Sometimes we get stuck in the past. We drown in self-pity and sorrow over making the wrong choices, over not saying things we should have said and not doing things we should have done. There is no harm done in wondering, but there is a lot of harm in getting stuck in regret over believing that a different decision in the past could have spelled out success in the now. The past cannot be changed, so why dwell on it? I know that it is human nature to imagine “better” for the unknown. Time seems to have a strange way of making bad situations appear better than they truly were. How often, when we were single, did we look back at a mediocre or even bad relationship, somehow remembering it as not that bad? When we look through the eyes of desperation, we not only see things distorted, but we see them through rose-colored glasses that are usually nothing more but a figment of our imagination.
All of us have the power to change our lives drastically. The problem is that most people are looking in the wrong places, believing that outside forces determine happiness and success. In truth, happiness and peace of mind do not come from external sources for most of us, but almost solely from what is within us. Sure, other people have an impact, but we determine just how big that impact has to be.
I understand more than most how difficult it is to not be affected by the continuously bad choices of others. It is very difficult to not get affected when people we care about “make” us feel miserable, and either advertently or inadvertently draw us into their reality. It is hard to not react when they lash out at us or mess up our life because they can’t get it together. It is hard to keep one’s optimism when they make demands, put guilt trips on us, manipulate or simply have no regard for us. It is difficult to keep one’s cool when they strike at yet another part of our core or trigger a bad response. For all these reasons, I keep repeating how important it is to allow only those individuals into our lives who actually support our healthy growth. Going through the steps is hard enough as it is, but it can, and for some people is, nearly impossible to change while being surrounded by those who neither support nor help facilitate your efforts and hard work.
In order to achieve a better life, one has to start changing oneself. If we do not change who we are and how we perceive the world, we will keep attracting more of the same. I keep stressing the importance of environment, but the environment won’t change, no matter how far you move and how different of a group you think you may have bonded with, unless you change your own mind. The same poison can have many different forms and shapes. Again, I have experienced just that when I moved across continents. As long as I remained the same, nothing really shifted for me, even though I was in a different country. The people that showed up had different looks about them, but were essentially the same ones I left behind in Germany. The only thing I changed was geography.
Changing my life means changing who I am, sometimes in my very core. The world looks very different to me now, and so do the people in it. Things that used to trigger me don’t as much anymore. Unfortunately, other things I have never noticed before are suddenly magnified. This whole shift is very uncomfortable and foreign to me. I am, literally, on completely foreign turf. This opens a whole new portal of insecurities I didn’t know existed, while getting rid of others that had been lingering for years. Sometimes there are bursts of strength and optimism, fueled by a whole new slew of wisdom, and other times there is exhaustion and a feeling of being overwhelmed when I look at what is still ahead.
I guess what keeps me going are the successes on the way. There are glimpses of true happiness, not the pseudo happiness I mostly experienced. It is still difficult to act against “my grain.” It is different to walk away instead of facing people head on. It is also foreign to understand when and whom I truly need to confront or trust. Turns out, I really fought a lot of empty battles and therefore had an equally high failure rate.
I now understand more than ever why certain traits such as integrity, honesty, courage and loyalty are magnified for me and why I will always be triggered, deeply hurt and turned off by those who don’t possess them. However, as my journey progresses, my exposure to those who hinder my growth becomes less and less. I spend 5 out of 7 days a week actively on self-improvement. I got rid of the excuses and stopped holding myself back. Happiness does not fall on anyone’s head! It is something that is created. Some of us have been dealt a better hand in life than others, but luck does not create true and lasting happiness. One has to contribute to that. And sitting around complaining and mourning the past and the choices we made back then does not create anything but misery.
I wished I could report that it is easy to walk the path of the creator. Alas, the path is rocky, long, windy and steep. What I can report is shorter spells of doubt, sadness, depression, anger and self-pity, and longer spells of introspection, balance, peace, quiet and empowerment. Some report that I appear happy and perky most of these days and that I have my light back. I don’t think I am quite there yet, but at least I am on the right path! Sometimes I still stomp my foot and pout, whining “why does it have to be so hard?” Then I shrug my shoulders, get a good laugh and answer “well, it is what it is. And I hate to tell you this, but you created most of it. Now get your pudding butt into the gym and we’ll talk a year from now…”