Your attention, please.

I wasn’t feeling it today. It’s grey out. I don’t do well with grey (except to fend off black and white).

So instead of writing, I committed to catching up on reading and stumbled upon Behind the Scenes by Brandewijn Words.

It wasn’t his generous words that got me (although beyond humbled by and grateful for them), it was his message. I realized it plays into the same theme as the two posts I read immediately before, and the book I’m currently reading, What is in the Way is the Way, and a documentary  I just saw, Leaning into the Wind.

Apparently, there’s something I need to pay attention to.

The theme/s, more or less:

In BW’s words:
“…the way that the world grabs me sometimes. How it twists my perspective and I see it from a different angle… why it’s important to get on the ground, sometimes, and look at something from a completely different point of view.”

Andy Goldsworthy’s words: (Leaning into the Wind)
“There are two different ways of looking at the world. You can walk on the path, or you can walk through the hedge…step aside off the normal way of walking or looking.”

 The Incurable Dreamer’s: 
“Each step I took was with intent and an understanding that pain is what paints the sky with breath-taking beauty and ignites your soul in the grasp of darkness…even when your heart loves so deeply it threatens to destroy you, it is possible to feel blessed.”

Tom Being Tom’s: 
“But if we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.”

In short, it’s about perspective, about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment, being curious, leaning into the questions, and most importantly, the emotions behind them, especially the uncomfortable ones

It’s the very thing we stop doing as we get older. We know all too well the spaces that hurt. We’ve experienced the pain of loss, heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, and failure. And we’ve become masters of avoiding them, no matter the cost.

Yes, we survived it, but it changed us. It scared us. Why risk feeling that way again? Running, numbing, suppressing, avoiding: these all seem like the safer bet. So we stop taking risks, “stay on the path”, chalk it up to life is hard and spend our days either stuck in the past or praying that things will get better in the future. Or, we lose ourselves in trying to control and fix everything that’s wrong.

Life, its unfolding, loses its color…and turns to grey.

“Fear needs time to exist. It needs stories of past and future in order to get a foothold in your mind.” – Mary O’Malley 

I see this happening all around me. I see this happening to (or with) me. I’m missing out on so much of the good that still exists, wasting what could be beautiful moments because I’m so focused on fixing the handful of things that are wrong,

But the pain is there to teach us, and the lessons will keep coming back until we learn them, increasing in intensity until running, numbing, and avoiding are no longer options if we’re going to survive.

The fucked up thing is these lessons stem from stories we made up based on beliefs we adopted when were tiny…based on fears we developed when we were tiny.

We run away from them, imagining the pain, shame, or anger will be too much to handle. But by doing so, we give them their power, letting them gain momentum and snowball into something so enormous, when it finally catches up with us, the blow is crushing.

Crushing, but not final.

“If we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.” ~ Tom Cummings

The irony is we spend our entire lives trying to find happiness, experience joy and avoid pain. But it’s pain that amplifies our experience of happiness and joy. And neither joy nor happiness needs to be found. We always have access to them. We just get so focused on avoiding pain, we lose sight of them.

So what happens if we stop pushing pain away and invite it to stay instead? What if we just get curious about it, without berating or judging ourselves? Whether it comes from anger, shame, sadness, or fear, we simply ask where it’s coming from and why…and we listen.

What happens is we hear the same story we’ve heard for decades. The one we made up to try to understand the inexplicable when we were tiny, the one we play on repeat, that confirms our deepest fears.

If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t pay attention to our underlying agenda to play it safe and avoid the pain, the cycle continues: we get sucked back into the past, scared the future will hold more of the same…and we lose the moment.

So what if we try something different, change our perspective? Instead of doing whatever we normally do to escape it, we welcome it and give that tiny one the attention and compassion s/he has been screaming for?

I can’t answer that yet. My lesson, the one I thought I’d outrun, it caught me. And yes, the blow was crushing, the pain, excruciating. But there’s no more escaping it, and I’d rather not repeat. So, I’m leaning in. You have my full attention.

I can say this, though: it isn’t screaming anymore. It still demands my attention, to be sure, but it has loosened its grip. It has also made it clear that I’m not in control. I don’t get to decide when or how, and there is no one clear path out of this. I just get to ask questions…and listen.

Oh, and the sun finally did come out, as it always does. But to be honest, the colors were more vivid before. I was just too focused on the grey to see them.

ionus.buffalo
* Image by Ionus Caras

“When she turned to face it, she transformed it. Her biggest fear became her greatest strength.” ~ b.breazeale

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20 thoughts on “Your attention, please.

  1. Brooke, there must be something to is since you are bumping into so many iterations of it at the same time.

    To be part of some revelation like this…there has to be some magic out there.

    My heart quickened as I read this. As I felt the shift you were experiencing. Describing. Sharing. I cannot imagine processing what you have had to process. I don’t know how I would have survived emotionally had that been me. I just know that through it all, you kept some small amount of light within. It is so nice to see it growing.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. “I’m missing out on so much of the good that still exists, wasting what could be beautiful moments because I’m so focused on fixing the handful of things that are wrong”

    Yes! The terrible human condition. We spend so much of our lives focusing on our weaknesses, or our problems, or the things that went wrong, or could go wrong, and we forget to LIVE. Regardless of what comes after this life – and we all think differently about that, too – this life is a limited one. Generally speaking, we get about 7 or 8 good decades and they fly by quick. But if we can learn to focus on the good stuff, it can be an enormously satisfying journey.

    It isn’t easy. Some really bad things happen along the way, sometimes, as you well know, but as you said we can learn to embrace the pain of those events. We are meant to hurt just as surely as we are meant to love. Feel all of life, I tell Mrs C, it’s okay. But never, never, never let those emotions cripple you.

    The clock is ticking. And there’s so much good yet to feel.

    Wonderful reminder, and stirring introspection, Brooke. Thank you for it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Tom. Agreed, 100%. It’s better to be unhappy or in pain than to be apathetic or complacent. Better, not easier, by any means. I now completely understand why some can’t get to the other side, why they snap or throw in the towel. This shit is not for the faint of heart. Thanks for the love and inspiration!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Life would be so much easier if, every time things were really hard, a voice came out of the blue and said, “Here’s the wonderful thing that will happen down the road because of the terrible thing you’re going through now.” Unfortunately, we just have to wait, sometimes for years, to discover it for ourselves. For me, that’s the hardest part of all. A few years ago, I went through something really devastating, and had to make changes to my life that I absolutely didn’t want but had no choice. Years later, I realize that my life is so much better than it would have been. I wish I’d known it at the time, but at least I do now!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I guess this is where the whole ‘faith, building character’ thing comes in, right? And I’ve been through enough shit to know “the wonderful thing” eventually surfaces…just kinda hard to get overly enthusiastic about it when it feels like your insides are being ripped out, one essential organ at a time.
      HOWEVER, your words are wise indeed, and it makes me happy that your life is for the better. It makes me happier that you have the insight to recognize it. This is what keeps us badasses and not victims. ;o)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gonna try to find some words that do this post justice and that don’t make me sound like I am on rewind, after what I have already said about it. Holy fucking shit, Brooke. You know that I am one of your biggest fans. Your writing captured me from day one, so I always gobble up every word you write like they are nourishment for my soul. There is such deep meaning in everything you say, and hope, and I always feel transformed in some way after reading one of your posts. But this one. This one. My god. Your awareness and intelligence and grace flowed from every word, and as though each one was​ medicine, I felt my spirit renew and ignite as I read them, again and again. I know you so well, but sometimes I think to myself, who is this person and where did she come from. You possess a rare quality; an ability to process with such clarity the meaning of everything, good or bad. Even when you are ‘in it’ you still think of others and reason on behalf of someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve it, and I admire you so very much for that.

    “When she turned to face it, she transformed it. Her biggest fear became her greatest strength.” ~ b.breazeale

    YES! To watch you begin to rise from the darkness and free yourself from its grip, with such insight and determination is truly the highlight of knowing you. It warms my heart and inspires me beyond words. You are a gift, pure joy and a soul so unique it is impossible to not be moved and changed by what you bring to this world. I am just so blessed to know you and be a part of this shining moment and all the ones to come. Bravo, my beautiful friend! I am in awe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • WTF?!! How did I not see this!!! Well, I get some delayed, unexpected, always-welcomed love…I’ll take it!
      What beautiful things to hear. It blesses me to no end that what I write feeds your soul. That’s the kindest thing you could say to me, really. And just to reiterate, you were part of the inspiration, so it seems like you’re doing the same thing. 🙂 Hugest hug. So thankful for you and the countless ways you make my world brighter.

      Like

  5. Brooke, you write, as ever, from a place of such beautiful introspection and grace. It leaves me breathless. I can’t help but feel immense admiration for the ways you allow yourself to see, with honesty and heart, and a richness of spirt that soars. I remember when I learned that I had the choice to either spend my life attempting to eradicate fear and darkness, or step into life with these things and allow it all to be a part of the experience. It was liberating. I feel a liberation you, a sky full of discovery that you are grasping with love and understanding. Thank you for taking us with you. It is spectacular!

    Liked by 2 people

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