let it go

The Pros & Cons of Choosing

How to choose

I think the secret to living a happy, healthy life is about making choices. Powerful ones. Even when it doesn't feel like your choice. It can be something simple like what clothes you choose to wear. It can be what name you choose for your child, or a new one you choose for yourself.

Whether or not you will be a vegetarian or paleo. Whether or not you put cream and sugar in your coffee or drink it black. Whether or not you drive to work every day when you live a mile away or decide to find an extra half hour and walk.

Choices. All of them.

My life is hard and I suffer a lot when I forget I have choices or when I don't feel a sense of power from the choices I make. When I'm coming from a place of "this is happening to me" instead of "this is happening for me".

Once I started playing around with this a little bit, I found there were pros and cons to every choice I made. Things that happened that made me feel really pumped about the choice and things that really sucked. I lost some things but gained some, too. I haven't made too many decisions in my life where choosing something didn't mean the loss of something else, in fact. It's sort of the trade-off, right?

The more I embrace this, the less I fear or resent making a choice.

 

For example, I remember choosing to leave a job I had a few years ago. It taught me a lot.

Once upon a time...

I had this job. It came with lots of really great perks like health benefits, stable income, a decent discount on stuff I liked to buy and some pretty cool co-workers. When I left, I had to walk away from all of that.

But there were also pros, because there were a few but one of them was pretty big so I'll focus on that. See, my supervisor wasn't the...best role model. I won't go into details so I'll just say that our dynamic wasn't working in such a way that it made me literally sick. It was not healthy for me and I was letting it affect every aspect of my life. I was eating things I didn't need to eat, hardly sleeping and griping around the clock. No amount of trying to be the bigger person made a difference and I literally had another co-worker say to me, "Dillan, you are being far too nice."

I gave it a lot of thought and when I chose to leave, I got to leave all that toxic crap behind. The moral compromises I had to make? Not anymore. The secrets I was forced to keep? Over. The negative fallout I had to deal with from other co-workers for covering for this person? Merely bad memories, now.

So, what I lost in positive life perks, I GAINED in overall health because I chose to leave something that wasn't serving me.

 

Now, sometimes we don't get to choose. Life unfolds and we are left standing there, mouth hanging open like, "WTF just happened?" We have to rally the troops and figure out our next move. It's way harder to get excited about the pros and cons when choosing feels out of our hands. While we don't always get to control the Game of Life, we always get to choose how we respond to it. We always get to choose what perspective we take and the lens we use for our situation.

In the example I shared about the job, I will really honest with you, I spent a lot of time blaming and complaining. I tried to be cool but this person really seemed to be getting away with too much. It didn't feel fair. Even after I left, I kept the thing going by constantly talking about it.

And then, one day, I stopped. I let it go. I decided that it happened for a reason to get me to the next thing in my life and had served a really big purpose by teaching me how to let go and leave something that wasn't right for me.

I think it's important for us all to learn this important skill and I like to think I had this job with this person merely to help me learn something I'd need later in life.

 

So, I'm curious. What has this opened up for you? What do you see about choices you've made or are being forced to make and what pros and cons do you see?

Where are you focusing and how is it making you feel?

Would a different perspective make a difference?

 

 

 

 

 

Why Some People Never Jump

"Courage is the opposite of cozy. You can quote me on that." -Pema Chödrön

Most people live their whole lives perched on the edge of life, steps away from unbridled bliss (or something close to it). They keep themselves poised, on tiptoes, terrified to take the flying leap into the great unknown.

For many people, the familiar is safer so they stop just yards shy of the dangling carrot. They choose to chase it and never take the flying leap to grab it and chomp down nice and hard.

But not me. No, sir.

Two years ago, I made a decision to change the way I move through the world to identify as a transgender person and pass as male. The process has taught me a lot about how people relate to change.

As with any major life change, some of what I’ve experienced was anticipated or expected and some was not. The parts I didn’t know or anticipate fall into the realm of the unknown—the aspect of change that people fear most, and that’s maybe why so many people never risk living their lives fully or they complain their way through the arduous process of change. They don’t want to risk not knowing. They may feel things they can’t expect or control. Or sometimes, they know how hard it might be and they just aren’t up for it because it’s hard. It hurts. It sometimes involves substantial loss for potential gain.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.

Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

If someone decides they don't prefer suffering, they must be compelled by something deeper and more powerful than their current existence.

One of the reasons I decided to jump and make the major physical transition was that my physical presence on the planet had simply become too uncomfortable to bear. I craved something different. I knew some of what I was up against, but the scales tipped in favor of the great unknown versus the familiar. The familiar was safe, but not comfortable. The risks were low and the payoff of living as I had lived was high.

But something deep inside me knew that I would never be truly happy.

"To overcome natural inertia, the motivation toward the change must be more powerful than the satisfaction with the status quo (or anxiety about the change)." -Bennett and Bush, 2014

I had a lot of practice with this, which was why this life change was even possible. I’ve sort of lived my whole life taking risks and doing what other people don’t do. I have a lot of experience with how to prepare for the unknown, how to handle myself when the unexpected happens and how to find a way to love this thing called life in the meantime.

My transition two years ago is only one of many, major life changes and choices I've made. It doesn't define me as a person but only helped me understand change and transition, and the relationship people have to it, on an even deeper level.

Here are some of the reasons why I think some people never jump:

They are afraid to change.

People get really attached to who they think they are, even when it isn't working so well for them.

There is no experience on earth like actively choosing to change your entire identity after inhabiting a body for your entire childhood, adolescence and young adult life. Having to unlearn everything you knew about how to move and talk and walk in the world and reorient yourself while still looking out through the same eyes? It’s mind-numbing. Disorienting doesn’t begin to describe it.

I’ve lost partners to new lovers. I’ve lost friends to death. I’ve lost beloved trinkets from my childhood. The permanence of the loss is something you gradually come to terms with. It’s gone, lost, over.

Losing 'yourself' while still being alive? It’s uncanny and surreal.

What I've learned (and loved) about the past two years was how little of myself there actually was that was permanent. And how much I get to evolve and create anew on a day-to-day basis.

They are afraid to be wrong.

What if it's the wrong choice? Well, who defines wrong? I already knew much of society and my family wouldn't approve of my decision, but I didn't want to live my life according to someone else's values and standards.

I think so many people do this, and then regret or resent some aspect of their lives because they chose based on what everyone else does--even when everyone else isn't all that happy.

I finally got to the point where I realized I had to choose and I would live with the consequences of my decision for myself. It meant throwing away the keys to an old reliable car, turning my back and walking away. It would work out the way it was meant to, like so many other choices and decisions had in my life thus far. Sitting on the fence of ambivalence was no way to live. It was a half-lived life and I wasn't about to spend the rest of my years on the planet that way.

They are afraid of the fall.

What would the process be like? There's only one way to find out. All the anticipating and planning in the world doesn't reveal something before it's time. It's like prying open a blooming flower.

I've watched people try to meticulously plan for things only to be totally surprised by the actual experience. They spend so much time reeling from the unfolding process because it's nothing like they wanted or hoped for or had thought would happen. It's a good lesson in holding your nose and jumping and letting go of the need to control the outcome of everything.

They are afraid to be alone.

At the two-year mark, I’ve learned that taking the jump meant not everyone would join me. It's not how everyone lives. I've had to learn to be ok with me and back myself up on every decision, because no one--and I mean no one--has the right answer.

Change brings out the worst in some people and the best in others.  Some people I loved and trusted ran far and fast when my gender transition went from this totally fun concept to a brutally difficult reality. My process of transformation brought up issues they didn’t or couldn’t face about their own selves in their own lives so they needed to put distance between themselves and me and what I held up. On the other hand, transitioning brought friends into my life that I would never have met otherwise and many people floated like cream to the top of the bottle, showing tremendous amounts of tenacity and tenderness.

They are afraid to be truly happy.

Sometimes, at my best moments, I look past the not-so-hot parts about being transgender and consider it the ultimate privilege. I feel like I really lucked out and have moments of happiness that I never had before.

Sure, I'm repeatedly pigeonholed and asked incredibly inappropriate or personal questions on a daily basis. In many places of the world, transgender people are outlawed and killed. I can be denied a job or medical care, but hey! I’ve been given the chance to move through the world one way for 30-odd years and now I get to spend the rest of my days in another form like few people on this planet will ever experience! I’ve won the gender identity lottery!

In many ways, I feel luckier than most people, because I got/took a second chance at life. I get to do everything and anything I always wanted to do PLUS the richness of my incredible past existence.

Where I once wore heels (short ones, of course), I now get to walk a mile in the (much more comfortable) shoes of the men I longed to be like. I get to wear ties and pants and fun haircuts, fashion I really dig and can enjoy. I get to experience tremendous physical strength in my mid-30s. I can run farther and faster than ever and I had never been able to do many push-ups but now I can do 30 at a time. Chin-ups were impossible. They are possible, now.

And I'm a bit more dangerous with a bat now than when I was as a kid.

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Two years in, I can tell you that I jumped for that dangling carrot and I'm glad I did. While it is no walk in the park, and is filled with no shortage of issues and is anything but cozy, it's working, for whatever reason.

Maybe it's because I simply decided it would.

And I'm willing to bet it would work for the jump you're staring down, too.

Keep On Keeping On--and Eat your Veggies!

The past few months have found me busier than Cinderella on the night of the ball! So much to do before the clock strikes 12! New office space. New contacts and opportunities coming in. Deadlines abound. Missed calls from good friends. An imminent move to a new home--something I've been needing and wanting for years. A home.

And what's keeping the machine running? Good food--both what I eat and how I live.

Right before I left for Miami in early February to attend the Immersion Conference hosted by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I did what I had done so many times in my life and decided that eating a lot of sugar was the way to deal with the stressors that were building each day. What happened? I got two back to back colds. And it wasn't pretty. And it wasted my time. I had less energy and a foggy head when I needed efficiency and productivity.

That ended my sugar fix.

What helped me come to that conclusion? Well, try spending four days with this crowd:

There was no way I could spend 4 days around such inspirational people and life-giving speakers and come home and even think about continuing to get in my own way. IIN has taught me more about making progress and making change than any education I got anywhere else in my life.

The way to progress is to set concrete goals, action steps for each one and eat healthier food. It isn't easy--grabbing donuts, muffins and pizza is far more convenient. But those choices only make things harder, slower--more arduous.

Why make an already jam-packed life MORE complicated by eating things that make thinking feel like running a marathon in jello?!

Dumb. I know better. So I did better.

Here are some tips I follow each day to work against the flow of old habits that want to bring me down:

  • Say It and let it go: When I want to eat something that I know won't serve me I say, "I want a scone." and then I wait 10 seconds. I then say, "I don't really want that. I only said it because..." I honor that the craving is there, but don't feed it because I know it won't serve me later.

  • Reach Out. No one does this work alone. My friends call me. I call them. We connect, we listen, we encourage one another on facebook. It works!

  • Prioritize veggies: I am between apartments right now so my home-cooking is temporarily at a level I'm not lovin'. It's temporary. It will get better, like most things in life. In the meantime? I seek out veggies every chance I get and make sure I'm eating them in balance with other healthy foods. Always make the best choice of what's available.

As I run to catch the bus on my last day before a big change in my life, I am thinking about two things:

I am grateful to be living a life that feels like a canvas. Each day I get to wake up and paint another part of the picture that is my ever-evolving life.

I will be very glad when I have a home with a full kitchen so I can store life-giving foods to create and sustain more balance in my life. Take a moment to appreciate this if you've got it--and begin to clean out the cabinets and fridge of any food that does not feed your body and rejuvenate your SPIRIT!!