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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where you Live is Not the Question--How you Live is the Question

Dear ms. Curtiss,

I've written to you several times. I just can't make up my mind about moving from New York. Whenever I think about it, I get really scared and can't remember why I would move. But when I'm in New York, and feeling low and doing everything I can to stay above water, I think that I must go. Basically, I just want to settle down and feel like it's been so hard meeting people here. I mean truly the reason I would move is because I'm afraid I will never meet someone in New York.

But if things are good and I'm hanging with family, I don't want to go. I'm terrified and I think, why would I move and undergo all the stress of being far away from them? I went through interviews in January in the new city, and had a nervous breakdown. I've been good and off the medication I was on but I recently reapplied to jobs down there and the freaking out is beginning again. I don't know what to do. Do you have any advice for this? T

Dear T,

It probably does not matter where you live as that is not what will make you happy. Ever heard the old saying "Bloom where you're planted?" You are freaking out and blaming it on the city where you live. The city has nothing to do with your freaking out. You are freaking out because you are not handling your day to day life very well. You are not handling your day to day life because you distract yourself from what you should be doing by thinking you should be doing it somewhere else so you never get a chance to stablilize yourself in a sane routine.

We don't live our lives by year by year. We live them second by second. You are overwhelmed with handling the rest of your life because it seems too big and impossible. It freaks us out to think we have to do the big impossible thing like plan the rest of our lives. Nobody can do that. We never have to do the big impossible thing. We only need to do the small possible thing that confronts us second by second.

When we think of our lives as being surrounded by brick walls, we freeze and refuse to move forward. We can blame our not moving forward on anything--I'm in the wrong city, I'm too fat, I'm black and discriminated against, I'm white and everybody else gets a affirmative action. So we have to think of ourselves as surrounded by brick walls that somehow we will get over, or through, or around or under because it is inevitable that things will somehow work out.

We have to think, "I may not know how to get beyond this brick wall but I am moving forward and somehow the way will open up for me. I refuse to think of this brick wall as impassible, I insist on thinking my moving forward will have a good outcome. All my energy is in expecting, somehow, in some way I don't yet see, a good outcome for me." When I do this, sometimes I imagine a bud blooming into a flower,  petals opening, exulting in my own second by second birth in becoming my own good outcome.

Any positive thought, imaginary or not, is better than a negative thought that I am stuck. Sometimes I imagine I am a race car moving forward and brick walls come out of nowhere but I roll forward and magically a path opens up before me and I reach the finish line first. Magical thinking is always better than negative thinking. With negative thinking you only get negative results. With magical thinking you get magical results.

Second by second. We approach the tasks of our daily life, second by second. We are happy second by second, not year by year.

Sometimes some of us are beset by bullies and we feel we can't move forward. We freeze in front of the bullies. For some of us those bullies are real and we have to learn to stand up to them. But for others of us those bullies are symbolic and beset us in the form of tasks which we are confronted with but freeze instead of getting to work with a good will. Nothing is irrevocable. We make decisions. Some of them work out and some don’t. There is always a path ahead, choices to be made, adjustments to be made. Some decisions are big ones and when we make them, we should honor them and not keep second-guessing ourselves. Again, bloom where we have planted ourselves instead of rudely picking up our roots and dragging them all over the place to find just the right spot. No wonder we freak out.

The Founding Fathers founded a new nation starting with the phrase, "In the firm reliance on Divine providence we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. I often use that beginning phrase when I attempt something new "With firm reliance on Divine providence....and then I don't worry about how it will be accomplished just THAT I expect a good outcome and I move forward to get to work on the latest task or event immediately before me.

Life is a living practice, not a flower arrangement.

A. B.Curtiss

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi dr curtiss! Amazing response you have given this person. It seems god made me look at this post today, because similar to this person I too am faced with a situation where my anxiety etc is wishing that me n hubby and kids can move to another town where I have all my family, but my hubby doesn't want to move...its really tough but as you say, where we are is where we need to bloom and make it happen...easier said then done, however worth thinking about and trying....