My Life Is So Empty (What a Wonderful Thing)

On my wrist I have a tattoo.  It’s very simple.   It’s the space symbol from a keypad, basically an elongated staple.  It is a mnemonic (a symbol to help in remembering something).  Sometimes I focus on the space between the two tips.  It reminds me to always allow space between an action and my reaction.  Other times I focus on the symbol as a whole, on the fact that it resembles an empty bowl.

Usually emptiness has a negative connotation.  It refers to the lack of something.  In the Buddhist tradition emptiness does not denote lack, it actually refers to the potential of everything.  What?!  How can emptiness mean everything?  Well, when you are handed an empty glass what can you do with it?  You could fill it with pop, with wine, with ice cream, with jewels, with poison.  That glass has the potential to be filled with anything you choose.  Think about that; the glass is empty, you make a choice then the glass becomes full.  You have changed the situation through your thoughts.  That’s pretty cool!  There’s a lot of power in that choice.  You can choose something that’s pleasurable like ice cream or something that’s dangerous like poison.  All of that power is in  your hands.

Can we use that power anywhere else?  What about, instead of controlling a physical object we try controlling a situation?  Think of a tough situation that you have experienced, could you have used the power of emptiness to change the outcome?  One of my tough situations is driving.  I ride a Spyder (a three-wheeled motorcycle).  I like to go fast, very fast, too fast.  When I get stuck behind a slow vehicle I get impatient and angry.  My heart races, I get flushed and I start swearing; the joy of the ride is gone.  Why ride if there is no joy?  I’ve taken the empty vessel of a ride and ruined it by filling it with anger and frustration.  What if I had chosen to slow down and enjoyed the view?  What details of the view might have enriched my life?  My ride would have been filled with joy rather than the poison of pointless anger.  That power was in my hands.

That power is in your hands.  Does that scare you?  Does it scare you that you have the potential to create anything?  It scares me.  Now I have to take responsibility for my choices.  I can’t blame outside circumstances for my current situation.  It also excites me.  I can harness that power, the power of emptiness to create the life I want.

I tend to be logical, scientific-minded.  If I’m going to believe something there better be some proof; I don’t take things on faith.  I started studying Buddhism when my marriage was ending.  I was lost and Buddhism seemed interesting.  That’s where I learned about the tenet of emptiness.   It sounded “right” to me but I still wasn’t fully sold on it.  Then I started reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza.  In this book he introduces the reader to the quantum field.  Basically, scientists have learned that electrons do not have fixed positions.  Their location is based on potential.  It is only when the electron is observed for measurement that it exists in a specific location.  Wow!  The observer is causing the electron to come in to existence at a certain point.  The act of observation creates the reality of the location of the electron.

It seems to me that the Buddhist tenet of emptiness is another way of expressing the power of potential.  “All situations are empty until I choose what to fill the situation with” (Buddhist thought) is the same as “I create reality by making an observation” (quantum field).   I like that idea.  I like having the power to create the life I want by focussing on what I want.

I haven’t figured out how to fully use this power.  I still struggle with insecurity, with doubts about my self-worth.  I still wonder why we exist, what’s the point.  Becoming aware of the power of potential is one thing, actually using it to achieve my dream life is not a skill I have, yet.  I’m going to figure it out.  When I do, I will be sharing.  Have you figured this out?

 

Drug Overdoses: Those Horrible Addicts

Once again the headlines are talking about an increase in drug overdoses.  This time it’s being blamed on fentanyl.  In the past, it’s been blamed on OxyContin.  Whenever this happens the media talks about an opioid crisis.  There’s all kinds of stats.  Comments are made about these horrible addicts who should just stop taking the drugs.

What I seldom see is the question of why are so many people trying to escape their lives?  How does someone become an addict?  Why do people want to alter their mood?  What is the root of this issue?

I was addicted to pain pills.  I started taking them because of a chronic pain issue.  The cause of this pain has never been truly diagnosed.  I do have hyper-mobility syndrome.  In other words, I’m double-jointed; all of my joints.  Doing basic movements can lead to hyper-extension which causes damage to the joint.  Over the years this damage builds up and creates chronic pain.  I have to be careful walking because I can hyper-extend my knee when I am swinging my foot forward.  I have to be careful swimming for the same reason.  I can’t kneel.  I can’t do push-ups because my wrists dislocate.   Even my back will hyper-extend.  It’s a painful, chronic condition which was not taken seriously by doctors.  I’ve seen many over the years.  I’ve been told to think positive and I’ll get better.  I’ve been told that I will just be in pain for the rest of my life.  Imagine not being able to sleep a whole night through because you’re woken up by pain.  Imagine waking up every morning and feeling like someone took a 2 x 4 to your lower back, EVERY DAY.  It is debilitating.  It is frustrating.  It is very difficult to function never mind enjoy life.  I tried many, many therapies and medications.  What worked for me was Percocet.  It was a wonderful feeling to go from a pain level of eight to a pain level of three.  At eight, I could not get out of bed.  At three, I had my life back!

So, pain killers work and they work really well.  The problem is they also work for emotional pain.  If I was having some emotional difficulties, popping a pill was much easier than trying to resolve the difficulty.  Due to the process of homeostasis, I needed to take more and more pills just to maintain basic functioning.  After a while, I wasn’t getting high anymore, I just needed them to function.  (If you’re tempted to judge, learn about homeostasis.  You will then understand why an addict needs to take more and more just to be able to get out of bed.)

I ended up in rehab a couple of times.  I found a medication that works for my pain which does not produce euphoria.  I have come out the other side.

While in rehab, I met many people.  What they all had in common was that they were using their addictive substance as a coping mechanism.  They had experienced some kind of trauma which had never been addressed.  These were not horrible, lazy degenerates.  These were people who were hurting emotionally.  They did not have the skills to recover from that trauma.  They grasped whatever they could find to keep themselves surviving.  Imagine being on a sinking ship.  Are you going to pass up a cushion which floats in the hopes that you might find a proper, government-recognized flotation device?  No, you are in survival mode.  You are going to grab the closest thing which will get you through the next moment.  That is what addicts are doing.

Why are there so few resources to help people deal with emotional trauma?  How many addictions would have been prevented if the original trauma had been treated when it happened?  Why do we find it so hard to say “I’ve been hurt. I need help.”  We have huge buildings called hospitals which deal with physical trauma.  When are we going to have the same resources to deal with emotional trauma?

I imagine that some people who are reading this are still thinking “Addicts are bums, suck it up, get over it.”  If you are one of these people, how do you handle your emotional traumas?  Have you ever experienced being sexually abused?  As a child, were you told over and over “You’re a waste of skin.  I wish I never had you.  You ruined my life”?  If you were raised in a loving, supportive home your opinion of addicts is meaningless unless you’ve made an effort to understand them.  If you have suffered unresolved emotional trauma what do you use as a coping skill?  Do you like to have a glass of wine every night?  Do you look forward to parties with your friends so you can do some shots?  Is your credit-rating shot because you like to shop to excess?  Are you overweight because food provides so much comfort?

I’m not sure of a solution.  I think that a great deal of damage is done by keeping secrets.  When abuse happens, the tendency is to cover it up, pretend it didn’t happen.  I know that the reaction to the survivor’s sharing of their experience can cause more damage than the actual abuse.  I know that there needs to be more awareness of abuse, more support for the survivors, more compassion for those who have chosen an unhealthy coping skill.

I share my story in the hopes that others will do the same.  Let’s peel back the curtains.  When you see an addict on the street, see the child that was so incredibly hurt that he chose this horrible life.  Share your love and compassion.  They don’t need more shame.  They need understanding.  They need support.

If you know of a child being abused, contact Children’s Aid.  Your action could very well prevent an addict from being created.

Share your love.  Even if you are not convinced that addicts deserve support, that abuse survivors deserve treatment, even if you think I am full of shit, I love you.

It’s Always/Never About Me

I’ve been on a journey for a number of years now.  A journey of trying to figure out what the hell is the point of my life.

For many years, I was sure what my life would be like:  I’d raise the kids, they’d move out and give me grandkids, my husband and I would move to Brazil when we retired followed by my death at 94 years of age.

Of course, before most of these things happened came the “I love you but I’m not in love with you” speech (I still don’t understand what that means!)

BOOM!

The rest of my life would look nothing like I had planned.  “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” to paraphrase John Lennon.

Nothing was as I thought it would be.  My foundation had disappeared.  I felt like I spent my time jumping from ice floe to ice flow barely staying above the water.  I developed health problems, gained a ton of weight and became addicted to pain pills (all for another blog post).

I studied Buddhism, tried to meditate, read Marianne Williamson and Brene Brown.  I did counselling.  I talked to my friends.  I watched The Secret.

I learned that every situation was in my life because I had attracted it.  Every action I took and decision I made led to a consequence.  There is no single reality, it’s all in how I perceive things.  It’s always about me…..  What a wonderful sense of freedom!  Life was under my control.  No more blaming others, playing the victim.

Then I learned that it’s never about me.

Huh?!

But does that mean I’m not in charge of my life?  How can both of these things be true?  I’m confused!

So I did what I do best: I went quiet and I pondered this seeming contradiction.

I liked the idea of being in charge, of choosing what my life would be like.  I didn’t like taking responsibility for the argument I got into with the person who cut in front of me at the bank.  In that case, it was their fault.  They clearly have work to do on their anger issues.  That’s not about me.

In all my thought processes I was missing something, the glue that ties together “It’s all about me” with “It’s never about me”.  That glue is something called triggers.

Let’s use the example from above.  A person comes along and cuts into line.  This shows a lack of respect for others which will ultimately reflect back on that person.  That behaviour is not about me.

My reaction to that behaviour is; I’m triggered by his actions to respond in a way which reflects my issues.  There were other people in line who didn’t respond.  They weren’t triggered.

Here’s how it works:  when you see a person acting in a way that is disrespectful it’s not about you.  If you are triggered by their actions to act in a way which is disrespectful it’s all about you.

Ahhhh, conundrum solved.  Now I can get back to figuring out the meaning of life and what that has to do with the price of tea in China.

I’m All Alone

I have a voice in my head that says “No one likes you.  You have no friends.  You were born alone and you’ll die alone.”  Sometimes that voice can drag me down so deep that I’m unable to function.

But here’s the thing….the voice is not being truthful.  I have wonderful friends.  I get invited to go on vacations.  I get invited to parties.  I have friends who want to celebrate my birthday.  I have friends who check in with me when I’m sick.  So what is going on?  Why does this voice have so much power despite the fact that evidence proves it’s speaking dishonestly?

I find that it becomes active after I’ve been looking at Facebook or when I hear about some friends doing an activity without me.  I think the voice is triggered by focusing on lack.  Instead of looking at what I have – loving, supportive friends – I focus on what I’m missing  – attendance at an event.

How does this happen?  How do I become blind to what is right in front of me?  Could it go back to my upbringing and societal conditioning?

I was raised with the fear of there not being enough for everyone, with the thought that I better grab that thing before someone else gets it, the belief that if you achieve something then there’s one less thing for me to achieve.

This is a generational pattern in my family.  I understand.  My parents were born during the Depression.  It was a hard time.

My paternal heritage is from Newfoundland.  It was a tough place, people had to work and struggle for basic needs.  I don’t blame anyone for lack thinking.  It was a survival mechanism which meant my family survived.

But….do we need this survival thinking anymore?  Is it time to break a family pattern?  How about focusing on abundance thinking now?  In Canada our basic needs are met.  We are free to make a choice about how we think about the world.  We no longer need to follow those family patterns and the conditioning that now lead to unhappiness.

Once I’ve broken free from family patterns I still need to deal with societal conditioning.  We live in a consumer society.  Companies hire psychologists to ensure that lack thinking is deeply engrained in our brains.  How many products are sold because we’ve been convinced that there is something missing in our lives?  We don’t have enough clothes, we don’t have all 20 colours of panties, our car doesn’t have the latest feature, our video game doesn’t have the latest upgrade.

How many products do you see with “new and improved” written on them?  Why didn’t the company design the ultimate product to begin with?  Because they wouldn’t get the product sales generated by lack thinking.  They come out with a regular product, get some sales then create an ad campaign touting new and improved features.  Consumers can’t help but focus on the missing features of their current product; they buy the product again.  Companies have just increased the size of the market without waiting for a population increase.

Try something different….when a new and improved product comes out, stop for a second.  Have a good think about how well the original product works.  Does it do what you need it to do?  Will the new features truly make a difference?

Stop the lack thinking.

I’m going to do that the next time I get caught up in “I’m all alone” thinking.  The truth is I can’t attend every event.  I don’t want to attend every event.  I don’t invite all my friends to every activity, for varying reasons.  It’s never because I don’t love them.

Facebook is one distorted glimpse into a person’s life.  It is not representative of the whole.  Even if it is, I can choose to feel joy for those friends who are enjoying life rather than feeling that I’ve been left out.  The thing about joy is that it is self-perpetuating and limitless.  My feelings of joy do not take joy away from someone else.  It does the opposite.  Seeing someone express happiness causes a sympathetic response in my brain.  If I chose to be happy every time I saw someone else being happy can you imagine how wonderful that would feel?

That’s how I want to live.  I want to be a happiness vampire minus the draining part.  Lack thinking will happen; when it does I will make a choice to focus on the haves instead of the missings.

Want to give it a try?

 

I have finally decided to write a blog.  As I’m typing this my heart is racing and I want to throw up.  I will be exposing myself as I’ve never done before, not physically but emotionally.  I’m terrified.

I’m terrified of the judgement. I’m terrified that I won’t be understood.  I’m terrified that I won’t be seen.  I’m terrified that I will be seen.

That terror is exactly why I need to blog.  I’ve spent my first 50 years burying my feelings.  This has resulted in a failed marriage, failed familial relationships and failing health.  For the next 50 years I’m going to try something different.  I’m going to expose my thoughts and feelings to the world.

I’m told that this will benefit me in numerous ways.  Come along for the ride and I’ll let you know how it goes…