There is a saying that goes: you can’t have a positive life with a negative mind. Let’s say that again. You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind. This makes sense. I’m sure this made sense to the author, Joyce Meyer. I’m sure this makes sense to everyone, except of course, for those who live with anxiety. This is when the thought machine races out of control but even in the depths of my most anxious times, I knew that I could never have a positive life with a negative mind. Then again, knowing this fact was like adding another item on the list.
Nobody asks to have a negative mind. No one wants to be miserable either yet there sure is a lot of misery around us.
I have sat with people who were incarcerated and awaiting their sentences. I have sat with them in groups and when asked if they wished they were different, almost all of them said yes.
When asked if they could go back to their old self at any age and give themselves some advice, what would it be? There’s one answer which I remember over the others. This came from someone reputable. Jail was not a new place for him. He was in a gang. He had been in a gang for a long time and to him, there was no way out. This was it. This was him and according to him, this was all he’d ever be.
He told me that if he could go back to his younger self at any age, the age he chose would be 12.
The advice he said he would give himself was, “Listen to your mother.” There was more to this story for him which he was unwilling to share in the group setting. Yet, this was a brave statement for someone in his position. This showed humility and at the same time, this showed an almost rock star appeal to some of the younger inmates. They wanted to be like him. They wanted his scars and his street cred and toughness. Only they had no idea how much this man had to trade in order to get there.
There was a class when someone mouthed off to me. This man turned around and told that person, “Shut your mouth!”
I remember the morning when he told me that he was leaving. He said that he wouldn’t ever see me again.
In a better world, this person would be an excellent speaker. In a better world, this person could save lives and help people to understand. He would be a great person to work with kids and show them there’s a different way. But his world was not a better world. He made his choice, which he told me. He said what he was planning to do without telling me what he was planning to do. Then he said goodbye.
It’s hard to live a safe life when you have unsafe beliefs. It’s hard to change when your belief system tells you that you can’t be anything else. I get that.
It’s hard to be at peace when your mind is unsettled.
It’s hard to be happy when your mind is filled with depressive thinking.
And of course; it’s hard to move forward when our minds are stuck in the past.
I get that too.
I have seen people talk themselves out of jobs and right into the unemployment line. I have seen people create wars in their heads. They fed that internal voice and chose to strike first. I’ve seen people work up the wars in their own mind and talk themselves into an emotional version of chemical warfare.
I’ve seen people trip into their cognitive pitfalls and be stuck in their traps, unable to see anything else but their anxiety. As a result, they find themselves caught in ego-based thinking. And me, I have been part of this too. There were times when I was stuck in my mental traps. I’ve been snagged by my thinking errors and I’ve fed my anticipations and nurtured my anxiety rather than feed my solutions.
I have heard people tell me to calm down. I have seen myself at my worst; of course, there is always someone around telling me, “Don’t think like that.”
Years ago, I set out to create a path for myself. I had to make a decision. Either I’d choose to live or, I’d choose to submit to the unthinkable. Obviously, the fact that I am still here and the fact that you and I are sharing this moment together means my choice was clear. I’m still here. I have my scars. I have my aches and pains.
I have my own nightmares and my list of fears and concerns. I see no reason to hide them or be dishonest and claim they do not exist. However, there is a difference between the way I am now and the day when I hit my knees. I was beaten and broken and looked up to the ceiling as if to shake my fist at God or the heavens above.
I have had people tell me how to live, how to think and how to be throughout my entire life. I’ve had people tell me how to do things and how to move beyond my obstacles. But none of this made sense to me nor did anything seem possible.
I’ve had people tell me what to say and what to do. I’ve had people tell me that I needed to improve my thinking so that I could improve my feelings. This way I can perform better and essentially, I could live better.
I was given suggestions.
I was told about a prayer to say each time I forget myself.
I was given something called the Serenity Prayer, which is a good prayer. No one could argue the prayer was not good. The prayer is simple too. Yet, as simple as it is and as much as I understood it, anxiety is irrational; therefore, nothing rational made sense to me.
So, then what?
How does one rebuild their mind and detach from old thinking to make new patterns and new pathways to steer away from problematic thinking.
First, I would like to say that anything I’ve achieved or anything I’ve managed to do is something that took time. To be clear, I’m still working at this. Nothing has come easy for me. I have bad days. I have times when old memories curse me and scream like a bad neighbor that wants to fight with me. I have old, habitual patterns and sometimes, I find myself in a state of distrust and assume that the worst is about to happen.
I never believed people actually liked me. More to the point, I never believed that anything I did was truly good. And more, there was a part of my thinking that was somehow trained to believe that if someone complimented me, this was the equivalent of congratulating a child for being able to tie their shoes or successfully make it to the bathroom on time.
At one point, I was so crippled by my thinking that I never felt comfortable enough to enjoy myself. I was always waiting for the disappointment but then again, no one can live an enjoyable life with a mind that’s focused on disappointment.
When I began to create this little place of mine in the writing world, I knew there would be times when the learning would be hard. I knew there would be times when I would be disheartened. I knew there would be times when I believed that I was alone, within myself and that try as I might, nothing would ever change. I could never be anyone other than who I am: ME.
Did I ever tell you that I had to teach myself to type? I had to learn how to write on my own. And sure, the critics had their time with me. They still do. I was told by a therapist that I should give up the idea of becoming a writer. I was told that I was setting myself up for disappointment (again).
I was told that I should stay in my lane. I was told that my ideas are great but none of them are going to work. And truth be told, I’ve had to go back to the drawing board more than once. I’ve had to scrap my plans and reinvent myself more times than I can count.
I can’t always decipher which part of my brain is thinking for me. Is it my new way of thinking? Is it my old thoughts that linger from my past? Am I overthinking? Or, is this my anxiety starting up again?
All I know is I’m better than I was.
Days add up. Time accumulated and after a while; my troubles weren’t as troublesome. This did not change overnight. Not at all. This was an accumulation of me being consistent and persistent
I used to type with my pointer fingers. I am still the Typo King but my improvements are incredible to me. I am a lot of things but with regards to my decision to either live or submit, I am not a quitter. I have not quit nor have I decided to give in.
I keep moving.
I keep grinding.
And yeah, sometimes this hurts more than words can say. Sometimes this is lonely. Sometimes I don’t want to play anymore. Sometimes I want to rip the cords out from the wall and throw my computer in a trash can. But I can’t and I know that.
Do you know why?
It’s because I would miss this too much. This thing that I’ve created has become too valuable to me. I would miss you. I would miss this world I’ve created. And if I quit, if I gave up, then I would be nothing more than a shell. I would be like scattered dust, spineless, and too easy to blow away.
I cannot stop. Not now.
Even if people laugh or tell me to give it up or that it’s a joke and that I’m no good; I can’t stop now. I’ve gone too far and like the saying goes, I didn’t come this far, just to go this far.
I have earned the right to reinvent myself at any time, which I have and I will. Should the time come when I need to adapt or change again, at least I know I have the ability to endure and keep going. And that’s worth a lot to me.
This means I can do anything
(and so can you).