#reverb10 – Gift

December 30 – Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

This year gave me the gift of understanding my choices.

When I’ve made a choice grounded in fear or in doubt, then right or wrong, I don’t think it’s really been a choice. It’s been a learned reaction to stimuli, a survival instinct. The choice lost in the trauma. Yep, I can see many of my choices as nothing more than learned reactions. Sure, you could ask… but wasn’t it a choice to begin to react that way?

Maybe. But, seriously? Think about it. Someone jumps out behind you and shouts “BOO!” How do you react? Most of us will jump in surprise. That’s a given. Then I’m sure most of us would like to laugh at our own folly for jumping… we know there is no real danger. Some of us will over react, totally losing it or lashing out. Some of us fold into a little ball, wanting to become invisible. Some of us will show no reaction at all, we’ve learned to hide our reaction. Other reactions could fit in between these and then we might not react the same way each time. Maybe a particular sound, or scent, or the time of day will trigger a reaction.

Our reactions are learned behaviours. The person who shows no reaction or folds up has probably learned through trauma that to react in any other way is going to be… bad. The person who over reacts? Any number of reasons for over reacting. For example, my father would over react to being suddenly woken. I learned very young to wake him up from a distance, or run the risk of finding myself at that distance with a fist sized bruise. His reaction was from his experiences during WW2. Learned during a time of distress.

So really, what choice is your reaction when it was learned as a way to survive? Especially as a child? He did later make a choice to retrain that reaction. We could wake him, his eyes would shoot open, his fists close to his sides until he’d calculated the danger… not that I was going to be the one to test his new reaction from close by. Yeah, I chose not to take that risk.

There have been choices I’ve made, so many choices really, that I understand weren’t choices at all. For so many years I’ve lived my life sitting behind a wall of fear, that the person I once was, that I might have become, isn’t really here anymore. Sitting in fear I took away and ignored my choices.

I tried to bring order to the chaos. I told myself that… I’m a systems person. I need neat and tidy. I crave order. I don’t want surprises. That’s also what career testing showed the other week. In reality… I rebel and throw it all to the wind in some chaotic artistic frenzy. Oh yeah, take it from me that sometimes it’s beautiful, but it doesn’t always go so well. As a child I often led with my heart and found beauty in the chaos. Now I try to stifle the beauty and hide from the chaos… and lie to myself calling it a choice.

“You made your choice now live with it!”

Transformation of the darkness

jscreationzs

That is probably one of the crappiest things to hear and it’s usually said in the most irritating pitch of frustration. I’ve said it to myself far too many times in my life to do anything but roll my eyes at the words, at least until the last few days. That’s when I started to say it to myself again… and I smile every time I do. You see, that’s how the Achieve post has marked me. Back then I didn’t see that I’d made choices to live, I saw them as failures to die. I went to sleep after posting with the physical sensations of the rope around my neck and my body pressed against the cliff. Then in the morning I woke up with a sore throat, stiff neck, back and knees. My palms felt raw, like I’d fallen on asphalt… or climbed a cliff. My muscles were rubber. My whole body shook. Physically I was a wreck. It took most of the day for the physical sensations to fade and as they faded, the understanding that I’d chosen to live became a part of me. A transformation took place inside.

It really is easier to just react, but those behaviours learned as a child don’t work in an adult world. At least now I can understand that the choices I began to make in the last couple of years were less about learned reactions to surviving and more about living the life I want to live. Some of my choices have been difficult to make. Pfft, many of them. I soul search most things, even after saying no… or yes. I tear it apart and put it all back together again. When to say no, when to say yes. How and if to do certain things and which way to go. Then I ask… what if it was the wrong choice? *whew* Sometimes I’m surprised I made any choices at all.

The choices were only possible from a place of safety, where I could see no danger, or from a place of love where I would risk the danger. I still have a way to go, I realise this. There’s still a lot of dark places in my soul needing transformation. I still doubt, but I am learning to trust. I’m bound to make some mistakes along the way, but I have faith that they won’t be cataclysmic, especially when they’re leading me to the life I want to live.

Yes, understanding my choices. This has become the most memorable gift this year.

{Future tools: Lifehacker’s Free Tools to Manage New Years Resolutions and Gretchen Rubin’s Questions to Help You Make Effective New Year’s Resolutions.

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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