New Adventures?

The probability is high that I’ll be moving out of the Carolinas in the near future. As the chances increase that I’ll be preparing for a move, it’s easy for me, a person who likes change, to feel the excitement that comes with a new place and new opportunities. Especially when it’s somewhere I’ve loved living in the past.

But there’s also the easily accessible fear and doubt that comes from change. We are weird creatures – even if we love change (which I do). I love adventures. I am good with doing the unexpected (see last post), or the things society least expects. I like to do and try new things. I ain’t scurred. 🙂 But when life knocks you around in ways you least expect, it’s easy to forget your once bold spirit, (that usually isn’t afraid to walk into rooms supposedly not meant for you).

If you’re anything like me and nearing change, but find yourself tempted to ruminate on all the hard parts that come with it, let me challenge you to think about all of the ways that it can or will work out. Put your focus on the positives and the way change can stretch and grow you and and positively impact your life and future.

If you believe it will work out , you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.

Wayne Dyer

Even when specific opportunities change in front of your eyes and things don’t work out quite like you planned, change is not inherently bad. Seasons change and bring with them beautiful and gifts. Even if things don’t work out, this time is a reminder of the opportunity that comes with change. The opportunity, however, lies in our openness and focus on what will or can work out, and the good lies ahead. If we’re focused on what we fear, what might not work out, or what we could lose – we certainly will face a negative future.

My #oneword365 for 2023 is fearless. I’m 100% certain there was a reason I knew that was my word for the year. What’s your “word” for 2023? Do you find it popping up in your life so far in 2023? I can’t wait to see what the coming months hold for me and my friends reading.

Society’s Expectations

cory muscara, letting go of your mind's dreams, elaina avalos

I follow Cory Muscara on social media. I’m not sure how I happened across him but it was probably via one of the podcasts I listen to or via one of many mental health professionals I follow, who shared his content. Dr. Rick Hanson, maybe? I listen to several podcasts that teach about mental health and wellness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and even neurobiology. So it’s not surprising I found him. Muscara was a monk at one time and is now a teacher and speaker as well as an instructor of positive psych at UPenn. I find many of his posts extremely encouraging and helpful. THIS one is soo good. He quotes Viktor Frankl (who has some quotes that blow my mind, by the way) in that reel. It’s incredibly powerful, in my opinion.

But this quote above, which he posted on Facebook, irked me. He writes in the caption:

“If you want to align with the life you are meant to live, you have to let go of all of your preconceived ideas of who you should be, where you should go, and what your life should look like, even the longstanding dreams your mind has desperately held onto. The soul’s path is a quieter, more subtle, moment-to-moment unfolding. Sometimes your mind and its dreams are aligned with it, other times they’re reciting outdated scripts, fears, and desires.”

So why did it irk me? It got under my skin because if there’s one thing I don’t want to think about, it’s letting go of the “longstanding dreams” my mind has “desperately held onto.” For me there is no more clear longstanding dream than being a mom and having a family. Can I technically consider myself a mom? Yes. Has the dream happened the way I thought it should, planned for it to, or hoped it would? Not even a little.

For the most part, I’m not sure it’s not part of God’s plan for my life in some way. I truly believe I was meant to be a mom. Until I’m incapable, I will do whatever I can – to have the family I’ve always dreamed of. But why would Muscara’s post, when generally I’ve found him to be thought provoking and encouraging, make me frustrated and uncomfortable? Because maybe I am still holding onto old paths to get where I want to go? Or maybe my attachment to a specific set of plans, ideals, or expectations has tied me to a path that isn’t mine to walk?

That doesn’t mean motherhood or a family isn’t in my future. But maybe it does mean that I’ve so focused myself on the dream, I’ve lost sight of the “moment-to-moment unfolding” of what God has for my soul. Or maybe it’s just that in releasing my attachment to a specific idea, I’d find a much better plan. I’m not really sure. What I do know is that my life has never taken a normal course. Not ever. I’ve always been behind schedule in literally everything. Haha. If you only knew. I joke about being old – but the truth is, I’m convinced my life has only just started.

When I get caught up in society’s expectations, I can find myself dissatisfied with the direction I’m walking. But I’ve never had any desire to live a life that complies with the status quo or the expectations of most. Never. Even from the time I was a tiny girl. In fact, the mere thought of doing what everyone else does/did infuriated me. Haha. But somewhere along the way, other’s expectations started to define my own life. I lost sight of that bold little girl who just didn’t care what things were “supposed” to be like.

I don’t know where the path is leading. I certainly have a wish, a hope, a dream. But I don’t care how I get there – not really. The paths I take to get there – or anywhere for that matter – should not be my focus or even an afterthought. Nor do I want to be so tied to the dream itself that I miss the life I was meant to live. I think I’m standing on this precipice of change and in spite of how hard change and opening myself up to hurt and disappointment can be, it’s the only way to the kind of life I want.

Earlier I mentioned Muscara’s reel that featured a Frankl quote. Here’s my favorite from Frankl.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

While it has taken some work, I’ve slowly seen the power of slowing down before responding or acting. There is power in choosing my response versus reacting. I think this fits well with the Muscara quote, to be honest. At some point, even after we determine to accept that our mind’s vision of our dreams and future may not be the full picture, it can be hard to stay on course. Especially when other’s expectations creep back in. But in slowly ourselves down – in between that moment of stimulus where the thought enters the mind – and our response, lies our power to choose a response. With that power comes a freedom that I’ve now experienced, in a way I would not have imagined, a couple of years ago. I’m still working on it – every day. Today, I sucked at it and let a very challenging person get to me. But if we can slow that response thing down when a thought enters the mind (the stimulus) it can truly change our lives.

The trajectory we find ourselves following can be moved along by the internal knowing we’re on the right path, met the right one, or found our calling, etc., etc. If we’re too concerned with the outside world, societal standards, and what everyone else thinks, we can easily get knocked off course. In the moment, when I’m tempted to judge my life and future path based on what everyone else thinks should happen, that is the moment to choose my response. In this case, it’s to throw off the expectations everyone else has, which weigh me down, and keep moving, moment-by-moment, to the life I know I’m meant for.

You Are Never Too Old

CS Lewis dream quote, CS Lewis quote, elaina avalos

I have a vision for my life and future that I know is within my reach. My life right now, does not fit that vision. But, as stated by the brilliant C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” That’s a good thing. Because I’m sure there are many people who might think that my chance has passed me by – for the family I’ve dreamed of or for the career I want to spend the rest of my working life doing. But I’m unwilling to give up hope that life can look like I’ve always dreamed and hoped it would.

I’m never more convinced of this now, even as grief settles in, that what I’ve been through is the foundation for an amazing future. The dreams aren’t really all that new. But the goals and path to get there are looking a little new. Seeing how quickly life changes and how very sad it is to see a life wasted (multiple lives wasted, now that I think about it) the more determined I am to make it all count. I’m even more determined now to chase those dreams.

The goals and plans we have for our lives may not always follow a linear path. We can get sidetracked or thrown off course when the realities of life settle in. That’s certainly true for me. The question is, what do you do when you’re thrown off course? Do you give up? Walk away? Assume the closed doors are a sign? Or do you get up, brush yourself off, and start again? Could there be a time when God, the world, your own body or heart are telling you it’s time to give it up? Sure. But that’s not where I’m at anyway. Giving up and walking away because of adversity is a horrible idea. So, let me encourage you as I give myself a boost – if it’s still on your heart, it’s there for a reason.

Go after it. I am.