Gimme a Match

I’m grateful for the responses to yesterday’s article.

Thank you.

A common theme to those responses, however, was “My fire has been cold and dead for a long, long time. I have no idea where to begin looking for a source of flame.”

This is what I’d written:

If your fire’s dead, you may need to start over. You may need to re-connect with your original source of inspiration, or even find a new one. I’ve found that the energy that ignites our Journey and the energy that sustains it are rarely the same. Apply “beginner’s mind” to your circumstances and be open to whatever forms of inspiration present themselves.
In lieu of an outside source of flame, you’ll need to create it yourself. Rubbing two sticks together, striking two stones together, or focusing the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass are the humble beginnings of your new fire. In other words, it’s going to take personal energy, focus, and patience to make this happen.

I’ve lived in a world without fire, and not for mere days or weeks. I know how bleak, lonely, and boring it is.

Even if you’re performing at a high level, it’s only a performance; you’re disconnected from yourself as well as the people around you. You’re not inhabiting your life, you’re an observer: you watch your actions and interactions dispassionately (or critically) and frequently wonder “what the hell happened to me?”

And actually, it’s that question that points to the way out of “Groundhog Day”-like loop your life has become.

First Movement: Back

Your first movement is to look back on what brought you here, not to understand it, but to see it for what it is, accept and own it, and let it go.

  1. What happened? Write it down. If where you are now is the culmination of several things that happened, process them one at a time, whether or not there seems to be a causal connection between them.
  2. Take each thing: remember it vividly, feel it deeply, but assign no blame. The raw truth is that it happened; it doesn’t matter who was responsible, it doesn’t matter why. It’s history now, and it can’t be changed.
  3. It’s history, yes, but it’s not you. It’s not who you are. Take a higher look - a view from outer space, if you will - and see that it’s not even something that happened to you, or something that you did. It was a thing that happened, and you were there. Nothing more, nothing less.
  4. Let it go. Let it go a hundred times a day if you have to. Every time you feel those emotions, let them remind you “this was a thing that happened, but this does not define me; this thing is not who I am.”

Second Movement: Forward

Don’t wait for the negative or painful emotions to pass. You’ve sat with them long enough. Ruminating on your agony, even as you’re letting it go, will get you no further from the hole you’re currently in. Part of letting them go is moving forward and leaving them behind.

Here’s where the real work starts. Here’s where all the metaphors about struggle and physical conditioning come in.

Break the cycle, and do one thing different.

Start something new. Stop something that doesn’t nourish you. Choose an “intoxicant” — alcohol, shopping, sex, Facebook, gaming, obsessing over other’s problems — and limit it. Make time to do just one thing different.

Do something you used to love. Or try something new. The specifics are irrelevant to everyone but you. The key is that it’s something different, and that it feeds you rather than distracts or intoxicates you.

Sing in a choir. Build a birdhouse. Learn a new language. Write a blog. Take a class. Go to the gym. It matters far less what you’re doing than that you’re doing something.

And start now.

Call to Action

What have you done to start the fire in your life? What was the turn-around point for you? What would you say to those who feel trapped in a cold, lonely, fire-less life? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JaySteelmon!

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