Just Believe for Twenty Minutes

I was recently watching an episode of Doctor Who that I had not yet seen. For any fans, it’s the episode titled, “The Eleventh Hour.” The first episode after Matt Smith has taken over as The Doctor and Amelia Pond is meeting him for the second time, having first met him when she was a child. The world is ending in twenty minutes and The Doctor, as usual, is trying to save it. However, Amelia thinks that The Doctor may just be a figment of her imagination. She’s convinced she’s losing her mind so, in an attempt to give herself more time to sort it out, she closes The Doctor’s tie in a car door and locks it, essentially holding him captive. The Doctor, urgently trying to free himself, tells Amelia, “Just believe me for twenty minutes.” And it works. She lets him go and (spoiler) they save the earth, once again.

Just believe for twenty minutes. That phrase really stood out to me and I found myself imagining the different ways in which I could apply it to my own life.

Self doubt comes to mind first. In any situation where we are unsure of our abilities, couldn’t we choose to believe in ourselves for just a short time? To believe for even just twenty minutes? Just long enough to avoid 20 minutes of anxiety or to get the ball rolling on a new way of viewing ourselves.

I don’t recall where I learned it but, somewhere along the way, someone taught me to break up large tasks into smaller ones to make them more manageable. One way to do this is with time. Tell yourself you’re going to spend just 30 minutes (or 20 or 60) on a task, rather than committing to the entire task, just to get yourself started. More often than not, once you’ve started, you keep going and you get a lot more done than you would have had you avoided the task altogether. The worst case scenario being that you worked on the task for the amount of time you committed to, which is still not a bad scenario.

Couldn’t we apply this same concept to how we feel about ourselves or feel about our abilities to give us just enough empowerment to take action? What if instead of avoiding creating that budget, starting that business you’ve been dreaming of, writing that blog post, or asking out that friendly barista, we told ourselves that we are capable and we are worthy for just a short time. Maybe it’s not possible to believe in ourselves all of the time but pretty much anything can be believed for a short time. When we watch sci-fi or fantasy movies (most movies really), we suspend our disbelief for 90 minutes on average. Why not suspend our disbelief in ourselves for just 20 minutes at a time? Over time, getting used to what it feels like to trust ourselves, we would then have the ability to suspend our disbelief for longer and longer periods of time. Maybe even believing in ourselves more often than doubting ourselves.

Envision what a different life we’d lead if we imagined ourselves into doing things we would normally visualize ourselves too shy or unintelligent or too old or too fat to do. We would start to challenge our long held beliefs about ourselves and about our place in the world just through sheer imagination. If we can imagine or believe ourselves into NOT taking charge of our lives, into staying in our current, inhibiting patterns, routines and habits, then we can most definitely imagine ourselves into DOING what we have always wanted rather than just wishing for it. We hear over and over again that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. That trying and failing is still success versus not trying at all. But so many things still seem out of reach for many of us. We hold ourselves back. We procrastinate. We tell ourselves, even if in subtle subconscious ways, that we don’t know what we’re doing. We convince ourselves that we will always struggle with money, that we will always struggle with weight/health or with relationships or with all of the above. Yet, for many of us, there are no physical barriers holding us back, only mental ones. So if we can imagine ourselves into a life that we don’t fully love, that means we can CHOOSE to imagine ourselves into a life that we WANT to live. We can imagine ourselves taking first steps without knowing the outcome and imagine ourselves being healthy enough to cope with failures or setbacks, being able to continue on. If we believe for even just a short time that we are capable of anything then that becomes our new reality. We’ve created the life we currently live and the person living it. We can choose to create another life, another us.

“What you do in life chooses you. You can choose not to do it. You can choose to try do something safer. Your vocation chooses you.” – Jim Carrey

“[Peak experience] involves a renunciation of the notion of the perfectibility of man.  Man can be perfect – but for five minutes . . . in a peak experience. Some great moment. It’s possible. But we just can’t stay perfect. You must give up the notion of the permanent heaven. We can get into heaven – but for five minutes. Then you have to come back to the world again.” – Abraham H. Maslow

 

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Wholeness

I’ve struggled with the idea of wholeness pretty much my entire life. I’m almost certain that most of us do. It starts out as a subconscious struggle for most. It did for me. I was raised religiously and the whole foundation of religion is based on the premise that a person is not whole without something that exists outside of themselves (god) or, seemingly outside of themselves, at the very least. This is obviously due to misinterpretation of what god is and where it resides or doesn’t reside.

Being raised religiously, among other things, like being indoctrinated with the idea of romance or a soul mate, like pretty much all of Western civilization, and the wellspring of marketable insecurities taken advantage of by those willing and able to line their pockets with our tears and fears, you basically enter this world being told that you need something beyond yourself to give you worth, to justify your existence. That someone is going to swoop down and save you; god, adoptive parents, a best friend, a lover, Santa Clause, Superman, you name it. The illusion has many faces and goes by many names.

I’ve been a first time dog owner (my first dog as an adult that is all mine) all of two months. I’ve had cats for years and I’m an awesome cat mom, if I do say so myself. We definitely share a bond and a vibe. I’ve always wanted to have a dog but never felt I could because I’m gone a lot, traveling to another city for work and enjoyment (I promise this is going somewhere relevant). Once I realized I could get a small dog that enjoyed car rides and didn’t require hours of exercise each day, I decided it was okay to FINALLY adopt a dog. So I did. She’s about 6 years old, I’m told. A small Poodle breed. She was not spayed when I got her and it looks like she may have possibly been popping out puppies for someone at some point, unfortunately. I have since had her spayed, of course. I am told that her owner passed away and the family surrendered her to the shelter. I found her through a rescue. I call her Leeloo. If you know the reference, you get bonus points.

Leeloo was attacked by an off-leash dog this past Friday. Not only an off-leash dog but a homeless man’s off-leash dog. I only mention that part because part of my frustration about the situation is a total lack of accountability. Not because the owner doesn’t WANT to be accountable. He seemed like a nice guy, genuinely upset, and had possibly newly taken possession of the dog so they may not have been very familiar with each other yet.

I’ve had very few violent encounters in my life. This one was, by far, the worst. The dog latched on to Leeloo two different times, the second time latching on to her lower jaw, which she ended up losing a portion of.

As a new dog owner, I had been doing TONS of research about how to deal with a situation like this. I have lots of off leash dogs in the neighborhood where I live. In this case, I was walking in my sister’s neighborhood, which we thought, incorrectly, was safer. Despite my research and efforts, I walked away from the situation feeling completely inadequate. I’ve been replaying the scenario over and over again in my mind, trying to figure out what I could have done differently to prevent it or to lessen the impact.

After beating myself up as much as possible while still trying to be logical, I’ve come to the conclusion that not all traumatic experiences are preventable. Some are. Drinking and driving and killing someone; preventable. Have a designated driver, use a shared ride service. You get the idea.

However, in a situation like this where your options are to trust the world enough where you can walk to the park and back with your dog or to stay inside and make both your dog and yourself miserable, the thing to do is to go outside. Get fresh air, get exercise, feel good. Your dog will thank you. In the rare circumstance where something horrible does happen, like it did to Leeloo, you might start questioning your decisions, like I did.

So then it comes down to this; what did you really lose or gain in that moment? The moment itself was incredibly stressful, for sure. But what about beyond that? They say that dogs have the special talent of always living in the moment and, after that, they look to you, their pack leader, for an indication of how they should feel and what they should do; who they should fear or who they should protect you from. I have to say, after it was all over, Leeloo’s little jaw hanging from her face, she seemed to have no idea that anything was wrong. I was definitely more traumatized by the experience than she was. I am taking a lesson from her; if you live intentionally in the moment, there will be such rare instances when you wish you were somewhere or some time else.

My guilt eating away at me, of course, I couldn’t help but think about the difference it would have made if I had taken a different route, perhaps reacted a different way or fought smarter to free Leeloo from the other dog’s bite. But I kept finding myself at the same place; how could anyone predict what was going to happen, how it was going to happen and how a domesticated wild animal would have reacted to any of it? They couldn’t. And that’s finally what I’m allowing myself to believe.

So now that we’ve gotten through the blame game, what do we have left? Loss and experience. Leeloo lost part of her lower jaw and she’s in pain, which we are relieving with pain medication from the vet. I was also slightly physically injured in the scuffle, which I’m reminded of daily, but my physical pain and suffering is much less severe than Leeloo’s. More than anything, I lost any fleeting sense of security I may have once had when walking a dog. Just owning a dog feels like I have invited chaos into my life.

So what does that mean? Did security from dog attacks ever exist? Absolutely not. Instead my outdoor walks in neighborhoods where dogs reside, some off leash, increased significantly. Therefore increasing my chances of meeting an off leash dog. Not to mention the fact that I now own a dog, which makes those chances even greater since dogs are generally dog aggressive rather than people aggressive. So this was not a sign to tell me what a shitty dog parent I am. This was simply a numbers game stacked against me. Leeloo and I were just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong dog.

As far as experience, for my entire life I’ve been holding onto this notion that I’m preserving something. Almost like preserving youth or innocence. Part of my guilt over Leeloo was feeling that I should have better protected her. That I could have done more and she would have lost less. She’s back home with me now. She’s on medication so she stumbles around a bit but she’s eating food, drinking water and doing dog things just fine. She needs a bit of help right now but she doesn’t seem to have lost anything. And, if dogs truly live in the moment, like dog experts say they do, then she has no cause for alarm. Her world is exactly as it was and will be even more so in a week or two when she is completely healed up and doesn’t have to take any more medication, which she hates.

The situation has gotten me thinking; are we really anything without our experiences? If we can straight up live in the moment like dogs do then more power to us; we will rarely suffer. But, most people I know can’t or won’t live in the moment, at least not for every moment of their lives. So their next best option is to strive for understanding. Understanding that we are not here to protect anything. We are not here to make anything whole or to be made whole. We are already whole. Any perceived loss we experience only enlightens us to who we are at our core, what we truly have faith in and what we’re capable of. No one ever found out just how capable of surviving they were without at least feeling heat from the flames. Or without fighting off the aggressive dog. A moment of intense loss or pain tells us more about ourselves than any happy, carefree or even peaceful moment ever could.

Edit Sunday 11/26/2017:

I’ve had several people approach me about assisting with Leeloo’s vet bill. I’ve decided to set up a Go Fund Me Campaign. If you would like to donate or share, the link is https://www.gofundme.com/help-vet-bill-leeloo Any and all help is very much appreciated.

I’m a terrible vegan

I’ve been following a plant-based – alright alright – VEGAN, diet for approximately 6 weeks now. There’s, understandably, quite a bit of a learning curve and I find myself focusing primarily on what and what not to eat. There are a number of reasons to switch to a vegan diet and so many of those reasons come from personal convictions about our place in the world and how we choose to coexist with other living beings, both human and those of other species, i.e. global warming, animal rights, the very basic right to life, etc.

For myself, the most compelling reason involves living in such a way that allows me to live as in tune with my true self as possible. That’s where peace and freedom exist, therefore, that’s where I want to exist as often as I can.

Today, I purchased a new pair of sandals and then wore them around the rest of the day while running errands. While I was waiting in line at one point, it dawned on me that the top part of my sandal might actually be leather. In disbelief at my, possibly, obvious oversight, I pulled out my amazingly small computer (a.k.a. my phone) and started doing some research. To my utter disappointment, my suspicion was confirmed; the belly of an unfortunate animal was unnecessarily used in the making of my sandal strap. A synthetic material would have been just as strong, just as comfortable, just as reliable and without the pain and suffering of another. And this after going out of my way to find a coffee shop that offered a mocha that didn’t contain dairy. Words of defeat escaped my mouth, “I’m a terrible vegan.”

I then started thinking back on other purchases I had made throughout the day. What else had I totally blown it on? I had picked up my first guitar not long before. It seemed safe enough but, after further inspection, I discovered an inlay of abalone – another blow to life and my conscience.

I am a terrible vegan.

I am an imperfect person. . . as we all are.

Like probably almost everyone else on the planet, except maybe the sociopaths, I’ve spent much of my life believing that perfection does exist . . . just not for me. It existed for others who were smarter, more talented, more in tune with existence (and themselves) and better looking than I am. Everyone else seemed to have their shit together but me.

I’ve finally, and with much relief, come to the realization that EVERYONE believes they lack where others thrive but, in reality, none of us have it exactly right and none of us ever will and that’s perfectly alright. You might even say, perfectly imperfect (cheesy but true!).

So, yes, I’m an imperfect person for always and a terrible vegan for right now but part of growing as a person is making mistakes and learning from them. These things stick with you and help you make better decisions going forward. Just because I messed up today, doesn’t mean I’ll keep messing up in the same way for the rest of my life. I will continue to screw things up, there’s no doubt about that, but I will not let a mistake define me. I’ve done that for far too much of my life.

Maybe you look back on your life and wonder how it could have turned out differently. Maybe there are regrets that you live with every day; you dated/married the wrong person, you cheated on your spouse, you didn’t go to college when others did, you didn’t try for the job because you thought you weren’t qualified. Maybe you had children too young or not at all even though having children was something you always imagined for yourself. Maybe you’ve let your health go and are struggling to regain it. Whatever it may be, every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around. So, seize the day, as they say! Grow from mistakes and experiences but don’t let them define you. The only moment that exists is the one you’re in right now. Choose to forgive yourself and start fresh. Choose to embrace the reality of imperfection rather than be held captive by the debilitating  notion that perfection exists for others but not for yourself. We are all the other to someone. Choose to live in the present moment rather than one that can not be reclaimed or edited. Choose love for yourself. Choose life.