In our Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook obsessed culture we tend to believe what we see and we forget that there is a story behind every picture, behind every post. Sometimes there is a larger story that we don’t know, and sometimes we assign stories where there are none.
There is a balance to walk, a fine line. Currently I am going through a difficult period of my life, relationships shifting, anniversaries of difficult things, learning more about some situations that bring sadness. And yet, in spite of it all I am experiencing a deep sense of peace, of connectedness and of deep trust through it. And through it all there is so much to celebrate- births, beauty, deepening of relationships, love and so much more.
It is the Cone or Crap debate from the Ted Talk- Gratitude, Gifting and Grandpa by John Halcyon Styn … which do I focus on, what habits do I cultivate, what tools do I have to help me navigate the difficult places.
I realize now that it is this mental discipline that determines the degree in which you enjoy your life. It is so simple: Focus on the good.
But in our modern world it isn’t simple at all. Our advertising bombards us with the message that we are not enough and we do not have enough. Or news relentlessly tells the story of doom and fear. It is no wonder that so many of us struggle with unhappiness and depression. It takes a committed practice to stay focussed on the good. (Or frequent visits to an especially magical Grandpa.)
But since Grandpa is no longer here physically, I developed a little trick to snap myself into the Grandpa mindset. It is called, “Crap or Cone.”
Visualize yourself holding an ice cream cone in one of your hands…and with dog crap on one of your shoes. This is the state of our lives at every single moment.
At every moment there are aches and pains, work to be done and people who don’t like you. At the very same moment, there are gorgeous flowers, laughing babies and your favorite foods. There are always both. And the degree in which you live in Heaven or Hell is determined by where you place your focus.
This is not the same thing as pretending that you have no problems. Time and energy should be put towards addressing the crap on your shoe. (My grandpa spent a few moments EVERY DAY writing his congressional representatives. But he didn’t spend the rest of the day complaining about the issues.)
The problem comes when we make our lives all about the crap. And in a world so focused on problems, that crap-focus is an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is scary how often you will see people set down their cone, take a huge whiff off their shoe and demand, “Oh this is horrific…you have GOT to come smell this!”
Some people will argue that focusing on the good is simply not facing “Reality.” But reality has almost an infinite amount of things for us to pay attention to. Yet, our lives have a finite amount of moments. Where we place our focus is everything.
When you start practicing focusing on your cone, you start to realize just how much there is to be grateful for. So much in nature. So much in our own bodies. So much in our fellow human beings. We are practically swimming in an avalanche of ice cream.
Concentrating on the crap won’t make my dear one’s cancer disappear, or bring back a loved one, or keep another from her hurting heart… but only focusing on the cone, the delicious parts of life like the beauty of the autumn light, the fact that my words have been pouring forth and I feel connected to the juice of life in so many ways, that doesn’t fit entirely either. When we aren’t honest about where we are really at, where we struggle, how we are really doing there is the loss of the opportunity to make a connection, to really meet each other where we are at. And I have found that my relationships have thrived where I share all of me, the cone and the crap, and where I make space for people that I love to be who they are and where they are at.
At the same time I have started to set more boundaries around how much crap talk I can handle, and I no longer spend the amount of time I used to
Those who are interested in living wholeheartedly know that behind the perfectly captured photo of the angelic toddler there were the moments before with the meltdown because they didn’t want to wear matching socks, or because they wanted to do it “all by myself”. And we have those same tantrums as adults, we just seem to hide them more effectively.
And as I strive to live a life where words like- authentic, congruent, intentional, wholehearted, clarity are used daily. I find myself celebrating the cone, but acknowledging the crap and learning to walk that balance.
And it has been a helpful practice to remember that people’s cultivated lives aren’t always a reflection of the entirety of their lives… and there are people that are brave enough to share all of themselves with people who have earned the right to hear the entirety of the story:
Share tenderness with people who have earned it. Trust is built in small moments over time. Work through your stories one-on-one before sharing them publicly. Be careful whom you trust with your tender places. Hence, boundaries are important.
It’s a privilege to see me outside of my armor. People have to earn that right. There are people who are not safe, so limit time around them or else be armored / boundaried around them.
We are all in process, we are all doing the best we can with what we have, and we are all deserving of so much love and kindness.
If anything I would ask that you remember that what you see often isn’t the entirety of the story, and that sometimes we forget that other people have the same fears, struggles and issues that we do. We are so similar and we tend to spend so much time making ourselves so separate, so special… and yet… what peace, what wonder is found when we realize that we are all such magical beings full of light, love, tender moments, frustrations, fears, regrets, anxieties with a hope that is woven through.