29 August 2012

This Way Now

Monday, I quietly hit the reset button. The descent my life had taken had only been getting worse. I decided I may not have all the answers I crave, but I knew I didn't want to live like that any longer. I want to be clear-headed and curious, not numb and befuddled.

I'm in midlife. Midlife is a second adolescence. All your settled verities come up for review, questioning, and often rejection. You have to relearn who you are (or remake who you are). I'd begun to think of midlife as a problem to be solved. Worse, I'd begun to think I was botching the solution big time. I was flunking midlife (or so I thought).

But like adolescence, midlife is not a problem to be solved. It is a phase of life to live through and learn from. And it cannot be rushed. It can be handled with more or less skill, but I suspect the aptitude for midlife is a learning curve of sorts. So, I'm not trying to pass a test or get through a task quickly in order to get some vague reward. If I had to guess right now, I'd say the passage is the reward. Sort of like Zen Buddhists will tell you that Nirvana is Samsara.

After I hit the pause and reset, I wanted to establish some basic ideas about my life, some values I hold to. I thought about not only what those values were, but also the best way to word them. I'd read that expressing values as commands are counterproductive, because there's always a part of oneself that resents commands. Even if one desperately wants to lose weight, for instance, it's better not to say, "You must diet every day." Also, I'd read that casting affirmative statements in the future tense is also counterproductive, in that it allows the mind to permanently postpone the affirmative action/condition stated. For instance, "I will lose weight and look good," is little more helpful than "You must diet every day."

To that end I arrived at Five Assertions. I assert these things about myself in order to make them manifest in my life right now. I could probably come up with more, but these five cover a pretty good range. Best of all, they avoid negative statements. There is no "I do not do XYZ" in the assertions, even if it is implied that I will refrain from certain harmful behaviors and attitudes.

This is the new direction I'm taking as I navigate my second adolescence.

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