If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that my life has been a series of self-fulfilling prophecies. When I believed love was bullshit, relationships were wastes of time and most people were assholes, guess what? That’s precisely what I experienced. I had no right. To watch many members of my family love one another is akin to listening to the hypnotic and tear-extracting sounds of an impeccable symphony. They love with reckless abandon and unrelenting loyalty. And so do I. Being analytical and pragmatic, even as a damn child, I learned from multiple divorces and negative displays of love that my heart was too fragile to be fucked with, and so I let it shrink, like the Grinch, narrowing my scope and understanding, limiting my experiences and ultimately, myself. The truth of the matter is, I’m not wrong. There’s endless corroborative evidence (a nearly 60% divorce rate, for example) to support my cynicism, but this world is exponentially complex and expansive, how could I ever pigeon hull every human being into one category, or even most of them? Or eliminate the possibility for people and circumstances to change? I can’t. It’s wrong, foolish and keeps me in a cyclone of crankiness. What fun. I’ve learned to feel grateful first, for the simple and the magnificent, and everything blossomed from there. I spent roughly 4 years studying the depths of Nature vs. Nurture. I’ve spent subsequent years with less emphasis on the intellectual pursuit and more with the lessons bestowed by living. I believe wholeheartedly that the way we choose to nurture ourselves once we are responsible for our own growth is entirely indicative of our happiness and success level. My parents did their best job, despite divorces or mistakes, they loved us strongly, provided a pretty healthy genetic make-up to take care of the nature side, and then raised us in a stable, positive environment with valuable life lessons to round out the nurture aspects. Having a practical based brain and then being raised by very logical people fostered an entrenched sense of realism, with little emphasis on imagination or unknown manifestations. That was just me. This is not to disparage any family member; they’re compassionate, humorous people who gave me a love of food, travel and comedy, not to mention their belief I could do anything and the mental fortitude to take care of myself; however, there’s at times an imbalance because I made the poor decision to follow my strengths, opting out of anything that didn’t come natural to me, and when you have a hyperactive left hemisphere and choose then to squelch any right hemisphere thoughts or activities, you end up lop-sided.
Because of the way I decided to develop my brain, I was very detail oriented, athletically inclined, not afraid to say no, too afraid to say yes, and hung up on the past and anxious about the future. I had no outlet and no capacity to know I needed one. I truly grew up believing the bullshit that you are either a glass is half-full or glass is half-empty kind of person, with little credence given to the vast grey areas between or understanding of choice, that I could foster optimism, I wasn’t just born with or without it. I’d convince myself I was half-full but through various negative experiences, recognized my tendency toward the half-empty as a defense mechanism.
Because my parents got married and had children (child, me) young and inevitably got divorced, I used to carry judgment and disdain toward people who chose to engage in the same behavior. It’s none of my business. They are not my parents and although I do believe maturity will make you a better parent and there’s value in spending your twenties learning, exploring, dreaming; there’s just as much in taking on the responsibilities of a parent and doing that well. That’s just one of many examples where I see behavior repeated by someone I barely know that clearly had a caustic effect on me in my youth, and my pessimism led me toward judgment and ridicule, often sarcastic encounters, subsequent self-criticism and burned bridges. Self-fulfilling prophesy. I saw negativity or the potential for it, and I made it so. What a god damn bummer.
People who know me may attest to my kindness and loyalty, the fun side of my sense of humor and my very intense passion for things that I care about; and while I’d love to sit here and toot my own horn or give myself a break, I have to share honestly the facets of who I used to be, so I can better articulate my and other’s progress. I’m sure there are still people who’ve rubbed the old me (sometimes I call her Dani, and many people I love still call me this as she’s still apart of me, just a lesser used Danielle. Danielle 2.0) the wrong way, exhibited such repugnant and cancerous patterns that I’ve written them off or created my own invisible barriers to prevent their entry. In some instances this is wise, because those specific individuals may be hell-bent on living from their worst selves and it is not your or my responsibility to take the brunt of their bullshit and hope they’ll improve, or even fantasize our presence will do that for them, but you can choose to be optimistic, tactful in your interactions rather than defensive like I used to be, and feel compassion toward what is probably a very sad, unhealthy human being. And then there’s the cases where your/my built up walls are out of habit and keeping someone at a distance is only preventing you both from improvement, both together and apart. This is often the case with parents, family, old friends, or even co-workers. It takes a wise soul to delineate between the two. An easy way to distinguish is how you feel in their presence. Does this person bring the best or worst out of you? If it’s the worst, as some people try their damnedest to do to me, without knowing it of course; then you must wish them well and move on, painful as it may be.
Being the major work in progress I am, flawed and at times frustrated by what I don’t know or what I haven’t changed, I have to remain positive and hopeful about others and myself. The most freeing mechanism is my breath. When I feel a surge of discomfort, adversity or anxiety, whether it’s justified or in my head, instead of reacting inwardly or outwardly, I breathe. That creates space in my mind to choose my thoughts, which will then affect my emotional response, which will then be cast outward as my attitude and tone, which will then affect my interactions with the world around me. I discuss this often in Yoga, choosing the energy we bring into the room, and I’m finding the power to choose lies in just one moment and if I make the benevolent choice, the selection that is kind to me and others, that is also a self-fulfilling prophecy, compounded to an excessive level compared to the path of pessimism. The choice lies in every moment, not only in the big life decisions, but in the day-to-day. So, through the space that has been created with my breath, as simple and easy as that sounds, I’ve learned to alter my state of mind, my relative openness to the world around me. Instead of thinking before I speak, I breathe before I think, and then I think before I speak. And it’s working. It’s not finished, nor will it ever be, but it’s on the up-swing. When I encounter the disingenuous or antagonistic, it is then to deploy the parachute of optimism. I feel lighter. Negative people or circumstances just flow through, in one ear and out the other. I don’t enjoy them, nor would I choose to spend copious amounts of time or energy on them, but I choose merely not to carry them at all. My ego’s former need to put people in their place has surpassed, for the most part, and now armed with the responsibility of making my and potentially other’s days better, I’m certainly not going to let some cranky person weigh me down, choosing to see how the world is shit through their eyes, but rather looking to the kind soul next to them, who is eager and thoughtful and open to a better day. See into the light of that soul, not into the darkness of the other.
It’s easy to believe all goodness lies within our bubble and that bubble alone, and while it’s important to feel grateful for the good in your life and to surround yourself with it, feeling everything outside that box is somehow inadequate, negative or not worth your time leads down a winding path to pessimism and further self-fulfilling prophecies. Judging by the purely magnificent human beings I’ve met in the past couple years, I know the bubble theory is untrue. There is an abundance of goodness and greatness and I’d love to be privy to it all, to absorb anything and anyone I can, and hope to improve myself through expanding my circle. Having a small web of trustworthy, encouraging people will only champion a better you, but making room in your life for new, interesting people with varying perspectives and ideas will broaden you even further. Again, it’s a balancing game, and it is up to your wisdom to discern who you’ll allow into your bubble. You can at once be aware of individuals and situations that carry the potential to bring darkness while believing in your gut there is enough light in you and in the world to wash away the heavy. Allowing myself to be proved wrong keeps the progression train chugging, and simultaneously releasing any fixation with anything or anyone detrimental to that progression has led to a more authentically elated internal state.
It is very easy and extremely addictive to complain. Sure, we need to let out steam, vent our frustrations and find some solace in challenging encounters, but to the extent we take it is certainly questionable. Why, when we dislike someone, when they’ve wronged us in some way, is it then necessary to spread that negativity onto others, making others feel obligated not to like that person too? I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past, and what’s most troubling is the degree to which I let these events stick with me, for fucking ever it seemed, not holding a grudge necessarily but definitely not letting go either. The ego needs constant validation, disagree with it and you may see tears, or fists, and the most empowering moments I’ve had is when I see my own ego at work, I watch the word-vomit spill out of my mouth and I watch as my self-fulfilling prophecies and the way I choose to nurture my own life come to fruition yet again. There’s a way to stand up for what’s right and give someone a firm, non-emotional no, a ‘present no’ as Eckhart Tolle calls it, without then perpetuating and exaggerating that event so it exists in you forever, becoming a permanent fixture in your operative state. What a colossal waste of time and energy. Imagine, if you carried and shared all the positive, enthusiastic, passionate and joyful experiences you’ve had, and during the bad days you choose to remind yourself of the good rather than letting the bleak tropical storm turn into a hurricane, choosing again optimism over pessimism, taking full responsibility for how you experience life and how you carry it on. Can you fathom how the world could open up for you? Can you embrace the unknown and be open to your and other’s possibilities? I certainly hope so.
I don’t believe optimism is an easy choice, but I do believe it’s the choice of wise, successful and genuinely happy human beings. We have this incredible facility to choose, to be hyper aware of our own existence and starkly aware of our impending death, that this knowledge can either drive us to fear, carving out even smaller boxes or circles, to a life of mediocrity and settling; or to sheer wonder, exploration, pleasure, learning, and a very heightened, engaged living. Living with presence, a relinquishing of control over the future but an omnipresent hope and exhilaration for what may come your way. When you begin to see the potential of your own mind and heart, the access to light and goodness at magnifies and expands, becoming its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Travel light, bringing emotional baggage with you around every corner only weighs you down and diminishes your light. See light, acknowledging the light in others only serves to reflect that light back to you, propagating your own goodness. Be light, making conscious decisions out of presence, making each moment better, will only make you more timeless, effervescent.
Ponder the impression you want to leave, not only on those you care deeply for, but those who’ll never know your name, only the lingering effect your energy left on them. Choose light and then brighten and spread it, no sense in hoarding, it’s not doing a number on your electric bill; if anything, your mind, body and heart will thank you, as will the countless souls left in your warm, vivacious wake. Take a look at this incredible short video created by futurist and optimist, Jason Silva. I know very little about this man, but what I see and experience leaves a lasting impression. His enthusiasm and yes, his light, are tangible and infectious, and his level of optimism only inspires me to soar to those heights, to believe in the innate goodness within myself, that same goodness that’s alive in You. I am ecstatic and energized for whatever and whoever rolls my way. I’m grateful years of skepticism and self-awareness led to my slow and gradual awakening, the truth that life is whatever the hell you can fathom it to be, my potential is only limited and thwarted by me, same for you, and whatever we believe it to be, will be.
No one is breathing, thinking, absorbing or acting for you. You make small and large choices every single day, starting with each breath. Make the challenging decision and choose optimism. Choose light.