to follow.
All that remains of me now is the light of eternal life here on earth.
Story Of Longing
For the first thirty-nine years of this life I call mine, there was a story of authenticity longing to get out. As it so often goes, the feelings of a life-less-lived started out innocent enough, but the longer this false story of “me” became, and the more stuff that I added to “my” life, the more I felt like a failure. As I looked towards the subsequent “chapters”, all I could see was more suffering and more failure. I finally surrendered that limited story of “me” because it seemed to create more problems than it solved, and it wasn’t doing anyone any good.
With that surrender came an internal peace. The war that had been going on inside me stopped, and I could just “be” without needing or wanting anything for myself. I started noticing everything I had, and that was shocking and brought with it a sense of humble gratitude. In this open state, I picked up on clues that I hadn’t seen before, and started following them with a sense of intrigue to see where they led.
What I found was an experience of truth beyond any concept of truth, and this truth is still being revealed to me to this day. As I embrace this truth, the authentic story of me is also being revealed. It was this story that was longing to be told, and the agony I felt while not honoring this story was the real cause of my suffering: it wasn’t the choices I had made or where I lived or the job I had, it was simply that I was living one story when all along there was a truer, more powerful story wanting to be told.
Deeply rooted in truth, I realize now how life is supporting this authentic story of me, which allows me to live courageously. This truth allows me to trust myself and life in a way I couldn’t before, and eliminates the need for second-guessing and regrets. The energy freed up from not having to look back helps me be more present and focused on the needs of the here-and-now. This brings with it an intangible level of quality that ensures a quality future, what ever that may be.
More than anything, I am just free to enjoy what it is that I am doing now, and that’s more fulfilling than anything I could ever look forward to doing or having. There is no truer story than the one that is being created right Now. At this point I have no idea what the next chapter holds, but that’s what makes it exciting. If I knew how the story was going to end, there’d be no surprises.
“Surrender” is a challenging concept to bring up because it tends to trigger a lot of resistance. But there is an alternate view of surrender that I would like to share in the hope of revealing the healing and empowerment that this otherwise rigid contains.
Most often, “surrender” stirs up feelings and images of giving up yourself and your power to another, yielding, or admitting defeat. The battle cry “Never Surrender!” rings in my ears. It is a closing off and pushing back from the enemy, even when the enemy is a situation and not a person. It resonates with deep resistance, at the center of which is fear. But fear cannot fight fear and win without causing other things to be afraid of. An imposing force, if resisted, may or may not be momentarily overcome, but any apparent victory will contain within it the seeds for its defeat at a future time. If we look to nature, the tree that moves and sways with the strong gusts of wind has the surest chance to grow and thrive where the rigid inflexible tree will snap in two.
From my experience, surrender held the key to my ultimate empowerment. It was my willingness to let go of my wants and needs that diffused the resistance to what was happening in my life. In place of that resistance came a sense of peace and stillness. Instead of fighting and struggling to be heard or seen, I became very fluid, wrapping myself around the situations rather than trying to wrap them around me. I wasn’t surrendering myself to others, I was just calling a temporary cease-fire so I could see if the war I was fighting was even still going on.
That experience of peace created an opening, and I began to see things in my surroundings that I just couldn’t see before. I followed these clues with a playful curiosity, and they revealed to me a loophole in life that, when realized, released me from the need to resist anything. I wasn’t afraid anymore, and those fears that had held me so tight were revealed as having their roots in childhood when, in a very real way, they were very real fears. But I wasn’t that child anymore, and so I could let go of those fears that caused me to misinterpret so many of the situations in my life.
In a sense, I surrendered to the life that I am, and I became one with life again. Now instead of fighting the “current” out of fear that I will be taken out to sea and drown, I ride the waves and allow them to carry me to my destination. I operate now from a place of deep responsibility, and instead of fear being my motivating factor, I experience compassion and love beyond anything I can even express. It has freed up so much energy that I am able to share with the world.
Through surrender, we are transported to a platform of peace. From there, we can see the root cause of the suffering around us and are empowered to take the necessary steps to remedy that cause rather than waste energy on mitigating the symptoms. In my willingness to let go of my limited wants and needs, I became more fully myself.
I cultivate this realization each day by finding a few brief moments to surrender my wants and needs to those of life. And regardless of how grand or small the gesture, I am inevitably left feeling more energized and more peaceful. Those gestures help create the space necessary to allow awareness to surface in those other moments of the day when I feel myself beginning to resist. It’s those moments that I now realize are simply being offered as a chance for me to practice peace. As I go about my days, the battle cry “Always Surrender!” helps transport me to a platform of peace, and allows me to face any situation with strength instead of fear.