Drama. Who needs it? Not me. Not anymore. I’ve left that Bitch behind. I only wish I’d done it sooner but I can’t cry over spilt milk as my mother might say.
Sometimes I think if I knew at 16 what I knew today, I might have been able to change the world. Yes, that is a bold statement. Arrogant even.
I’ve read a lot of self-help books. I prefer to call them healing books. What do I need to heal from? I used to think a lot, but after years of hearing other people’s stories, I’m thinking not much. My pity party doesn’t garner much pity in comparison to people who have been physically or mentally abused by parents or spouses, or people who have been tortured because of their race, or people who suffer from mental illness and depression. Lucky for me, I’ve never experienced any of that. But, I still need to heal. I still need to learn. I still need to change. We all do.
As a human, as an American, as a female, as a daughter, as a mother, as a wife I’ve always thought it was my duty to be the best person I can be, in spite of the pervasive hate, anger, violence, bigotry, stupidity, ignorance, and racism. Because, I know that if I am to be the best I can be, if I am to remain positive, if I am to remain hopeful, if I am to remain grateful, if I can be the EYE OF THE STORM, then I can do great things. I can be the change.
It’s an uphill battle, but I must keep moving forward.
My arsenal of books fuels my journey, and defends my position, whatever that may be at the time. A well-read mind is a lethal weapon. Stocked full of poetry, prose, stories and lessons from people who have lived before me, from people who are wiser than me, from people who can impart knowledge about things that I could never imagine. People who willingly share their thoughts with me, who open up and let me peer into their world. Without writers, without books, without words on a page I would sink deeper and deeper into a quicksand of self-defeating, self-sabotaging, self-pitying behaviors that often afflict humans like myself.
A trap is what it is. A trap we are firmly entrenched in by the tender age of 18. A paradigm trap that we spend a lifetime attempting to free ourselves from. I know I have.
I talk to my kids about their trap. The one I’ve placed them in. The one where I’ve drowned them in my beliefs. Suffocated them in family rituals. Manipulated them into believing that every family is like ours. Our family, the normal that they break free of when they finally learn to fly.
I won’t let them my children go blindly into the world, donning their rose-colored glasses. I’ve attempted to rock their boat. Shift their paradigm. Keep them on their toes.
I usually accost them at the dinner table or in the car with a deluge of questions I shoot at them so fast they don’t have time to answer:
- Did you know that many families do not eat dinner together every night?
- Did you know that some children eat at McDonalds every night?
- Did you know that some children don’t even eat dinner because their family can’t afford to feed them?
- Did you know that some children get bullied by their parents?
- Did you know that some children have been severely injured by their parents, on purpose?
- Did you know that some children are never told “I love you” by their parents?
- Did you know that some children never feel loved growing up?
- Did you know that some children don’t have a bed to sleep on, clean sheets to curl up in, a home where they feel safe?
- Did you know that …?
I pose questions like these to them because I want them to understand that how our family lives, how we are, what we do every day, how often they bathe, what time they go to sleep, what TV shows they are allowed to watch or not watch, what devices they have or don’t have, what car they are driven to school in are all a part of their bubble. Their paradigm.
Through our family paradigm grows a belief system and through that belief system a whole lot of bullshit gets formed in their minds and damn if it doesn’t skew their perspective. In fact, it does more than that; it becomes their reality and that reality is how they view the world. It’s their starting point. Their nest. Their diving board.
Everyone views this world with our own set of skewed, bubble lenses. If we aren’t careful, that very lens—how we see things, our reality—is the very bullshit that can derail us, keep us from seeing clearly, keep us from moving forward, keep us from fulfilling our destiny.
How do I know? I’ve seen it firsthand in myself, just read my “Note to Self: Wear the Hat” article.
I tell my children what I tell myself, that there will always be haters, there will always be obstacles, there will always be people to stand in your way, to knock you down, to kick you while you are down, to try to get in your head, hurt you, shame you, derail you. ALWAYS. But here’s the thing, as an adult, I know I’ve got no one to blame but me, myself and I. Instead of blaming others for my life, I take a look in the frickin’ mirror and remind myself that my life is my responsibility. And if I don’t love myself, no one else will either.
I mean if I can’t love myself how can others love me? I don’t let them. I’ve learned that I have to have respect for myself. Because, if I can’t respect myself why should anyone else? I’ve learned that I have to know myself. That was the hardest part of all. If I don’t know myself, I can’t know what I want. I can’t know why I want it. My true motivations. I can’t know anything. And, others certainly can’t know me. Not the real me. And here’s the rub, what I thought I knew about myself, what I thought I heard or didn’t hear, what I thought I saw, what I thought was happening, well, most of the time, I was wrong.
A wise man once said to me “Don’t take anything personal.”
That was the best advice I have ever been given. My insecurities have gotten in the way of me achieving my goals. My assumptions have gotten in the way of having healthy relationships. My beliefs, more often than not, have prevented me from getting on, and staying on the track toward my destiny. But not anymore. I’m done with all that. Now I “do the work” on myself. It’s been a long road. Along my road, I’ve found some gems that helped me realize that the problems I had were MY problems, and only I could fix them. These books changed my life and helped me move past blame, let go of drama, buckle down and focus on becoming the best person I can be.
3 Must Read Books to Really Live the Life Your are Meant to Live
1. “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey
This book has helped me in many ways, but something that stuck with me was the way the author described concerns that more often than not bog me down. He calls it the Circle of Concern. The author talks about how many people get wrapped up in all of their concerns and I mean ALL of their CONCERNS from their immediate family to extended family, to their past, present, future, to cruelty to animals, world hunger, bad drivers, parents at school, school environments, EVERYTHING. AND he tells you to write every single concern you have down in a huge circle. THEN he tells you to make a new smaller circle and put all the stuff in there that you can influence. Brilliant. His point, if we all just focus on what we can INFLUENCE and work on that, we will be a whole lot more productive and guess what … influential. Yes, that’s correct. As you work on what you can influence, your circle of influence expands. I like to think of the politics analogy. Start small, in your local district, do what you can for your people locally, and then word spreads and pretty soon you are a Senator. Not that this is my desire, it’s just a good analogy.
2. “Loving What Is” by Bryon Katie
This book states that the ONLY business you need to be in is your own business. Not your friend’s business, and not God’s business. So what does that mean? Well, to wrap it up in a neat little bow, the bottom line is … you should work on yourself FIRST and stop trying to work on everyone else. Stop judging everyone around you and take a look in the mirror. Realize that you are ATTRACTING what you are given, and it’s not everybody’s else’s fault that you are where you are. Realize that, however, painful it might be, it’s time to be accountable. It’s time to say, “I am responsible for my life.”
I use to spend an awful lot of valuable time concerned with what other people were doing. My husband, my children, my friends, my neighbors, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, you name it. And I worried too. I worried about what they thought of me. I worried about how they would react if I said something. I worried about what they would think of me. I worried about what I should and shouldn’t do. I assumed I knew what they were thinking, feeling, needing. I projected a lot. I never asked, just assumed. I also felt slighted a lot. Byron Katie’s book is a miracle worker. It’s a short book, with a lot of worksheets. She calls her exercises “The Work.” She even has a website called thework.com. Brilliant. And so are her “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheets. Brilliant.
3. “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie
This author helped me realize that it’s not my responsibility how other people react. That’s their business. I can’t worry about what they think. I have to say how I feel, and if they don’t like it, well, I’m sorry, that’s how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around saying hurtful things. I’m respectful, but I have boundaries. Let me tell you boundaries are TOUGH! To think of yourself first, before anyone else. That just means you are selfish right? That’s how I was raised. That’s been my belief for years. I come last. My feelings and thoughts come last. But then I realized WAIT that is BULLSHIT. My boundaries are valid. Just because the person I’m expressing them to isn’t comfortable with boundaries doesn’t mean I have to forget about why I voiced my thoughts in the first place. Or drop my boundaries just to take care of their needs. Their reactions are theirs to have. I’m not saying I can’t acknowledge their feelings. Have empathy. Show some understanding. But, I realized I no longer needed to be a caretaker. A loving, caring person yes but not a caretaker. Learning to know the difference is a daily struggle.
Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know if any of these books changed your life. I’d love to hear from you. @marlacarlton