Sunday, February 13, 2022

Choosing Love Over Fear

It's amazing how sometimes, the messages we need in life simply show up, and in unexpected places at that.  This morning, I was reading Invested by Danielle Town (and Phil Town) when something she said reached its fingers into my soul, offering me something between a good shake and a gentle reminder of that which I needed to hear.  In this section of the text, the author is reflecting on the year she spent with her father learning how to properly invest her money, and the unexpected journey she found herself on in the process.  As she reflected, she especially noted the fear that had been holding her back for so long.  She was afraid of investing, afraid of not investing, afraid of staying in a job that was robbing her of her life joy and health, afraid of leaving it...  Her fear left her paralyzed, a topic we've discussed here in the past.  She described her relationship with fear saying that it was "a fear that I massaged and kneaded when it did not serve me."  Again, fear is a topic that comes up here often, as it is a continuous obstacle in our finances and our lives. However, there was something in her metaphor that resonated with me.  In comparing her relationship with fear to that of a person lovingly making bread, she highlights the manner in which we tenderly care for and caress our fears.  By kneading and massaging our fear, we lovingly help it expand and grow... and if we care to follow the metaphor through a bit further, we consume the finished product, ingesting and taking more fear into our experience.  

Law of Attraction author, Gabrielle Bernstein classifies the nature of fear as the ultimate separation from love, going on to clarify that love is the very nature of who we are as people.  Each and every one of us is pure positive energy, and fear essentially cuts us off from the very essence of who we are.  In fact, most negative emotions can be distilled down to fear at their very core, most of which do not serve our higher purpose.  Moreover, when we take care to nurture our fear, we are choosing apart from ourselves and driving a wedge between ourselves and our higher purpose.

In a practical sense, when we experience fear it frequently bears a relationship to the unknown. Our egoic minds are in a constant battle with the sole mission to protect us from danger, and the unknown represents the ultimate danger.  So, we avoid it.  In avoiding the unknown, we also avoid aligning to our highest purpose and greatest joy.

When I think back to the most fearless time of my life, I realize that it also brought me the greatest joy.  I was fully aligned with the whole of who I am, more so than any other point in my life.  I was in my late twenties and living in Brooklyn, NY, working three part-time jobs, and pursuing acting.  Three of my friends were getting married and I would be in their weddings.  This would require me to travel quite a bit for the duration of an entire summer.  This adventure would also take me away from most traditional summer acting opportunities.  So, what did I decide to do?  Produce some theatre of my own...and while I was at it, maybe I should just file for a nonprofit with the IRS?  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I fearlessly forged forward.  I was, fortunately, able to "push pause" on all three of my jobs rather than actually quit any of them, but the fact remained that I was about to take a wild leap.  I had some west-coast friends scout us a venue to produce some theatre (I was going to be in Portland, OR), and we booked it. I bought a one-way airline ticket, sublet my room in Brooklyn, and prepared to leave.  A dear friend of mine called me a week before my departure to check in on me.  She asked, "So, where are you going to stay?"  I told her that I didn't really know yet, and the truth is that I wasn't trying very hard to figure that out either (but I didn't say that part, it would have really stressed her out).  She followed up by asking me if I had secured any temporary employment there. Again, the answer was a resounding "No."  Again, if I'm really honest, I hadn't really been trying all that hard to do so.  I had put a few feelers out there among people I knew, but no real looking.  Quite frankly, my friend was terrified for me, but you want to know what's interesting?  I wasn't.  I had no fear whatsoever.  Subsequently, I also had no resistance.  I have to say, I think that was the key.  Since I had no resistance, I wasn't doing anything to block the flow of abundance into my experience.  I was completely open-minded about where I would stay, how I would earn money, and I had absolute faith that everything would align for me...and it did.  Several friends generously gave me keys to their homes and access to their spare rooms.  A couple other friends provided me with employment opportunities.  One friend was managing a retail gift shop and needed an additional key staff member.  Knowing I was trustworthy, she asked me to step in part-time.  Another friend, a brilliant computer programmer, and musician had so much contract work that he barely had time to tend to his personal needs.  He had plenty of money but was lacking in time to get simple household and personal things taken care of. So, he asked me to spend a certain amount of time each week helping him with things like grocery shopping, cooking, filing, bill pay, dog walking, etc.  Now clearly, these two employment opportunities weren't lifelong career moves, nor were the housing opportunities long-term; however, the point is that these things all aligned perfectly because I was completely open to them and chose not to allow fear to be a part of the picture.  In fact, I spent the better part of two years floating between Brooklyn and Portland; some of the best years of my life thus far.  In the process, I gained everything from the experience of being radically open and having faith over fear.

As I pan back, I glance around me and ask myself "How fear is creeping in and robbing us of the experience of becoming truly aligned to our highest selves?"  In a larger sense, fear is what keeps us from pursuing our greatest joy and highest calling.  We hesitate; we simply do not trust ourselves enough to dive in and go for it.  We see this play out in our lives in a broader sense but the telltale signs are also represented in our finances.  We're too afraid to quit our day job when we know it isn't right for us.  We bobble between fear and shame, so we don't bother opening that credit card statement, collections bill, or past due notice.  We desperately want financial freedom but are terrified of what we don't know. We don't understand the market; we fear that it will crash.  So, we keep all of our money in a mayonnaise jar buried in the backyard rather than educating ourselves on how to properly invest our money.  We've always wanted to get into real estate, but are so scared of every "what if" imaginable that we never make it past the Zillow listing.  But what if we could just choose love instead?  What if we decided to love ourselves so much that we refused to entertain fear; that we told the egoic mind to let go because we've got this?!  What if we loved ourselves so much that we couldn't bear to live a life that wasn't authentically aligned with who we really are?  I suppose my question to you is this: How could you choose to love yourself so much that all of your life decisions originated from that place of love and not actually succeed?  When operating from a place of that much self-love, fear doesn't have enough oxygen to grow, to sprout, to take root.  Succeeding is the only option, and where succeeding is the only option, fear becomes arbitrary.  Surely from this place, the actions that come to us will be inspired actions, and inspired actions will serve to march us along to the path of our highest calling.

As I sit here and remember back to my courageous, happy, aligned, 20-something-year-old self, I can see her leaning gently forward, and with wisdom not earned by her years, she whispers "So, what are you going to do?" Now I ask the same of you.  What are you going to do?

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    Thursday, February 3, 2022

    Running on Empty

    Taking a trip down memory lane, my mind landed on a rather inconvenient, but memorable occasion.  I was in a vehicle that was in the middle of a bridge not moving because it had run out of gas.  There really is nothing quite like having people passing you in the middle of a bridge while you sit there feeling a combination of embarrassed and angry at yourself, the universe, and potentially every gas station in America for good measure.  I remember at the time, I had this strange little insurance benefit attached to my cell phone plan...  for something ridiculous like $3 a month, I was protected against things like locking the keys in the car or running out of gas.  Honestly, it came in handy because admittedly both of those services got used more than once.  I remember sitting there, doing my best to audibly state every four-letter word in my vocabulary while waiting for whomever it was Verizon was sending to bail me out of my situation...  I swear every motorist that went by took the opportunity to stare, nearly causing accidents from rubber-necking, and with each passing car, I became increasingly more embarrassed.  Looking back, I can't help but laugh.  Why was I so concerned about the judgment of strangers?  I mean, I didn't have any clue who those people were, nor did they know me!  Regardless, I was completely caught up in my own misery at the time and absolutely failed to pan back and allow myself a true perspective on the situation. 

    Let's consider why I was so upset.  Was it inconvenient that I was sitting there in the middle of a bridge waiting for someone to bring me some precious gasoline?  Absolutely!  But was I really angry because I was inconvenienced or was it something else?    Perhaps I was angry because I had absolutely failed to read the critical signs that I was quickly running out of the fuel necessary to continue forward. Perhaps I was angry because I had failed to take care of my own needs or prioritize running on a full tank.  Perhaps I had allowed myself to become too accustomed to running on empty for too many years.  Perhaps I had learned to take comfort in my own discomfort, and perhaps I was finally fed up with it.  

    How many of us are running through life at break-neck speed ignoring the signs of impending shut-down, just trying to make it a little further down the road?  How many of us have allowed ourselves simply look past the fact that our physical, mental, spiritual, and energetic tanks are on empty?  It's funny, at the beginning of each year, we set ourselves goals for our money, our bodies, and our businesses.  Some set goals that relate to academics or our careers.  Occasionally we even sneak one in for fun like how many books to read this year.  All of this goal setting is really another way of prioritizing certain areas of our lives and setting a time frame through which to do so while producing certain outcomes.  If I'm really honest with you, I'm kind of into it.  I mean, I'm a Capricorn.  I almost can't help myself.  But what about prioritizing ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically?  Why aren't we prioritizing ourselves in that way?  Is it that we simply haven't thought about it or does it go deeper?  Do we feel guilty prioritizing ourselves because we don't think we deserve to allot the precious currencies of time or money to our own wellbeing?

    It is only from our overflow that we can truly give to others...  If our tank runs out of gas, we cannot reach our destination whether that destination is one of our goals, being there for our kids, partners, family, friends, or colleagues.  First off, we owe it to ourselves to feel good in all areas of our being.  Moreover, we owe it to the people we love most to take care of all aspects of ourselves.  Otherwise, we are no good to them.  What does this mean in practical application?  You know that lifestyle section of your 50/30/20 Budget?  This is the perfect space to build yourself into your priority list!  The flexible spending (or lifestyle) section of your budget represents 30% of your overall budget.  Surely, you can find the space to address your own needs within this category!

    I recently have chosen to do this.  I recognize that I am working so hard and racing toward goals, but that I need to take care of certain areas of my own being in the process.  Some of the ways in which I am doing so is to budget for some reiki sessions, a therapist, and some me-time on an upcoming break.  What does it look like for you?  Do you need to get that massage? Go on that retreat? I would really like to challenge you to look at your budget and ask yourself a hard question:  Where am I in this budget?  Have I left any room for me?  If the answer is yes, is it enough?  If the answer is no, where can you build it in and what does that look like?  I promise you, you won't regret it.

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