Begin with the end in mind. I always seem to stumble back to the idea that we all have an expiration date and no-one knows when that time may be. Ultimately, we all have a limited time here on earth. I have always had this perspective, but it has been reinforced in the past few years , since I lost my step father (age 58) in March of 2014, watched my dear friend lose her 14-year-old in October of 2014, and lost my best friend (age 36) in March of 2015.
These thoughts of my mortality come up the most when I feel like I’ve lost my compass, if you will. In real-time, this looks like perfectionism, especially in the realm of appearance. Perfectionism has been my kryptonite, my distraction, my black hole. My default setting when things feel a bit out of control, is to hold up a magnifying glass to my appearance. How can I be leaner, have more definition, less wrinkles, thicker hair, and fewer gray ones? How can I be outwardly perfect, because, everyone knows that if one looks perfect, even if other stuff seems to be out of control, life will be all rainbows and daisies. (I’ve tested this by doing figure competitions, when I got down to my all time leanest and was perfect by my standard, and I was probably the most broken during those times).
On my quest for physical perfection there was always another level up I could work towards, so I never met the mark. This set me up on my default hamster wheel, of trying to be perfect with my food, exercise and all things related. However, perfect doesn’t exist. It has kept me distracted and so busy that I haven’t been able to enjoy anything. It’s a wheel because the flip side to perfect food intake and black and white thinking, as I’ve mentioned before, is an overabundance of peanut butter and the like. This was a perfect buffer instead of facing the world and my reality. But the scariest part of this, is the price it has cost myself and my world. Coming from this place, there is an absence of self-love and acceptance, and I reflect that outwardly. I am extra hard on myself and everyone around me. I temporarily forget what matters most. My relationships become shallow and any fun to be had disappears.
Ultimately, when I think about the most important core values in my life; my relationships, growth, helping others, leaving a legacy, and the hamster wheel of numbing out, I think about how far apart these two worlds are from one another. That’s when I typically start asking myself what legacy do I want to leave? If I’m blessed enough to live into my 90’s, I want to be able to look back and smile about how I took risks, by staying off the buffering hamster wheel and because I chose to create the most exciting story possible. I know for certain, if I do get to 90 years old, the more I see of memories on the hamster wheel, otherwise known as an illusion of safety, control, and protection from being hurt, the more disappointment and regret I will feel.
Does the best version of myself require a food plan and an active life? You bet it does! But it’s the space from which I implement those two things that matters most. It’s crucial that I am constantly aware of where my self-love and acceptance meter is. This is my indication of how close I am to hopping onto the buffering hamster wheel. If it gets low, I’m in need of tending to myself more and in need of the reality check of how I want to remember my life and to be remembered.
So, my question to you is, what does your hamster wheel look like? Mine has included many things along the way, my list includes, but is not limited to: Facebook, obsessive cleaning, spending way too much time on Amazon reviews and creating a life that is too busy to feel anything.
Numbing or buffering comes in many packages, it can look like too much shopping, too much gambling, too much Television (Netflix, News, ESPN or anything!) , too much focus on helping other people (including family, possibly known as co–dependency. ) In other words, too much of anything can be buffering. I have heard many people state how there are better ways to handle stress, such as working out. I would agree, working out is healthier than smoking, but too much of anything is going to keep all of us playing small and selling short. What are the possibilities for each of us if , instead of escaping, we put our time and energy into our dreams and deepest desires?
It is the tendency of many to want to avoid the lower emotions in life; sadness, anxiety, depression and anger to name a few. And so, we grab a bottle, drown ourselves in candy crush, or any other activity we can think of to replace feeling those feelings. The activities we choose to help numb us out rob us of our precious time here friends.
I urge you to identify what you use to numb yourself as an alternative to feeling those lower emotions. Most of us have something. The world needs more of us who are engaged, vulnerable and awake. I truly believe there could be a massive shift in the way the world operates if we could learn how to process our lower emotions, while remaining present and intentional to our dreams.
If you were to pass right now, what would you be remembered for? Is it a legacy you would be proud of? Are your relationships where you want them? Will you be able to reflect at 90 years old on a fulfilling life, one in which you gave up your numbing agents and became fully engaged?