Lifestyle Choices: Changing Your Life: Part Two
I wrote an article about a month ago titled, “Lifestyle Choices: Saying Good bye To A Life That Wasn’t Working.” It was a summary of steps I had taken to change my life for the better, steps that were necessary if I was to enjoy life the way I had always wanted to enjoy it.
To my surprise it became my hottest article, consistently staying near or at the top of the hot and best lists for weeks now. I say it surprised me simply because I did not suspect that there were that many people out there who could relate to my struggles and subsequent solutions and judging from their comments they wished they could take similar steps to change their lives.
I have debated for weeks now whether to do a follow-up to that article or just let it stand alone. Finally, as is usually the case, I listened to Bev (the love of my life) and considered her counsel and eventually decided to take one more look at the topic of lifestyle change.
SETTING THE STAGE
For those of you who did not read the previous article allow me to quickly set the stage for you. At the age of sixty-three I quit my full-time job as a teacher and began the life of a freelance writer. I had no experience in that field and eighteen years of experience as a teacher. The decision, I guess, was a lifetime in the making. I had reached a point in my life where working full-time chasing the almighty dollar no longer interested me.
I had no back-up plan. I was giving up a guaranteed income with full benefits for an iffy proposition at best but I knew it was necessary if I was to find peace within myself. I had worked for forty-five years at a variety of jobs, always looking for better pay, a bigger house and more possessions and none of those had given me happiness. It was an endless cycle that needed to stop for my well-being.
As a recovering alcoholic I knew something had to be done for my hard-earned serenity to continue and so I acted.
CHANGE IS AN INSIDE JOB
You can list the obstacles to change until you are blue in the face but the bottom line is change has to begin within yourself. It begins with a visualization of what change you desire and from there a mental list of what needs to be done in order for that change to occur. A change of the magnitude that I brought about is not easy; in fact, it is damn frightening, but so too was the thought of continuing a lifestyle that was not bringing me happiness.
All too often I have heard in AA meetings those who constantly relapse say that if we had their problems we would relapse too and of course that is just so much hogwash. I have no patience with whiners nor do I have patience with someone who uses their problems as a convenient excuse for not changing. Our favorite response to those who use that excuse is that they can find sympathy between shit and syphilis in the dictionary. I have no sympathy for someone who refuses to change when they are unhappy. I have empathy for them certainly but sympathy I save for the hundreds of thousands in Africa being slaughtered in the name of ethnic cleansing.
WHAT CHANGE DO YOU SEEK?
What is making you unhappy? A bad marriage? A terrible job? Buried in dept with seemingly no way out? Perhaps you have incredibly low self-esteem or you are a victim of abuse. Whatever the case may be I know for a fact that there is no solution in hiding your head in the sand and hoping things will magically change for the better. I know for a fact that change will not happen if you are not willing to try to affect change.
A dear friend and mentor was fond of saying that if you are going through hell don’t stop to smell the roses and enjoy the scenery. I would add that you might like to plant some daisies because those roses are never going to make you happy and perhaps a change of scenery is in order.
I am sure there will be some who will write and tell me that paraplegics have very few options when it comes to changing their status in life nor do others with crippling diseases or other circumstances they have no control over. I understand that, I truly do, but I would also add that even those who are so afflicted can choose to be happy or miserable. It really is an inside job.
I have two people in my life right now who suffer from hideous diseases and I have never met two more positive people in my entire life. I am humbled in their presence and I am honored that they call me friend. Because of the nature of their physical ailments they have every excuse imaginable to be miserable and hate their lives and yet they have chosen to change that which they can change, namely their attitude and outlook.
SELF-PITY IS CRIPPLING
There may be no more crippling disease than that of self-pity. Wallow around in it long enough and you will actually begin to feel comfortable within its loving embrace. I know because I did at one time. For an alcoholic the refrain goes something like this: “Poor me….Poor me….Pour me another drink!”
I am reminded of an accounting course I had in college; one day the professor was talking about the importance of correct entries in accounting and he had an acronym that described the result of incorrect entries; the acronym was GIGO and it stood for “garbage in garbage out.” This can correctly be applied to those who prefer the safety of self-pity. If all you feed your mind is negative thoughts then that is all you will produce in your words and thoughts.
Change requires a desire to change. Without desire the change, if achieved, will be short-lived.
BUT WHAT ABOUT….?
Yes, I know, there are people in the world who simply cannot change their lives. They exist in such an oppressive situation that it is literally impossible for change to occur. I concede that fact for sure, but this article is not about those poor souls who have no choice. This article is about the hundreds of thousands who go about their days miserable, unsatisfied and unhappy with their status in life and yet will not do a thing to bring about change. For those people I simply say best of luck and I truly wish you well in the future, for if they are not willing to embrace change then nothing I can say will make a difference.
SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE
For most of my life I have felt like I was battling a rip tide, that no matter how hard I stroked I continually lost ground in my quest for happiness. With a rip tide the only way for survival is to quit fighting, allow the tide to take you out and then swim parallel to shore until you are out of the strong pull. So it was with me. Once I quit struggling against a force that I was powerless to defeat and just allowed my life to simplify I finally found the safety that is inherent in happiness.
It is not my job to make other people happy. It is not my job to make other people change. I can only talk of my own experiences, make suggestions based on those experiences and move on with my life. If you are truly unhappy then it is my experience that change must happen. Life is just too damn short to live it in a state of unhappiness.
I wish you all happiness. I wish you all peace. I wish you all love.
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)