Live Meaningfully – By Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A.
April always feels like it should mark a new beginning.
Spring seems to welcome new growth, a fresh start, and new life.
From longer days, to blossoming flowers and trees, to balmier weather – Mother Nature reminds us that it’s time for another awakening.
With the promise of something new brings a lot of emotions. Excitement, Hope, Anticipation and Fear.
We have a way, as human beings, of “protecting ourselves” against the vulnerability of joy by enlisting our good old friend Fear to squash some of the joy.
Joy is an incredibly vulnerable feeling (the most vulnerable and ‘terrifying’ emotion we experience, according to master vulnerability expert and all-around impressive woman, Brene Brown). So why do we do this? What makes fear a worthy companion in the face of something new and promising?
Do we believe that somehow if things don’t work out we won’t be as disappointed, as we have already prepared ourselves for a negative outcome? Do we believe that somehow it guards us against ‘jinxing’ ourselves? Do we believe that we are not worthy of unfettered, unbridled excitement and hope about that which is to come? What is it that causes our addled human brains to immediately default to the negative and to that which isn’t enough?
We wake up in the morning and immediately begin to enumerate the things that have not been enough – not enough sleep, not enough time in the morning, not a smooth enough drive to work, not enough coffee, not enough work having been done the day before, etc. But what if the opposite is also true? What if it is simply enough that we actually awoke to a new day, that we have the luxury of living in a developed world where coffee and breakfast are a given? What if we have the gift of a vehicle that will get us to work without even considering that it could be an issue, and a job or a responsibility waiting for us that provides for our family and/or maybe even offers us purpose and makes life meaningful?
What if all that is positive and hopeful and exciting is actually equally as true as the fact that it would be scary to lose it?
Emotions aren’t really quantifiable in nature, they are qualitative. Meaning, when we feel _______(fill in the blank with any emotion – happiness, joy, pain, grief, etc…) we can’t accurately assess whether it is more or less than another person has felt or even, often, whether it is more or less than we have felt at another time in life. We feel what we feel when we feel it. It’s as simple as that. Have you ever tried to “stop” feeling an emotion? When you’re anxious or worried, is it possible to just “not be?” Not really, right? So, to what end does it benefit us to consistently be ‘guarding’ ourselves against that which is amazing and true in our lives?
What if, just for today, you were able to catch and reframe every interaction, every thought, every hope you had and simply narrate it from its (equally true) angle of good/enough/joyful? What would happen? The day, the work, the chore, the perspective, and the hope would emerge, leaving the fear and the marginalized experience of life for a different day. Today would be full and celebratory and hopeful and fulfilling. There’s always tomorrow to go back to the default of fearful and not enough if living in this sort of grace doesn’t suit you.
So, take a moment… practice reframing and begin to re-narrate your morning from the perspective of what is true and joyful as opposed to the way you may have originally done it. Try it on, just as a mental experiment… just for an hour even, if not the whole day, and marvel at what energy emerges from within you.
Till the next time,
Be Well; Live Meaningfully.
Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A. practices at 2150 Park Avenue North as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and can be reached at www.livemeaningfully.net or 407-796-2959.