T-shirts are the ultimate vehicle for sharing our trending thoughts. As soon as something becomes relevant, we
clamor for the t-shirt, and we are just as quick to cast them off when the next thing comes along. We only feel the need to save them when we can’t quite part with the memories they evoke. Raise your hand if you have ever considered a quilt made of your favorite t-shirts? Just like our t-shirt collections, most of our feelings pass through us without incident, but certain ones make their mark and we find it a challenge to part with them. They stick in our bodies and collect energy (especially when we have forgotten they are there). Why is it easier for us to let go of certain t-shirts, or certain emotions while others are stage five clingers? The reasons may be hard to explain. We keep mementos in order to hold the energy of the moments we cherish, and we seem to absorb the ones we don’t straight into our bodies. Might we have it backwards?
My family owned a t-shirt company, Eagle Products, for most of my life. Even though I loved the advantages I received from the company, I have recently discovered how much I took it all for granted. Yesterday, my sis-in-law asked if it was available for purchase right now, and it threw me into some strange feelings. Years ago, we had decided not to try to buy the company ourselves when the elders were ready to retire. We weren’t in a solid position to do it, and I remember that clearly. I still found myself looking back on the choice, thinking there must have been a way. Even if Eagle were for sale right now, I don’t think any of us are prepared for the amount of work it would really take to make it profitable for all of us in today’s market. But what do I know? I can also imagine a world where we are able to take Eagle Products to new levels of success. This is an ideal, and I know it.
Time does a lot of things to our value systems, including changing our perspectives. When we try to revisit a 10 year old decision, we are hard pressed to recreate the same emotional conditions we were facing when we made whatever choice we made. And looking back with regret is a recipe for dissatisfaction - every single time. We all have moments we wish we could have controlled, but that would mean we would have altered the outcome of our experiences, and this is precisely where I believe we lose sight of our universal purpose. Regret, and similar sentiments, keep us from appreciating the experiences being delivered to us in every single moment. Instead, our thoughts and feelings bounce around against our triggers, occupying the bandwidth that could be available for ‘being present in each moment’.
When we are embarrassed in a public setting, we replay the moment in our heads, over and over, wishing we could change the tiny details which would have forced another outcome. We feel victimized by circumstances, defeated; wholly unable to look for the lesson being landed right in our midst. And I get it. It is hard to be the center of attention when you aren't trying for it. Our improv skills are only helpful if we can maintain our ability to resist that “fight or flight” response that often overtakes these stirring circumstances. When we develop the ability to “roll with it”, we can allow the embarrassment to be absorbed by all witnesses, together. The effect can become much more empathetic overall, and hopefully helps move you towards humor, which can always help to heal feelings of inadequacy, self-consciousness, awkwardness, humiliation, etc. We feel better when we don’t feel alone.
Our Mentors play a defining role in our confidence levels, as do our personalities. They inform our values, help create our belief systems, and become our first critics. The ways we react as children will likely continue into adulthood unless we have some root realizations that change the ways we act and/or the ways we feel. What is important to the people in charge of us may not be the same things that are important to us, and if they don’t recognize that fact, it may become complicated for us to claim our own values, or to dream big about what we want. Learning how to do that can be a lifetime pursuit, but trust me when I tell you that it is well worth the journey.
At Our Raw Material, we encourage frequent use of The Ideal Playground to work out discordant thoughts and feelings. Part of having a good working relationship with our Values System is being able to discern the difference between what we think is a value and what might be more of an ideal. Ideals are the things that we would want if we could have it our way. Ideal moments come around here and there, but we don’t get to live in them much (yet). Practicing in the playground lets us literally ‘play around’ with our creative solutions and ideas so that we stay fully expressive in our imagination. These powers have been labeled things like ‘frivolous’ or ‘a waste of time’ to previous generations, but I think we are beginning to see the bonds of control that have essentially forced us away from our own personal value systems, in favor of someone else’s.
Our values should be uniquely our own, and just like our personalities, they will continue to change with each passing day. Shared values (and ideals) bring us together in fantastic ways, making it easier to work with some people than others. Our friendships form quickly when common values sit at the heart of them, and we find ourselves willing to open up, listen, become vulnerable, and learn about the other person. On the flip side, when we run up against discord, we are often stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward without difficulty breathing or pulling tension straight into our bodies. More often than not, we don’t recognize it until it becomes an illness or an injury, and even then, we might not see the correlation.
We are all drawn to the things we value, but for those of us who want a more peaceful world, we must find a way to co-exist with value systems that run contrary to our own. Listening to people we don’t agree with may seem difficult when we think we are trying to sway their opinions, but if our objective is simply to accept why they feel the way they do, it takes nothing away from our own perspective, but gives them the space to feel heard. In that space, we find it easy to make choices about what we want to fight about, and what we can let go. We can’t fight every single battle that we’d like, and we can’t stand up for every underdog, but we can become familiar enough with our own values and ideals that we can find great joy interacting in the world with MOST of the people we encounter along our journeys.
This morning I was driving past an intersection that always has homeless people on the corners. It’s minutes from my house and it is a constant barrage of different people, so I habitually ignore their signs and requests. Instead, I have made it a practice to ground myself and open my heart whenever I pass through this area. I don’t have the resources to take care of all of these people every day, but I can send thoughts that they will one day enjoy the food and shelter that I could easily take for granted in my own life. I spend intentional time every day hoping that for all of us, because I pass by the need in my own neighborhood most days.
I stopped as the light turned yellow, and made eye contact with the man outside my window. He was young and black. He had the look of someone hardened by life, but there was a sparkle in his eye. He said something to me, but I couldn’t understand him so I rolled down my window. He said “do you have any change?” I told him I did not and asked his name. He was eating a bag of Doritos for breakfast (been there by choice!) and I asked him what his favorite food is. The light changed, and he asked me to pray for him. I told him I already was. I look forward to seeing Cedric again soon. I plan to bring him some tacos from Taco Bell – his favorite. And maybe a t-shirt. Ideally, every human being would get the daily nutrition and shelter their bodies require, but we all know that’s not the reality we live in - not even close. Still, it’s a really nice ideal to imagine for all of us.