I always have a feeling about a place. Any place that I travel or I live in for any amount of time. Always an immediate gut reaction. What confuses me now is that I don’t feel anything about the particular place that I’m in. I don’t have an urge to leave and I don’t have an urge to stay. It’s just a blank nothing and I don’t know what to do about it or if I should do anything at all. This is a short post but it’s what I’m thinking about lately and so I suppose…. worth mentioning.
I had a professor that used to say “what you focus on you amplify”. He said it so many times I think of it often even all these years later.
I think of it when I force myself to take a step back from whatever it is I’m dwelling on at the time and to realize that the thing I am giving power to is a negative thought, unfortunate circumstance, or am upsetting memory or emotion.
I have to ask myself if focusing on this thing or idea (whatever it might be) could ever change it or be productive, or if the amount of time/effort I’m giving it is simply feeding the flames of self doubt and relinquishing power to past events… Past events that have no bearing on the here and now, or have no business in doing so.
It is an active process; changing your thought pattern and your focus. It is mental hard work that takes an effort physically akin to lifting railroad tracks and switching them to another line.
The past cannot be changed. That even goes for something as near as yesterday. Ugly things have happened. Ugly things will happen. But the most important thing, when you feel yourself fall into that hole that those ugly moments create, is to use the power you have to remember the beautiful.
Because life truly is beautiful. It is a thing that we can experience only once. One extremely limited life in an extremely constricted time frame but it is our only one. No matter what happens you owe it to whatever greater power took the time to make life possible for you and for you to breathe and think and make decisions and love and be and exist.
The last five years have been a trial for me. I have learned what losing family is. I’ve learned of illness and grief and solitude and guilt and self-doubt and self-destruction. I have questioned myself and my decisions and my worth and my purpose. At times I find myself dwelling on these events. This is where the railroad tracks come in.
When I am drowning I have learned to make myself focus on the good… That also in these last five years I have done so much living; That I have train hopped in Europe, gave away everything I owned and learned so much from it, graduated college and then graduated again, started a new and meaningful career, moved 2000 miles, deepened even already deep friendships with my amazing friends, galloped on horseback in the Italian countryside, slept in a beach cave and swam with sea turtles, overcome fears of incompetency, read outlook-changing books, heard life changing stories of people I made friends with in hostels and on trains.
And even without these experiences, at a basic level, there is so much to be thankful for. I have a healthy body. A healthy mind. I have family. I have a car. I have clean drinking water, books, a roof over my head, food. I do not struggle to survive and I don’t fear for my safety.
Everything that I have just mentioned, from safety to train hopping, all of these things could so easily be taken for granted or overlooked in moments of despair. Most often overlooked is that you have the ability and power to focus on the good rather than the bad. We can focus on good moments and realizations and memories when the negative begins to raise its ugly head. You have this choice.
Viktor Frankl, in his book that has forever changed my life, says that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – your attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way.”
Frankl wrote this as a result of his time in Auschwitz. If meaning and beauty in the form of his novel can come of an experience such as this then what business do you have dwelling on the trivialities and trials and sad times of life today?
Someone in this world, no matter what you are going through, has it much worse than you do. Someone would give anything for the life you are cursing. Someone who is no longer living would love to trade places with you and live the life they were denied. The life you have right now.
All is a matter of perspective. A perspective that you set for yourself because that is another gift we have been given – the gift of self-awareness and power of mind.
I think all of us could use a reminder of this from time to time. It is within your control to feel grateful and to focus on feeling grateful. Because, remember, what you focus on you amplify. Amplify the good.
It’s 11 a.m. and I’m sitting on the hood of my car watching a bison scratch its head on a broken tree branch. He stares at me with dull eyes. Everything feels surreal. I’m in Denver Colorado of all random places to be in this world. This is where I was sent to. You know I don’t like smoking or the way it makes me feel but I gave it a try because anything is preferable to being sober on a day like this. Drinking alone sounds absolutely horrible. Today is the day of your funeral. And while I tried to be there, circumstances out of my control have kept me out. I’ve spoken with your mother and your brother and your friends. Your mother told me she talked to you yesterday and told you I would be there soon, but she would let you know now that I tried. This comforts me and in return I’ve told her that I would give anything to be there but the words ring cheap. I really did try my best. I can’t say that there’s any more that I could have done in order to say goodbye to you in person. But you’re thousands of miles away and I’m here at this Wildlife Refuge because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.
Eventually I climb down off of my hood and I take a walk on a trail. It is a perfect sunny day and it’s a 2-mile trail and it goes by some trees and a lake and I pretend that you’re there with me holding my hand and I talk to you. And I tell you the things that I have not said to you while you were in this life with me. And I hope and pray that you can hear them because I need you to hear them. But sometimes I’m too realistic for my own good and doubt gnaws at me from the darkest places. Doubt that tells me that since I didn’t take the chance to say these things to you while you breathe air now you’ll never know them because you can’t hear them and my talking is in vain. But I have to follow through with this anyway because the way that you left cuts a person to their core with guilt and questions and with sharp memories and even sharper scenarios that will never occur. Because they can’t occur. Because death is so very final and you can never go back and you can never try again.
On my walk I talk to you and I realize how stupid I have been and how selfish I am currently being in trying to tell you these things when I had all the chances in the world to tell you them before and this is what I’m thinking out on this walk instead of thinking of you and the Darkness that you were in and all the things that you will miss in life and never have. That you won’t ride your bike again, that you won’t be married , that you won’t have children, you’ll never get to see what new career path would have blossomed for you, you won’t watch your brother become the successful man he’s growing into, you can’t be there for your parents now when they are old and they need your care. But my selfish thoughts cycle back and I continue telling you what I have to tell you. That all these thoughts and feelings are sinking me and I miss you terribly.
In life you told me that I had motivated you. That you wouldn’t be where you were without me. You would say to me “it’s always been you Emily”. Your last message to me told me that the happiest moments in your life were with me and when I think of this it stabs me in the heart because I don’t deserve that from you. I don’t deserve that and I still don’t and I never will. Because it took this happening for me to realize what a beautiful gift I had in you.
And now that you are gone you have left me with an even greater gift. More than anything I could have ever done for you. You have shown me what love is. That it is choosing to see the positives in a person. There’s so much that we had been through but you made the choice to see only the good while I chose to see the negative. Your love was complete and it was selfless and all-encompassing. It was patient and calm and completely untainted by jealousy or insecurity. You have shown me what a man truly is and can be. You’ve shown me how very stupid I have been, mistaking less than this for real when real was what had been staring me in the face all these years.
Sometimes now in an instant, in the time it takes me to blink my eyes, I uncover a memory of you that I had previously forgotten. Laughing while we dip behind the trees in the night in Hyde Park and joke about vampires. Sitting in your car changing clothes so we could do more photos for your photography class. Painting your wall in your rented bedroom chocolate brown which I talked you into. Taking walks holding hands in our old neighborhood. That white and grey t-shirt you had on one time that I wrapped my arms around your waist. The way you smelled. Your voice. Your noises. Your laugh. They will forever haunt me and I welcome it. Because it will be a reminder to look at myself the way that you looked at me. And to love myself the way that you loved me. And to never accept less from anyone else.
You were a gift to me and until now I was too blind to know this. It’s always been you you used to say. Well love it will always be you now. And if I’m lucky I’ll meet you again in the next life. Keep my heart until then.