Conversations With Myself

Two things I have been afraid of most of my life: the dark (or rather what is hiding in the dark), and being alone in the woods. Being alone in the woods in the dark? Out of the question. That’s where the monsters live. These days, I start almost every morning I’m in the woods before sunrise, alone in the dark. Well, not completely alone, my dog is with me. These things don’t scare me anymore – just the opposite – I relish my time alone in the woods. The hiking trails we frequent twist and wind around a little mountain (or a very big hill as anyone who has ever seen a real mountain would say). It was built not only for hiking, but also mountain biking, so there are a lot of ups and downs and little dips and bumps to work through, and it’s about a mile and a half to the top of the mountain. I usually run as fast as I can (which is not very fast at all) up the last bit of steep incline to the top. At the top, there is a park bench. My favorite part of my morning hike/run is getting to the top of that mountain. I sit on the bench with my dog, turn my headlamp off, and just sit for a few minutes in the quiet, in the dark. I drop my head back and close my eyes and feel the shifting of air as the morning breeze blows across my face. I listen to the rustling of leaves out in the darkness, where little critters are beginning to stir, and to the humming of cars drifting down the road below me, and I think. I think about the day before and the day ahead, and what I did well, and what I can do differently. I reflect on conversations that I’ve had with people and sometimes I realize that I’m having a conversation with a past (however recent) version of myself. Someone will say something negative, usually a “can’t or won’t” statement, or a displacement of responsibility, and I get hung on it. I give all of the advice I can muster, wrap it up in a box with a bow and give them instructions on how to live their lives and be better and overcome whatever it is. And then there are more can’t/won’t statements, more displacement of responsibility, and reasons why it’s different for them, why it isn’t as easy for them, why it’s just not in the stars for them. And it gets under my skin. I think sometimes when I am having a conversation with someone, God puts my own words into their mouths, and I hear myself echoed back to me to remind me that I don’t have it all together, and that I have made a lot of excuses for myself and felt – really deeply to the core if my being, felt, KNEW – that I was fundamentally incapable of change. That I just wasn’t wired that way. That I was just dealt a bad hand in the game of weightloss/emotional stability/mental health/educational success/career success/literally anything I have ever failed at. Some things just didn’t come as easy for me as they did for others and there was nothing I could do about it. I have made too many can’t/won’t statements to count. For years and years, I have had pockets full of excuses why things didn’t work for me. In the end, it’s about choices. I started making different choices, and things started getting better. And I realized it wasn’t that things didn’t come as easily for me. It was that they didn’t come easily to anyone. Other people were just willing to make the changes that I wasn’t willing to make. I was letting can’t/won’t run my life. And now when I see someone else letting can’t/won’t run their life, I want to shake them and say “can’t you see!?” Not because I’m frustrated with them, so much as I am frustrated with myself for believing my own lies for so long. And knowing what they have to do to get out of it. I want to save people. They don’t always want to be saved. And sometimes, it breaks my heart. But my favorite people in the whole world are people that I see struggling, that I know have burdens, who are actively trying. Not the people who have made it to the top, not the people who are already living their dreams. MY PEOPLE are people who want to be better, who want to be more, who get discouraged but get back up. People who try and try and try again. I love fighters.

Embrace this idea: there is no magic to it. A change in action, a change in response, a change in thinking – little tiny baby self-changes add up to big differences in life. I am not in control of everything that happens around me. I have no control over the actions and thoughts of other people. Bad things happen, inconveniences happen, pain happens. TO EVERYONE. The only thing that I can control is how I respond to it. Better responses = better outcomes. It’s a simple equation (in theory). I realize that it’s not as easy as just doing things differently, no one can change in a snap. But everyone can change starting with one choice. One little promise to yourself, however small it may be. Like today, I promise myself that I will go for a walk on my lunch break. I promise that if I get upset, I will write about it instead of eating about it. I promise myself that if someone bugs me, I will wait a full minute before I respond, to give myself time to think. Maybe you promise yourself that you won’t have a soda today, or you’ll go for a walk – little promises. You keep that promise, and make a new promise. And the promises get bigger and easier to keep because you develop trust in yourself. Day by day, change is about making promises to yourself and keeping them.

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