November 8: Take the lid off the box

The world shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
— Anaïs Nin

First you crawled; then you learned to walk, and the world grew a little bigger. You learned to ride a bike, and it grew even more. Then you learned to drive a car and bought a plane ticket. Suddenly, the horizons were limitless. But then, those doubts crept in. I can’t go to L.A. I’ll never find my way around. And the world shrinks a little bit. I shouldn’t take that trip this year; I’ve got too many responsibilities. And it shrinks a little more. Enough excuses and rationalizations and you’re left sitting in a little box with the lid tightly affixed.

No experiences, no lessons, no life.

Boxes can be comfortable. I’ve spent some time in them myself. But no matter how cozy you make it, a box is still a box. They come in all sizes and shapes. But whenever we start letting unrealistic fears hold us back and down, we can be fairly certain we’re climbing inside another box, again. It may take a while, but sooner or later we’ll run into the walls.

Find one small I can’t in your life and take the lid off of the box. Look around. It’s a big world out there. If it looks small, it’s because you’ve made it that way. Try for a minor impossibility. Go apply for that dream job. The worst that will happen is that you’ll learn something new about yourself. If you don’t actually get the job, you may find out what it will take to get it, and then the world will grow when you stop wishing for a miracle and begin pursuing your dreams yourself. Pick up some brochures for that photo safari you’ve always wanted to take. Learn how to speak a foreign language. One woman I know had claustrophobia. For her birthday this year, she rode in a elevator for the first time. Then she went back and did it again.

Go ahead. Poke the top off from your box. Stick your head out. Look around. See! The world is a marvelous, amazing place.

Find a fear, then turn it into a ladder. Get out of the box of doubt and insecurity and into the freedom of courage and belief in yourself.

God, give me the courage to climb out of my box.

November 7

What did you do today? What did you like about what you did? What didn’t you like, that you’d like to do better tomorrow? See! Answering those questions wasn’t that hard. The way we need to inventory ourselves is fearlessly, not brutally.

Inventory Focus: Are you willing to be as honest with yourself as you can?

NOVEMBER 6: Value Each Moment

How often we wait for those grand moments of revelation, those intense times that blast us into transformation, those turning points that forever change us and our lives. Those are the dramatic moments we write about, see in movies, and long for in our lives. Yes, they are wonderful. But turning points such as those happen only a couple of times in a movie and a few times in a lifetime.

Each moment of each day in our lives is a valuable turning point— an important part of our spiritual growth, an important scene in the movie of our lives. Each feeling is important: boredom, fear, hate, love, despair, excitement. Each action we take has value: an act of love, an act of healing. Each word we speak, each word we hear, each scene we allow ourselves to see, and each scenario we participate in changes us.

Trust and value each moment of your life. Let it be important. It is a turning point. It is a spiritual experience.


Let’s Make a Deal: November 5

The relationship just wasn’t working out, and I wanted it to so badly. I kept thinking if I just made myself look prettier, if I just tried to be a more loving, kind person, then he would love me. I turned myself inside out to be something better, when all along, who I was was okay. I just couldn’t see what I was doing, though, until I moved forward and accepted reality.

One of the most frustrating stages of acceptance is the bargaining stage. In denial, there is bliss. In anger, there is some sense of power. In bargaining, we vacillate between believing there is something we can do to change things and realizing there isn’t.

We may get our hopes up again and again, only to have them dashed.

Many of us have turned ourselves inside out to try to negotiate with reality. Some of us have done things that appear absurd, in retrospect, once we’ve achieved acceptance.

“If I try to be a better person, then this won’t happen…. If I look prettier, keep a cleaner house, lose weight, smile more, let go, hang on more tightly, close my eyes and count to ten, holler, then I won’t have to face this loss, this change.”

There are stories from members of Al-Anon about attempts to bargain with the alcoholic’s drinking: “If I keep the house cleaner, he won’t drink…. If I make her happy by buying her a new dress, she won’t drink…. If I buy my son a new car, he’ll stop using drugs.”

Adult children have bargained with their losses too: “Maybe if I’m the perfect child, then Mom or Dad will love and approve of me, stop drinking, and be there for me the way I want them to be.” We do big, small, and in-between things, sometimes crazy things, to ward off, stop, or stall the pain involved with accepting reality.

There is no substitute for accepting reality. That’s our goal. But along the way, we may try to strike a deal. Recognizing our attempts at bargaining for what they are—part of the grief process—helps our lives become manageable.

Today, I will give myself and others the freedom to fully grieve losses. I will hold myself accountable, but I will give myself permission to be human.

November 4: Let yourself be uncomfortable

“It seems as though everything you do for fun terrifies you,” my friend Andy said to me one day. “What’s that about?”

I thought about his question. It was true. Flying scared me. Jumping out of that airplane for the first time was a terrifying prospect. I wasn’t comfortable at all. I started hyperventilating and thought I was having a heart attack, at first.

The first day I decided to be sober and clean and not use alcohol and drugs anymore, I was faced with changing my entire life. The prospect of starting this new life scared me to death.

The day my divorce from the children’s father was finalized, I was exhilarated for one moment, then I was terrified. I had an anxiety attack and called 911.

I was paralyzed with fear the first day I sat at my cubicle at the newspaper office staring at the blank screen while the deadline for the front-page story I’d been assigned was only two hours away.

“It’s not that I’m an adrenaline junkie,” I said to my friend. “At least the issue isn’t entirely that. It’s that everything new and worthwhile I’ve ever done on my path has required me to be uncomfortable and sometimes downright scared for a while. I’ve had to walk through a wall of fear.”

I enjoy creating a comfortable place to live with down-filled sofas and beds that make me feel like I’m sleeping in the clouds. Learning to relax and learning to identify what makes us comfortable is an important part of learning to take good care of ourselves.

But sometimes we need to leave that nice, comfy, cozy place.

“I can’t do this. I’m not comfortable,” I’d say time and time again to my flight instructor Rob as he insisted that I take the controls of the plane.

“Yes, you can,” he’d say, not feeding into my fear. “Just breathe. And relax.”

Sometimes fear is a good thing. It warns us of real dangers and imminent threats. It tells us “don’t do that” or “stay away.”

Sometimes afraid and uncomfortable is just how we’re feeling because we’re learning something new. Relax. Breathe deeply. Do it—whatever it is—anyway. You’re supposed to feel that way.

Is your fear based on an intuitive feeling of self-protection or something new and unknown? If your fear isn’t based on a legitimate intuitive threat, then get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

Walk through your wall of fear.

Do the thing that scares you. Grow. Then check your fear and do it again.

God, teach me to overcome my fears. Help me mature by becoming comfortable with the discomfort of growth.

November 3

“My boss pulled me aside to tell me about something I was doing wrong,” a man shared with me. “But he didn’t just critique my work. He criticized everything I did. I walked away without a shred of self-esteem.”

Many of us grew up with a lot of criticism. We may live with someone now who’s very critical, or we may be highly critical of ourselves. The thought of looking closely at ourselves can make us cringe. We may feel afraid that if we look closely at who we are, we’ll be left without self-worth.

The purpose of looking at ourselves isn’t to barrage ourselves with criticism. It’s to identify behaviors we’re doing that are sabotaging ourselves so we can begin the process of change.

Look fearlessly. Look carefully. We can critique what we do without judging who we are. A difficult thing about looking at ourselves fearlessly can be getting past the fear.

Challenge: The hardest part about looking at ourselves can be that, compared to other people, we think everything we do looks good. Besides, if we find a defect, then we might need to change.

NOVEMBER 2: See How Much Easier Life Can Be

The old way said do, do , do. Push, push, push. Only when the work was done could we allow ourselves time to rest. But when the work was finished, we often forgot to reward ourselves. The old way won’t work anymore. We have learned too much, come too far. Our body won’t let us. Our heart will object.

Let the work be more fun. Don’t push yourself so hard. Let your actions be effortless— an easy result of learning to focus and learning to trust your inner timing. Learn to let your actions spring naturally and easily from there.

Let your inner voice and life guide you into breaks while you’re working, while you’re focusing on the task. Stop fearing it won’t get done. Stop worrying if you’re doing it well enough. Take breaks when you need to and really let go.

Take time at the end of the task, too. Take time to reward yourself, to feel pleasure in your accomplishment, to play at the end of the day.

See how balance occurs naturally when we trust our heart. See how much easier life can be when we live it from the heart.