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~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #154
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“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” —Nelson Mandela
Amelia Earhart, at the age of 23, had a dream awoken within her that she could not explain. Filled with both fear and pleasure, she “knew she had to fly”. Julia Child was determined to change the dining, cooking and eating experience of Americans, also known as the “servantless cook”. At the time, no one had written, nor demonstrated how to successfully engage with real food, delicious, satiating cuisine as she had (and as I know, many of you are quite aware being Francophiles ;)). And so it was hope, not fear that she, as well as Amelia Earhart pursued their vision with dogged perseverance. It was the nebulous vision held within, unknowingly willing their dreams to materialize, how and when they could not know.
I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s quote often with the many different new experiences and people I have had the opportunity to encounter in my now nearly two years living in Bend. A multitude of unknowns dance about untamed in my life that have tested my confidence, faith and desire. From the desire to become once again a home-owner, to producing a second book of quality and inspiration for devoted long-time and newly introduced readers of living simply luxuriously to finding and cultivating real love and friendships based on trust, curiosity and similar passions shared authentically, just to name a few. And it is at times of doubt and unknown situations, that self-preservation can be the default my mind wants to revert to.
After all, it is a rare individual to travel unscathed by pain, loss, hurt and disappointment through life; and therefore, it is only natural to allow the mind, when it recognizes seemingly similar behavior equivalent to a pain-inflicting person from our past to put up its defenses, assume the worst and no longer step forward. But such behavior is to ignore Mandela’s directive, such behavior is to make a choice that reflects our fears. And when we continue to make decisions that reflect our fears, we are no longer building a life in which we can thrive striving toward our fullest potential; no, instead, we are merely surviving and watching pass by beautiful opportunity after beautiful opportunity, of the life we have not yet experienced, but could if only we would make choices that reflect our hopes.
Last week, I began to make firm plans for a summer holiday in 2018. Money has been invested, dates have been confirmed, rentals have been secured. While I am not sure how all of the details will come together or even exactly how long I will be away, I at least know a dream I set in 2011 will be taking place. I chose to build a life based on hope. I chose to believe that the pieces would gradually fall together if I set out the invitation enabling them to materialize. I chose what I am excited about, rather than what I am fearful of.
To have hope may not seem to be enough, and I would argue, while it isn’t enough, it is a significant part of the foundation of the beautiful life we wish to build for ourselves and those we love. Think of it as building a sanctuary in the country, complete with koi ponds, long, tree-lined lanes and thoughtfully planted perennials that awake in their designated seasons in order for a full year of natural beauty. Such a creation, while yes, taking time, also requires of the dreamer to plan, design and educate themselves, but then act in a manner that involves decisions that open the door to the possibility of ample and abundant beauty.
Conversely, a life built on our fears resembles a fortress of stone, iron walls, gates, anything to protect the individual(s) inside from being penetrated by the unknown. No engagement with the outside world unless deemed fit and suitable. No plan except to build higher walls that are no more natural and healthy, let alone beautiful, when it comes to a well-lived life than forced solitary confinement.
“Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.” —Amelia Earhart
Yes, the former example leaves us open, leaves us more vulnerable, but it also invites the natural world to thrive. The seasons to work their magic, relationships to grow and mature, life to move through its cycle and for the residents to appreciate each step. Whereas the fortress controls everything, or creates a way of living that presents a façade of having everything under control. When in actuality, the beauty that could flourish is killed due to lack of sunlight. In other words, hope is driven asunder.
No, we will never know how everything will work out. We will never know precisely when the economy will ebb and rise or why prior to the event that sparks the change. We will never know when we might run into that person that captivates our attention more than anyone we have ever met before. We will never know when we will hear yes, or when we will hear no. We will never know when our time will be up or for those around us. We will never know anything except how we choose to respond to any situation.
Having hope doesn’t mean we are being fool-hearty. Having hope doesn’t mean we cannot do our homework. But when we are left with unknowns, choose the hopeful outcome rather than the fearful one, and your behavior and words as you interact and engage with the world will reflect this choice and thus the energy that is reflected back to you.
A funny, and aha moment awareness I had recently is that not all of my negative defaults have been a result of personal experience. Some of my negative, self-protecting defaults have come from the media, from plots and tales that are told as entertainment and some as cautionary tales. Now most, I have recognized were experienced unconsciously as a younger child and adult, and so the lesson for myself is to feed my life experience well. Not only with the entertainment, literary journeys and news I consume, but also with the people I spend time with. What conversations, what lives, what tales are shared? No, we must not sanitize our lives; we must know what is going on in the world; we must be aware of suffering to an extent so that if nothing more we can be a part of the effort to alleviate it; we must be conscious citizens.
But then we need to get in our lane. A lane that is based on self-awareness, clarity of direction and a mind that is constantly being fed and nourished and live our lives well. But how do we that, especially when at times it will feel as though living in fear is far smarter?
First, vent or express your frustration in a healthy manner: understand that you are not seeking a solution, but rather a means to express and release the frustration. And then do not dwell. Move forward. You are human to feel frustration, maybe even anger, but in recognizing that we cannot control everything, we recognize what we can control how we respond in such moments.
Second, and most powerful, let go of the outcome. We can only control our behavior, our thoughts, and our preparation. Focus on these three things and let the others go so that you can enjoy the life you have cultivated for yourself, no matter what life may bring, toss or surprise you with. And as we go about our lives, having invested in hope rather than fear, we are more likely to awake unexpectedly to a ladybug on our shoulder.
“When I was a little girl, I used to run around in the fields all day, trying unsuccessfully to catch ladybugs. Finally I would get tired and lay down for a nap. When I awoke, I’d find ladybugs walking all over me.” —Under the Tuscan Sun
“…decide…whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying….” —Amelia Earhart
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