Living Deliberately Versus the Path of Least Resistance

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Gandhi

If your choices are not in line with your values, then you don’t really value yourself.  

What provocative statements these are for me!  A good word to sum it all up is “congruency”.  We won’t feel happiness or fulfillment in our lives if we are constantly in an internal conflict over what we do and say versus what we feel and think.
Are there elements in your day-to-day life that are at odds with the way you feel or believe?  Maybe you aren’t even fully aware or conscious of these conflicting feelings, but they will show up invariably as stress or irritation, reluctance to follow through, or simply depression.  To get through the daily grind, many people have had to dissociate themselves with their core values and emotions, sometimes for years.  
I recall having to do this to cope with school and life in general sometime before junior high.  I felt so bored and frustrated, and would rather have done just about anything instead of resigning myself to the pace and stagnancy of public school’s educational and social “diet”, yet I was not presented with any viable alternatives.  By the time I was seventeen, I was barely even aware I had emotions or opinions of my own.  I did what was expected of me, and followed the advice of my friends or my parents.  Even though those were often of opposite flavors, both were equally fruitless, diminishing paths for me to have followed.  
That year I had a vision of myself standing in a raging river, with my feet in two separate canoes, each drifting away from each other.  I was approaching the falls, and I knew that something had to change profoundly.  I took the path of least resistance and allowed fear and shame to rule me.  I entered a holding pattern–a placid, even joyful facade, with a deep numbness buried leagues beneath the surface.  I would not awaken from this paralysis for many years.  
I still have a long way to go before I am anywhere near to achieving congruency in my life, although I am light-years ahead of where I was, say, five years ago ūüôā  My art is one of the many things that I simply didn’t allow myself the thought of pursuing.  I think I first spoke of wanting to be an artist when I was about four years old, and since then, everyone who was anyone in my life made sure to tell me about the “starving artists”, how people can’t really do that as a career, how it’s not really useful or necessary, not stable or respectable, and so on.  I have come to realize, however, that even if I don’t make another dollar with my artistic pursuits, even if no one “gets it” but me–I still need to allow myself a creative outlet for my own emotional health and happiness.  Otherwise, I’m missing on of life’s key points–at least in my own worldview:  Enjoyment.
Art aside, however, there are still things that I follow the path of least resistance on, and I am experiencing a feeling of tension about these things.  They are out of sync with my supposed vision and goals for the future, and they are holding me back spiritually–which is to say emotionally, socially, financially, and so on.  (It all comes back to Spirit, I believe.)  So why do I allow this incongruence?  Why does anyone allow this to persist in their lives, even when they are aware of the self-sabotage they are creating?  Maybe we are attached to the current situation more deeply than we are consciously aware of.  Maybe the fear of the unknown is more upsetting than the fear of failing to achieve our goals.  
Let’s take one familiar example:  Caffeine.  I have been fighting this battle for years, more often on the losing side.  However, I am even more aware now of how foolish it was of me to not conquer this issue years ago, because it would have been easier on me, and everyone around me as well.  Perhaps 10 years ago, caffeine was something of a mood lifter to me.  It was a nice extra, a boost to my day.  Today, it’s more of a need.  I feel like I can’t function properly–like I am below my baseline if I don’t have a cup of coffee in the morning.  Does that mean I should surrender and admit defeat?  Hell no!  However, this “below normal” feeling is what leads me to keep having that cup of coffee.  I don’t want to be an unproductive, whiny jerk to my family, and so I drink up.  In truth, my current circumstances reinforce the bad habit instead of my desire to overcome it, with fear closing the circle.  
I feel similarly about my diet.  I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years, but lately I have not made nutritional excellence my top priority.  I think about it, read about it, analyze my own rhetoric, but in the end, I don’t eat that healthfully–at least, not for a vegetarian! Worse, since I don’t want to give my kids the punitive “do as I say, not as I do” treatment, they eat pretty much the same way that I do.  My leading-by-example is pretty soft on this one!  Now, we are far from the “SAD diet,” (Standard American Diet, for those not up on veg-speak ūüėČ but there’s still loads of room for improvement.  
With regard to our diet, I think I am attached to the current situation in terms of feeling unable to afford a healthy diet (financial fear), and unable to commit to the extra time and planning required to eat healthfully.  That is a lame statement to make, but it’s all I’ve got!  I am right-brained to a fault, and I suck at time management.  I have fallen into a pattern of eating the foods of least resistance, and that is NOT in line with my long-term goal of optimum health, fitness and longevity.
In short, I’m no longer in danger of going over the falls, so to speak–but my life is largely following a path of least resistance in other areas.  This inner turmoil is going to increase until it’s louder than my own numbness and I will be forced to take action–either bravely toward my goals or away from my fears.  I am at least firmly grounded in one boat, but I need to pull out some bigger oars–or maybe a rudder!  
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The Ongoing Caffeine Battle, and How It Shall End

I watched The Secret Garden with my kids this evening.  Later, I read some inspiring and insightful articles online, as my family all went to sleep before I did.  It got me thinking about how I am still struggling with caffeine.    Here are the facts:

I have been a soda fiend since before I can remember, with my grandparents and father handing me baby bottles full as a toddler.

I have tried before to quit soda, and have even succeeded in the past (several times, for months, and once for over a year).

However, in recent times, I’ve made the unpleasant connection that a sustained lack of caffeine creates the presence of “cranky-bitch mommy”, whom I do not like AT ALL and actively strive to avoid.

This year, I finally caved to my husband’s occasional desire for home-brewed coffee, and allowed a coffeemaker to enter our home. ¬†As predicted, this thing has become the bane of my existence, since I now crave a cup’o coffee every morning just to gain coherence, let alone productivity of any sort throughout the day. ¬†It may usually be only one cup of coffee, but sometimes it’s two. ¬†I don’t drink the cheap stuff either–and it’s got to have special creamer, too. ¬†This is only spiraling out of control as the years go on.

Years. ¬†I’ve struggled with caffeine for years, and it’s getting worse and worse for me. ¬†The last time I quit, I quit for nearly six months, but I experienced really debilitating mental and physical effects of withdrawal for what felt like two weeks. ¬†Prior to that purge, however, I was downing a 12-pack of soda every day or so, with energy drinks and cups of coffee thrown in for variety. ¬†It’s so embarrassing to admit that, as someone who is supposedly concerned with their health, both physically and spiritually. ¬†Addiction at that level is simply gross, no matter the substance–and while I’m thankfully not that deep into it anymore, I also know that it would be disturbingly easy for me to regress back into such awful habits, under the wrong circumstances.

But back to my insightful readings.  I know that any new habit can be relatively well-incorporated after 30 days of sustained, no-nonsense effort.  I also know that my habits must support my goals if I intend to take them seriously.

So why do I keep the coffeepot?  Why do I allow myself to imagine how delicious a soda would be, poured into a frosty glass with ice, along with my dinner?

I think the fear of such drastic withdrawal symptoms–most of all my appalling mood shift–is what’s keeping me caffeinated most of all. ¬†However, according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, caffeine withdrawal is a matter of getting over the hump–which normally doesn’t last more than 4-5 days. ¬†If I can’t hack it for that long, then I have bigger problems than caffeine addiction!

I need to find a way to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay, which mainly includes being able to not become a horrible, cranky burden on my family. ¬†This will take active concentration and attention to “ward off at the pass”, so to speak. ¬†But it’s not insurmountable. ¬†People can and do get over¬†addictions¬†to much, much worse things then caffeine all the time.

Barring this, I need to take some very salient advice that I just keep coming back to, as if the Universe continually causes it to cross my path: ¬†Just Do It. ¬†The only barrier between the achievement of my goals and dreams, and my current reality…is me.

Living a Theoretical Life vs. Just Doing It: Caffeine

It occurred to me recently that I am living a largely theoretical life.

I may have clever or even divine inspirations, but I hesitate to act on them. I think of doing amazing, life-changing, progress-oriented things, but it seems that too often, I don’t follow through, or external things get in the way and for whatever reason, the progress is stunted.
For example, I have sworn off caffeine more times than I can count, yet at this very moment there is a half-empty bottle of soda nearby. I think about how other people do not need caffeine to function throughout the day, or how lovely it would be to start the day with a cup o’this instead of nasty, tooth-yellowing coffee. On a deeper level, I think about how the pathology of addiction is present, about how dangerous chemicals like phosphoric acid and HFCS are, and so on until it would be absolutely ludicrous for me to imagine touching another drop of any caffeine-containing beverage, for any reason. And then…inexplicably, I end up with coffee or soda in hand.
Now, I am also old enough to be able to look back at my adult life and realize that were it not for this unfortunate tendency, I would be happier and better off, all around. This problem goes far deeper than just beating the caffeine addiction. It’s really about how to Just Do It instead of forever languishing in the realm of theory and probability.
By nature, I am an analyst–I must dissect and cross-examine nearly every bit of relevant information that I come across. While this is generally a good habit to have, I am starting to recognize that this tendency is no longer as helpful as it once was in my life. I am no longer swimming (drowning?) in the vast seas of possible life-options–I have lived in this world long enough to be fairly sure of who I am, what I believe, and what I want to achieve. I don’t need to shuffle along the walls of every maze of information I come across, for fear of missing some crucial piece of information that might unlock the puzzle of my life’s purpose.
To move forward, from the realm of theory into actualization, I need to shift away from my tendency to over-think my actions and inactions. Instead of imagining how good it would feel to be caffeine-free, I need to just face facts: Namely, that it’s hard to go through withdrawal symptoms, that caffeine is everywhere and I should be forewarned and forearmed to deal with this fact, and that it might never be easy to live a caffeine-free life. But–and here’s the kicker–if I value being caffeine-free as a worthy life goal, as a positive thing to align my life with, then I have to Just Do It. No excuses, no rationalization, no backtracking or coddling myself mentally. If I absentmindedly spend my last few dollars in change on a delicious soy caramel macchiato (and yes, they are delicious), I should pour it out as soon as I catch myself–even if it’s before leaving the counter.
Better to berate myself for money wasted than for money wasted AND for allowing a goal to slip out of my reach yet again.