Every year I make a pact with myself, “This year is going to be different.” But most years turn out the same. I have my ups and downs. I wrestle with depression. I try. I fail. I have some good times, but it’s hard. I feel like I’m not enough. Not good enough. Not capable enough. I beat myself up and tear myself apart.
However, 2017 WAS different, at least the last six month of it was different. How did it start? Slowly at first. I was seeking help. I was looking for something more. Purpose? Joy? A deeper meaning for my life? I didn’t know how or where to look, but I knew I didn’t have the answers, so I watched TED Talks and YouTube videos. I read a lot. I listened to books on CDs in my car. I devoured 104 books last year.
And…yet, far too often, I felt miserable.
I’d look at the news and all I wanted to do is to crawl back in bed, hide under the covers, and watch cat videos. Anything to divert my attention away from reality. One day, while hiding from the world, I started watching funny, satirical videos by this red-headed comedian, JP Sears. I was really enjoying myself, allowing YouTube to play all of his videos automatically, one after another. But then…YouTube played one of his videos that WASN’T funny. I was confused at first. I thought JP Sears was just a quick-witted comedian. I had no idea that he’d spent 16 years as a therapist and life coach. So, I started watching his serious videos, from time to time. But it was still just entertainment for me, a diversion.
I was also reading author Louise Penny’s book, Glass Houses, around this time. This book has a quote in it that becomes the theme of the entire murder mystery:
Don’t believe everything you think. —Pema Chödrön
I thought this was an unusual quote, so I wrote down the name of nun credited for saying this, Pema Chödrön. Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors. There have been times when felt like I could live my life around her fictional character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s Four Truths that Lead to Wisdom:
- I don’t know.
- I need help.
- I’m sorry.
- I was wrong.
Still, I read Louise Penny’s novels primarily for entertainment. I didn’t dwell on the quote and moved on to other books and stories, like Caitlin Doughty’s book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory.
But Pema Chödrön’s quote kept popping up, again and again. “Don’t believe everything you think.” JP Sears mentioned it in one of his videos. I heard this saying in a TED Talk and in another video. It just kept popping up. So, I looked Pema Chödrön up on the Internet, expecting a Catholic nun, but discovering a Buddhist nun instead. I picked up a few of her books on CD from my local library.
In Pema Chödrön’s sound recording of Fully Alive, she talks about the charnel ground used for “sky burial.” Which…I had learned about through Caitlin Doughty’s book and about handling adversity using the same techniques I learned from JP Sears.
And it hit me. HARD!
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
It’s all connected. I thought I was looking for answers, but I was closed-minded, so nothing changed. I already thought I knew all the answers. I’d hear a suggestion, but I’d automatically shut it down. “That won’t work.” “I can’t.” “That might work for them, but I’m different.” I’ve been grasping onto beliefs and feelings that didn’t serve me. I was too scared to change. I’ve been using diversions to hide from the changes I needed to make, to hide from my life. I got used to feeling bad, to feeling like I wasn’t good enough.
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
I was SURE a gym membership wouldn’t work for me. But it has, so far. I’m taking the Éowyn Challenge, starting with The Walk to Rivendell. I’ve been walking regularly toward better health and recording my journey in my Dr. Who notebook.
I was SURE I wasn’t good enough, but I’ve been doing regular emotional homework. Sometimes it scares the crap out of me, dealing with all the feelings I’ve been suppressing, but it’s been good. For the first time in a LONG while, I feel at peace.
I stopped chasing happiness, even though I was SURE that I should try to be happy all the time, 24/7 happiness. I had no idea how self-destructive I was being to myself. I was using happiness as a measuring tool, measuring my own value as a human being based on this one emotion, ignoring ALL the other emotions in the process. I’ve been manufacturing my own depression. Scary!
There’s soooo much I don’t know! Every time I turn around, it seems as though another one of my beliefs is being shattered. I was wrong. It’s both terrifying and wonderful. I need help. Self-sufficiency has been my cop-out for a wounded heart. I’ve been so afraid of getting hurt, I refused to ask for help from anyone. And…I’m so sorry that I’ve had so little faith in the people who love me and care about me.
I have no idea what this new year holds for me. I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions. I am challenging myself to be MUCH more open-minded to being wrong, to asking for help, to accepting the things I don’t know with an open heart, and to be willing to ask for forgiveness when necessary.