Everyday Thinking and Feeling

Yesterday’s post about Everyday Choices got me thinking about how what we chose to think and to feel falls into place.

On the one hand I wanted to include what we chose to think and what we chose to feel along with the what we choose to do, where we chose to be, and whom we choose to be with.

But something held me back.

It’s not that I don’t believe we can choose to think and feel.

I do.

But I struggled with a few thoughts that I wish I didn’t have.

Though, as soon as I thought them, I was able to let go.

Before a few months ago, thoughts like these were a lot harder for me to let go.

The idea that I could let them just come and go, flow in and out of my brain as though they were just a visitor was a metaphor I’m not sure I could have come up with before.

I found quite a bit of comfort in this moment.

And it got me thinking.

What if we respected our negative thoughts, just as we would a person we don’t like.

I used to feel embarrassed to think there was a person on this planet I didn’t like. A guy who loves people almost more than himself to not like someone else?

It felt a little shameful.

The thing is, none of us are perfect, and we’re all not perfect matches for each other no matter what the level of our relationship with others.

Not liking someone doesn’t mean you should not care, ignore, disrespect, or even not talk to that person either. It’s from people who we don’t get along with that we sometimes may have something extra important to learn.

Why can’t we have the same type of relationship with thoughts we might not like?

To let them come in and out of our minds as if they were a person we didn’t get on with coming in and out of a room?

What if we accepted and respected them for what they are or represent?

What happens if you’re open and honest about these feelings with yourself?

What if you don’t let the feeling add stress, but instead let yourself make peace?

Is there something more to see? Is there something to learn here?

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“Sustainability”

Over the past few months I’ve had a chance to talk to quite a number of people around New Haven – and beyond – about the topic of “sustainability.”

People sure love to buzz about it.

Sustainability this. Sustainability that.

Both through reading and conversation, it seems like there’s a lot of people out there who seem to feel that “sustainability” is somewhere between a load of BS and something that just can’t really be defined.

But is this any different from anything else that’s hard to define?

As this concept continues to penetrate our mainstream mind and thoughts, it’s only more important that we think – on our own and in groups – about how we define it today with an eye towards something, somewhere further into the future.

That’s why these recent conversations have been so excellent. Conversations with thoughtful people who are also struggling around what “sustainability” is has been great.

Because when one tackles something so large, something that you can come at from so many different angles, a range of perspectives shared between strangers who share a mutual interest in understanding and doing something with this enhanced understanding is invaluable.

It can be through the struggles and through the hard times, where the future is hard to see or know, that can result in the greatest momentum, of growth, and outcomes.

It would be hard for me to put together everything I’ve learned in these past few months right here, right now, and combine that with the amount of thinking I did about this while living in China’s biggest northern city and one of its smaller Southwestern villages over the past decade.

But my answer today, is a lot like answers look on Jeopardy: in question form.

Given the magnitude of the conversation around sustainability, it’s hard to find that an answer that’s one size fits all.

And perhaps that’s the point when we’re thinking about what it means or what it can mean.

So yes, of course, everyone has a different definition.

Which means the real question is: what can and does it mean for us?

And what can we do about it today as we think a bit about tomorrow?

What Did Your Parents Think…?

Prior to my writing Moustaches and Mental Illness, I had started to share with others – some close, some not – about what it was like to be in, and recover from, depression.

Often labeled as the guy who asks a lot of questions and doesn’t share enough about himself (maybe I love learning about others a bit too much?!), these days I have a lot to share.

And these recent conversations have gone to places I did not expect go, with most of the people I’ve spoken with on this topic.

Moving beyond these one on one or small group conversations, since writing, these surprising conversations have continued, the only difference now is that some people have started to share about their relationship with depression without a prompt.

One friend was quite curious what my parents thought of my depression, and of my “seeing someone” for help.

I knew they were supportive and thought it was good, so I told her as much.

But inside I was thinking that my parents and I had spoken about this over Thanksgiving, which was more than a month ago at this point. And besides, with more than a month to let this knowledge set in and and to already see the change in me over the Christmas/New Year holidays, I was curious to hear what they would say now.

So I asked them.

My Mom went first.

She seemed to feel like something might be up. But she didn’t realize how big of an issue it was.

In classic Mom fashion she was glad that I went for help, got help, and it was helpful.

Simple and straight to the point 🙂

She was also proud of me that I had the presence of mind and courage to talk with someone that did not have an emotional investment. That people generally have a hard time doing this, especially when struggling. This was good, she felt.

My Dad echoed these thoughts and was equally surprised I was so depressed.

He also appreciates how open I have decided to be about this, but felt like writing about this here at Finding My Voice Here was a being a bit too open.

He was concerned that people could easily misunderstand my writing.

And make up their own thoughts.

Because what I wrote was very revealing.

He related a conversation from earlier in the day he had with Mom about the blog post. She had thought that my ultimate hope might be able to help other people.

Dad thought he would have found a different way do this. And probably would have chosen a more private route. Because he  would worry about people feeling sorry for him or getting the wrong idea.

That said, he recently attended a talk on social media where the discussion centered on how easy it can be for others to relate to people who are so open.

And it made him feel that he could be more open to sharing – sharing something on the more personal side that could help others.

Ultimately he just felt bad that he couldn’t have been more available to me. And he wished that I could have been more honest with them about how I was feeling. Though surprised that I was feeling this way, he felt like there were some clues along the way. There were some moments where he felt like there was something going on. That they/he could have helped me through this rough time. Maybe he could have been a little more thoughtful? Could have called a bit more? Wrote a bit more?

He appreciated how keenly aware and in touch with my feelings I am these days. But questioned if I could do that with everybody? Or even wondered when one can do that with anybody?

But I told them – and him – how I wished I could have known. I wished I could have told them. The point is, I couldn’t. I had no idea. What I thought and what I felt was masking what was ultimately underneath. And that’s not something I was able to access without help from someone impartial, from the outside.

He responded that he has always stressed the importance of anticipation. And how he’s quite good at this. How could he not have anticipated this?

Again, I said, there was nothing he could have done other than to be himself. And wherever we are today, however we got to today, we’re better for it because we’re together and talking about it now.

This is a new era of openness for me.

I now have access to thoughts and feelings that I did not have before, even though I thought I was a pretty honest, open, thoughtful, and emotional person before my time south of the clouds.

But this goes beyond depression.

Because, as I think about it in this moment, this wasn’t something like, Oh, MCK is so expressive and emotionally open.

Enter depression, stage left.

MCK is depressed for X period of time.

Depression leaves, stage right.

MCK is back to being the guy he used to be.

The depression, despite the challenges it brought, actually turned into a catalyst for me to grow.

It enabled me to move into a new stage in my emotional life and relationships with others, especially those closest to me.

Granted, the activation energy for this catalyst was more than I ever could have imagined. And I had to put in a serious amount of work to release myself from its grasp.

But it’s been worth it.

Because nothing ever truly worth achieving is easy. And in the wake of the greatest struggle can come the sweetest of rewards.

And in this new era of openness, one of the best rewards to date has been reaching a whole new level in my relationship with the people who gave me life.

My parents from the start have provided me (and my sister) with an incredible home and upbringing. They are wonderful teachers and advocates for the both of us. Instilled in us values of hard work, in making a difference in the lives of others, and the importance of contributing to our communities. I could not be more thankful for all the ways they have supported me and continued to support me.

And although I thought I had a very good relationship with each of them before, through sharing these most intimate struggles with them – we’ve put on the table the good, the bad, and the ugly – I feel even closer to them. For this I am so grateful.

None of us are perfect beings. We all have our faults and flaws.

And for all the faults and flaws I struggled with over the past few years, the faults and flaws I was most unable to accept in others were because of the faults and flaws I was unable to accept within myself.

Once I was able to be honest with and accept myself, I had the strength and courage to be extra honest with and accepting of others.

What about you?

What are the faults and flaws of others that you find yourself struggling with the most?

And beyond the frustrations you feel when dealing with them, what do these frustrations tell you about yourself?

And let’s even assume that there’s no need to accept the faults and flaws in yourself in order to accept the faults and flaws in others.

What if you just decided to accept someone for who they are – faults and flaws and all? How might your relationship with them change? How about your relationship with yourself?

Just Married!

I just got married recently.

It’s not the most conventional marriage. And you’re about to be pretty surprised when I tell you I married myself.

A couple months ago I realized that I had been struggling with depression (see Moustaches and Mental Illness).

Tracy McMillan has a TEDx talk worth listening to where she describes her personal relationship with marriage and her evolving relationship with herself.

<see below>

Tracy and I don’t quite have the same story, but she shared an idea about how important it is to build a relationship with yourself so that you’re whole that I really connected with.

It makes perfect sense, right? Totally intuitive, yah?

Well, there was a period of time where I lost myself. I struggled with my identity – who I was and what exactly was I doing. And I was operating with much less than my whole self.

Tracy has a line in this talk that really speaks to the reason why I’m talking about this difficult stuff in such a public way, “The places where you have your biggest challenges in you life are the places where you have the most to give, if you do your inner work.”

Regular, focused, writing was such an important tool to help me do my inner work and it made such a difference in helping me to find the road back to myself. I was reminded what a powerful compass writing can be.

And that’s why I share as I have most recently on Finding My Voice Here. Maybe this helps you think about the relationship you’re having with another or the relationship you’re having with yourself?

Tracy touches on several vows in her talk. And I’ll let you watch the video to hear what she has to say on that, but the big takeaway for me about marrying yourself is that you become able to love in this whole new way. Loving people right where they are, for who they are, just the same way you are loving yourself.

And that’s how I feel today. It’s an incredible feeling to love myself in this way, again. And to be able to share this same love with others. These days, I am sharing the love, as much as I can, wherever and with whomever I am.

I’d like to think that I was married before, but went through a tough spot. For better or for worse, in sickness or in health, I was given another chance. And I came back, a better lover than ever before, eager and excited to share more love with you.

The person you really need to marry | Tracy McMillan | TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen