Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mindfulness: The Power of Me!!

Last year has been an emotional roller coaster ride and I have had enough!!! I have decided to get off of the roller coaster and gain control of my emotional responses to my situation. I had buried and ignored my emotions for many years so it makes sense that when I initially began to allow myself to feel and experience my emotions they would tend to be a bit overwhelming. But, I had lost all sense of order in my life because I spent far to much time dwelling on regrets and daydreaming about imaginary possibilities. These thoughts have proven to be far to damaging to me emotionally and mentally. I ended hating my life and wishing for something else nearly all my waking hours. The affected my teaching, my relationships, and my education. Over the last two months I truly debated about shutting down again emotionally (after all I know how to function that way and it seems a lot easier) or else accept my reality and begin sorting my emotions by living in the now....the present!

Over the holidays I was blessed to be struck with the flu (influenza...if you haven't had it, it feels like death) and a pretty bad sinus infection. This cut into family time, causing me to miss Christmas Eve activities and most of Christmas day...followed by a short New Years celebration. As I write this I am deaf in my left ear due to a third infection as a result of the flu, a severe ear infection. But all of this gave me some much needed alone time to process how I should proceed. I decided that there is only one thing that will help me to truly enjoy my situation. I have to accept every moment and live in the now. By this I mean that I cannot allow myself to daydream, I cannot allow myself to wallow in my past, both of which only serve to cause me to regret my reality. Due to things beyond my control my situation will not be changing soon, thus, I must accept that and learn from these experiences. Every time I start to think about a what if or a could have been I cut the thought off instantly and instead pose the question: what about my now is causing me to retreat inward to find a different place? I have begin to learn a great deal about myself and have finally began to find a source of peace. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, should have been, or might very will be, I am truly immersing myself in the now. I feel so grounded and have lost the sense of being overwhelmed.

A positive result of this new approach to experiencing life has been an improved financial situation. I am a monetary hoarder. I love to save money and hate to spend it. My wife loves to spend money and has no problem doing so. I wear my shoes until they fall apart on my feet. All of the dress shoes I own have cracks in the bottoms of the soles, but you can't see the damage when I where them so I refuse to replace them, even though with the wet weather my feet always get soaked. I have been this way since I was a child. My mom would give us cash when we went on vacation as a child, I never spent it and even held on to the change when my parents would send me to buy things for them. By the time I was 12 years old I had saved nearly $1,000 in a tin can....when we packed up my room to move my mom saw the can and discovered the cash. That was when I opened my first savings account.

From the first day my wife and I got married I have been the accountant and obsessively watched our bank accounts. It mad me upset when she would just spend without checking the bank account and making sure all bills had been covered. Her spending habits have resulted in a few too many mad dashes to the bank to deposit cash to make sure we avoid fees. (Pause for a brief caveat: She is not frivolous but she has just never been very financially minded she has many other strengths.) This has always frustrated me and I have tried for years to get her involved in our finances.

The old me would just dwell on the regrets and ignore why this frustrated me and would avoid thinking about the now. So this year the day after we got off of the plane after our trip to Idaho, I decided to gently force her to be involved. I set up automatic bill pay for everything. I laid out our entire budget in excel, with a really simplistic break down of everything and then showed her how to use it. I explained all of the auto pays and detailed what I do before I go to the store to buy something, depending on how much I estimate I will spend. She was shocked at how much money we spend each month (rent in NY is not cheap). Besides writing a rent check occasionally, she didn't realize how groceries, electricity, gas, car payment, etc all added up. She committed to follow the budget and even gave a few suggestions on how we could work together to save more money each month so that we can gradually save six months worth of living expenses in savings. (This is for our eventual move to Germany). We didn't discuss our decision three months ago to divorce if we could get to a place we could afford it, we just focused on that moment and really came together to budget in better detail and as a partnership. This eliminated a lot of anxiety for me because I now knew that she understand our financial situation clearly and was on board with the actions we need to take in order to become more financially secure. This also made me feel less trapped in my marriage because it meant that we are both working toward the same financial goals which ultimately will enable us to divorce should we still choose.

So now every time we go some place we pay cash as often as we can and we keep all receipts to perfect our budget.

Another change in my life has been in spiritual realizations. I have been struggling with the very idea of the existence of a God. For too many years I felt ignored, unloved, and betrayed by a God that would make me gay and then abandon me to fend for myself. I felt I couldn't trust God and felt that he was never there for me because far to many prayers were given with fervent heart felt pleading with no sign of relief or peace given. As I suffered through all of the bullying I experienced growing up he was never there, no one ever intervened and I never felt he loved me because I was different and wanted bad things. I grew to resent God and never sought by faith to know he existed. As I lay on my sick bed I finally realized that I used to be so afraid that I would go to hell that I convinced myself that there was but to force a relationship with God and never allow faith into the mix. I knew God existed because he had to so that I wouldn't die and disappear into nothingness. Well, this last month I realized that I needed to be in the now with regards to my faith. I had to accept that all of the hurt I felt growing up meant that for my now experience, I had to allow myself to explore possibility that God does not exist. I have never felt so at peace in my life!! The moment I thought this was amazing. I am not saying I am an atheist, but I have opened myself up to the possibility that I very well might be. I no longer feel the need to prove to myself that God is real. The burden of proof rests on God. If I am to believe he must answer me in a manner that I can relate to as I search to understand or even believe if he exists. I do not have to prove myself correct. In other words I no longer feel the need to force myself to believe. I will be ok if there is no God. Maybe as I live each day for that day I will gradually see God in my life but for right now I am just taking everything a day at a time and trying to learn all I can about myself and not force myself to believe (I did that for too long and it blew up in my face). So in religious terms I describe myself as being agnostic with strong atheist leanings.

These two developments have brought me a great amount of peace and contentedness that I have been longing for most of my life. Beside the fact that my ear is killing me and I am deaf for the time being, I am sitting here with a huge smile on my face because of the peace I feel. I am gay, married to a woman, the father of two beautiful boys, a non-believing active mormon, a temporarily deaf opera singer and music teacher, and I am an Agnostic!

I conveyed all of this to my therapist for our first session together after two months off and she explained to me that I had been using mindfulness techniques and they seemed to be helping me a lot because I seemed less anxious, depressed, and all together more grounded. Needless to say I walked out of her office feeling good but ultimately proud that I had been able to set my own course and arrive at this place using my intuition and needs to reach such a balanced place emotionally. I sum up mindfulness as being the power of me!!!

PS It has now been over a year since I came out to my wife and though our relationship is dicey, I now can say I feel that I am in a better place personally.