How many of us are holding ourselves hostage with out-dated ideas, a list of should-as and ought-as that no longer fit us? We really can change our minds and take our lives in a whole different direction if we want to.
Several years ago, I scheduled a solo trip to the beach in November. I was single then, running my business, parenting two very challenging kids at the time. I was spinning about 17 plates on sticks and I was dead-dog tired. So I rented a cottage for 4 nights at the beach, packed up the dogs, coloring pencils, a beach chair, a few novels and self-help books and I was off to recharge, relax and recoup from a crazy-ass year. Oh, such romantic notions I had about a leisurely Ann Morrow-Lindberg kinda stay at the coast.
What I found when I got there didn’t quite cut the mustard. I found a small little house with very poor lighting, not a comfortable chair to be found, no internet, no TV or radio, a lumpy bed and no fence for the dogs (as promised). PLUS, it happened to be a very gray and rainy week. (It was the sun I was most craving . . . so I was particularly bummed).
In addition, I’m not really the be-alone-at-the-beach kind of person. I’m an extrovert and when left alone, my inner voices take over and have a field day. Confined to the house because I had chosen a remote little town with nothing to do, I was lonely, getting more depressed by the day and feeling like a jilted lover at the train station watching her boyfriend ride off with her heart in his carry-on.
I called a friend and described how miserable I was, and she suggested that I just come home.
“WHAT?!” I can’t come home. I reserved this place for 4 nights and 5 days and I HAVE to stay.”
She laughed and then threw the bull-shit flag on that one. “You’re the one that’s crazy Cheri” she said. If you’re miserable just leave and come home. There is nothing that says you have to stay there.”
WHAT? Could she be right?
Until she made this wacky suggestion, it had never (and I mean NEVER) crossed my mind to leave. I was holding myself hostage on vacation!!! I had to finally say to myself “Get off the cross Cheri, somebody else needs the wood!”
I’ve been on the lookout for other ways I hold myself hostage. Ways in which I deny my own happiness, so I can keep to some notion or idea often laid down by something or someone outside of me.
Here are a few that I have found just in the last few years:
I held the belief that the man I was going to fall in love with should be taller than me. This was not just a desire on my part. It was a rule. If I had stuck to that one I’d have denied myself the single best decision I have ever made. Ever.
When Mark and I decided to get married I had a strict order in which things were to happen. Number One: Sell my house. Number Two: Buy a new house. Number Three: Get married. Another good friend threw the BS flag on that one and pushed us to get married first. It was not at all the way I thought things should go . . . but it worked beautifully.
When I was packing up to move, I “discovered” lots of things I had to keep because someone I loved had given them to me, or it had belonged to a deceased relative or I had spent a lot of money on it. I had been dedicating prime household real estate to things out of obligation to others . . . not to myself. And if I hadn’t caught myself I would be doing the same thing in my new house.
I see it all the time. We let ideals of who we think we should be take the lead. We act to please others, to put forth a “good” image of who we are, we take little when we want more. We rigidly follow unwritten rules just because we think they are rules. We squash our inner voice, the very voice that just might be telling us that we can do something differently. We deny ourselves. We postpone our hearts desire until later. We house, literally and mentally, another person’s junk.
But like the frog in the boiling water who doesn’t realize that the water is getting hotter and hotter, we become deaf and blind to the thoughts that control us. We allow others to train us so well that we don’t even consider what we really want. We become experts at holding ourselves hostage.
Only we can free ourselves from these kinds of shackles. We must change our minds.
We GET to change our minds.
Being a hostage of ANYTHING is not serving anybody!!! Your dead relatives no longer have a say about the stuff you keep in your home. You get to question whether you really like your job or not . . . even if you have financial responsibilities to attend to. You get to want what you want, love who you love, devote your “real estate” to the things that bring you real joy.
You get to change your mind.
In fact, that’s where it all begins.