What if…

One of my students recently noted a “what if?” scenario, that fork in the road that created a mess that resonates to this day. And wouldn’t you know it, I found myself reading an article about my buddies at Goldman Sachs and their distressed mortgage business, and went down my own rabbit hole of “what if?”

Back in 2001 I was working for a company that was created for trading non-performing assets – delinquent mortgages or defaulted credit cards, and feeling very frustrated about how the boss wanted to go about things. He was a “flipper” or more nicely stated an arbitrageur, taking a thin margin between a seller and a buyer. I found this practice to be disingenuous at best and deeply dishonest at worst. What I envisioned and actually created was a true “principal buyer” structure where we would buy the assets and then manage them in a positive way. We had everything in place: a nationally licensed mortgage broker, a pricing algorithm (I wrote that one!), a servicing platform structure, even a bank! And I had found a collection agency to acquire – even setting an agreement in place to purchase it. Everything was in place except one thing. The money to actually do it. And I was lied to. Right to my face by the banker and the “finance guy.” My boss wanted to continue with business as usual, which to my mind was equally dishonest. Even after leaving that company, permanently tainted by the dishonesty, I tried again to find the money. But it was not to be.

So what if we had actually found the money? If all those pieces I had arranged had fallen into place? Well, I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I am now! I would likely be playing golf right now instead of musing on what if. Or having brunch at the club or going out on the boat. Lots of material things. Success. I remember when Bank of America bought Countrywide (knowing from the inside what a bad deal it was) and then all those loans went south. I thought “I could fix this for them! I know how!”

But God had another plan in mind, a different path. One that served Him and not me. The funny thing is that His plan serves me in a way that I could never have created for myself and the rewards are so far beyond the material.

The same holds true for the even bigger what if. What if my dad had not died when I was 14? I have played that one out over and over, or at least I used to. What if I had never started smoking, or at least seen early on how stupid it is?

No matter how you parse the what ifs you are left with what is. And if you can find value in what is then everything that created it, no matter how sorrowful or shameful, now has value because you do.

It is only when we serve something greater than ourselves do we begin to see our value, and by extension the value of what has contributed to our value. Perspective changes, condemnation, sorrow, regret, remorse, bitterness; they all fall away when seen through the lenses of service not to self but others.

My mom had a small poster on her wall, simply saying “But God…” Sit on that one a while and consider the what ifs, not in terms of loss but of gain, not of condemnation but hope. Find the true value of yourself in spite of or even in the full expression of your brokenness, and remember that when the course and outcome of your life is no longer your concern but His, amazing things will happen, experiences you could never have created by your own design.

Being “known”

Another high school classmate passed away, and the Facebook comments got me thinking… Uh oh.

I didn’t know Tom very well; he was just another of the hundreds of classmates I had that I ‘knew” but didn’t really know, much less be known by them. The remembrances were kind; “he was such a nice guy” etc. I wanted to ask a question there but of course it’s inappropriate. The question I wanted to ask was “How do you remember me?” I asked this of one very early Facebook friend, another who I knew, but didn’t. She replied “you were obnoxious.” I think she meant that in a good way but still.

It has been said – and rightly so – that we are a different person to everyone we meet. And how we see ourselves is probably very different than how we are seen and known even by those closest to us. I doubt that even they really “know” us; we are seen and known through the lenses of the other (refer to Perceptual Predictions for more on this) We know ourselves through the pattern of interpretation and meaning we have accumulated over our lifetimes; we are a product of the stories we tell ourselves and others, and too often those lack congruence.

I wondered, how well do I know those closest to me? My wife, my kids, those special few others? What are the stories they tell themselves about themselves? Are they even aware that they do it? I mentioned this to Minal and she got all excited. I say stuff and she gets excited. Sigh… So of course she said I have to write a book on this, a workbook of sorts to help us identify those internal dialogues and by doing so maybe separate the facts from the fictions, the truth from the propaganda. What I wanted was more than that: I wanted to not only deepen my understanding of those dear ones but also maybe to be better known, better understood by them.

I tried to do this deep dive with someone and I utterly failed. I have written about this experience more than I should I suppose, but it certainly has led to some deeper self-awareness and that’s always a good thing. Temet nosce and all that. I think that if we want to be able to really understand anyone else we have to start with being able to understand ourselves. Not superficially but in a confrontational way, to be deeply honest about the bullshit we spew into our own minds, much less that which we present as ourselves to the world.

This hit me in the face earlier today. A student was inquiring about the “Why would God allow _____ to Happen?” post where I discuss the quantum nature of creation and the rules that God put in place, and the consequences of us not following that first rule. What I could not find within myself was the ability to articulate it clearly. I thought I had but apparently not. I know that what I wrote is accurate, but as Einstein famously said “If you can’t explain it simply you do not understand it well enough.” Or something like that. And clearly, I couldn’t explain it any more clearly than I had so therefore I now judge myself as lacking understanding and thus spouting bullshit again, a trait I do not like and have tried very hard to not engage in. Now I don’t really know if I am bullshitting or if it’s just not a “normal” way of looking at reality, doesn’t fit the standard model of theology and whatnot. Most people don’t think about the weird stuff I do or read the books I do, so my deep self-doubt, self-loathing even, is now exposed. None of it matters (in my oh-so-correct judgment) so therefore it (and I) am useless. Yikes! That ain’t no good is it?

I have every intention of creating the workbook. Although every time I sit down and work on an outline I find myself seeing too many threads, too many rabbit holes to wander down. And I get a headache and thus don’t get anywhere with it. The therapist would raise her eyebrows and wonder why I get a headache when doing what seems to be valuable work…

And of course, as I write in seeming obscurity, I don’t want to ask this question, but I will anyway. Given the book concept I mentioned, how would you dear reader find it valuable? How should I help you connect the dots of the stories and discern between the fact and fiction, the truth and the propaganda?

In the end, one day I hope to leave as some sort of legacy a tool that helps people develop actual depth in their relationships, not only with others but with themselves. I won’t be able to conjure up a bullshit judgment on that one.

 

Perceptual Predictions

Michael (our brilliant Atlanta DBT resident) and I were talking the other day (as we do) and this idea took form – the concept of perceptual predictions or what I call The Amazon Effect. It is the dopamine pathway playing out in real time. First we click on Amazon to look for something we want or need. Oooh, shopping! The spurts of feel-good just by browsing stuff. Oooh, then we click on Add to Cart. Another bump. Next is the checkout and the anticipation begins. Now comes the confirmation e-mail, yet another dopamine hit. Then comes the e-mail that the package is on its way! More anticipation and feel-good. Delivery! Unboxing (it’s a thing now!) Look at all those delicious dopamine hits. It’s addictive…

On a deeper level we play this out all day long via the language that we use. Our choice of words is informed by our existing pattern of perception (the interpretation and meaning of information) and is at the same time reinforced by the same words. “I see what I believe”, yes? Going back to Anais Nin, “We do not see things as they are but as we are.” We create our own sense of reality, judging through our best understanding good and bad, right and wrong. And over time it develops into what my 7th grade gym coach called “constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth.” Maybe he was just talking about me… probably.

When I was doing a session yesterday I observed that these video sessions are going to go on for another month and felt such anxiety in that moment. I keep defining video sessions and being in “isolation” as “suck” and so a month’s worth of suck got poured into that moment. The words I used to judge what is in turn created or perpetuated what is. And so it is for anything in our lives; the words we use to describe (judge) what is are both a product of our previous judgment and also reinforce/create future experience.

So if you “don’t like” your reality first you must define accurately what it actually is, being mindful of the words you are using. Are you being factually judgmental or emotionally judgmental? Lose the emotional descriptors – they aren’t helpful in creating a new perception. It’s still okay to “hate” whatever but stop with the saying of it – “embrace the suck” as one of my students put it. It’s only permanent if you say it is.

Isolation

My niece is a clinical psychologist and started doing telehealth sessions (video) last week. I have been doing it for a couple of weeks now and I am startled by how tiring it is, and she concurred, even after just half a day. A friend of mine – a local LPC – is going that route now too and is scrambling around trying to figure out what is HIPPA compliant and effective. I have been using ZOOM, which is both.

What I noticed though is how utterly exhausting it is to do most of these video sessions. In my Stage 3 DBT clinical manual Dialectical Patterns I discuss the “energy” of presence, so this has been quite a validation of that concept. In-person is so powerful, especially in a therapeutic relationship; it’s not just the nuance of body language but a palpable energy of just being with another person. My patients have noticed this also. We make the best of it because we have to. Mental health is affected by isolation; fears are amplified. The dreaded “what if’s?!” are stirred up and our attention goes so easily to the perceived disaster. It doesn’t help that the vacuum of leadership is filled by the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of the media. Holy cow, this is better than the Gulf War! Literally everyone is glued to their newsfeeds, and lacking critical thinking skills (not taught anymore in schools) people fall for the dumbest stuff. And when combined with the echo chambers of our environment (see next post on language) our beliefs are reinforced, unfortunately without any facts – real facts- to back them up. Fertile soil for fear and anxiety.

I noticed this yesterday doing a session. I commented that it looks like we’re going to be doing this for the whole month of April and I noticed a tightening of my chest (anxiety). I was bringing a whole month of unpleasantness into the present moment. I hate doing video, hate being stuck at home, and hate the idea of having to do this for another month or more. Hate it hate it. And that feeds the anxiety. But I also noticed, in real time, that I was just doing a video session and it was no big deal. I can do this… Today. It’s just today and that’s all I have to deal with. And off went the anxiety.

Step back from whatever you’re doing and consider the energy levels around you:

Energy Level and why?
Mental
Physical
Emotional
Spiritual
Temporal
Intentional
Kinesthetic
Social
Attentional
Presence  

Look for creative ways to increase any one of them. One of my brilliant students calls it Emotional Alchemy. When your emotional tank (for example) is low you can turn towards another source of energy and literally transmute it. Folks who enjoy working out (perverse, I know) are aware of this.

For now, I intend to go vacuum the living room. Kinesthetic energy (energy of motion), Attentional energy, and even Intentional energy (meaning or purpose)

It’s so easy to judge what we haven’t accomplished, the “I’ve wasted another day” attitude. Make the bed, vacuum the rug, sit on the porch and just observe the birds. Don’t think, just watch. You have accomplished something! DO NOT pick up the remote or click on Facebook yet again. That stuff will always be there, ready to steal more of your life. Get busy living!

“Less”

There’s a great line – one word – spoken by Josh Brolin in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Shia LeBouf’s character asks (more or less) Brolin’s “how much is enough?”, and Brolin replies “More.” It’s said with such avarice, literally dripping from his lips. So representative of the failure of character: “There is one word that describes what is right about America; that word is greed. There is one word that describes what is wrong with America; that word is greed. There is one word that describes the difference; that word is character.” The failure of character. Why???

Because we go in the opposite direction of character. We gravitate towards more… And it is not just more material things. It is the incessant presence and by extension need for more thinking (the curse of over-thinking), more being right, more fear. I stole the idea for this post from Tim Ferriss, who had a TV show called Fear {less}. That’s what I’m interested in here: less.

Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true. Our best thinking is a function of just that: our best thinking! The echo chamber of our mind… we lack new information but ironically our filters tend to keep out information that doesn’t align with our existing pattern of interpretation and meaning of information. And so we need, or indulge in, more. The demands of the childish emotional mind, that insidious little storyteller. To think less you have to think less. Or more accurately, think less about the stories that are being foisted upon you and think more about something else. Attentional control – so of course refer to the Weaponized Mindfulness posts. Know for a fact that your brain is telling you stories and they might not be right. They might be propaganda! Cognitive distortions based on your existing pattern and filters. Remember the Anais Nin quote: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

The other day I gave myself a headache. I was thinking too much and I knew it. Minal came into my office and noticed my headache face and I explained what was going on. She told me to just stop thinking (I know how to of course. Well, mostly…) and I replied that I didn’t want to but as soon as my next patient arrived I would. My attention would (and did) go fully to her, and the headache went away. I stopped thinking about anything else. Be aware of your “need” to think and learn to allow your mind to sort things out on its own. This is the capability acquired in Stage 3 of the mindfulness program so maybe that’s an incentive to work it. Learn to quiet your mind and you can think slower, with improved clarity and accuracy. As they say on Kilimanjaro: “Pole Pole!” Slow slow. It’s how you get to the top.

An important factor in thinking less is to notice what exactly you think of. Is it useful? Helpful? Or is it more of the same garbage, not germane to anything of value in your life. Once you clear out the clutter of useless thoughts there is a new-found ability to not only have a quiet mind but also to be able to turn it towards something useful and helpful.

“Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?” A core question of DBT. Most people will either answer “Both!” or if they’re honest will answer “Right!” The need to be right, to have our best thinking validated and even praised, is so ingrained in us. And so divisive. “I’m RIGHT!” “You’re WRONG!” Our childish emotional minds spew endlessly such judgments and clings so tightly to them.

I would suggest that we aspire to being less wrong.

There are few absolutes in this universe, and absolutes by their nature are abstractions. They exist only mathematically or are a function of faith. Yet we, in our best thinking, are so utterly sure of them. Mark Twain said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Nothing is certain until it actually happens, and how we perceive what happened is determined by our filters, our pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to the information. That should sound familiar as I said it earlier in this post. And it will bear repeating until we understand the truth of it. The Nin quote validates it.

When we stop needing to be right we are open to the possibilities of being less wrong, and the abdication of the need to be right. The irony is that when you are open to the possibility of being wrong you increase the likelihood that you’ll learn something and be less wrong. **So I’m being redundant and inelegant. Please help**

One of the reasons we cling so tightly to the need to be right is fear. “What if I’m wrong?!” What if what if what if… The storyteller hard at work, isn’t it? Without going into the roots of fear (an opposite of love) how about just offer the antidote? And that is (drum roll!) Curiosity. The natural opposite to the fearful “what if?!” becomes its opposite – “what if?” and then “We’ll see!” It opens us up to possibilities, perhaps that we have never considered in our best thinking.

One other less that occurs to me is flaw less, to stop finding fault in ourselves or others. Stop blaming, start exploring. In Radically Open DBT we call this self enquiry, checking both the facts of information but of our interpretation and meaning of that information – our emotional response patterns. If we are going on a fault-finding trip the best place to start, in fact the only place to start, is within ourselves. And it is not an emotional blaming but just looking at ourselves as we are, with curiosity and love, in order to become less. Less judgmental, less reactive, less emotionally enslaved. In any conflict we may (probably do) have some responsibility in our own words or actions. Examine them! Not to find fault but facts. How did I contribute to this mess?

The key to less is of course the ability to control your own mind, to choose to think less, to be willing to be less wrong, to be vulnerable enough (ironically) to fear less, and look for flaws less. Radically accept the what is and consider your emotional response to the information, how you interpret and give meaning to it. Be willing to be less.

How it should have been

This is written directly to my friend. As it may or may not apply to you, dear reader, is up to you.

Recently we visited mom in her new home. It was surprisingly nice and she was so thrilled to see us. She’s pretty frail but at 95 I was surprised how hale she is. Hauls butt around with “Johnny Walker.” Her small apartment is packed with over-sized furniture, reflective of her over-sized life; she is “The Jane” after all.

Of course there are hundreds of pictures, all of which I’ve seen many times, but this time I saw them through a different lens, one of what should have been. Pictures of a smiling happy family, mom all done up and stylish, dad dashing and the picture of the provider, kids dressed smartly and beaming. As it should be. At the same time I was aware of the undercurrents that couldn’t be seen, and all of a sudden I saw you and your family. Just the same, happy, smiling, just so. And the same undercurrents unseen, the ones that corrupt day by day, year by year, the image of what should be. It was what we were raised to believe in, the image of rightness, never tinged by sorrow, by pain.

We are so similar in this. Here is where I lived until I was 1264th st

And here is where I always thought I would live, in a proper fashion:

Brookbank

You and I would live here, raise our perfect happy family here and be just so. As we were raised but without the hell of alcohol.

But life had other plans… My dad died when I was fourteen and the wave function of my path collapsed. Your dad died the year before I think. I remember that night. J.B. showed up drunk as a skunk, happy as hell  – although your experience of him was quite different. Dad got him dried off and they took him downtown to the Salvation Army to dry out and then go to rehab. And as they drove off they saw in the rear-view mirror J.B. walking off into the night. The end.

I saw Scott’s memorial slideshow and I saw the same pictures my mom has. Just. The. Same! And I felt such sorrow. You worked so hard to follow the pattern, to make your life and family as it was supposed to have been, and it all fell apart. Poisoned again by alcohol. How could it happen?! It’s just not fair!

Then I wondered… What part did you play in the disintegration of your just-so life? How did the brokenness that was created in childhood inform the corruption of what should have been? I have been through this exercise myself and have found many threads of infection and how they metastasized. Have you done the same? If how you have treated me is any indication then the conclusions are pretty obvious. I can’t help but wonder, is this your true nature? I don’t think so. I think you have wandered so far away from it, drawn by the false construct of just-so.

I love the movie Mary Poppins. Watching reminded me of something in my own true nature: the scene with the bird woman and the song Feed the Birds resonates so strongly within me. It did when I was seven and it still does. My true nature: caring, simple, kind-hearted. How we have both complicated everything by our brokenness, it’s just sad. And I see how that pervasive sadness helps make me who I am. I do not resent it but embrace it.

What I wish for you is the same discovery of perspective of what-is versus just-so and your role in the wreckage of it. Own who you are and have been and think, THINK, about who you wish to become, pointing at finding and embracing your true nature. Maybe I am just projecting, but I see sensitivity and kindness in you. Now, this is so diametrically opposed to how you have treated me but I refuse to believe it. I want to think the best of you even when the evidence shows otherwise. It is my nature… I guess that my great frustration is not knowing if I’m right about you. My intuition tells me one thing but your behavior tells another. And my need to know will not, it seems, be fulfilled.

Mourn the Just-so but don’t dwell on it. It’s gone. Honor it by examining how it has made you who you are and if there are aspects you don’t like (“I’m a shitty friend”) then do better. Take risks, push the envelope, be vulnerable. Use that fine mind God gave you and take a long look at yourself. I hope you see what I do…

Xxoo

All this noise!

There’s two kinds: the internal and the external. The external is obvious, the internal not so much. And of course I’m interested in the latter 🙂 I have to note that one of my favorite sounds is actually the absence of sound – quiet – and what it’s like. Not the sound or lack thereof but the experience of it. A heavy snowfall, being alone in the wilderness far from the noise of light and sound. Favorites!

But what of the internal noise? Do you even hear it? It’s there, most all the time. Your thinking and feeling (emotional response to information.) And it’s all fine and dandy until it isn’t. The stories we tell ourselves… and believe. While this is a whole ‘nother post topic it has its roots here. Minal is insisting I write a book on the stories as a self-awareness project for our Atlanta DBT patients. Geez, I say one little thing and she goes nuts. Ah well, that’s the way of it.

I offered one of my students (not a patient per se – I don’t really like that term) the nickname of “Bose” as the topic of noise is a common one. Those damned stories… So I looked into how noise cancelling headphones work, and with the support of my QM professor I found the idea relatable to our internal noise.

Basically, active noise cancellation is via the sampling of frequencies in the environment and then creating offsetting ones, effectively cancelling out the noise. Higher and lower frequencies are either blocked by the material of the headphones or are below our normal threshold of awareness, so it is the midrange that is primarily cancelled out.

As we can’t create an actual internal active filter that will precisely offset unwanted frequencies (thoughts and emotions) we have to sort out how to get close enough so that the effect of cancellation is effective to whatever degree it is. There will always be leakage so to speak.

I really am a huge fan of Daniela Schiller’s work on re-writing (posted on previously) and I’m of the opinion that this is in fact an example of noise cancellation. The horror of a memory can be offset by a parallel memory that is not horror. Not entirely but maybe close enough. This respects both sides of memory as we are not trying to block the horror, just put it in its place. Attenuating the frequencies.

Sometimes you just need to turn your attention away from one thing (or thought) towards another. The energy of attention can be leveraged to creating a different state of mind. If you find yourself depressed, notice the thoughts and judgments that are controlling your mind and go do something! Anything. I just went and washed my car, vacuumed out the inside and did a quick detail of the interior. Crappy state of mind dampened if not eliminated!

When turning your mind (attention) or at least trying to, sometimes the energy of the unwanted pattern can be startling. That’s when the object of attention needs to be compelling, or “sticky” as one student put it. When I am falling asleep I let my mind wander and sometimes it wanders where I do not want it to go. Okay, a lot of the time it wanders there. So I searched for something to hold my attention. “The Pirate”, a 12d finger crack didn’t do it (although it’s pretty compelling!) and neither did fly fishing. So let’s get weird and think about really stupid stuff like the toroidal nature of the human pattern… yep, that did it! The past informing the future (Hawking radiation? Sort of?) This has led to many other deeply weird and (in the opinion of some) stupid ideas. But they are compelling… And it works!

Long term it may not be possible to create nearly flawless offsets. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, and who knows, you may find something new and really interesting to occupy your mind.

Beware of the patterns of this world. They’re infectious, insidious and if left unattended can lead to real despair. Don’t buy the propaganda, offset the noise.

It’s relative

“I know what time is, time is a thief. It’ll steal into bed and rob you while you sleep. And you’ll never see it.” Larkin Poe, Mad as a Hatter

I just like the song. Anyway, one of the many weird things I think about is time. What is it? Delmore Schwartz says “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.” Still doesn’t get there though does it?

I read an article recently (gotta buy the book!) by physicist Carlo Rovelli in which he claims that there is no such thing as time, that the past and future exist only in our minds.

Thinking about it I see how he is right: time is a construct we have created to bring order to existence, a framework for consciousness to operate in. Relativity is about the relative position and momentum of the observer. Who is the observer though? It is you, it is I. We through our existence allow time to exist.

Fun facts: the earth rotates at 1,000 miles per hour at the equator. We orbit around the sun at 67,000 mph. The solar system orbits the galaxy at 514,000 mph, and the galaxy runs around the universe at 1.4 million mph. But relative to what? To you! You are the observer and point of reference. As I have said before, the future is nothing more than a set of probabilities and the past nothing but facts. Or facts as we understand them. I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast where he said “I know it is true because I experienced it.” I had to push pause and consider. And I find fault. Dang… What is “true” is relative to our existing pattern of interpretation and meaning, the filters or lenses (pick your metaphor) through which we experience life. So therefore it does not make it “true”, it only means we experienced something. The experience is valid, the truth of it not so much.

So it is with time; we each experience it in our own way, as your thoughts and memories, your filters are different than mine. So is there some absolute reference point? Ah, the need for absolutes…

I have not read the book yet (I will I promise!) but intuitively and (from my understanding) there is only one absolute and that is the wave function. Probabilities exist and then something happens; the wave function collapses and whatever becomes real. It is real because “it” happened and is now a fact of the past.

If we put on the veil of ignorance – setting aside any preconceived ideas – about time, we (okay, geez, I do) have to consider what “now” is. It is the collapse of the wave function. so if all reality hinges on this it seems to me that there must be some sort of universal wave function that guides all others. The now that exists here in my office is the same now that exists 14 billion light years from here. It is independent of relativity as we discount the observer. In my notes I wrote “spacetime is a relative motion construct.” I also wrote a question: “Are space and time entangled both locally and universally?” Whatever that means. I was down a rabbit hole when I wrote that…

So oh boy and goody, fun things to think about, but what does it matter?! How is this useful at all in my life or yours? This is where I think it gets interesting. For the sake of the illustration I presume that both the present moment and the infinite are two sides of the same coin and both are abstractions – they only exist in math and not in our 3 dimensional physical reality. No not 4! Time does not exist, k?

If I or you can set this premise in stone and reconsider existence (again, for the sake of the illustration) then we can see how anxiety and depression are nothing more than extensions of our false construct of time and the pattern of our interpretation and meaning. You and I are entirely free to choose not to attend to them, knowing they are whatever we want them to be. Schiller’s rewriting shows that we can change our emotional response to the past by adding in new information. We can change our perspective and emotion about the future by first understanding that it is nothing more than a set of likely or unlikely outcomes that may or may not happen, and choose which to attend to, calling B.S. on our emotional mind’s insistence that whatever disaster might happen actually will.

We can learn to access the present moment with skill and practice. The present is all there really is. Rovelli calls the present an “event” and time is nothing more than a never ending string of events. Learn to turn to the “event” and see it for what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

It just takes time…

The depths…

As a follow-up to two previous posts (You are Missing From Me and The Beginning of the End of Learning) I think it’s safe to say I finally reached the end of that particular journey. I thought I had – how silly of me to presume such a thing! – but no, God had more lessons for me. I’m really slowwwwwwww it seems.

I have been judged so cruelly, rejected in such an incredibly painful way and yet I persisted. Why? I had not found the answer until recently. I found it after reading a seemingly random book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s a short story about an enigmatic character from his Kingkiller Chronicles series. The writing is so lyrical, so invocative; the sense of “proper-ness” was so pointed. To me anyway.

It prompted me to think about propriety, about doing things the right way. Why though? I ended up being confronted with the feeling that my sense of loyalty had been violated. This is terribly ironic as the cruelty that had been dumped on me was prompted by a perceived disloyalty. It was a shallow evaluation and entirely without merit, but there it was. “Twisted.” It hurts to even write that word. Not the point though. I had not been able to give up on this person as my sense of loyalty prevented it. And it became toxic to me. So I offered a suggestion via mail to find closure in a proper and fitting way. In doing so I honored the depth of the relationship (from my perspective anyway). Another irony is that I was trying to show respect. This too touches on the lens of judgment I was seen through. It makes me sick still to think about it. So I’m not going to after this.

I’m done. I’m so done I will not even mourn your loss of me. I have honored my values, and by doing so my self-respect is fully intact. Oh wait, one more thing then. I forgive you. There, now I feel better.

The bottom of the rabbit hole is nothing more than the realization that our values – those guiding principles that define who we really are – are truly discovered only through trial. So when you are going through something be looking for the underlying value, the lesson that reveals your best self. The pain is worth it.

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