Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cultivating Peace

Driving from the store this morning, jamming out to my new Sam Grow Live CD, I had a centering moment. Thanks to yoga last night, perhaps. Yoga and coffee?

I have lived through plenty of difficult situations. Much of my childhood was consumed by fear and uncertainty. Over the years, I have come to terms with my unpleasant experiences and I've found that peace and happiness are not something you can simply ask of life. They are things that you cultivate with intention. Nothing in life is a given. The choices we make and the people we surround ourselves with will make or break our contentment. Each decision we make, each relationship we enter into are active choices, they aren't haphazard conditions that happen to us. It is your responsibility to be happy, to make decisions that make you happy, to cultivate peace in your own life. No one will do this for you.

There are aspects of my personality that I have pointedly and painstakingly let go of or quieted simply because they produce anxiety in other people. It's something I will work on for the rest of my life. What comes around goes around, as they say, and if I do not care about the effect I have on others, I can not expect the same from them. I can only hope that people will accept who I am in this moment and help me to more fully develop the best person I can be.

Life choices have always been easy for me - I've changed jobs, changed locations, taken a different path because that is what was necessary for me to relax, to find contentment. But people have always been harder. I'm a sucker for people who need a little love in their lives. When I was in school I befriended the most unassuming people and became for them whatever they needed me to be. We all do this in one way or another and I'm sure if I hadn't had people doing this for me, I would not have changed so much. The hardest thing that I have had to learn is when to draw the line. When does their pain become my pain? Does it make me a bad person to draw away, to stop supporting them, because they are impacting my ability to be happy? I guess you could call it relational self-preservation. What it comes down to, perhaps, is that I have other relationships where the give and take is mutual. These are the people that help to cultivate my happiness and they are the people I have the greatest impact on. If my happiness is compromised, so will their's. I have to honor them first.

A productive, healthy garden takes a mindful gardener. Adding new people into your life is like adding a new plant into your garden. Plants in your garden will get sick, but as long as they are given attention and care they will become well enough to lend strength to the plants around them. When a new plant is introduced, it doesn't always work out. If you introduce an infected plant (as I am wont to do with people), even with the greatest care, the infection could spread to other plants, affecting the overall health of the garden. If this begins to happen, you must toss the plant into the compost pile and let it serve the garden as nutrients later on. By giving the plant a try you have created an investment in compost or a bounty of veggies at the end of season. Either way, it was worth a try.

Now, this metaphor only goes so far, but you get the point. I like gardens and I like helping people. I try to get the most out of, and give the most I can, to every relationship I enter into. Just as we have perrenials, biannuals, and annuals in the plant world, so to are our relationships good for "the right" amount of time. But with people, you can never tell how long that is. You have to know when to draw the line. And that's a hard thing to learn.

Moving away from home, chancing upon amazing friends, becoming a partner, becoming a mother - these are all experiences that have been transformational to my character and my happiness. Each failure I've experienced is also transformative but it is up to me to find the lesson in the unpleasantness. Finding the lesson and making decisions that cultivate peace and happiness is my responsibility to myself.

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