Pools of water reflect the sky and the railings on the porch after last night’s massive storm, which I thought I had dreamed in the middle of the night. Cool, crisp air and a slight breeze swaying the tops of my twisted oaks signal cold mornings to come, when I may have to build a fire in the porch fireplace. This morning my thick, fuzzy old navy blue cotton robe makes me cozy, though my hands are a bit chilled. Just four weeks ago, my freezing hands were bundled in two layers of gloves as I stood in the snow painting while giant snowflakes landed on my canvas, so today is easy in comparison. And, once again, it’s good to be home on my own porch, knowing the family is here with me, all nestled in their warm beds. Like Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Yellow Brick Road lately. I wonder what the writer had in mind when he created this metaphor for life with twists, turns, and challenges along the way, hoping to get to Oz — only to find out Oz was unable to provide what had been imagined and that what we have at home isn’t so bad after all.
Have you ever set a goal, achieved it, and found out it wasn’t really what you wanted after all? I have.
Our society places a lot of emphasis on goal-setting, but sometimes we strive for goals that don’t make us happy when we get there. That’s why it’s important to understand Oz before you get there.
“Ah, The Good Life” May Not Be So Good
Frequently I hear stories of businesspeople chasing the good life that’s promoted by advertisers, products, and marketing, all trying to make us think what they offer will solve our problems and make us happy. Just a few weeks ago I met a man who worked like a dog to get massive wealth. He had the jet, several Ferraris, houses in many places, and he was traveling the world whenever he could. He told me he became arrogant, dismissive of others who did not have what he had. He said he became a complete jerk and as a result, he lost his wife and his kids. Soon he had another wife and more kids and lost them, too.
He was richer than most people could ever be, yet he became very lonely. Then he lost his Midas touch, his business fell on hard times, and he lost everything and had to rebuild from scratch. He quickly learned his friends only liked him for his money and were not there for him when he lost it.
I think sometimes we chase things because we think we’re supposed to, or because society expects certain things of us. Most of this disease is driven by comparing ourselves to others and caring too much what other people think.
Not Such a Hotshot After All
I made a lot of money early in my career. Not enough money to buy a jet or multiple houses, but enough to buy a really nice car and have a little money in the bank. I was pretty full of myself and I wanted more, and it came so easily for me, I thought I had the Midas touch. But in reality, I got lucky. And once I lost all my money, lost my fancy cars, and destroyed my marriage, I got a much-needed dose of humility pretty fast.
I kept trying, and came close to making a fortune another time with a company I started, and raised money to start, but I screwed that up too, and lost again. For years I blamed circumstances like 9/11, blamed my board of directors, but I didn’t blame myself. Yet I was the problem.
Being Stuck in My Past
It turns out I was stuck in my stories. In fact, I clinged to blaming others for my failure for almost two decades, until finally I had a revelation that I was the problem. I had to accept the blame for all those employees losing their jobs because I didn’t have my act together. That was a hard pill to swallow.
The Art of Reframing
In the process called reframing, I learned that we can take the painful moments in our lives and ask ourselves, “Though it was extremely painful, is there possibly anything good that came out of it?” Then I write that thing down and keep asking myself what other good came out of it. I’ll do this until I’ve come up with six, or 10, good things.
Suddenly, once I’ve gone through this process, I’ll realize that my pain is gone, and that I’m looking at the good that was done for me instead of the bad that was done to me. By reframing the story, I am able to let go of the pain.
How I Killed Two Decades
We all hate and want to avoid pain. Yet we try so hard to avoid it, we actually cause more pain because we let fear of it hold us back. For instance, I stopped taking risks. I was so hurt by taking a risk and losing my company that I avoided risk completely. And for 20 years my company was stagnant, not growing and not providing the kind of growth my family and my team deserved.
Waking up to my pain, reframing it by finding the good and the lessons, is what broke those chains and set me free to take risks again, and the result has really changed my life.
The Worst Horrors Relieved
Reframing takes away your chains. I’ve heard stories that are more horrific than I could imagine. People who have experienced child abuse, or rape, or terrifying fires, or other terrible events. They understandably live in fear, yet that fear has made some of them afraid to really live. I’ve watched people snap out of those situations in less than a half hour when coached by someone in reframing — and when those chains go away, life changes.
Pity Is Our Comfort Zone
We fall so in love with our own stories and our own pity, our love of blaming circumstances or other people who have hurt us, that we get stuck and don’t live our lives. We get stuck in traditions, we get stuck in religions, we get stuck in things our families require, we get stuck in the way we think we should be, and we get stuck in comparison to others.
They say the biggest cause of depression today is spending an hour or more a day on Facebook because we’re watching our friends and their wonderful lives. We get caught up in their travel, their events, their happiness, and we compare ourselves to them.
Don’t Should on Me!
We get stuck in “shoulding” on others. You should be like me. You should vote the way I vote. You should believe what I believe. You should … fill in the blank. This shoulding causes anger, resentment, and depression. If we can stop trying to put others in our box, stop shoulding on them, we can live freely, and care less about what they think.
Certainly, though I offer my ideas here on Sunday mornings, I don’t intend to “should” on you. I share what works for me, but I want you to find what works for you.
The Yellow Brick Road is filled with challenges. Life is never easy, but it does not have to be awful. There are those who frame everything with a positive outlook in spite of going through some terrible stuff, and others who frame it badly. You get to pick.
Know Why You’re Going
I do think it’s worth considering what Oz looks like for you so you can design your life to fit what you really want. I think it’s worth considering that what we think we want may not really be what we want. It might be a good idea to find someone who has what you want and find out from them if it’s truly worth it. Look at Anthony Bourdain, who seemed to have a cool life of fame, travel, and money, yet he pulled the plug for some reason. Maybe once he got what he worked for, it wasn’t what he expected. Why not find people who are living the same dream you want to live and study them, talk to them, get them to level with you about the good, the bad, and the ugly?
Don’t Wait for Others to Fix You
You may also ask yourself about the biggest pain in your life and see if you can reframe that pain to break your own chains. If it can work for me, it can work for you. I keep finding things that are holding me back because I’m clinging to something old. I had to learn that no one else can change things for you, only you can change them. If you’re expecting someone to be a certain way to free you up, it won’t happen. I learned from many years of therapy that all the things I complain about start with me, my perception, my story, and my chains.
I truly want you to live fully. Chains are no way to live, and most people don’t realize they are living in chains until they reframe their pain, and suddenly one little breakthrough opens their life and gives them rich experiences they were missing.
Have you defined Oz and made sure it’s something you really want?
Have you defined the steps to get there and exactly what it will look like when you arrive?
Have you found your pain points and reframed them?
Are you comparing yourself to others?
In the ‘60s they used to say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Make today count.
PS: Last week we held our FACE event (Figurative Art Convention & Expo). I thought it was a great experience and one that enriched the lives of those who attended. I want to thank everyone who attended. You enriched my life.
Last, Thanksgiving is coming. I have friends who avoid reconnecting with family because of the pain. Sometimes distance is healthy, but sometimes just a little reframing will make you want to go again.