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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stop Playing the "Game" of Family

Dear AB,

It’s all about money, isn’t it? As I shared before, your insights in the note you wrote recently really lifted my spirits and helped me get perspective. I'd like to tell you about the content of the troubling conversation.  This is LONG...If you don't have time to read...I understand.

I went over to the neighborhood where both my sisters live to see two open houses in their vicinity.  I wasn't sure why I was looking.  Guess I'm very curious about real estate and home values and what's "out there."  Maybe I just thought it would be fun. So the three "girls" & their husbands all went together.  It was a fun day.  Everyone seemed to enjoy looking around & discussing the features of the houses.

Later, at sister #1's house, I was asked by sister #2 why I was looking at houses in their city. I told her I didn't know, really.  Said I did like the character & charm the  houses in their area have. I previously owned an old house. Then again, I added, before I would seriously make a move, I'd have to carefully look at the numbers with the decline in value of my house,

Since the economic downturn, I've lost equity in my current house.  I told her that by the time I paid my agent’s commission & paid the bank what I owed it, I could pay cash for the cheaper of the two houses we looked at.  But, I added, that would be like trading a $426,000 house for a $249,000 house.  Well...that's when she went nuts.  She screamed, "You DO NOT have a $426,000 house! You paid $426,000 for it, but you knew you paid too much for it when you bought it."  "Yes," I agreed, "true, it is not worth that now, you are right."  "A house is worth what ever someone will pay for it," she sternly added.   

It went round & round like this.  I shouldn't have shared my details, I realize that now. Lesson learned! I just assumed that merely stating that I needed to be responsible and prudent and that I wanted to pay off my bills would be met with a nod of the head.    Instead, when I said I was just trying to be responsible, I was told  "No, you're not ...you need to loosen up."

When we do home improvements we don't go get a "home equity loan."  If we can't pay cash, we don't do the project.  We don't have credit card debt.  Both our cars are paid for.  I try my best not to use other people's money!

I thought family always wanted the best for its members.  I'm the youngest.  Thought they'd be proud of me for not wildly spending, for beig prudent. 

 I do think my sisters would like me better if I were more like my niece,  who is wasteful and spends whatever she has. They seem to think she can do no wrong!  G.

Dear G,

It's not all about money. It's all about love. The point is not to get your sisters to like you. The point is to for you to get to the place where you can love them, regardless of their obvious flaws (we all have them.) Love isn't a game. Family relationships are a game if you are in survival mode all the time by having to be the winner (being uptight)--the game is usually about being one up or one down--much competition going on. So what?

See if you can't transcend the "game of family" and see family for what it really is, a sacred bond that we are lucky to have. Annoying yes, foolish yes, antagonizing yes. So what? If you don't try to be the winner, maybe they won't be so competitive in having to put you down.

Read the Paradoxical Commandments on my website.

We have to grow up sometime. I  know sometimes you want to be able to let your hair down and brag, and complain, and find someone who cares about what you are feeling or suffering at the moment. You have to seek this out usually in a best friend of some kind. Your sisters can't be this for you because they are stuck in playing the "game." You are not going to unstick them by beating them at the game.

Love is the only thing that works and if that is all you end up with, love for others, it's not a bad place. Remember, love is not something we get or give, it's something we ARE. A. B. Curtiss


Friday, February 24, 2012

Nobody Likes to Feel "Put Down"

Dear AB,

Ever since you introduced the love/fear issue years ago, I have tried to get to know how my motivations pivot around these two forces. As you have said often, it is not easy to discern.  Sometimes I wonder if I ever get it right.

Last week I spent a day w/ my two older sisters that ended on an unpleasant note.  I felt insulted,
demeaned and was spoken to harshly by one of them.   She seemed exasperated, annoyed, condescending, as if she were talking to a child who couldn't understand 1+1=2. My other sister & my niece jumped in now & then, agreeing with my other sister.

In the final analysis, her "argument" had truth to it.  The way it was presented  put me on the defensive though.  Instead of saying, "Yes, it's both and..." I dug in my heels and emphasized my side of the story. Both of us presented truth, however.

The only clarity, for me, lies in each moment. Am I now proceeding out of love of something, or out of fear...

In the moment, however, I got lost.  I felt like my head was spinning.  Surely my blood pressure went up.  I felt attacked. The atmosphere felt unkind. I didn't see this coming, especially since the issue at hand, the very thing I felt criticized about, was a point of intense pride for me.
I couldn't believe that anyone, particularly a relative, could actually be so negative regarding my approach. Someone might say, "It's great that you do that, but don't forget this..."  Instead, I was bombarded in essence, with, "You should be doing this.  You need to think like this. The way you are approaching the matter is missing the whole point."

It has taken days for me to let go of this.  I still haven't, really. The first two days I felt aches & pains in my body, & was very, very sad.  It seemed to lift on Wednesday, then Thursday, the first thing I thought of upon waking was the "incident."  All day I dragged on. 

This morning I read your letter to Z, and realized that I must be entrenched in a lot of fear--fear of losing love, respect, good standing in my family. Also:  fear of notbeing able to stand on my own two feet;  fear of being "bamboozled." I didn't see this "attack" coming, & it has bothered (frightened) me that I lost my ability to thinkclearly  & to speak well on my behalf. I didn't lose my temper or cry, but I also didn't present my thoughts very well. I wasn't capable of holding my own.  I was steam-rolled.

How do we stay present in such charged moments?  How do we find the ability to act, instead of react?

The day had gone so well, then boom!  I felt so surprised.  Perhaps it is smarter to
expect that this sort of thing can always unfold.


Dear G,

It happens to all of us to one extent or another all the time. The "other" often comes from fear and anger. Even when it isn't directed at us, it isn't very pleasant.

What can we do? 

We do what we can to keep upright and bobbing along when people knock us over. Sometimes we have a good comeback but even then, we just win. Our small triumph of the moment doesn't necessarily draw us any closer which is what we all really want.

I had a conversation with a good friend the other day about unions. She said some of her friends were protesting the fact that people wanted to privatize the Post Office and she thought it was terrible when the people who worked for the Post Office had good pay, good benefits and good pensions as a government agency.

"But," I ventured, "the Post Office is losing money."

"Oh," she waved her hand dismissively, "I'm not going to talk about politics." 

I felt momentarily the annoyance of being "put down." I remained silent, listening to her finish. Later I thought of a few comebacks like "So you only want a monologue, not a dialogue." or "I'm not talking politics, I'm talking economics." It seemed so ridiculous to me to demand that the Post Office remain open for the benefit of the workers when the agency was losing money and the money to pay the workers and all their benefits was going to have to come from the taxpayers and thus be borrowed from China! 

People come from such different places it's a wonder we find anyplace to meet.

Maybe it helps to realize that the only thing we have to share with each other is our stories. So, in a way, Life is just listening to one another. And, of course, it hurts when people don't want to hear "our" story, they just want to tell their own. An old saying comes to mind, "Every dog has his day." And obviously that was not your day, nor mine.  A. B. Curtiss

Thank you, AB. 

Your reply makes so much sense, and I feel much better after reading it.

Thanks for sharing your "post office" story.  I hear you! 

Maybe it helps to realize that the only thing we have to share with each other is our stories. So, in a way, Life is just listening to one another. And, of course, it hurts when people don't want to hear "our" story, they just want to tell their own. 

Beautifully said, AB!  You say so much in so few words. 



Thanks, G, and one more thing. Go to my depression website click on Truly Inspiring and read the Paradoxical Commandments and the Desiderata again. We need to keep reminding ourselves about our essential  human condition. A. B

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Loved Your Book Children of the Gods

Hi AB,

I just wanted you to know that I finished reading your book Children of the Gods and loved it.  I was enchanted by the rich poetic rhythms, its wisdom and knowledge.  I went to amazon.com to write a review and for the first time in my life I was unable to do so. I lost the review 3 TIMES!  It just vanished from the screen and I had no way to bring it back. 

It was discouraging as it had been quite lyrical and heartfelt, but there was no way for me to remember all I had written.  I felt bad for awhile, but I thought that after having it vanish 3 TIMES! I should just accept it wasn't meant to be.  I then checked in with my intentions.  I saw they were honest and honorable (I gave it 5 stars).  But then as I sent my mind out in your direction I got a feeling there was a blockage there, some vibe from you that was unconsciously preventing me from writing a good review for you. 

As we are all in charge of our own destinies, I realized that there was no way I could have lost my supportive words without your cooperation.  No blame here.  I myself was feeling some anger toward a world that ignores needed truths and the people who write about them.  And, of course, aside from you and me, there is always the possibility of a "higher force" that came into play in the sudden, unexplained disappearance of my complimentary review! 

I may try later on to recreate the review, but you can imagine, being a writer yourself, as I am, how disheartening it is to lose what you have written, especially when it was really good!  I am no stranger to self-sabotage, and perhaps I am only recognizing my own experience in you, but in any event I wanted you to know what had happened and to tell you that your poetry is quite wonderful and your book should be read aloud across the land.  Best to you,


Dear Z,

Thanks so much for your letter. Maybe it wasn't a higher force, maybe it was a lower force. As the old saying goes, if you tell the truth, you'll be kicked out of six villages. The wise man is not necessarily being kicked out because of a higher force at work. There is always a tussle between light and darkness, between love and fear, in the human world.

I know what you mean, though, about finally deciding it wasn't to be. Sometimes I, too, doubt whether or not I should continue to go forward if my efforts are met with failure so many times in a row. What is the correct answer, I ask myself? Am I supposed to quit or persevere?  The problem with this line of thinking is that there is never a clear or right answer in the way of coming to a conclusion because one cannot know Truth as an object. One can only be the truth..

Or as Joel Goldsmith so aptly put it, "You cannot arrive at Truth through the reasoning process."  The only clarity, for me, lies in each moment. Am I now proceeding out of love of something, or out of fear of something? This is not easy either, because it is not easy to figure that out. However, making the effort to figure it out, it seems to me, is being on the right path.  

 A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your DECISION is the KEY to it all.

This is a further continuation of a conversation which began on Feb 13th

Dear A. B.

Thank you so much for your response. I'm still in that tentative state right now. Trying to make that switch from being fascinated with my inability to think clearly or even make rational thought process's to a more positive forward action. I guess I can't figure out how I'm making it. I believe God has something to do with that. 
 Your words ring true to me. I believe that my focus right now is on a whole bunch of solutions that I think will work to save me from myself and my own torturous thinking. The only problem is that they are all just thoughts and ideas. I don't do anything. Even right now I am just frozen. I want to do something. Something helpful and positive but all I can think about is the bajillion things that I can't seem to remember but that I know I need to do. 
I finally sat down and remembered that I wanted to email you back. That's something positive. It's just so hard because it seems like this happens everyday. I want some consistency and hope. I do feel that that this isn't permanent but I just want to feel some peace. Is that possible? I'm going to order that book you mentioned, A whole new life. I may order that other one about the paradoxical commandments as well. Thanks for you time. -T
Dear T
The Paradoxical Commandments and the Desiderata are just one-page pieces of wisdom. You can get them both on my depression website. Click on "Truly Inspirational."

It seems to me that you have not yet made a strong permanent decision that any negative thought is pointless and that you will, from this day hence refuse to think one as soon as you realize it has popped up; and that, from now on, you will only think productive or positive thoughts or, if that is not possible at the moment, do thought-jamming mind tricks/and or physical activity until you can transition from your anxious worry, over to a productive or more positive thought, or some productive physical activity or behavior.

It is a decision that one must make proactively. Your DECISION  is the KEY to it all. 

Remember that the primal mind, the subcortex triggers on its own, it is a human instinct. But the higher mind, the neocortex must be activated, on purpose, by you, or it will not necessarily function. It MAY jump into action as a result of random neural thought patterns that work by learned association and happen to work in your favor and turn away from the direction of depessive thinking rather than in the direction of depression. Remember the fact the the brain works by learned association and the brain follows the direction of the most current dominant thought is the reason depression is cyclical and always ends at some point. Learned association means it is in the very nature of depression to end. But we can, with mind tricks, cause this learned association to work faster and have depression end sooner which we want, rather than later, which we hate. 

This is the reason for the piece of ancient wisdom that "man is not forced to function from instinct alone, as are animals, he may choose to function from reason. This is freedom of the will which animals do not possess. They can be trained but they cannot make a decision to override their instincts. But the other important part of freedom of the will is that man is not forced to function from reason either. He has the choice to choose reason or simply float around in his emotions and instincts and let random learned associations decide the train of his thought.

It does help to have faith and hope as well that there is help for you. Do some thought-jamming and then look around and just do the next thing that is in your surround. Put away a book, pick up a paper, do the dishes. Hope and faith is rooted in the reality that there is always a next thing. Existence never leaves you without some small bit of thinking or some small task you can do.

Peace does not come from anxious thinking or non-activity. Peace is the result of your moving away from anxious thinking. The smallest positive thing you do turns you 180 degrees away from the negative because you are now headed in the opposite direction. You can build on that. The cornerstone of your building is decision. The decision that Marcus Aurelius made that “I will cling to nothing else but reason alone. 

You made a temporary, specific decision to email me. That is good. But you haven't made a permanent general decision to refuse to think a negative thought. This is like the difference between refusing to drink alcohol Wednesday night as opposed to henceforth giving up alcohol  forever, period.

A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chronic Pain

Another book for anyone dealing with chronic pain. Reynolds Price A Whole New Life is based on his coming to terms with unstoppable pain due to treatments that cured his cancer of the spine but left him in constant pain that no amount of drugs could alleviate. A. B.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Feel Anxious and Disconnected from Life


I have a question for you. I know you went through your own bout with physical pain as well as using pharmaceutical drugs to ease said pain. I know you mentioned that it caused you a lot of trouble and literally threw you off to the point where you actually had to use your own relaxation exercises. I'm just curious what to do when you are in pain and have been for so many years that it is literally part of you?

Almost like an addiction. I am in pain and have been for quite some time. You wrote me once about repressed fear and how that causes a lot of tension in a person. I believe that to be part of the issue. What I am having the most difficult time with right now is actually having a functional brain ( It feels like I am losing it). As far as being able to converse with other human beings I can do that just fine ( which gives everyone the impression that I'm fine). My problem lies in the fact that I feel so drained and so disconnected that trying to move forward in any direction feels impossible. I know that thought isn't true. Well I think I know that. I'm really just reaching out because there isn't an easy answer to this. If there is then I've been overlooking it for quite some time. Does this make sense?

I'm totally capable of moving forward and I know that. I feel like life is worth living which is definitely something to be happy about so it's ironic that at this point in my life I feel like I can't go on. Or at least I feel like I can't keep on going on like this. My mind literally is moving so fast that it's hard to get just one thought out at a time. You know if I was to go to a therapist and talk with them about this they would recommend ritalin or something like a low dosage anti depressant. Well that simply isn't an answer. I know there is a better way. I'm sure of that. I was thinking of you and your work because my friend Jacob told me he had met with you recently.  I was really excited to hear that. I'm glad he was able to meet with you. Hope you have a great week. -T

Dear T

You are right that ritilin or anti-depressants are not the answer for you. How old are you? If you are approaching your 50s you might have a hormonal imbalance which could cause irritability and a feeling of disconnection. For this you must seek out a nutritionist or doctor of Chinese medicine. There may be some supplements you should be taking.

One thing to remember about a feeling of not being connected to others is that it is caused because you are not solidily grounded in a sense of okay self. In other words when you are yourself in a state of disconnect, you cannot expect to connect outwardly. Like me, you may be able to function quite well and when you are with others they feel connected to you, but that's not the same as you feeling connected and loving toward them.

And, you are right, life is not worth so much if you cannot connect in a loving way with life.  I have found that my okayness and complete connection with others and my surround is based entirely on my ability to move away from my own anxiety and fear. The addiction comes about, I think, because it is easier to be negative than positive and as long as you continue to be fascinated by the problems of your pain and anxiety (which is like a crazy kind of neon chaos blinking like a movie) you're kind of stuck like a moth to a candle flame. Why do we do it then?  It's kind of paradoxical.

The paradox is that being cognitively interested in your bad situation can take away some of the emotional pain of it because neural activity is beefing up in the neocortex and lessening in the subcortex where pain and anxiety is produced. Unfortunately it doesn't turn you in the right direction to get out of your negative situation. If you allow your thinking to take more interest in your bad situation than getting started on moving slowly toward a good solution and in step with a seemingly duller and slower cosmic harmony, you will be just kind of tentatively here. When you are just tentatively here, you can't offer or really feel a solid connection to others.

That's why I use the dumb little mind techniques like counting from 1 to 8 over and over, or saying some phrase like hippoty hop over and over to, if not turn me in the right direction, at least start to tear me away from the wrong direction long enough to make the decision to turn to the right direction. The use of mind tricks for me is already hooked, by learned association to any painful thought or feeling and when the bad feeling pops up, the mind tricks seem to start up on their own.

You can't kill anxiety and fear (which is what they try to do with drugs--kill or at the least weaken it) the structure for fear and anxiety remain in the form of neural patterns that can twang off upon any moment. But start with the mind tricks, then, by your grounding yourself in other thinking, in some kind of faith, in a sense of faith or surrender to the creator, God, the Universe, the Absolute, or higher power will allow you to relax and allow yourself to move forward "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."

Nutritionally, as my doctor of Chinese medicince put it when I told him I "was back 110%," when the cells get what they need, the body works perfectly.

Emotionally speaking, when the fear arises you can "offer it up" to the cosmos, kind of like a "let go and let God" kind of thing. But a wise man once said, the act of surrender is not a matter of to whom you surrender, just THAT you surrender. Because when you surrender, "even to a tree" what are you doing? You are refusing to remain unconnected from the cosmos, from ultimate reality,and are throwing your yourself back into "the whole" from where you separated yourself by your fascination of the hopelessness and faithlessness of your negative situation. 

For people struggling with extreme anxiety where the nerves are over-stimulated as in PTSD I suggest reading Claire Weekes book Hope and Health for Your Nerves. For some idea of what power the mind has, both negatively and positively, over the human situation, I recommend Jose Silva's book Silva Mind Control, Emil Coue's Auto-Suggestion (hypnosis) and Abraham A. Low's book Mental Health Through Will-Training.

And always seek to reconnect rather than disconnect from the world. Look for human connection everywhere. The clerk at the grocery store may have a good word for you, a stranger on the bus, the waiter at dinner. All these "good words" are loving human connections and you should seek them out no matter how humble they may be. These are the breadcrumbs by which we turn in the direction to find our way home.

Read the Paradoxical Commandments by Keith Kent, or is it Kent Keith I never can remember and the Desiderata. They're on my depression website under Truly Inspiring. No matter how much we may feel alone, we are never alone. A. B. Curtiss

Monday, February 6, 2012

I've Been Off Zoloft for a few Weeks

Dear Mrs. Curtiss,

I am thrilled to have stumbled upon your book, Depression is a Choice, after having taken Zoloft for postpartum blues and later dsythmia/PMDD.  My doctor agreed to wean me off Zoloft but the withdrawal is horrendous -headaches, nightmares, lethargy to name a few.  Do you think Directed Thinking will work in countering drug discontinuation primal brain feelings in the same way it does with mania and depression?

Thank you for your time.


Dear M,

It will help somewhat. The nightmares can definitely be alleviated by thought-jamming them (and the downer thoughts that they initiate) by nonsense rhymes or some mantra. The one I use lately is an old high school cheer (one,two,three, four who are we for? Back in the day then you would supply the name of your high school)). This works great for me when I wake in the middle of the night with nightmares or depression. I go right back to sleep.

Headaches too can be lessened by distracting yourself with some mantra. Lethargy may be a sympton that your body is missing some nutrients. With Directed Thinking, your behavior will be under your control and allow you to lead a normal life. With headaches you can also visualize constricting the blood vessels in the brain and relaxing your body, letting it go limp. However, if the drugs have depleted some of the amino acids that you need for the brain to make serotonin or if the drugs have your hormones off kilter you may be experiencing some pain of anxiety and this can't be cured by an act of will.

If your nerves are strung out because the drugs have depleted some of your body's nutrients, you may need some nutritional supplements. I suggest a doctor of Chinese Medicine or a good nutritionist to assess your body's needs. If you're in the San Diego area I can suggest Bret Mosher Health Clinic tel 858-679 2995.

I had a terrible time when I took oxycodene for 3 weeks for a back injury this year. It fried my brain. And it took me 6 months to get over the non-stop anxiety. The mind tricks helped for sleep and hypnosis helped a lot during that awful time. And if I hadn't had all the tools of Directed Thinking and Brainswitching I think I might have just caved in. However I'm back to normal and now take about 11 different supplements. Since I am 77 years old, some of my organs no longer produce with the same degree of efficiency so I will be on supplements from now on. Just remember this, a negative thought is never a good option. The minute you notice you are negative, either go positive or do some mind trick. And as quickly as possible get into some more productive thinking, work, reading, entertainment, social activity, exercise. You can't just go with the flow on this, you have to be really pro-active. And reach out to others, you need the love. A. B. Curtiss


I have scores of questions as I continue to struggle with headaches, lethargy, irritability, and the wilting will to forge ahead without drugs. I do have a support group of women who cheer me on as we walk an hour a day. I also try to laugh as much as possible to combat random bouts of tears. It's only been a few weeks without Zoloft (after years on the drug), so I know I should be patient, but its very hard. M

Dear M

You also might want to read Brainswitch out of Depression, my sequel to Depression is a Choice. It's full of mind exercises and gives a better idea of how the brain works. I also suggest reading Claire Weekes book Hope and Health for Your Nerves. You need the belief that you will get better. A. B.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More on Roles and Goals

Dear AB,

Your last blog essay really spoke to me. I enjoyed the quote from Moby Dick very much, and read it over and over.  The English is beautiful, and difficult, (not modern) but I think I draw the meaning. What I hear  is, "Who we are is whatever is in front of us at the moment.  Why shift our attention and effort to what is elsewhere, imagining that other paths and prizes are more satisfying? What we are confronted by, presented with, comprises the life we are meant to live, in spite of our protestations to the contrary." 

I understand what you mean about avoiding identification with a role, but I'm not sure that identification with a goal is so much better.  Would you clarify?  Maybe I am not defining "goal" broadly enough.  I am thinking that orienting ourselves with goals can still easily get us hung up on the success/failure duality.

Is it possible to  not identify with anything, to simply move forward moment to moment embracing whatever is?  Yes, we need to set appointments, tackle assignments, complete our work,  meet deadlines, & I suppose those objectives could be lumped under the heading "goals."  However things turn out though; and whatever unexpected turn things take, even if a "goal" is not reached, we are to be open to the lesson, the teacher, that is imbedded in the twist of fate brings peace within. Ishmael thought perhaps, that only such openness would bring true contentment.  Thoreau said, "Success is when you feel contented with only a sense of existence."  That  would be a pretty tall order for most modern-day folk. Still, I hear the wisdom in the notion that our "being" should trump our "doing" as we reflect on what gives our lives meaning.

...we are evolving beings who must continue to risk ourselves and fail in order to learn.

So, if we  refrain from judging the painful moments, the fearful moments,  we might learn something? If we lean in and listen, instead of labeling, escaping or disassociating, we might make friends with our fear and our pain?

Thanks for the wonderful essay, AB. 

Dear G
After I received you email I wrote another paragraph that I added to the essay.

"Mostly what we want in life has more to do with roles than goals. Think about it. We want success in business, to get to be a CEO or vice-president of the widget factory we work for. We want to be a married woman. We want to be a mother. We want to be a rich dad, not a poor dad, a college graduate not a drop-out. There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things except to the extent that we are skewed away from who we are in favor of what we want. There is a danger in wanting to be seen as popular by our friends, rather than wanting to be just seen by our friends."

And your final question I think can be answered by one of my favorite quotes although I like your quote from Thoreau  "Success is when you feel contented with only a sense of existence." As a matter of fact your quote makes me want to pick up Thoreau's book Walden Pond which I have never read. 

At any rate, the quote which helps with the idea of getting stuck in roles or goals for that matter is the following:

"Duties are ours, events are God's. This removes an infinite burden from the shoulders of a miserable, tempted, dying creature. On this consideration only can he securely lay down his head and close his eyes." Richard Cecil

And ancient wisdom says it this way. We should identify with the painting and not the picture, the dancing and not the dance. In other words, we should put our totality of being into what we are doing without any thought of the ultimate success or failure of our effort. Another quote comes to mind: "virtue is its own reward." A. B. Curtiss

Dear AB

Wow, I love your new paragraph! It adds much clarity.

So we can get so involved thinking about the what that we forget about the how. "What are we going to be when we grow up?" we are usually asked as children, not "How are you going to live your life?"  Ironically, the what, in the final analysis, accounts for  little, to the extent that the how is disregarded.  That's a key understanding that seems to be lost today.  If one has the title, the degrees, the fame & fortune, what could be missing?  Oh, maybe peace, contentment, kindness, compassion, character, integrity?

Could also be, "... danger in wanting to be seen as popular by our friends," rather than in wanting to simply be a friend.  Yes, friendship can deteriorate into an exercise in adding another notch to our belts,  a grasping for evidence of our worth, rather than seen as an opportunity to be kinder, more patient, more compassionate, indeed an opportunity to be friendly, to be a friend! 

Duties are ours, events are God's.  How liberating.  What a great quote.  We do our best & let the outcome rest. 

We should identify with the painting and not the picture, the dancing and not the dance. Beautifully said! 

I will try to remember these teachings. 
Thanks so much for sharing further thoughts!