“Thinky.” a word used when you need to pause and think something through before you respond, was created by my nephew when he was about 6 years old. It has been part of the extended family lexicon ever since. Hard to go wrong with a thinky.
Having just spent a week visiting my family, a week filled with laughter, stories, shared memories, and new experiences, I needed a thinky. I was feeling so relaxed, so at ease, so joyful. Miraculously, I didn’t have to work at feeling this way. I was able to enjoy both being and being with my family. It was amazing, but a contrast to my “real life.”
In my everyday life, I often struggle to make the best version of myself visible. I struggle to remember and deploy the lessons I’ve learned along the way. From being kind, to don’t judge, to good or bad—who knows (who cares!), to there are no accidents, to the circle of love, to look for the connection, to the gift of imperfection, and everything in between. But for this week, without even knowing it, without even having to think about it, without even trying, I caught glimpses of the person I know I am down deep inside. This version of myself came easily and naturally.
I was trying to figure out what was different. Why did I struggle at being the best version of me sometimes, while at other times it came spontaneously? Sure, it was easy to feel this way surrounded by people I love and people who love me, but families have their challenging dynamics too. I just needed to figure out how I was going to replicate these feelings once I got home.
Time for a thinky.
Only no answer was forthcoming. Tired of trying to identify, compare, compartmentalize, and organize the dynamics of my life, I let my mind wander. My general tactic, when all else fails, is to stall for time. When that doesn’t work, which it rarely does, I typically (i) say a quick prayer (Help! or Let Be. Let Go. Let In. Thanks), (ii) wait for a better question to present itself, and finally, the absolute last resort, I take a deep breath and (iv) realize that whatever the issue is, it is likely of my own doing. Sometimes I get lucky and a quick prayer works. More often, I am confronted with a better question to ask myself. This time, with nowhere to go, I had to realize the difference I perceived was of my own doing. It wasn’t external, it had something to do with me. Sigh …
I had come far enough in my life to know that the “mysteries of the Universe” I continue to face have to do with my own duality. The distance between my head and my heart, between logic and feelings, between ego and humility, between reacting and responding, and between accountability and blame. The answer I was looking for was in there somewhere. Likely in the gap.
Though I work at it, I have yet to close the gaps in my own duality. There are times when I do live my life through my heart, with feeling, with humility, by responding, and by being personally accountable. Yet there are other times when I fall into the gap, when my life choices are governed by my head, by logic, by ego, by reacting, and by blaming.
Not until I wrote the duality gaps in my journal could I see the answer.
Live my life through my heart, with feeling, with humility, by responding, and by being personally accountable.
Live my life through my head, with logic, with ego, by reacting, and by blaming.
When the path I choose starts with my heart, it is much easier to respond with compassion, empathy, and kindness. But when the path I choose starts with my mind, it is a slippery slope that descends into defensiveness, superiority, righteousness, and blame, often before I can catch myself.
I could only think of the Lao Tzu quote:
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
The first step I took, whether by responding with my heart, or reacting with my head, made all the difference in the rest of my experience. Being with people who love me and gave me space to be myself made my reaction easy. I could respond in kind with my heart, and the rest just fell into place.
Note to self: how you feel is a direct result of the path you chose. In choosing to respond with love, which is often risky and leaves you feeling vulnerable, you are choosing joy, peace, and happiness. With great risk comes great reward. Always choose love.
Let your first step be love. Let be. Let go. Let in.