Do You Choose Love or Fear?

My friend Caroline Watson is the founder and director of an organization called Hua Dan, which uses participatory theater to inspire the full potential in people.

Introduced by a mutual friend and collaborator, Caroline and I did business together, became fast friends, and regularly shared stories of struggles and successes of life in the entrepreneurial trenches. Over the years we’ve been able to share ideas and to push each other to be better in business and in life.

She was the first person who introduced me to the idea of choosing love, not fear. In an attempt to practice being vulnerable in a more public way, she started a blog with the same name.

She spoke beautifully about this to me during our conversations about it in person. And her writing is equally eloquent.

Quite early on in this process I realized that my 60-day writing challenge is as much a challenge to me to write on a daily basis, as it is to be vulnerable in a more public way.

With her permission, I asked if she wouldn’t mind my sharing this as I am with you today.

While there are some excellent posts all over love-not-fear.org (as well as the place where she now blogs more regularly here) I thought it would be appropriate to start from the first page. We can learn a lot from where we begin.

10 Reasons to Date an Entrepreneur was Caroline’s first post and gives such a beautiful account of that sense of possibility mixed with passion, persistence, and partnership.

And, of course, the practice of choosing love, not fear.

Thinking Big was her second post, which discusses the thought process behind the 10 Reasons post – do I keep it or delete it? In it she recognizes that fear still does exist and humanizes the process of battling our fears, reminding us that we are always confronted with the choice.

So this is all well and good. Caroline’s thoughtfully expressed ideas are very moving. They spoke to me then and still speak to me now.

But love is not an academic pursuit, it’s an experiential one.

And even if we know the theory, we don’t always get it right the first time we’re tested.

Think back to the last time you were confronted with an opportunity to choose love over fear.

What did you decide?

What happened?

How did you build on that experience?

What did it mean for the next time?

How are you continuing to build these days?

What will it mean for the next opportunity that comes up?

And while you should certainly start to practice choosing love over fear with the people you are closest with, don’t let it stop there.

What would it mean for your life if you chose love in each and every one of your interactions with yourself and with others?

—–

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and with a bit of extra love in the air, Caroline happened to chose love in a big way to close out 2014. This post is not only about this most important mode of thinking she shared with me, but also to congratulate her for getting married over Christmas.

No, love is not only about something special that exists between two people who tie the knot, but it is a nice way for me to celebrate her, celebrate Alex, and to give them my most sincere congratulations from a land far, far away as we celebrate this day and this month where we celebrate love.

Our Evolving Status Quo

Last night I wrote about fear.

And there was one particular line in there that sticks with me this morning.

“Why does she prefer the status quo when the power is within her to change?”

Why do any of us prefer to believe that things stay the same when we know that the only constant in life is change?

We’re constantly evolving, As are others. And the world around us too.

So when we define our present by the past and the opportunity for something better stands before us, looking us in the eye, what do we say?

“But we’ve always done it that way.”

Always?

How long is always, anyways?

And what allows us to forget about this only constant?

What allows us to forget that even our “status quo” is evolving?

What would it take for us to believe that change is possible and it will be good?

That today is not yesterday and tomorrow is not today?

Fear is the Root of Your Problems

Have you considered the relationship between procrastination and fear lately?

These days, I’ve been giving “fear” a fair amount of thought. This post is the first that comes to mind from some of my recent writings.

Today I was introduced to Leo Babauta, who writes a great blog called Zen Habits. Click on Leo’s name above, you’ll see he does some other cool stuff too.

The title of this post comes directly from his post, Fear is the Root of Your Problems because I’m not sure it can be said any better.

I linked to Leo based on a conversation that started with the relationship between fear and procrastination. Though this is a connection I’ve made before.

The connection I hadn’t made before, and my larger takeaway from Leo’s post, is that fear isn’t something to be conquered, but to realize that it’s something within us.

In other words, it’s something for us to recognize, understand, and accept about ourselves.

The next time fear arises inside of you, what will you feel, think, do?

Instead of the need to go battle against your fear, what if you joined forces with your “enemy”?

Or what if you let your fear fuel you?

Instead of a need to conquer, how about you chose to coexist, even allow the fear to fuel you?

Where might this take you? Your work? Your relationships with others? And your relationship with yourself?

Leo’s got some terrific suggestions in his post that are worth a gander.

—–

This evening at dinner I was chatting with a friend about her friend who is going through a challenging time. Family member with cancer. Job down the tubes. No relationship in sight.

All complaining, all the time. No sunshine in sight. And my friend wasn’t exactly sure what she could do for her.

I wondered was causing her to feel and act this way? What was this friend of my friend most fearful of?

I shared with my friend my new learning about fear and my intention to write about it tonight.

She immediately mentioned the way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about fear as something you invite to come along on your journey, but don’t give voting rights to for any decision.

What a beautiful thought. Do you need to read that again?

My friend described her personal fears as this wounded part that needed extra care and attention.

I thought back to this friend of my friend who seems to be having a rough go at it.

It seemed like she was trying to convince my friend – and likely others – that she wasn’t going to make it.

But why?

Why does she prefer the status quo when the power is within her to change?

And if she’s having trouble, help is at her side. What keeps holding her back from moving beyond the pain and the fear?

No matter who we are or however well-adapted or well-equipped to deal with any and everything life throws at us, it seems to me that fear will never really leave us and will always be a part of us.

It’s like a person – one who is a mainstay in our lives. They may come and go, but they are always there. Maybe we like to interact with them, maybe not. But either way, we must. They are a part of our lives.

But how would you choose to interact with them?

And how do you choose to interact with your fear?

Do you try to conquer?

Do you just take away its voting rights?

Or maybe there’s another way?

What role does fear play in the story of your life?

Why choose fear when you can choose love?

No matter where you are or with whom you’re with.

How might a different way of interacting with fear influence your work? Your relationships with others? And your relationship with yourself?

Moustaches and Mental Illness

movember_sexy_and_we_mo_it

I felt pretty down and out. For awhile.

I didn’t know exactly what it was. I thought I had identified the problem(s) as well as a number of solutions.

But I didn’t realize that the problem(s) and solution(s) ultimately resided in myself.

I knew I needed a change. I first started to “see someone” in June.

Yes, I was in a relationship at the time.

But this new relationship was not to run from my relationship with my love, but to find my way back to her. I was having trouble finding my way on my own.

So after battling with myself for much longer than I realized (something I came to understand only over time), June was when I first started to see a therapist.

Though I knew this before, I never fully appreciated how many of the challenges in our relationships with others are often rooted in the challenges we have with – and within – ourselves.

See, it’s easy to tell stories. Stories that we believe ourselves and tell to others. But sometimes those stories we tell others are the path by which we run away. Our energy is driven by fear, not love. And even those closest to us have a tough time seeing that. They only want the best for us – they listen to us, comfort us, console us, and hope that we will feel better.

But how many of them realize when there is something deeper lurking underneath?

And even when they do, can they be impartial to help us sort things out?

We all have our own stuff we’re sorting out. We have our own histories and experiences, even if we have grown up in the same home(s), gone to the same school(s), worked at the same job(s), or have spent social time together. Each of us are unique, our own selves. We don’t always come in pretty packages. We carry around various amounts of baggage in various forms.

It’s not until we’re able to spend a focused amount of time, over an extended period of time, with someone who is trained to be impartial, that we have a chance of finding someone to talk to that will not project their own feelings and biases on us and our situation.

What I didn’t realize about therapy is that it isn’t about anything or anyone else as much as it is about ourselves.

Did you know there are therapists who won’t keep photos of any kind in their office?

Even things like photos can serve as distractions to those who come to the office already distracted by far too much input.

Because when we’re dealing with me, myself, and I, it can already be confusing enough.

We think or feel this way and that way.

Then we add in all the feedback from others.

This person’s opinion, that person’s opinion, and other peoples opinions.

And the thing is, they all have good intentions. But since there is so much noise. It can be confusing.

But what do we think – deep down inside? And how do we navigate through the noise and find these thoughts in places that can be so lovely, yet so dark, and deep?

Writing was my compass on my journey to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it was a process.

I didn’t fully realize I had been depressed until this past November. And I’d like to give some credit to the month of Movember. The moustache truly is an incredible catalyst to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health and take action when needed.

We can trace early efforts to improve myself as far back as Fall 2013. That said, my intellectual promiscuity was also close to its peak. That was a phase. And in its wake, change was slow-going. I did make some progress in the winter and spring that followed. And this past summer changes were more significant. Though the real turning points didn’t start to emerge until I chose to “see someone.” Regularly.

Because you can recover from most things if you choose to focus on it, to face it, to work through it. I spent so much time talking and thinking about it, but was never truly focused. I created space, filled it up with other people and things and “projects” and neglected to focus on what was most important.

The way I went about it was just my form of running away. I had convinced myself I was working on it, but I was just waiting. And in the meantime, I couldn’t express myself, I couldn’t focus on anything else, get much of anything done, make decisions, see much of any future beyond what was in front of me, and I alternated between waking up way early or not being able to pull myself out of bed.

That had never happened to me before. I rationalized it all as me being able to see the problem(s). But the biggest problem was that I couldn’t see or prioritize the right problems.

These days, I realize that during that time I was blind. I’m so happy that I can see again. And this time, what I see is a present and a future that is brighter and full of more texture than ever before.

You see, depression is all about love, actually. It’s about forgetting – or neglecting – to love ourselves.

Many of us know from experience that love can be painful.

Not loving yourself can result in the greatest pain of all.

And loving yourself? Can result in the greatest love of all.

Some people who know me may just see great energy.

Some who know me better see elements of the old plus some new or improved elements in a better me today.

People have told me about things over these past few years that I did and said that I don’t remember or recognize. And there are quite a number of other things that I absolutely do remember and am not proud to admit.

Again, let’s come back to the idea that in depression we can’t love ourselves – or others – fully.

On my road back to love, I have needed to own my feelings of inadequacy, to recognize all the running I was doing, and to reconcile and be willing to understand, consider, and face doubt. Doubt in both myself and the doubt that would come from others.

These are things that I needed to own, have taken steps to own, and own today in order to move beyond where I was to who I am.

Once you start to move beyond the depression, you start to embrace parts of yourself that you haven’t embraced before, or perhaps just a long time.

And things are different. Sometimes even the people that love you most can have the hardest time realizing and accepting that you’ve changed, even when that’s what they were always hoping for.

We find solutions to our problems when we seek to understand, choose to accept, and find the confidence to accommodate.

Embracing a solutions-oriented approach takes great courage. It is one of the highest form of love.

I write this post not so whomever reads it will feel sorry for me or what happened. This isn’t a sob story, but a story of hope.

It’s me being honest with myself as much as I’m being honest with you.

And the internet.

Mental illness has such a terrible stigma.

And you hear stuff like that all the time. There are a lot of things out there that are stigmatized.

But I can speak about this one from personal experience.

Though I can only speak about it like this now, with this kind of confidence, because I have been honest with myself and others about my depression. And I have chosen to embrace love over fear.

I used to be afraid of being judged. But now I realize those who judge me for the problems of my past may still be grappling with their own problems, which may not be past.

I hope we can continue to find kindness in our hearts and to be kind to each other.

But either way, for those who will judge me, I will forgive them.

And if that’s you, I forgive you too.

Please make no mistake. Depression can happen to any of us. Though not every problem is because of depression. And I’m not suggesting that we’re all depressed, we’re not.

But whatever is keeping us down, we can’t hide from it. We sometimes must open ourselves to the things that hurt us most, in order to move beyond.

And we must be honest with ourselves and with others.

There are things we may be dealing with that we and the others who care about us most are unable to see or are not equipped to be impartial. To listen to you, about you, only. Some people are trained for this. That’s why they have initials like MD or PhD at the end of their name.

The rest of us just think we’re experts. We have feelings, don’t we? Well we must be in a good position to give others advice on their complex thoughts and feelings given we’ve had plenty of complex thoughts and feelings ourselves.

It does take time and it does take work to move beyond where we are, wherever and whatever that may be. It takes time talking to others, but specifically talking with people who can be impartial. I didn’t have that in my life before. I felt I could only confide my most important challenges to a small circle of people.

And it’s important to note that the problems I had did not stop when I started seeing someone. The problems stopped when I started to stand up for myself and put in the necessary work on myself. Some parts of this journey have been a solo mission.

But, however you choose to deal with what might be holding you back, your challenges need not constrict you. Life is full of paradox. As humans we’re able to feel both love and fear simultaneously. But that doesn’t mean we can’t choose one over the other.

Which would you rather win out?

And who will play the role of impartial judge to keep you honest with yourself?

—–

Today’s photo comes from the good folks at Movember. And as far as Movember goes, I would encourage you to explore this quick rundown of 5 reasons for the poor state of men’s health. There’s a lot to do with prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and cancer in general. But the oft-forgotten, stigmatized, and misunderstood dynamics of mental health are real.

It’s a possibility that we may be dealing with it, just not able, or willing, to see it. Not everybody has a clinical condition.

And it could happen – or be happening – to someone you love. Or someday even you.

Be careful. And be kind to others – and yourself.

So, about those crates. Also, Socrates

notebook_2014_writing

2014 has been the most uncertain, hardest, intense, and illuminating year of my life. And with a few hours to go, we’re not even done with it yet 😉

I have grown in ways I could not otherwise have imagined or anticipated.

And it’s been the best year of my life.

Some people live their entire lives, never having the opportunity to know themselves.

I felt like I’ve had a pretty good understanding of myself, for awhile.

But the past 19 months, and particularly these last 12 have enabled me to see much more of myself.

I was looking at a lot of surface stuff for far too long. Taking stock in what I thought I saw, rather than what was behind all of that. And asking and answering questions that didn’t matter.

It wasn’t until I started to give myself time and space to think, that I started making progress. And it wasn’t until I started to focus my writing, daily, that the speed at which I progressed increased multi-fold.

When I was in high school, this thing called the internet was all the rage. Thanks to email and AOL IM, my sister and I inadvertently produced more than our fair share of busy signals for people calling our house.

At the time I also started to write on a BBS/message board (hosted by the Section 2 Harrier site, created and moderated by a nice guy named Jon Broderick) that kept (and continues to keep – go Jon!) all cross country / track and field fans in our corner of New York State apprised of important news. It was also a very cool forum where some decided to talk trash. I took it as an opportunity to share ideas and reflect on things I was seeing, and I was exposed to a new way of developing meaningful relationships.

I have given credit for awhile now to email, instant messaging, and the section 2 harrier message board for helping me to develop my writing voice at that time.

The hours I poured into emails and online conversations enabled me to develop my identity and to engage in meaningful conversation with others.

Writing was my outlet to the world.

I finished out high school with a healthy understanding of myself, ready to move forward.

And I continued writing in the early days of college.

Until I slowly turned my priorities elsewhere.

Though a move back to America last year (May 2013) was a natural segue* into a return to regular writing dates. From the beginning, I came down with a serious case of “writer’s block” or was giving into my perfectionist tendencies in those early days back in America.

Maybe I should have accounted for that after a decade away of sharing writing like this with others?

It was then I realized I needed a new space to find my voice. Here, a new blog, seemed a worthy spot to do so.

Not long after my irregular blogging began, during my time at the East-West Center‘s Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP) in Honolulu to close out 2013, we all had to put together a portfolio, a collection of mostly written reflections – thoughts about the past, present, and future. It was time to make something with a real timeline, deadline, and commitment. 4 months and 100 pages later, I was working off a bit of momentum.

But 2013 ended and 2014 began in the midst of uncertainty. Uncertainty doesn’t need to be a negative thing, and hindsight is 20/20, but much of my problem was my choosing fear over love.

Sure, it was masked by “uncertainty.” But I was still a bit uneasy about my identity. I was trying to please someone I loved, but how could I please her without communicating, without pleasing myself, and by not even being me – that guy she loved. I was going about it in all the wrong ways.

I knew there was a problem. Actually, I was drowning, but it looked like I was a pretty good swimmer.

I was doing my best to figure “it” out. And I was failing, miserably.

Ultimately it just looked like I was a problem that needed fixing, not there was a problem that we needed to fix.

It takes two to tango, but I’m not sure either of us really knew how, we didn’t really practice, and we had no teacher. I felt very alone. Maybe she did too?

I tried to reach out. But my message must not have gotten through to her. And her messages? Well, I wasn’t getting them either.

Missed messages like ships passing in the night?

I knew I couldn’t solve old problems in the same ways  and I thought I was doing everything that I could. But it wasn’t working so I had to keep trying.

I was lost, but I found trust in my notebook and bic pen. It went far beyond my regular note-taking, by taking notes of deeper thoughts and feelings and fleshing them out until I could better understand whatever was on my mind.

Writing was no longer an outlet to the world, but an inroad into my soul.

Have you visited lately? It’s a pretty deep place.

Terrible one-lines aside, these deep conversations that extended into the depths of my soul, mediated through writing, have been a significant reason why I’ve had an incredible year.

I’m sure it’s not for everyone. And it won’t necessarily help you in the same way it helped me. But at a time when I needed greater clarity, it was the writing that was there for me.

No person, no matter how close they were to me – my parents, my sister, my closest friends – could help me. This one I had to start on my own before I could get back to a place of confidence, a place of greater understanding, a place where I had regained my identity.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to hold yourself back. It harder to realize that you are usually the one doing the holding.

Whether it’s beliefs, behaviors, or certain actions that are self-limiting, we can do a number on ourselves often thinking that if external circumstances would change, things would be better.

How might you make a difference in the lives of those that matter to you by starting with yourself?

When will you set aside some time for a constructive and thoughtful conversation with yourself? Find that time and space to work out your thoughts? To rediscover – perhaps even discover – things about yourself you haven’t seen in awhile (or have never seen)?

What questions are important to think through? What questions should you be asking of yourself? What suggestions might be made?

Be the sounding board that you need the most. But remember, it will only work if you choose to be honest, to lay it all out there, and to lead with love, not fear.

When it comes to the things (or thing) that matters most right now to me, I’m certainly not out of the woods.

But these days I know myself more than ever before.

And, as a result, I’m much better prepared to deal with the uncertainty.

So, goodbye 2014. Thank you for being so good to me.

And 2015, I’m eager to see where we go together.

—–

*So, when segway came up as a misspelled word, I did a little investigating on how to write the word that I know to indicate something related to a transition. Apparently this word is an Italian derivative and thought pronounced “segway” is written “segue.” You can take a look here to see what some have to say about this.

Today’s photo comes from my personal collection – the notebook and the pen that started it all this year.

This notebook actually dates back to my first year at college. I gave up notebooks in favor of recycling wasted computer paper from the libraries to make homemade “notebooks.”

I thought it was about time to make sure this one went to good use. It served me well in the early writing days this year – from ideas to The Oliver Chronicles and beyond.