Seeking Peace: An Update
Tuesday, May 7, 2013Tweet
I jumped on the One Word bandwagon for 2013, choosing the word "peace" and building another vision board around it. As we're now a third of the way through the year, it seems like a good time to stop and check in on how things are going.
Back when I did my happiness project in 2011, it was easier to see my progress because I had lots of checklists for telling me whether or not I was meeting my goals -- forming the habits I wanted to form. But when it came down to it, the end result -- happiness -- was just as fuzzy as my current desire for peace, and as hard to measure.
Do you know the difference between weather and climate? Weather describes what's happening in the short term: it's sunny outside, there's a 50% chance it will rain tomorrow, etc. Climate describes a long-term pattern: Buffalo is more likely to get snow than Phoenix, the average rainfall has gone down in this area over the past 100 years, etc. (This is why a cold day has nothing to do with global warming, which refers to a steady increase in average temperatures across the world over time.)
It's a lot easier to capture the weather of your life than the climate. At a given moment, you can tell me if you feel happy or sad, anxious or calm, patient or impatient. But knowing how you feel most of the time, or whether the frequency or intensity of a feeling has changed over time, is much harder to pinpoint.
One thing I've learned since the beginning of the year is that there is more than one opposite of peace. When I was working, I knew I did not have peace because I had a terrible gnawing dread of going to my job each day. But when I quit my job and the dread went away, it was replaced with anxiety, a feeling of not knowing which path to take and worry that every path would be a dead end. Anxiety about finances, about people's opinions of me, about repeating the mistakes of my last job.
When I try to see the whole picture of my life, looking back over the feelings of peace and not-peace since the beginning of the year, I do think I'm getting closer. Counseling once a month is giving me tools for managing anxiety day to day. I have had nothing but support from friends and family over the choices I've made. The weather has been beautiful the past few weeks, and Mike can hardly go a day without exclaiming how incredibly fortunate we are to live here and what a good choice we made to move out here.
Probably the most helpful things for pointing me toward peace have been prayer and reading. Both of these, practiced in abundance during this unstructured time, have helped me to maintain -- or at least, continually return to -- a broad (climate, forest) perspective of my life.
I am reminded of how the specific circumstances of my life, at the end of the day, have no bearing on my call to love and to serve in whatever way I can.
I am reminded of how many different ways there are to live a life, and how the paths for my life cannot all be dead ends because the paths are infinite.
The hardest thing for me right now has been feeling like my time is spent jumping through hoops I myself invented. My momentum feels driven by obligations, but they're obligations I created, whether running three times a week to prepare for a 5K, blogging twice a week to maintain a consistent schedule, or dealing with the various headaches from the organizations I signed up to volunteer with. It's a double-edged sword because when I accomplish things I feel like I'm using my time in congruence with my goals, but when they're hanging over my head unfinished I have no one to blame but myself for putting them there.
So I'm learning that achieving the kind of peace that comes from living in accordance with your values, answering to no one but yourself, and spending your time only how you choose to spend it requires dealing with the not-peace of taking sole ownership and responsibility for every one of your unfinished to-do items, with no one else to blame or delegate to.
The way I see it now, peace is a way of life, not a state of being. So as with my happiness project, rather than striving to "arrive" at peace, I'm working to cultivate the habits and the mindset that will create more peace in my life.
I welcome your thoughts. What does peace means to you, and how do you cultivate it in your life?