21 Day Challenge: Quick Check-in. Where has it taken you?

A quick check-in here on the 21 day challenge to abstain from complaining, criticizing and gossipping:

Wow. The first thing that happened over here is I encountered what can only be described as a shitstorm of resistance and some doozie circumstances that really tested my resolve. (Nothing like attempting a communication overhaul during a Mercury retrograde!) It is so satisfying, in a short term kind of way, to complain!

One of my conflicts around this is, I am an expresser. After spending years not saying things that needed to be said, I almost cannot stand to not say something that I feel strongly about. Which caused me to wonder how discerning have I been about the things I feel I need to express? Do they need to be said to relieve my frustration that circumstances aren’t going my way? Or do they need to be said because of the value they will have in resolving something? Big difference.

Take away number one: Think first. What is my motivation for speaking?

Second, what else can I do to tolerate frustration? All too often the thing that feels best is to tear someone else down, usually not in their presence, but to myself in my private reality, where everyone else is at fault and I am an innocent bystander to their unskilled behaviors. “The world according to Phyllis” syndrome. It’s their fault this is happening. If only they’d (fill in the blank.) Everything was going along fine until that stupid thing they did.

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like… blaming. And, again, wow! I am a blamer! Oh, ouch, ouch, ouch!!!

Picture it: It’s a hot afternoon. I am sewing 5 sets of cafe curtains. I am ironing the hems before sewing. I am thinking of all this, watching my swirl of thoughts around how everything is someone else’s fault, the crazy mixed up communications that have been happening, the scheduling glitches, my life…and realizing I am a blamer. I am putting my hands to my face and groaning. Yes, that’s how it was for me on Day 5.

And then, because I have angels, and because I retain what I’ve read when I am devouring something that is filling a need, Edwene’s words float up into consciousness: “Happiness is a choice. Inner peace is a choice.” Of course she’s not the first one to say this, and it isn’t the first time I’ve heard it, but it’s somehow never hit home quite so deeply that I can choose happiness myself in this most shitty of moments, like right now. In other words, I can stop making other people responsible for my happiness. Recovery from Victimhood 101.

Which harkens me back to a seminal event in the evolution of my consciousness, which I have come back to again and again, a koan for Phyllis: Long ago, while in an intensive on transpersonal psychology with Tom Yeomans at the Concord Institute, I did a meditation in which I was to ask my Inner Wise Person the purpose of my life. My Inner Wise Person obliged my request by writing it out for me: “En-joy-ment.” Just like that. I didn’t see that one coming, at all! I, like most of us, have been trained to believe that life purposes are big and important, weighty and profound.

It turns out that it has been profound, for me, because it’s taken me until now to actually get that I can do that regardless of circumstances. And if I can do that, then nobody can take that away from me, except me.

This sounds annoyingly simplistic and gratuitously New Agey, but there’s no question that enjoying life has not come easily to me. So, my practice has been to find something to enjoy in each moment. (Because as with any new skill that challenges your sense of who you are and what is reality, moment by moment is the only way for it to take hold.) The first thing I noticed was that enjoyment is not a mental thing, like appreciation. It is an immediate, visceral thing. Watching the lush green maples sway in the breeze. Savoring the taste of a stick of gum when I first start chewing it. Feeling I am up in the sky while gazing at cloud formations. The play of sun and shadow on a wall that I mistake for a living thing, which then becomes one, to me.

And as I have switched into enjoyment mode, which feels like something I stopped doing when I was about 5, I have also begun to sit to eat, to watch moths and butterflies, and to miss my Honey-Bear, who died about a year ago. The simplest things are enjoyable. Even grief that springs from great love.

So, that’s me. How about you? Where has the 21 day challenge brought you so far?

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