What are You Waiting For?
By Amber Callahan
"If we don't step out of the known - the comfort zone - we bring yesterday's limited thinking into the present, therefore dooming the present to be just like the past." - Baron Baptiste
This week I've really been focusing on keeping a sense of calm and being very mindful of having an equanimous mind. It's so easy in the day to day to react to situations, other people's behavior and life's little frustrations. It takes a greater sense of presence to remain calm amidst all the chaos of life. Much of the time that chaos or those frustrations are out of our control, but sometimes we choose the chaos by stepping out of our comfort zone, which is Law 3 in the 40 Day Revolution. This is not to say that stepping out of our comfort zone is always chaotic, but it can sometimes certainly feel like that when we're in the middle of it. How we choose to react to the change, though, is completely within our control.
Much of my life I have been a risk taker and much of my life I hated that about myself. I wanted to live a "normal" life and do things that "normal" people did. I wanted the adventurous, "wild" side of myself to be tamed and grown up. I just wanted a normal life. Now I have come to understand that there is no one definition of normal. I had pictures in my mind that I formed early on in life as to what I thought my life should like according to society, my family, friends, books, TV shows, you name it. Those pictures and ideals form very early on in life and sometimes we cling to them a little too tightly distorting the reality in front of ourselves.
So, in pursuit of a "normal" life, at the age of 24, I married a very "normal" man thinking that was what I was supposed to do. We were divorced 18 months later after having a child together. I spent the next few years still struggling against myself, feeling like a failure, escaping with different forms of self sabotaging behavior. Finally, I made the decision to quit fighting myself and began to accept that my "normal" was going to be different from what everyone in my life expected of me (or what I THOUGHT they expected of me). Once I started to accept this part of myself, I opened my life up to the woman that I would spend the next seven years of my life with.
Then in May of last year, a switch flipped...a switch that made me question everything about my life. A switch that shut off the autopilot I had been living on for years and that popped open an immense slew of emotions that I had been stuffing down and ignoring. Emotions including anger, sadness and defeat. I acknowledged how defeated I felt because I was living a life that was comfortable but still left me feeling very unhappy. There was nothing “wrong” or “bad,” it just was not right.
I would wake up some days with crippling sadness and would cry without really understanding why I was so sad or why I was even crying. I had a good life, one that reflected the pictures of safety and security in my mind, and I felt terrible about myself for not being happy given so much good in my life. And that's when I had to accept that I was still looking for other people and things to make me happy.
The tough reality is, though, that when we look to the outside for happiness, we'll never find it. That’s hard to wake up to, particularly when you’re in a relationship with a good person who wants the best for you. How do you hurt someone that has done nothing to hurt you? How do you make changes when from the outside looking in no one can understand your decision because there is nothing visibly "wrong" (no fights, no external scars, no ugliness)? How do you turn your life completely upside down when the only reason you have to do it is that you’re just not happy?
I grappled with all of these questions, but in the end, I had to admit that I had been living a life that left me empty and sad. And it was a life I had created. I created it because I was not authentic in the beginning of my relationship with my partner. I hid parts of myself that I was ashamed of, I tamed myself, I quit doing things that I loved and became someone that I thought she deserved and would love. I did not feel deserving of her if she knew who I really was (going back to those pictures we form about who we should be). That was not fair to her or to me and it was not sustainable. Ultimately, I knew that I had to change something and break out of my "comfort zone."
I spent the summer exploring my emotions and my mind to try to understand why I was feeling the way I was and to determine the next steps to take in my life. I learned so much about myself in those months of self exploration. I spent time in meditation, I started yoga again (which I wanted to do for the last two years), I dyed my hair, I got a tattoo I had been wanting, I left my house and my partner and my life and walked away from the safety and security that I had sought so desperately and walked right into the unknown.
No one has to settle, but so many of us do. We are afraid of what awaits us (or not) on the other side. And, it is scary. I have had moments of total panic and doubt since I moved out to be on my own, but I know that I made the right decision because the Universe continues to send me signs (and I am open to receiving them). It’s not easy, and I still fight the voices in my head telling me that I'm selfish, that I'm a**hole, and so much more. However, designing the life that I want, years later with a whole lot more self acceptance, experience and knowledge, is both exhilarating and terrifying.
So, what did I learn from turning my world upside down and breaking out of a comfort zone?
- We all deserve to be happy. If you’re not happy, do something to move you one step closer to being happy. What do you want? You can have it and it's okay to ask the Universe for it. And, guess what? That happiness cannot be found in others or in things…it’s within you. I am learning that and I am not looking for anyone else to make me happy at this point in my life. Wherever my life takes me next, I know that no one is responsible for my happiness except me.
- The Universe will continue to send you signs until you acknowledge them. I probably would not have made as many changes as I did as quickly as I did had I not had so many things come to me in such a short period of time. I literally remember saying at one point this summer, “Okay, I get it. Please stop sending signs to me. I’m moving. I’m getting unstuck.” If you don’t listen to the Universe, it will continue to send you signs until you do. So what is the Universe telling you? And, are you listening?
- We have a choice in how we feel. One thing I have read a lot about this summer is reframing our thoughts. I spiraled into a deep depression over the summer. I spun stories in my head about my life and being trapped and being unhappy. But, you know what happened when I finally opened up and acknowledged out loud how unhappy I was? That weight lifted and I started turning situations to see the positive. Even when my entire world as I knew it was falling around me, I could see the good and the positive in things because I had hope again. I now make a choice to not spin stories in my mind and to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. Instead of letting a difficult situation take its hold and drag me along, I stop, I breathe and I think about what the situation is teaching me…what can I learn from it?
- Be authentic. This is the biggest lesson I have learned. If someone does not like me for being me, then I do not need them in my life. NEVER again will I compromise who I am, hide who I am and not show my true self to someone. It is not fair to them and it’s certainly not fair to me. Don’t do it…don’t compromise. Be you…all the "good" and all the "bad" make you who you are.
Where in your life are you comfortable, yet still feeling unsettled internally? Where do you sense the need for change, but still doubt that you can make the change happen or that you could survive it if you did follow through? Are you using your comfort zone to escape your life? It is so easy to go through the motions each day, but do not ignore the gentle nudges. Listen to your heart…listen to the Universe. Do not be afraid of change and be aware of the catalysts (signs) in your life. They are placed in your life for a reason…do not ignore them.