Im sitting in my recording studio earlier this evening, relaxing after teaching a fiddle lesson. Suddenly, like a tsunami, I am hit with wave after wave of emotional distress. Feelings of sadness and heartache, loneliness, and depression. As the waves recede, I feel as if Im being dragged with them into an ocean of turmoil.
SLAP! At least, thats what it sounds like inside of my head when I mentally knock myself sane.
I am blessed with an abundance of riches. I have a world of friends, some of whom I havent even met in person but friends nonetheless. I have a career I thoroughly enjoy and that pushes me to grow on a daily basis. I have beautiful children. And I have a wealth of experiences that would be fodder for either a soap opera or a great American novel.
Still, I wish that I didnt have to learn things the hard, painful way. Im a pretty bright guy, I love to read, I love to learn. So why is it that most of my education has been at the School of Hard Knocks?
One of the things I am still in the process of learning is that I need to focus my attention on ME, not on what others think of me. Too often in the past I have tailored my behavior to what I supposed other people wanted from me. As a result, its taken me decades to arrive where I am. If I place my attention on building a better me, for me, then I quickly strengthen my weaknesses and become a better man. As a better man, I can then relate to others in a kinder, more powerful way. And yet, I still struggle with being a people pleaser, and the struggle to be a better me goes on and on.
Another lesson I am still learning has to do with mental discipline. I know for a fact that the negative statements I make about myself, and the negative questions I ask myself, are a damning force on my progress. Its kind of hard to move forward when youre telling yourself constantly What an idiot you are, Youre such a failure, Why cant you stick to something and get it done?, etc ad nauseam. My self-talk has always had a very negative bent, even though I strive on a daily basis to be positive and upbeat. One of the things that I have tried recently that seems to work is to change the nature of my questions, a process called afforming by Noah St John (The Book of Afformations).
Heres an example: Instead of asking myself why I constantly have money problems (negative), I ask myself Why am I so wealthy? Even though the premise of the question isnt exactly correct in the present time, my mind then begins to dwell on that question in order to come up with answers. Instead of coming up with negative answers, my mind comes up with positive answers. I can work with positive answers; the negative ones just bring me down.
Another thing I have struggled with my entire life is that I dont need an intimate relationship with a woman in order to be a complete person. Although I still feel that such a relationship adds value and satisfaction to a mans life, it is not a necessary component for his happiness.
On the other hand, friendships are invaluable. No man is an island (John Donne), and I am realizing more and more how true that phrase is. Interpersonal connections are the energy that fuels my life and my music. I have also discovered this year that caring friends are essential in helping me out of the quagmires I frequently find myself in. I still struggle asking for help, but my friends are always there, ready with a helping hand, a word of encouragement, whatever is needed. I am not one who finds asking for help easy. Too much pride, or perhaps too much shame. What will they think of me?
Along these lines is another lesson that is difficult for me to internalize. Just because I have failed in four relationships; just because I am not where I ought to be financially; just because I have a list of mistakes longer than Tolstoys War and Peace; does NOT mean that I am a failure as a human being. On the contrary, I am a man of great worth. Despite my failings (or perhaps because of them), many people value my friendship and association. I have much to offer this world, regardless of my many weaknesses.
So on this night before Christmas Eve in 2013, I sit here reflecting on the past year and the lessons learned and wonder. There is so much still to do in my life, and that life is getting shorter each day. And yet, I am so richly blessed.
My Christmas prayer for all of my friends this year is that they realize how much I love, admire, respect, and need each of you. You have been such a huge blessing to me, helping me through the rough times and enriching my life with your presence in it. I pray that you realize how important you are, how worthwhile you are, and what a difference you make in my life and the lives of so many others. May you be happy in your knowledge of just how wonderful a human being you really are.
Nollaig Shona Dhuit!