As the clock struck midnight, she blearily came to. She sensed a warm liquid oozing out the side of her mouth. The single lamp was still on, and the old house creaked in the wind. She itched her green craggy nose, and smoothed her black dress as she tried to remember what had happened. She reached to adjust the strap of her pointy hat, and noticed the pieces she’d gathered earlier so carefully, were now strewn across the floor. A black cat, hissed and flashed out of the room. The old woman began to hiss too. The hiss became a chuckle then a loud laughter that rang around the rooms of the decrepit house. She noticed the orange plastic pumpkin laying askew, and there was nothing but silence. She wiped the drool of sleep off her face, and scolded herself aloud, “Durn it Gertrude McLaughlin! You slept through Halloween! Smoky! Why didn’t you wake me up!”
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results
- Albert Einstein
If you want to solve your life problems, you gotta get some new friends!
It really shouldn’t be a surprise that your current problems are a reflection of the thinking of your family and friends.
After all, who did you learn your behaviors from? Whose ideas do we grow up with? When you have problems, who do you talk to? Whose advice do you follow?
So, it’s natural that you reach a point in your life when you notice that your problems are no longer surprising. Instead, they seem to follow themes that repeat in an eerie way. Over the years, and more likely, the decades, the evidence mounts.
Perhaps these recurring persistent problems are not “them”. Maybe, it’s “me”.
First, it was a conflicted relationship with one boss. Later with another. Then another.
Or, you realize you are in a relationship with someone who ignores you or abuses you. Then another. And another.
Chances are, the problems you are experiencing, your advisors are also experiencing. Certainly a family that struggles with obesity can empathize with the problem, but are there beliefs in the family that contribute to the problem as well?
You want things to change and improve. But whether you surround yourself with friends and family, or try to keep your distance from them, the problems keep repeating. You’re losing hope and you feel stuck.
Belief Systems that Entrap Us
When your friends talk about “really good food”, are they talking about a sugary confection or are they talking about a fresh salad? Is a “really good drink” a chocolate shake, a large marguerita, a cup of herbal tea, or a glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lime? Which of these is better for your health? Which is more nutritious? Why do we say something is “good”?
Beliefs about what is good, what makes sense, what is right are often shared by your family, your friends, your coworkers and maybe your culture.
When you’re having a problem, it’s hard to even detect limiting beliefs in your network because they are so insidious. Even when you have a feeling in your gut, that there’s a problem with a belief, it’s easy to dismiss that feeling. If everyone we encounter thinks this way or behaves this way, it must be okay or even right.
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
Looking for Answers in the Wrong Place
My dad used to tell this joke:
A man was searching for his lost keys one night. He was looking on the ground, near a lamppost. Another man passed by him and noticed the first man’s frustration. “
“What’s wrong, mister?” he asked the first man.
“I lost my keys.”
“I’ll help you look for them. So, you lost them right here?”
“No, I lost them over there but the light is better here.”
A single girl who wants to get married keeps returning to her single girlfriends for advice. An adult child of an alcoholic turns to her addict sisters and brothers for advice, and continues on a path of chaos and frustration.
This is exactly the same as the man looking for his keys where the light is better. It’s easy, but the likelihood of finding the answer you seek is almost nil!
Find Someone Who Has What You Want
In a 12-step program, I learned a simple way to find new sources of inspiration. When choosing a sponsor, the guidance is simple: find someone who has something that you want.
At first, I didn’t know what this meant. But after going to a few meetings, I quickly learned. If I have problems with my mom, I don’t need to get close to people who have problems with their mom. I need to find someone who had problems with her mom, but now has a good relationship.
If I have a problem with complaining and arguing, I don’t need to spend time with someone who is experiencing this still. I need to find someone who had a problem with arguing and has grown past it to a more peaceful place.
If I want to lose weight, ease up on going out to dinner with my overweight friends. Hang out with someone who is fit and the right weight, instead. Let them suggest the meeting. Maybe it’s tea and a walk, when you were thinking ice cream.
Once you notice an area of your life where you have a problem, you can easily identify what it is that you don’t have.
In one of the first meetings I attended, I heard a more experienced member say, “I have found a pause button for the mental chatter in my head that keeps replaying things over and over. It has been such a blessing for me.” I want that!, I decided instantly. Prior to this, I had never even acknowledged that my normal state was this mental chatter, so of course, had not even imagined that there was a way to pause it.
“Share your experience, strength and hope.”
- 12-Step Program Guidance for sharing in the group
Honestly Assess Current Friendships
If you’re going to add something to your life, you’re probably going to have to cut out something else.
Do an honest review of the value of your current friendships. Not only for yourself, but for your friend, honestly assess what the impact is of the time you spend together.
Do you regularly complain about the same topic over and over? Are you trying to save money, drink less and eat less, but inevitably you find yourselves meeting at a bar or buffet? If you can honestly see that you are not being positive influences on each other, consider limiting the time together for now.
Friendship should be a place where people help each other be their best. If you have relationships where this isn’t the case, consider limiting the time and energy you spend on the relationship for now. Once you have more skills and have developed more fully yourself, you may be able to come back and truly be friends.
This includes family members too. If you find yourself on a daily phone call that leaves you frustrated and angry, consider a new pattern. Change to once a week. Try e-mail. Call at a different time of day. If the deeper meaning of the phone call is to improve your lives, do a reality check. If it isn’t doing that, back off. Go on a mission to figure out what skills you need so you can communicate regularly with family members in a way that actually does improve your lives.
For example, you may discover that your sister is a mentor, but not really a friend. Accept the best of a relationship, but don’t require it to be all things.
New Friends are the Key to Spiritual Evolution
Instead of being stuck at a certain point, you can find someone who was at this point and has found a way to move forward. When you study and learn from them, and you, too, move forward. At the same time, you move that starting point for your children and others you spend time with.
This is why the term evolution is fitting in terms of your own spiritual development, and why new friends are the key to getting unstuck.
This flips the view of yourself too. Instead of having a life sentence with a particular problem, it turns it into a research project, an adventure and actually fun!
Finding new ways to think about things and new solutions are the key to your spiritual evolution, and it is new friends that will take us by the hand and walk with us.
Hang Out with Authors You Admire
It is wonderful when you can find someone that you can spend time with, but it might not always be easy to find that person or be able to coordinate your schedules to immerse yourself in learning everything they have to offer.
But authors that have taken the time to write down their guidance, have done so with you in mind. They want to hang out with you for as long as it takes, and are available whenever, wherever you are!
Books in print or audio can be a source of healing in ways that your other friends can’t. These authors have developed materials so they can be part of your life anytime, anywhere:
- Take the book along on audio for a Sunday morning walk, or listen on your way to work.
- Play the audio as you soak in a long hot bath. (Careful!)
- Reread or replay a chapter as many times as you want.
- Immerse yourself in the works of an author that resonates with you. Work your way through one book after another.
- Keep the book with you so you can randomly open to a page and glean a daily inspirational nugget.
- Curl up with the book before you go to bed, or for a few minutes as you start your day.
When you read their works, you’ll discover those limiting beliefs and habits that you have been immersed in, so never before noticed. Over time you’ll develop a whole new network of friends that can gradually pull you out of your existing quagmire of problems.
I’ve never met some of my best friends.
Finding Authors to Befriend
This is so easy. Google it. Go to your favorite online bookseller. Go to the library. Ask friends. Go to a support group and get their literature.
If you are an adult child of an alcoholic, search for “adult children of alcoholics” and you’ll find a whole body of research tailored to you. People who have devoted their lives to helping someone with your family history, have poured their heart and soul into books that are waiting for you to read or listen to.
Having problems with your four-year-old daughter’s tantrums? Noticing problems in your workplace communication style? Do you realize you have problems staying focused or being effective? Can’t seem to organize your desk?
You can easily find wonderful authors. Keep exploring and when you find one you like, stick with him or her. When you read their books, you’ll also be linked up with people they admire.
“One cannot open a book without learning something.”
And as you move past problems that your family has been passing down for generations, you may be able to be the true friend and trustworthy advisor your existing friends and family are also seeking.
Find a Support Group
If you’re ready to dive in and make serious progress quickly, join a support group.
Having a weekly, or more often, meeting that you plan to attend makes your personal healing process a priority in your busy life. Try one group. If it doesn’t suit you, try another.
When you find a group that’s right for you, you’ll know it. You’ll feel a tremendous sense of relief to be surrounded with people who have lifted the veil of deception long enough to admit, yep, I’ve got a problem.
You’re also allowing yourself to be immersed in a system designed specifically to facilitate healing and recovery for you. You’ll hear people say things that continually give you ‘aha’ moments. As people speak your truth, before you can put it together for yourself, you’ll feel a level of gratitude and awe that is life-changing.
There is a peculiar magic of a group.
You’ll feel inspiration from people that are ahead of you on this path, and marvel that they have moved through your same problems — problems that you’d never imagined you could be free of. And you’ll be blown away by their passion for sharing their skills and inspiration with you, so you can come along with them.
And after a very short time, you’ll see beginners show up who know a bit less than you do. You’ll be so excited they are there and you encourage them because you know the courage it takes to just walk through the door. And you are ready to share your experience, strength, and hope with them.
Take What You Like and Leave the Rest
Certainly, you will object to something you read in a book or something that is said in a meeting. That’s when you go straight to the 12-step wisdom of: “Take what you like, and leave the rest.”
What is true for me is a result of my experiences and perception. This may not always match what is true for you.
Maybe you’re more evolved in a certain aspect than those around you or than the author you’re reading. Or maybe your experiences are so different that the advice for one person, doesn’t ring true for another. That’s okay.
Avail yourself to the wisdom and healing available in a group or a book, but don’t feel that you have to agree with it 100 percent.
Recognize that your objections could be right on, or they could be a way to justify quitting this scary process of self-knowledge and growth. Keep an open mind, and check again. Does this person have what I want? If the answer is yes, lean in. If the answer is no, back off and seek out another teacher.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- Do a quick review of who you turn to for advice, and note which subjects you talk about with each friend or family member.
- Honestly assess the level of helpfulness of each relationship. Do you tend to feel refreshed and uplifted, or are you negative and bitter after an interaction?
- Are there some negative relationships you could spend less time on for now?
- What solutions do you seek for your life? Do you want to: stop drinking, get fit, or improve your relationship with your partner?
- What areas do you feel stuck, and need inspiration or new friends?
- Do you know someone that models a behavior you desire? Ask that person if they will talk to you about how they do it. If they mention a book or a support group, check it out.
- Go to the library or bookstore and browse the section with books on this topic. Choose one and get started reading it.
- Identify support groups for the solution you desire. Open your mind and heart, and learn more about the group. Do you know someone who has attended? Talk to them about it. Try going to one or two meetings and see how it feels.
Your current problems are a reflection of your family and current friends.
The amount of variety, choice, range of scenery and difficulty, the amount of resources and trail maps, the access to trails by bus!!! It’s all just overwhelming. And that’s a wonderful thing!
The picture here was taken by my friend Kris with the panoramic feature on her new camera, on a hike we did in early October to Geomunoreum. For this hike, you must reserve a spot and go with a guide. Was it free or a few bucks? I can’t remember. I just remember it was lovely.
There are also over a dozen Olle trails, which are marked trails that meander around the island, and an info booth at the airport with maps and help.
The coolest thing though is that you can take a local bus to the entrance of most national parks. This makes it easy even to hike in one way, and return from a different part. This is a good idea when doing an Olle trail or when hiking the ‘big mountain’ here, Mt. Halla.
There are also dozens of smaller hiking trails. Jeju is dotted with oreums, small volcanic burps. Walk up one and get a lovely view. You’ll also probably find some outdoor exercise equipment and a temple.
Not sure what do to? Ask a friend, ask the Olle information person at Family Mart, or call the tourist info line at 064-1330. Nice and easy.
Today I turned 51. For those of us born in places like the US, Korea or Saudi Arabia, the life expectancy for a woman is about 80, so I’m thinking about 30 years would be typical.
But when I was in Ghana, I learned that the life expectancy is a good 20 years less. Ghana women average age: 60. Ethiopia: 53 (life expectancy by country)
Does having an extra 20 years to live make you careless with time, the same way we are with money?
Seeing Korean kids getting shuttled from academy to academy, pushed to excel at any cost, it makes me think that here, people are bogged down under the luxury of wasting time when measured on the grand scale. Koreans are so hard-working they are wasting their lives away at schools and offices, leaving little time for being loving family and friends. If 50 year olds thought they had only another 3 to 10 more years alive, would they still continue with this focus?
My birthday wish is that we all find ways to savor our time here. US, Korean and many cultures may not value the time spent developing loving relationships, so you’re probably gonna be bucking the trend.
And your time may be 20 years more or less than that of friends born in another country. One can never know. Until it’s too late.
Maybe this sounds like a depressing message, but I’m hoping for the opposite effect. I wake up and whoop with joy pretty much daily, with the realization that it looks like I probably got myself another day on the planet.
Like a lot of luxuries that seem great but quickly feel ridiculous and weighty, who really wants the luxury of wasting time?
Happy birthday to you …today and every day
I know I’m doomed anytime I go into a gas station convenience store to buy food. That’s why I use the pay-at-the-pump. But the dang card reader wasn’t reading, so I went in. $29.50 for gas and $9.23 for ‘food’.
What is it about these places that breaks down my willpower? I never buy Hostess ding-dongs at King Soopers. The Big-Grab fritos bag …does it mean the serving size or my ass? Sunflower seeds, shell on. Why? They’re a pain in the butt, a huge mess. But it seems somehow romantic or nostalgic or some other unfounded logic. By then I’m feeling guilty. So I grab an Arizona Ice Tea. What are these things? 24 oz of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. But tea’s healthy right?
It’s too late to do anything but eat and drink it all. But I gotta think of somewhere I can stop to throw out the entire bag of evidence before I get home. I’m single, but even I won’t be able to face myself tomorrow.