The “Fix” Is In

“Fixed” mindset vs. “Growth” mindset: I feel I fall somewhere in-between. It’s not an either/or.

In other words, I’m not free of the black & white, grade-oriented way of thinking, where innate talent says it all, and effort and “failing” are signs that I’m a loser, someone who is lost. But then there’s the part of me – bigger part! – that gets bored easily, needs to be challenged, is totally free of being graded. Pushing myself, learning new things! I’m in that place now, seeing how “empty” my life is, spending more than I’m making for over a year now, wondering what the hell is going on. But isn’t all this happening now because I cannot live with a “fixed” mindset? I’ve opted for adventure instead of safety, growth over security, risk being more important than predictability. And seemingly without too much trouble deciding.

I have faith that things will work out; not knowing, not being able to point to something that reflects a more interesting direction, not having that “bird in hand” but winging it, trying – yes, trying! – not to judge myself, not slot all this in as a failure. That takes effort! So, I am growing whether I realize it or not.

How much have I been attached to the grading, effort-proves-you-don’t-have-what-it-takes mentality? New York was a failure, yes. But it wasn’t depending on what I do (and have done) with it. I’m a “failure” now because I don’t know what to do, alone most of the time, blah, blah, blah. This is a very tough one for me. My circumstances suggest I am failing at life. A big part of “me” is demanding PROOF that it will all work out. That “me” is feeding on the apparent lack of PROOF to keep reminding me that I’m a failure, not that I just fail, but that I’m a failure.

Is it all in how I view myself? A different set of “eyes” might see everything in a different light? I feel like I’m getting close to something important. When I was reading the attached article, one of my friends sent a note asking if I could suggest a caption to one of her amazing photos. “Normally” I would feel a little interrupted, not wanting to stop what I was doing. This time a visit from her was comforting, and I let her be the one who needed to go, not worrying about being the “busy one,” restless about “not getting” something and all that horseshit. I let Karen in, in other words. I had all the time in the world, so why not let it be? I felt I needed the attention, I needed to be noticed. And she gave me the attention I needed after a lousy night’s sleep. And she got what she needed! This is something new in me.

There is definitely a deterministic mindset I am dealing with now. It takes effort but I am doing it! I can continue to change, to grow, to become someone else again. And I’m relearning what it means to be patient, with circumstances but mainly with myself, noticing the judge in me without paying it much heed, seeing more and more what it really is and not giving it the respect I have in the past. I’ve put myself here, and the judge keeps trying to tell me I made a mistake, I’m a loser, confused, it’s that “what’s wrong with you?!” again. I only have my faith to go on because things haven’t really changed outwardly – except for my move back from New York – in over a year. And it becomes very scary at times, like there’s nothing “there,” that it’s all just darkness with no way of seeing opportunities, like I blinded myself “back there” and I can’t see anymore.

But that is not true. None of it. That’s the “fixed” mindset trying to tell me that what I “see” is PROOF that I’m a failure, a loser. When in fact I am ignoring the real ME by caving into this fossil of a mindset. The REAL ME is about challenge, taking risks, growth. Always has been. That’s why that secure post office job (my day job) seemed like a graveyard to me, and why I struggle with going back: that kind of certainty smells of death, not life. And yet, I must live in the practical world even as I seek through my efforts to find new opportunities. Cracking the code that is me is a never-ending process. I’ll be doing it with my last breath.

There remains too much of a mystery of me. And that mystery many times results with feelings of ambivalence and restraint and less with the enthusiasm to strive FOR something. That is the heartache I continually experience: by default, an ambivalent life in lieu of a life of passionate pursuit, of real desire and longing for my heart’s treasure. Apart from my writing, this obscurity, this dark side of myself, part of my shadow, remains the defining characteristic of “who I am” because there is nothing greater, larger, more soul-filled in me, that something that drives me instead of drives me crazy. I collapse into this place of not-knowing, with the sense that I’m always making it up as I go along, never really sure, never truly confident (or committed). Is this part of the “fixed” mindset, the judge telling me again I’m a failure? In lieu of something greater touching my very essence, do I remain a sitting duck for a lifetime of ambivalence?

Karen chose photography when she was a teenager, in large part to give voice to the voice she had that wasn’t being heard growing up. She is an inspiration. Do I have my own story to tell of giving voice to that which was deemed voiceless? If she is an inspiration to me, how is that inspiration being made manifest in my life? How does her life inspire mine?

And so, here I sit with so many more questions than answers (as usual), and I take heart knowing that, if all else “fails,” I am still “living the questions.”

fulfillment, sadness

  1. What was happening?  Paul and I are sitting in a noisy restaurant, meeting for supper to honor our time together, he the Director and me a vital faculty contributor to the Masters Program in Pastoral Counseling. I’m “retiring” from the program. We spend a couple hours wandering through our shared history, meanings, choices, and life purposes. He periodically acknowledges the value of my contributions. 
  1. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now).  As we are ready to leave, I am aware of a swelling fullness in my heart, flowing into my arms and hands, wanting to hug, to hold. There is a soft heaviness in my eyes, that feels like it is flowing out, to be seen. My jaw loosens with each exhale. There is a kind of warm, loving energy filling my whole body, radiating in a gentle glow. 
  1. What meaning did I / do I give to it?  I feel a wistful mixture of fulfillment and sadness. We accomplished so much together, and we get so much of each other’s worth and meaning on our separate paths. So much fullness, now ending. The fulfillment is in living out my life purpose: so many lives enriched with more understanding of feelings and relationships. The sadness is simple: one stream through which my life has flowed, is no more. 
  1. What did I choose to do with the energy? … and what happened…  I expressed my feelings to Paul in words. I felt a little awkward so doing. It was at the end of our time together. He was tired. Nonetheless, he got it. How significant this was for me. We hugged. I walked out breathing and honoring my feelings. When I got home, I just sat in my easy chair, breathed and wondered at all that has gone before to create such depth in the fulfillment, and the sadness. As a result of sitting with these feelings, I felt deeply enriched, and full of love.   
  1. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? Continuing to honor my fulfillment and sadness as they flow together can add such a richness to this time of my life, easing the endings with an appreciation of all that has been. Talking to others about these feelings deepens them.  
  1. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?  I will watch for this mix of fulfillment and sadness, honor it, breathe and feel it, and share it.