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.”

The Summer of My Discontent? A Series of Questions Asked

Has my “job” become worry, or Worry?

By being “beside myself” am I somehow acting “responsibly” given my uncertain circumstances? Or am I “beside myself” as in “not myself” but someone else? Do I have to be stressed in order to feel alive, to send a message to myself that says, “I know what you’re doing, and I don’t like it. Therefore, I am going to make sure you are unhappy, even miserable”? Who’s running the show here? Is this not neurotic behavior?

What’s to keep me from enjoying myself regardless of circumstances? Or am I so tied to “results,” “security” and the illusion of certainty that until I get “back on track” the only option is no option at all, but to feel lousy?

If I believe in myself, trust myself, can I not also enjoy myself, regardless of whether or not I’ve got another steady “day job,” a girlfriend, a social life, a robust and creative life? (And if not, does that mean I don’t trust myself, believe in myself?) And is that not a list of wants/needs/desires that are both general to most everyone and specific to my life? Yes, I have bits and pieces of all of them now, but not in any satisfying mix. Can I live with that? Or do I need to maintain a “fever” until there’s enough, until there’s more? Can I be satisfied with what is? Or is that settling, lowering some kind of personal standards just in order to relieve the pressure? Or are the feelings I have these days a warning? Even more to the point, am I going crazy?

The answer to all these questions resides in me, and comes from a place of stillness, which involves paying attention to circumstances, not letting my fears dictate my choices, but instead love myself as I remain curious, even if the world has become less interesting. Trusting myself, I continue to live, somehow grow, not in spite of myself but because of it.

The Summer of My Discontent? I take the stuff of my life, as I experience it, and make something from it. I become a poet. My life lived with no firm destination, free of abstractions, lived concretely for its own sake.

“Negative Capability … is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” John Keats, 12/22/1918

Curiosity, Anxiety, Guilt, Gratitude, Peace

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

Last August, I was diagnosed with a very rare and incurable form of blood cancer.  On Nov. 11, 2014, my daughter drove me to another city to be with me for my fist appointment with yet another new doctor.  This one would be my second oncologist that will have a role in my treatment.  This one will be in charge of my care when the chemo pill that I am currently taking stops working, and the time comes for me to have the only other care option available to me…a bone marrow transplant.  A new city, a new hospital, a new doctor, a new team of professionals, all working together for the sole purpose of prolonging  my life by winning  the battle over these defective, rogue cells that are taking over my bone marrow and, if left untreated, will eventually kill me.

2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

Needless to say, the start of the day was filled with curiosity and mild anxiety.  Mixed with that however, were also some complicated feelings of guilt and disappointment that, this year, I was not going to be able to take part in any of my normal Remembrance Day traditions to pay tribute to our veterans on this important day.

3. What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

My family has had a strong military history, and it felt peculiar to not be able to pay homage, in my usual fashion, to those living and dead, family and non-family, on this special day.

4. What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

Once I became aware of how I was feeling, I thought everything through and came to the conclusion that though the traditional time for the moment of silence and remembrance is 11:00 AM, it would be ok to have my time of reflection, remembrance, prayer and thanksgiving at another time during this day.  I also realized that I would also probably be able to see a re-broadcast of the memorial service in Ottawa, later in the day.  Most of all though, I gained the acceptance of the fact that caring for my health is important, and having my own personal time of remembrance later in the day would in no way lessen the tribute to our vets.  I was suddenly at peace!

5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

Funny how things happen!  As it turned out, my appointment s with the doctors were finished just before 11:00 AM.  I was sitting in the lab awaiting my turn to have blood work done when an announcement came over the loudspeaker.  The staff and patients were encouraged to share in a moment of silence to pay tribute to the fallen, and all vets, on this Remembrance Day!  There was then a broadcast of recordings of a bugler and piper playing the traditional military songs, and after our moment of silence, there was a reading of the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, written by John McCrae during World War I.  What a beautiful tribute and time of remembrance!

 This experience helped me to realise that although circumstances may necessitate a change from traditional routines, different recognition is still recognition, and if it meets the diverse needs of daily living, without minimizing the reason for the tribute in the first place, there is nothing wrong with it!  It was actually quite moving to see a busy hospital grind to a stop and have silence take over the normally noisy and chaotic hospital environment.  This was truly a moving memorial and tribute to our vets, and we did in fact “remember them”!

6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

 This experience has certainly reinforced my understanding of how much “tradition” means to me, and how and why I respond to days and circumstances that have traditions wrapped up in them.  However, it has also helped me to loosen up some of my perceptions of what honouring those “traditions” means, and how it is done.  I believe that this increased flexibility in my life will bring with it a greater sense of acceptance and peace, especially as I age and as health limitations change my ability to honour those old “traditions”, in what has become an ingrained and traditional manner.  Finding new, and equally valuable and respectful ways of doing so, is not only okay, but necessary as time progresses.  After all, doing things in a new way, is not always a bad thing, it is just different!.