decision point

                            Image

I awoke yesterday with an odd feeling, a stark realization washing over my body. It seemed to be saying, “You are not living out your intended purpose. You are not reaching your full potential.” It is as if for the past month, I have entered a state of stagnation. And after talking with a friend, I came to a clearer picture of where I am at this point in my life.

There are multiple ways to get to one destination. Different streets you can take, turns you can make. Life is essentially that. It is made up of the turns we choose to take. How will we get to our intended destination? And in what ways will we change as we embark on that journey? I realized that at this very moment, I am standing on the street, still deciding. “Should I turn left or right? Which one is right?” But I came to see that for most things in life, there is no clear “right” or “wrong.” Life is not as black and white as we want to make it, as simplistic as we wish it was. And you want to know to your very bones that the choices you make will bring you the most happiness, will lead you farthest from pain, that it will all be wonderful and great. But that too, does not speak to the true nature of the human experience. No matter which road we take, we will experience pain. There will be ups and downs, struggles and obstacles. And we have no way to see into the future and calculate the what-ifs with complete certainty. But we should not be seeing obstacles in such a negative light the way that we do. It is by our struggles we grow and gain opportunities to test and reach our full potential.

Really, it seems to come down to this: it’s not always a matter of making the “right” choice, but about making a choice. It is through these choices we live life, continue on that journey. That is why I have been struck with this feeling as if I am not living out my purpose. It is because I am not moving and putting off making those choices. I kept telling myself, I cannot make them because I am not getting confirmation which one is right, I am scared of making the wrong choice. But I see now that my conceptualization is wrong. I cannot put off these things in my life because of my fears of not being right. When I do, I fall into this state of stagnation, I stop in my journey toward my dreams, I stop living life. In these instances and truly, many decision points on our journey, there really is no right or wrong. We just have to look at the information we have at the present and make the best choice that we can in that moment.

Maybe it is all my fears that are holding me back. Maybe it is simply that the street has grown comfortable, even if I have grown bored with it. Maybe there is something way beyond my awareness beating brightly, but my eyes are trained on something else. Maybe it is all of these things that keep my muscles knotted and breath caught. But no matter how much fog there is around me, this is perfectly clear. I need to move. I need to make a choice. By choosing to live, even in the face of great fear, I obtain the courage I will dearly need as this journey progresses. Only I have the power to make the life I desire… all through these choices I make.

finding your path

                               path-to-horizon

Camus once said that life is the sum of all your choices.

A dream I had two nights ago really shook and inspired me. In my dream, a teacher in class asked us to draw a picture of what it means to become an MFT. The picture I drew was of a windy path leading into the horizon, where the sun shone big and bright. I could not see the rest of the path, only where I had been and where I am at. The path in front was cut off at the horizon, unable to be deduced. I felt that it was symbolic of perhaps where I am at in my life, and of life in general. We cannot predict the future with complete certainty… it will never be within our view, until it becomes the present. I could only see one thing ahead… and it’s the dream I want to eventually achieve, shining brilliantly in the distance.

The dream made me think of all the things we do not know, the things that will happen that we could never predict. And what if we do not know where to go? What if there are multiple paths to take, a fork in the road? We can never tell with complete certainty which path is better… we may be able to deduce or predict based on probability, but if there are few truths in life, one of them is that life holds no absolute certainty. So then how do you choose? Maybe you make the choice by predicting what provides the best outcome, or by following your value system. Actions come with consequences, both good and bad ones. You may not know everything, but you do your best with the information you have at the point you are at.

If there is anything I learned about Camus/existentialism in my AP English class back in high school, it’s the concept that meaning is created. There is no ultimate meaning, and we have the power within our perspective to create meanings in everything in life. To a certain extent, I see this playing out in our paths. What makes you happy? What are your dreams and what would it mean about you if they came true? A different answer will arise with each person you ask, because we all hold our own meanings/value system. That is why I think that more than comparing your path to another and “figuring it out” that way, it is best to discern what individual values you run by, what makes you truly happy and if the path you choose will be in alignment with that.

Which leads me back to Camus’ quote. Life is the sum of all your choices. The more I think of it, the more I see it playing out in every area of my life. We have the power to create the life we want (or maybe, don’t want) with the choices we make.  Sometimes we expect life to happen to us, and we sit and wait, instead of seeking. While there is nothing wrong with that, if Camus is right, then I see both the power, and responsibility, we hold to create the life we may desire. So what path will you choose? And if you haven’t chosen, what is holding you back?

dream analysis

                                 Image

Carl Jung argues that dreams are ways our subconscious self attempts to articulate and reveal parts of ourselves that we keep buried (often away from our conscious self). Dreams are symbols, reflecting different aspects of ourselves that may not be readily seen if we are taking the dream at face value.

I usually never remember my dreams. Before I didn’t really care for dream analysis and would frequently take the “scientific” approach to understanding why dreams occur: “They only come about because of the neurons firing in our head; we’re organizing information within our memory as we sleep and dreams are just a byproduct of that.” But lately, I have been remembering the dreams I’ve been having. I have been having dreams about someone in particular, including last night. Waking up this morning, it almost felt as if I had been living in a different life or different consciousness within my dreams… and those residual feelings from that different consciousness were with me when I woke up in Reality. As is my habit, I went straight into analytical mode: Do these dreams mean something? What are these feelings I have? Why do I keep seeing you in my Dream life, so different from the Reality that I know? Why do I feel so vindicated, as if this was some sort of catharsis?

I took to my books, textbooks, the internet, anything to give me some clarity. Taking heed of all the theories/understandings of dreams I had, I sat down and asked myself: What is the theme of these dreams? What do they say about me or a part of me? And it was by asking these questions and taking my dreams apart that my mind was blown. I came to realize the parts of myself I never paid attention to, or even clearly tried to disconnect from in my Conscious life. It was as if my Subconscious Self wanted to process something that I have been failing to do in my Consciousness, and urging me to see those parts I fight to ignore in my waking life.

By the end of my self dream analysis, I was left with an odd feeling. By remembering my dreams, my reality shifted drastically. It was as if I was staring at myself in the mirror and noticing things about myself I never even saw before. Maybe dreams are just a product of random neurons firing in our heads, but if Carl Jung is right, then my Subconscious Self sent me a very moving message. It makes me wonder of all those dreams I cannot remember, those messages my subconscious may have been trying to give but I could never recall. Looking at these parts of myself now, I feel more vulnerable and bare. Perhaps before, fear was masking my eyes from seeing entirely. But now that I am beginning to see, I am realizing how fear ties us down and keeps us blind… and how facing our true, real and entire selves frees and opens us to a new, authentic way of being.

on grief

                               sunsett

Mourning isn’t a temporary process; it’s a lifetime one. Whether we’ve lost someone to death, broken up with a love, or had a falling out with a best friend, I think that all of us can imagine what mourning is like. The 5 stages of grief come to mind for many, but I think the concept warrants more elaboration. Something that I have come to learn in my own life is that losing someone in any context isn’t something that you simply “get over.” You cannot counsel children or teachers who were victims of (or lost loved one to) the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to “get over it.” In obvious ways, they may never “get over it.”

I am not speaking of complicated grief, or being so immersed in one’s grief to the point that life’s meaning is forever lost, which is a different issue. What I argue against, however, is the message we give in society or the expectation we push on others and even on ourselves to “get over it.” Because it is not reflective of the true mourning process. The reason I believe that mourning is lifelong, is because many losses are heavy and deep indeed, and cause our lives to shift in innumerable ways. It takes time to settle into a “new normal.” And once we do, we may be happy on some days and other times we may be stressed or anxious in our daily living. But there are certain moments when we are reminded of our loss and the old pain is scratched. It hurts. A tear or two (or many) fall. Our hearts feel the emptiness of that loss. But then we continue to go forward.

And those moments that remind us of our loss will always be there throughout our life walk… like on my wedding day, walking down the aisle without my father. Or when I reminisce with my mother, and that desire bubbles up, I wish I could hear my dad call my name again just once. Or when I see a man playing with his kids at the park or a daughter taking out her father to a nice Italian restaurant on Father’s Day. The old wound scratched, I feel the pain of what has been lost and will never be fully redeemed. But the thing I have come to find is that this process is normal… and maybe, arguably, more true than just the concept of 5 stages of grief. Acceptance (the last stage) does not mean we are done with grieving. If anything, these moments of grief peppered throughout our lifespan are to be expected.

We are not still tied down to our grief. Most of us are still able to live our lives. But grief will come up from time to time, and if we conceptualize of these moments as part of the typical grieving process, we won’t be burdening ourselves with the fruitless goal of “getting over it.” There is nothing to get over. There is nothing wrong with having our feelings come up again and to be missing the person we lost. The pain tells us how special that person was and how much we loved them; so of course, if we are reminded of their absence, it will hurt. But it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to feel the pain. We only do ourselves more harm by ignoring it. It is the tail side of the coin, in which heads is love. It is all inextricably part of the beautiful, and often unfathomable, human experience.