I have a habit of persistently entertaining tentative, complex ideas that tend to have a subtle and discreet influence on my approach for living – ideas that I cannot shake easily. So I accept that there must be something in them that might yet clarify troubles that have developed while I go about my ever-increasing complex, daily life.
Then I find myself craving simplicity because of the tiresome nature of complexity but I know that would not be enough to keep my curiosity and sense of adventure satiated. So what is the answer? Perhaps complex thinking balanced with trying to lead a simple life.
Breaking up the passing of complex times into smaller units has been a great place to start for the benefit of simplicity & often leads to breaking up a day into smaller and smaller units depending on how that day is unfolding. It is compartmentalising to survive some crazy days relatively unscathed. If I have to move forward with consideration of the time between the seconds, then that is an indication that any approaching & passing moment has the power to change everything. Asking myself “What can I do with this second?” seems a simpler way of moving forward, even while it is a question that seems ridiculous & perhaps risks overthinking such details. It appears to be working for me so far, even while I slip up, say the wrong thing, do something foolish, and then have to go through the discomfort of reflecting on the mistakes I have made. So much choice equals increased potential for mistake-making, surely. That’s ok. I know I put a lot of thought into it all, perhaps too much sometimes and my brain aches. While it works & provides a sense of balance, I will keep on doing it.
During my clinical placement as a creative therapist, I began to think of myself as a conduit of emotion – I became a pathway that transferred a variation of another’s experience away from them to unknown destinations. After each experience of helping others in my role as a trainee therapist, I became acutely aware of others’ feelings that I took on & took home with me, & how those emotions and my developing awareness of professional concern for others subtly played out in my personal life. As I supported others to find comfort and potentially heal from their trauma, I felt the weight of their emotions run through me during my own emotionally laden desire to assist in some way. This resulted in a sense of myself as a conduit of emotion. But the analogy does not end there. If I broaden the concept to my life as a whole, it has enabled me to gain a sense of myself as one unit, one cell, one neurone in a connected web of thinking & doing, with my interactions potentially leading to affecting another. There is power in that & I try not to wield it naively. But one is often forced to start in a place of naivety and after some time of exposure, experience leads to wisdom & being qualified to know what works, what is authentic, and what one’s truth really is.
As I have developed a strong sense of the integral nature of being one unit that can potentially influence another “unit”, I have also begun to understand the power of one moment. This idea has expanded my thinking to consider the ultimate power I have from moment to moment, from second to second, and within the space between the seconds. I have gained a sense of the power available to me at a constancy that is enlightening while also frightening, defined beautifully by Marianne Williamson – “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
There is power in control & power in losing control. Perhaps that is why I continually defend the need for time to reflect, & time for processing challenges before the desire to impulsively react, respond or to choose is forced upon me, while I am still wondering what the best course of action should be. But taking the time to reflect when I can may lead me to the practice of impulsively making the right choice. When a massive challenge presents itself to me, and is always accompanied by intensity of emotion/s, if I am fortunate enough to set aside the time to process what is occurring and consider what options are available to me, I can move forward with the optimum confidence and security in what I intend to do because I have allowed for the time necessary to consider, decide and act. If there is time to process and consider thoroughly, perhaps problem-solving or healing is likely to be more effective. In one passing moment, there is power, and as one who is naturally connected to many others, the power I own can undo, repair, support, or enhance. It is there when I drive, there when I walk past a charity stall, there when I grocery shop, there when I converse, and there when my limits are tested.
I have limitations and I try to know them before I test them too much. The catch is that I only know my limits from going uncomfortably beyond them. The consequences of going beyond one’s limits and principles can be ugly, unpleasant and damaging. I have felt disempowered many times, or have given my power away but as I learn to accept and appreciate my actual power, I have begun to feel more empowered than ever to have my say or choose not to say anything. And the conduit analogy still holds true – my power can affect or perhaps even determine another’s power, as it is with parenting…or voting.
My power is selective and appreciatively positioned within a privileged lifestyle. I respect that is the case for most others around me. How I choose to exercise my power can be as different from another’s as is the difference in our fingerprints. My preference for means of activism or community mindfulness are respectfully different from others. Rather than judge the other for what their preferences are, I have realised that we individually make choices that we are comfortable with, feel are most important or are prepared to stretch ourselves so that we can extend our desires and needs…or perhaps even test them. This realisation has brought me comfort & enhanced my respect for others while knowing we each have the power to affect another.
Many people have their selected cause or causes. I understand that we have choices in what is important to each of us and where we desire to spend our efforts. Sometimes my efforts outside the family’s needs have to be restricted to live simply. After 5pm, rather than rudely react to those evening and weekend calls asking me for a donation or to sign up to their service, I have devised a way of politely letting the caller know that as a rule, I do not make donations after 5pm when those hours are for me with my family in my home. I politely let them know that they have called in “family hours” and my policy is to not respond to such phone calls in evening or weekend hours. “Try me in working hours”, I tell them and so far, I have had a respectful & understanding response. It has been better for both of us in that particular exchange rather than it be about my “caught off guard” irritation and their persistent audacity. I always get an understanding reply, usually an apology, and an “I’ll try again another time.”
I cannot help but welcome complexity in my life – it promises new challenges to learn from and achievements to be gained. However, a complex timetable often leads to confused thinking and more concerns than I can handle in a time frame that is not allowing for reflection and processing. It can risk everything. So the equation that works best for me is a simpler timetable & lifestyle to allow for complex thinking, leading to links that makes sense of arising complications. If I wonder and am frustrated, I allow the searching to continue, tentatively and patiently, while seeing to the needs of a simple set of objectives – family, homelife, community involvement, and a fulfilling enough career. If these are established as the values for grounding me, then the answers, or at least possibilities, for complex ideas do eventuate.
Disempowerment for me can be as benign as the concrete pathway that leads my children and I to the town centre. As my children hop, skip, & jump along the pathway and the youngest slips up, falling to the side, I have to remind her of the dangers of not containing herself carefully within the metre wide concrete path, that takes us in only one direction, so that she does not fall in front of a passing car on one side or a stranger’s garden on the other. My telling her to conform frustrates me but perhaps it is because I grew up in a seemingly endless, bush environment that had few boundaries. If there was an obstacle in the scrub, you went over it, under it, or through it. I guess that is perhaps why the children’s picture book, “We’re going on a bear hunt”, is so popular. The adventure in willingly going through some obstacle of nature to get somewhere else is exhilarating because of the potential skill building and growth-promoting challenge while interacting with the rules of nature.
When the pressure is building, I don’t like to think of having to sacrifice something to regain balance. That would seem to be going without. Instead, I have begun to look at having to take something out of my equation as “pruning” – at least by removing something to allow for new healthy growth, I may find that the yield brings better rewards than continuing with too much overgrowth that threatens me with sickness & tension under the weight of too much to do.
At the end of last December, I had a conversation with an extended family member to let them know that I felt the coming year would likely be difficult enough to concern me early on & I wanted someone to know that – to look out for me and my family. Being able to say to someone who cares, “I think I am in for an unusually trying time – I just want you to know that in advance. Can you just look out for me and my family?” was powerful & comforting. I try not to require too much from others, but being upfront about potential struggles helped me to accept the coming difficulties and awareness that my limitations will be tested and this family member would be our back-up. But now at the end of that difficult year, I need to hold off from looking towards identifying a New Year’s Resolution until I process the Old Year’s Reflection. Reflecting on the year that has passed, with the desire to always attempt to make improvements upon my life as it unfolds, is more effective for making plans for the New Year.
Much of what my intentions regard is about taking control, role modelling for my children, & designing strategies to avoid the grasp of depression. If a persistent period of being overwhelmed and feeling helpless, hopeless & sad takes me over, it can compound the sense of being a failure and the threat of finding myself in depression’s grip. Suffering from depression involves a significant sense of shame at failing to manage one’s life while others appear to be managing fine. Depression is becoming the leading cause of disability world-wide and I cannot help but wonder if my experience of it is somewhat akin to many others’ difficulties of moving too fast to be able to keep pace with a complex life. Losing control in those unknown depths for an indefinite period of time is a state I would prefer to avoid by having a personalised bag of tools with which to mend myself. My bag of tools are well-refined, frequently modified & select, custom made by me for me. And while I have them always available to me, I feel relatively well-prepared for the obstacles that lie ahead.