Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

We’re closing in on the halfway mark for 2018 and it seems like the year is speeding by. I’ve written a few times about my theme for the year, “essential,” including my most recent post recapping my essential wardrobe challenge. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I really need and want in my life, …

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You’re probably familiar with the expression, “my past came back to haunt me,” and you likely have some personal examples related to this phrase. While it is always good to live in the present and embrace “the power of now,” do we ever fully escape our pasts? Can we truly be free of our mistakes and poor behavior of years gone by?

This post will focus on our so-called “sins of the past” and how they affect our lives in the present time. I will relate personal examples pertaining to my past relationships and physical health, and do my best to provide useful insights and suggestions for letting go of regrets and repercussions from the past.

This message is a cautionary tale from a longtime “worrywart” (or as my father-in-law used to say, “worryhorse”). I have wasted many hours and sacrificed endless enjoyment by worrying about all sorts of things, most of which never came to pass. It is my hope that my insights today will help other worriers to reform their ways and in turn increase their happiness in life.

I recently listened to an episode of the Happiness Hour from radio talk show host, Dennis Prager. The focus of this hour was on worrying, so I knew I needed to listen carefully. Unlike many people who have “blind spots” in terms of their weaknesses, I knew full well how much of a detriment my habitual worrying was to my life and my happiness.

Dennis Prager stated that there are two powerful reasons to break the habit of worrying:

1. Most of what we worry about never comes to pass.
2. When one is worrying about what might happen, it is impossible for him to be happy in that moment.

Earlier today, I had to call the phone company about an error they had made regarding changes to my service plan. I dread making these types of calls because I invariably end up being transferred to multiple service reps before my issues are resolved. I find myself becoming angry and frustrated at how long these calls take and how inefficiently the company handles what should be a very easy and straight-forward request.

Today’s call was far worse than any other such call I’ve made in recent memory. I was transferred to no fewer than five service representatives and was on the phone for close to an hour. It didn’t take long before I felt my heart racing and my blood pressure rising. I ended up losing my cool during this call and expressing my anger and frustration toward the person on the other end of the phone.

When I got off the phone, I felt shaky and uncomfortable. I wasn’t proud of the way I had behaved during the call. While it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset at inefficiencies and wasted time, I didn’t feel good at how angry I had become. I allowed myself to get “rattled” by what had transpired and I had let these events disrupt my well-being.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The passage above is called the Serenity Prayer. It is used frequently in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery programs. It is simple yet extremely powerful. I believe that if one fully embraces and lives in tune with the words of this prayer, he or she will live a much more peaceful and happy life.

I dedicate this week’s post to the discussion of the Serenity Prayer, as I feel it is integral to my healing project and the healing of all those who have things in their lives they wish weren’t “so.” That pretty much describes all of us, now doesn’t it?

We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be. Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action. The voice can also help us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not the easiest or fastest thing to do. That is the positive side of the voice…

The Dark Side of Our Inner Voice

However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive. It can be so ubiquitous in its presence that we are unable to experience even a moment of peace. It can relentlessly order us to be productive in each and every moment, to always put the needs and wants of others above our own needs, and to prove our worthiness through action many times each day. The dark side of the voice is where “should” often resides. Have you ever heard the expression, to “should” on yourself? The mental imagery evoked is apropos in that this application of should is akin to showering ourselves with garbage (or worse…).

This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog. These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue. The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind. Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

1. I should be more productive.
2. I should make more money.
3. I should get a real job.
4. I should get up earlier.
5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?” The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations.

Sometimes a headache isn’t just a headache… This is something I’ve pondered in recent months as I’ve considered how often I suffer from migraines. Could it be possible that my headaches serve a purpose beyond causing me extreme pain and discomfort? My thoughts and realizations on this subject will be the focus of today’s post.
Inconvenient Migraines & Other Such Ailments

Last summer and fall, I attended classes three nights per week. Every two or three weeks, we would have a project to complete and hand in for course credit. We would usually be given one class period to use as a “work night” for our projects. After a few months of class, I noticed that I would almost invariably have a migraine on all project nights. Was this just a mere coincidence, or was something else behind it?

As I considered my project night migraines, I noticed that I would also get migraines on days or nights on which I had certain other commitments, such as a Toastmasters speech or a social function to attend. It is highly unlikely that my migraines on all of these days happened by chance, so perhaps there were other forces at play…

I am a long-time fan of the reality show, “The Biggest Loser.” I’ve watched all but one of its nine seasons and I frequently find myself in tears as I watch this truly inspiring show. Last night, as I watched the penultimate episode of the ninth season, I was moved to write about my appreciation for this show I’ve come to love.

The four remaining contestants all went home for a month, where they trained to run a marathon while continuing to focus on losing weight to vie for the title of “The Biggest Loser” (and the accompanying quarter million dollar prize). Two of the contestants were still close to a hundred pounds overweight when they left the Biggest Loser Ranch. Yet, they all returned and finished the marathon! The final two marathon finishers ran across the finish line hand in hand, and I bawled like a baby while watching this touching moment.

If someone were to ask you if you love yourself, how many of you would reply with an enthusiastic “Yes”? How about if you were asked if you love your body? I know that for most of my life, I would have found both questions absurd. I definitely and unequivocally did not love myself or my body.

For years, I was my own worst critic. I would unleash a torrent of criticism upon myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. In fact, I was my own worst enemy. Nothing I could do was ever good enough for me; my standards were impossibly high and there was no way I could reach them. While my targets for accomplishment and success were virtually unachievable, my standards for my body and physical appearance surpassed them by leaps and bounds.