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What happens now?

I’ve always had a thing for Jodie Foster. Well, since puberty hit, I guess.

I went through a phase where I watched virtually every movie I could find, one of favorites being the original Freaky Friday. I didn’t know it then, but I was especially captivated by her androgynous teenage character. I almost "knew* she was gay even before she came out decades later. I could totally relate to her, even when she didn’t even know herself, or share herself, in that way yet.

In the movie CONTACT, Ms. Foster’s character, Ellie, travels to outer space and on the edge of a major part of the journey into the Great Unknown, she says breathlessly, “what happens now?!”

Matthew McConaughey’s character says the exact same phrase in INTERSTELLAR, another one of my favorite outer space/sci-fi films. Fun fact! Mr. McConaughey also played a major role opposite Jodie Foster in CONTACT. ;)

I’ve been especially drawn to this phrase “what happens now?!” as I’ve intentionally veered off the straight-and-narrow (pun!) path in every aspect of my life, for most of my life. I just recently put together a presentation about living in 25 different homes in 19 years. And that’s just the past 19! I’ve had more than that in my 40 years on this planet.

As I put together that presentation, I realized the guts and glory it took along the way to pull that shit off. I sat at my computer, watching the pictures scroll by and realized the epic courage it took to do what I’ve done. And the more details you know about my story, the more it may dazzle you.

I don’t come from old or new money. I was raised by a single mother who never attended college. I went to school on full scholarships. I left my career due to homophobia in my early 20s. I’ve weaved in and among many different careers including building my own business as a coach and writer and speaker for the past 10 years. I came out as queer in my early 20s and then again as trans in my mid-30s. I put myself through the grad school at the same time I began my transition. I left the long-term relationship I’d been in when I realized it had served it’s true purpose for me and then moved around to find and figure out what Home meant to me ever since.

And along the way, through all those meanderings, I’ve often asked myself when the going got tough, “what happens now?!”

And the answer I’ve learned to hear and trust is: whatever you want.

What happens in our lives is completely dependent on us and our choices and our decisions from moment to moment. It may be why so many people play it “safe” and stay with what’s familiar. There’s a false sense of security when you live your life like that. But you also stay the same, perhaps to a fault that doesn’t serve you to your highest potential.

“What happens now” feels like it’s out of our control, which it often is, but we do have plenty of agency in what happens next. External factors may influence our means and methods but if we let ourselves fall victim to that, we’re in dire straights. When we empower ourselves to act with whatever we have in the moment, we find our way, sometimes one fingerhold at a time. And if you’ve ever tried to plan something, like a wedding for example, you realize how imperfectly Best Laid Plans may actualize.

I think that’s why I loved the movies I mentioned earlier so much, besides my major crush on Jodie of course, because they show just what happens when we choose our own adventure and let go of what happens next. It’s a dance between choosing to act, choosing to see, choosing to try and releasing our grasp on how it will unfold.

Both characters intentionally choose to go into Deep Space with no idea what will happen to them and no idea who they will become or if they will even continue to exist.

I’ve done that so many times in so many ways, my transition being one of many decisions I’ve made, my moving around the Northeast of America being another, and what I’ve learned from the process is how scary and thrilling and wonderful it is to leave the familiar and learn who you become as a result.

The way meditation works.

I’ve been meditating since 2001 or so. So about 17 years.

It’s been a long journey figuring out what I needed to really understand about meditation. One of the biggest misconceptions I had, and I hear other people having, is how meditation is actually supposed to work.

I was at a wellness event last week and met person after person who, when I asked if they meditated, responded with, “oh no way. I can’t make my mind that still. It just never stops. I’m too busy to sit and do nothing like that.”

Then there was the person who scoffed a bit and said, “well, I pray. Which is…more important.”

Listen, in America we get to have different opinions. We get to choose our religious path or spirituality that serves us. We also get to decide what works and doesn’t work for us. But I think it’s unfortunate when people make assumptions about something or form fixed opinions based on misinformation.

Meditation isn’t about turning off your brain. It doesn’t work like that. Our brains are designed to process information to keep us breathing and keep us alive. So if you’re brain stopped, that would be a bad sign. I told those people last week, “if your brain stopped, you’d be dead."

Meditation isn’t about being dead. It isn’t about being numbed out. It isn’t at all about shutting down the constant stream of thoughts that run through your mind. It doesn’t work like that at all and isn’t meant to. But perhaps people think that because they desperately crave that kind of feeling to escape the prisons of their minds, which never stop and hold them hostage and cause a lot of fear and suffering.

I can see why people would want to shut that shit down. I KNOW why, because my mind can be a dangerous place to wander around. I am extremely intelligent from a lifetime of wonderful education and I also pursue information like it’s my job, because it IS my job. I am an overthinker by nature and an over-analyzer from a tumultuous childhood. I learned from an early age to strategize and sort things out to survive.

It’s taken some hard lessons and a lot of discipline to figure out how to turn the machine of my mind to a different setting. Meditation helps. That’s how it works, actually.

Meditation doesn’t work overnight. It takes practice. It’s meant to help us actually understand what we’re thinking about, not to stop the thoughts. It works by helping us see the way we get hooked on a thought and get carried away by it. It works by seeing how we live our lives in reaction to people or events instead of responding from a place of power and balance.

That’s the way meditation works.

When we sit on a cushion or a chair for one minute or five or an hour, we are practicing how to sit still and watch our thoughts like our favorite Netflix show. We learn to watch the thoughts like they are a sitcom or crime drama and not what we think they are, which is REALITY.

Still with me?

Our thoughts are not REALITY. They are like a tv show, created from our fears and perceptions and the stories we tell ourselves—not necessarily what’s really happening.

Meditation helps us practice this so when things happen to us in real life, when we aren’t sitting still on a chair or cushion, we apply that same awareness.

What’s the point? Well, when we start to see that our reactions to life cause us stress or unhappiness, we want that to end. We want to change things. We want to think differently to feel differently. We want to learn how to have a more loving and fearless approach to life.

That’s the way meditation works. It actually helps us do that to feel better.

But only when we stop saying things like, “I could never just sit there and turn my mind off, it’s too busy.”

Meditation isn’t meant to turn you off, it’s meant to turn you ON to what you’re doing that’s keeping you struggling and feeling stressed out.

So when you’re ready to sit yourself down and be brave enough to do something different, that’s the way meditation works.

How to stop overthinking.

I met a new friend over Christmas. He said, "your ability for self-reflection and processing information and seeing it from so many angles is astounding! I don't know how you don't drive yourself crazy, though."

I smiled at him and said, "I do drive myself crazy."

 
Doing Cycle Dillan DiGiovanni overthinking
 



And that's my advice for you, if you're an over-analyzer like me. Notice that you're doing this to yourself. And try to catch it. And try to do it less and take action more often. That's how you stop overthinking everything in your life.

Notice it.
Think less.
Act more.

Sounds so simple, right? Basic, even?

But why is it so hard?

Well, let me use my analytical brain to explore this. LOL!

Just kidding. We overthink from a place of fear. We try to figure out all the scenarios of our lives like a chess game and end up causing ourselves tremendous stress and anxiety. We avoid taking any from fear of what might happen. It makes sense! We want to stay alive, by golly. But often that inaction may actually deprive us of the very lives we want and need to live.

[Share that and quote me on it, will ya?]

I often overthink too much and then try to overcome that by acting more impulsively, which sometimes gets me into situations where I need to overthink solutions again.

Guess what? This is called LIFE, my friends. I wish I could tell you there was a simple formula that would make it so easy to follow along and then arrive at a system that worked perfectly every time. I haven't found it and I've tried a lot of different things. If you've been following along, you know this about me. 

But what you don't know if how often I question myself. How often I get into situations that feel scary and hard and how little I trust myself. But that's where I lose my power and it's where you lose yours, too. 

We overthink to try to overcome the fear and feel more safe and secure. We overthink to try to make sure the bottom won't drop out of our lives. We overthink and often stop there. We never move forward.

It's good to think things through. Like I said, I sometimes don't think things through enough and end up with another problem to solve. But what I get from all that trial and error is more iron inside me, like Emily Dickinson said. Emily was amazing, I'm watching a new movie about her life called A Quiet Passion and I was overthinking something so was hardly paying attention so I need to go back and watch it again. Too much wisdom there to risk missing out!

Life is just one choice after another. Some will go well. Some will NOT. But trying is better than overthinking.

Notice something you're overthinking in your life. 
Try to get to the source of why you're thinking so much.
Imagine what it would be like to take action in some direction.

Think less and act more.