What Is Your Identity?

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In our modern society we have so many external factors that we use to identify ourselves.  In fact, not only do we use these things to show others who we are but we use them to tell ourselves, falsely, who we are.  These are often things like how big your TV is, what type of phone you carry with you or the clothes you wear.  For me it’s watches and cars.

In the end, you are not your phone or your TV or even your clothes.  Styles and devices often change.  Statistically speaking, you probably wont be driving the same car you are driving today in 10 years.  You may feel a deep sense of identity from that car right now, however. We draw a deep sense of identity from our friends as well.

The grand illusion is that we are not those things.  This was a concept that has taken me a very long time to understand. When you look deep in to your soul and try to understand who you really are then material things start to mean less to your overall identity.

One big problem that I, and most everyone else, have is attachment to these things because I feel they define me.  Meditation is something that has helped me with this.

Ask yourself today, “who am I really?”

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I Live in an Alternate Universe

I’ve come to a pretty major conclusion.  I live in an alternate universe.  Oh, you may see me in one universe, lets call it Alpha, and speak to me in Alpha but I actually see and interact in… we’ll call it Omega because I like Omega watches.  This realization has helped me to come to grips with my reality so to speak and to accept life as it happens.  Let me explain how this works.

So my wife sends me to the store.  She says “pick me up these crackers.  They’re on the bottom shelf right next to these other crackers.”  Simple task for anyone, she told me where it where it is, she told me what it’s next to and she showed me the box so I know what it looks like.  15 minutes later I’m standing in the grocery store on the phone with my wife who is trying to explain to me where these crackers are.  “No, those aren’t here and neither are the others… yes! I’m looking on the bottom shelf… yeah right in the middle!”  So normally, I would take her word for it and keep looking and sometimes leave without ever finding it.

Now that I realize she lives in the Alpha universe and I live in the Omega universe I know that I can’t always depend on her account of where something will be located.  Most likely it wont be.  So now I will look where she says but not get fixated on it.  Now, I’m finding what I’m looking for, just not where it’s supposed to be.

Now, that doesn’t mean I always see my universe.  There are times when I go to the store with her and she’ll say “See! right here” and I’m dumbfounded that I couldn’t find it where she did.

So this is potentially life changing.  There are so many more examples that I could give but maybe I’ll save these for another post.  The lesson, however, is that now that I recognize that I live in an alternate universe I can adjust my perception and adjust my life.  I don’t have to keep worrying about things I can’t help.

2014 Wrap Up

It’s been a while since my last post.  I had family in town and didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit down and write.  So my apologies to those of your who have been following and reading all year.  With that said, let me wrap this up and let you all know how I’ve been.

I started 2014 with the goal to become a happier, more confident person.  As I stated in my very first post:

I feel a lot of pressure as a husband and a father to make sure my family is taken care of. I’ve let life get me down and I also have anxiety problems. I’ve never been a real confident person. I want all this to change and I plan to write about it here.

This was my challenge to myself.  I can say with complete honesty to you and myself that I nailed it.  My outlook and philosophy on life has changed completely.  In only one year!

At the end of 2013 I was riddled with anxiety.  I felt it physically and would have panic attacks.  It was affecting me and my family as well.  After reading the book, “Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts I started to look at the world in a whole new way.

One big change in my perception was of what time I set my focus on, meaning, past, present or future.  I choose to start looking only at the present moment.  This is not to say that I haven’t planned for a future but I didn’t dwell solely on the future as I had in the past.  I also didn’t focus on the past, realizing that each present moment was an opportunity for change.

Early on, I met a lot of great people through Word Press and even won an award for my blogging which really helped me realize I was on the right track.  It gave me a lot of motivation to keep going.

In March or April, I injured myself running and it was a bit of a wake up call for me.  I wanted to much to run in a 5k and had even signed up for one.  The injury put me out and a co-worker ran in my place.  Through it all, I kept my focus positive by expanding my charitable giving.  Incredible things happened when I raised for a couple of different organizations this year.  A large part of this was due to the 100 Happy Days challenge I participated in.  And with that came an article that featured ME on Headline News!

There were some ups and downs, however.  In April I started to feel a little anxious but it faded quickly.  Again in June I felt a little uneasy, but it too faded quickly.  Since then, however, I’ve never felt better.  I stopped following politics and most news and that has done wonders for how I see humanity in general!

2014 ended 108 degrees from where I was at the beginning.  Anxiety is something I don’t really deal with anymore.  I’ve learned a lot of wisdom and philosophy.  I’ve conquered a pretty big giant in my life as well!

So what will happen to this blog in 2015 now that I’ve accomplished my goal?  There are always giants in your life to conquer.  Since injuring myself early on, I’ve done very very little physical activity.  I bought myself and my wife a Fitbit and am going to start my yoga practice up again.

I also plan to continue my meditation practice once my kids are back in school and keep fighting my giants as well as going more in-depth on how to keep anxiety away.  I hope you will join me on my journey.

Be well.  Be positive.

How Putting Myself Out There Is Paying Me Back

I’ve often written about my experiences with sharing my anxiety struggles and having people come to me and tell me that they also struggle in the same ways I do.  I’ve found that by putting out my successes that I’ve had friends come to me and share how they have also succeeded.  Not only that, but others who are struggling have come to me to ask me for more information on how they can achieve some success in their struggles as well.

Lately, I have been spending some time in the morning meditating.  Last week I started meditating for 30 minutes instead of the normal 20 that I have in the past.  To be honest, the only reason I started doing that was because a good friend of mine told me he does at least 30 minutes per day and I thought I’d challenge myself to do the same.  Being the extrovert that I am, I said something about my increase in time on Facebook and had a couple of my friends reply and tell me about their meditation practice and how it gets them through the day.

Sometimes you can’t tell who is struggling and who is using something like meditation or even medication to feel better.  So now, I’ve seen that not only do people relate to my struggles, but my friends and I seem to relate to each other in how we achieve success over our struggles.  It’s really opened my eyes to how incredible a lot of my friends are.  Many of them are financially successful and seem to not have a care in the world… on the outside.

Not only has this given me a new perspective on life and the people I know, it’s also helped me to not feel so afraid.  Maybe I can reach out and help someone as my confidence grows.  Just knowing that others are experiencing the same fears helps.

Recently, a guy at work expressed some concern to me that he was having a great deal of anxiety lately.  I gave him some tips and hope he follows up.  Honestly, the greatest tip I could give him, is something he’s already figured out.  Just open up to people, talk about it and don’t stigmatize it.

Be well. Be positive.

Can Curcumin/Tumeric Cure Anxiety?

Last year I decided to go see a therapist about my anxiety problems.  I only saw him the one time due to the costs but he speculated that my anxiety problems were probably genetic and further aggravated by a particularly tough time in my life about 10 years ago.   He also said that I probably couldn’t get rid of it but could manage it very effectively.  I’ve done a fairly good job this year of managing my anxiety by focusing on the present moment.  I’ve achieved this by trying to be conscious of where my thoughts are (past, present, future) and by meditating.  I’ve also started carrying crystals, which we can get in to another time, and have been taking curcumin (tumeric).

Mostly, I started taking curcumin for the physical health benefits.  It has helped my suspected carpel tunnel get better and has many other health benefits which I’m not very well versed in.  To be honest, my wife bought it and said “here, this will make you feel better” so I started taking it.

Today, my wife posted a picture of a bottle of curcumin on her Facebook page (we’re very extroverted) and was talking about how it was shown to be more effective than Prozac for treating depression and anxiety in a double blind study.  WHAT?  For real?  I did a search online and it’s true!  The funny thing is, I’ve taken Prozac and other anti-anxiety pills and they didn’t make me happy, just not anxious. When I take the curcumin I really do feel normal and happy.

So what if my anxiety problems were a deficiency in… whatever curcumin has in it?  What if it is a genetic deficiency?

I picked up some organic tumeric last night and I’m going to start working it in to my cooking.  I have no idea what to use it for to be honest but I’m sure there’s someone on the internet who will tell me.

Be well.  Be positive.

How To Create Anxiety Out Of Thin Air

As I start to separate myself from the things that caused me stress and anxiety, I start to notice the ways in which I would create my problems out of thin air.  Yes, I would make them magically appear!  I see a lot of my friends doing the same thing.  Please don’t feel like I feel as if I’m better than anyone because I’m not.  I love my friends and know that each and every one of them is a good person.  Why else would I be friends with them?  But even the best, most positive people I know, including myself, seem to create these problems of anxiety in our lives.

Earlier this week, one of my most happy and positive friends was saying in a very uncharacteristic way that she’d wished she had it in her to say something snotty to the woman that she held a door for who didn’t say thank you to her.  Now, this is a friend who has helped some of my friends and family members financially when they were falling on hard times and it made her happier than you’ve ever seen anyone.  She loves to give and loves to help out.  Maybe she was just having a bad day but that negative thought it the type of thing that always caused me anxiety.  The feeling that someone owes me something.  If you choose to do something nice for someone, stay positive no matter what their reaction is.  It will bless you in ways you never realized.  If they can’t be thankful that you gave, then be thankful that you had the opportunity to give.  Many times it’ll dawn on people later what you did for them.  That kind of thing comes back to you in the form of karma.  Relax, accept the blessing as it is and enjoy the experience.

Sometimes there are reason that people fall in to these traps.  I have a friend who runs a charity that gives families school supplies, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents. She’s donated to my charitable efforts as well.  It takes an extraordinary person to start and then maintain such a business when she, herself, has trouble making ends meet.  Last week I saw her complaining about someone she had donated to.  It was very passive aggressive, it was on social media and she knew that person would be reading.  This person had accepted a donation from her and then taken pictures of herself shopping at a high end clothing store.  It struck me as very uncharacteristic of my friend to complain in this manner.

I’ve seen this a lot lately.  Someone will help someone else out and then claim ownership of that person and criticize everything they do.  I was hurt by this post because I have worked to help this charity and I feel giving should be something you do joyfully.  The next day, my friend posted something on social media that may have explained her actions.  Her mom was in the hospital for the third time in two weeks, her son was in the hospital having his tonsils out and her husband was having some medical problems.  She was clearly in a bad place but compounded her stress by letting someone else’s actions affect her.

This is how I used to create anxiety when I had no other reason to be anxious. I’m in no way calling my friends out.  We all have bad days, even the most positive of people.  Their experiences have taught me lessons that I can now take with me.  Observe your friends and see what’s bothering them.  How do you relate to this?  How can their experienced, combined with your’s help you become a better person?

Be well. Be positive.

The Anxiety Paradigm

Anxiety, to me, was always about an empty hole that needed to be filled.  If only I could see a doctor, if only I could get medication, I could use therapy, if my financial situation changed… then I would be free from anxiety.  The problem with this idea was that the anxiety was never caused by lack of those things.  Anxiety was mostly about the worrying of not having them but once I would get them there was always something else I would need to really fix my anxiety problems.  Let me share with you a couple of the “if onlys” in my past.

1. If only I had a better job

A new job wont necessarily release you from anxiety.  You may make more money but you may also move in to a higher standard of living.  When I moved back to Florida from Michigan in 2009, I went from living in a place where my rent was $425 per month to a place where we paid $850 per month.  An increase in pay gave us more square feet to live in but it didn’t mean I was putting thousands of dollars per month in a savings account.  It just meant I was spending more for things so I could live the same way.

2. If only I could move somewhere new

In 2002 I moved from Michigan to Florida.  In 2005 I moved back to Michigan.  In 2009 I moved back to Florida.  A change in scenery didn’t take my anxiety away.  I often hear people say “if I could only move to a better state, then everything will be ok”.  I often tell them that if they want to move then go ahead but don’t expect it to solve your problems.  99% of our problems are us and we take ourselves everywhere we go.  You can’t expect to move and leave yourself behind.  You and your problems will go with you, trust me, 1100 mile moves didn’t change a thing for me.  They just added to my frustration of not finding what I was looking for.

3. Once I get a new car, I’ll be able to get a job

When you don’t have a job, it’s because you aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to get one.  I know a LOT of people who walk and/or take the bus or ride a bike to their jobs.  Sometimes it isn’t the stellar career path you imagined and there certainly wont be a red carpet but I’ve had some pretty lowly jobs at times that have gotten me to the next step in life.  Looking back on it, aside from work, these were some of the best times of my life.  I remember all the good times I had and have very little memory of the foreclosure or my utilities being shut off.

So What Is Anxiety Then?

Anxiety comes from many places.  At it’s root it comes from that empty space you believe you have.  Some call it desire, others call it ego but we create in ourselves an empty space in our hearts for things that we don’t have.  We believe if we can just get one more thing in our lives that we’ll be ok.  The truth is, as Glinda the good witch said, you had the power all along to beat anxiety.  There are times when stress and pressures of life will give you anxiety.  Yes, I’ve been there.  I nearly lost my home at one point.  I ended up having to move my pregnant wife and child and I in with my parents for a couple of months.  I’ve seen friends lose everything.  I’ve also see homeless people who are happier than anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s all relative.  I do, however, hope you are not homeless.

The anxiety I felt came from an empty place of desire and constant want.  Worry of what would happen to my kids, would I get sick, what if the cashier at the grocery store didn’t like me?  For the record, even on some of my worst days, the cashiers have been very friendly to me and I wish I had been friendlier back.  If I had stopped worrying about that then I could have relaxed and just enjoyed the experience of shopping.  Yes, even grocery shopping can be joyful.

As long as I feel like I’ve beaten anxiety, there are no more giants to confront in my life.  In the coming weeks and months I hope to share with you, my dear reader, some of the tools I’ve used to stay positive.  Thank you!

Be well. Be positive.