The other day I was working on an art piece and I needed a screwdriver. My husband had recently moved everything out of the attached garage to the large garage/shed in preparation for our painting the floor this weekend so all the tools were under lock and key. The key was the issue, it was somewhere safe . . . on his key chain, with him, on the golf course. I couldn’t put off what I was doing until he got home so I found a nail file that worked. Later I needed to hammer a nail in. I had plenty of options to use in place of the hammer; I used the heavy handle of an older knife. I was intent on what I was doing, and I made use of whatever was around me to get the job done, even though what I used was not normally used for that purpose. Success!
It pretty well sums up my approach to life. I tend to make my own arrangements. I work with what I have to get the job done. I don ‘t think I have ever had an “incomplete” or that anyone has ever had to talk to me about deadlines. I always get my work done and, I tend to thoroughly enjoy myself while I do it. Even with the most mundane task, I have learned to make it into something else entirely.
I can remember being a kid and having to shell peas endlessly one summer and I transported my mind out of that and became the princess that had to save her people and thwart the wicked witch by out shelling all competitors. I had a whole fantasy with characters and conversations that played out while the afternoons whiled themselves away. At times the story took over and I lost myself in my own imagination and at times I was trying to beat a certain number of peas shelled in a minute. I adapted that practice as I grew up. Fantasy stories fueled by my imagination gave way to personal challenges that had nothing to do with the task at hand, but had everything to do with pushing me.
We tell ourselves the stories that either make what we are doing unbearable or, doable. Shelling peas was mind numbing and I would have been overwhelmed with the amount of peas that had to be done and the number of summer afternoons sacrificed doing something I hated. I changed what the task was by changing how I thought of it and making it into something I could use that did serve me. Finding a way to make things relevant to my life was my job. I never had to settle with just being bored … unless that was my choice and it never has been. I try to use what I am given in life, even when the tools suck.
We reach the point in our lives where we start to have time to examine where we are. We have the family, we have some stability, we have routine . . . and we start to wonder what else there is and if our bright flame has already burned down to embers.
What, in life, is ever going to be as magical as our sport hero status, our homecoming queen win, emancipation, our wild and crazy nights out with friends where the soul purpose was to completely have fun without any constraints, landing a great job, our falling in love, getting married, getting our first new car, our house, our kids ?
Why do we feel so bittersweet about everything that we have done and completed? Why do we look at what has been and consider what is ahead of us and lean towards depression?
It is a point we all reach somewhere in our time line. We have journeyed a long way from our childhood and usually we find ourselves with one foot in our parents plan of life and maybe only a toe in our own dreams of what life was going to be like. Worse, we sometimes see ourselves drowning in the very life we swore we would never choose. How we got there seems irrelevant to the bigger concern, how do we escape?
We know we don’t have the luxury of just scrapping everything and starting over because we have responsibilities. It can make us bitter. I can make us want to give up completely. We do that because we feel powerless and because we look at it as something that was done to us. Sometimes it becomes easier to blame the world and the people around us than to step up to the plate and realize we made the choices that brought us here. We may have done it by simply not paying enough attention, or we may have consistently made choices that were the easy way or the wrong way, but it is all on us. Taking personal responsibility for ourselves is the only way to take our power back. The good news is that once you accept you got yourself here, you must also begin to understand that you can use that same power to change things. We don’t have to carry on with an unhappy life as if we have no choice. We still have choices.
The second reason we feel defeated is because the distance between what we want or need and where we are can seem impossible. How do we get from here to there when we feel so trapped?
You can’t just grab the wheel of a boat and jerk it sharply in the direction you want to be going. You have to slowly correct it by making a gentle and sweeping arc that turns you towards your intended destination. It is the same in life. You begin. You get in touch with who you are and what you want, even if it is just the feeling. Then you make the corrections slowly, working with the boat, against the wind and seas and all else that factors into your move, as you make a wide sweeping turn. Once in the process, the obstacles morph from stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
You can do that with your life.
You can look around you and start focussing on what you have and how those things can serve you instead of only worrying about what you do not have. You can stop those things that no longer feed your soul. You can rid yourself of constant contact with people who do not support and enhance your life. You can learn new skills, you can live this day with the heart of the person you want to be, changing habits and acts that no longer serve you. You can connect with those people and experiences that you now realize mean something.
The TV character, McGyver was respected because whatever he got himself into he could improvise and get himself out of the situation. He didn’t understand the word “can’t.” He didn’t worry about the perfect solution. He knew himself and he knew his own abilities. Knowing yourself affords you that same confidence. It gives you options, and the most exciting point of all of it is, these are options that are about you. These are options that bring you tremendous peace, or joy. You can live with even failure and tragedy when you can own them. If you know there was nothing more you could do, that you did your best, that you did not intend something … and you love yourself . . . you can get through it.
You get to a place where you are so sure of who you are that the circumstances of your life are just tools you have to work with. If the screwdriver is not available, you make use of the nail file.
“Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.” Charles Bukowski