Freedom to Pursue Enjoyment

American Flag with FireworksOn most holidays, I pass the day with a sickening feeling of self-pity and resentment. I feel like there is some magic picnic that every single person in the world has been invited to, but I was left off the list. They all have great, wonderful friends and huge families. Everyone loves each and everyone else. The food is phenomenal. There is music and singing. The weather is ideal. Games are played in which there is never a loser. But I was not invited.

It’s worse on holidays with no specific structure. At least on Thanksgiving I know the drill. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I cook all day, so I don’t have time to think. The Fourth of July? I just don’t know what I am supposed to do. Crowds, fireworks, picnics? Not for me. The truth is that if I was invited to some Fourth of July outing, I wouldn’t go. I’d like to celebrate, but I don’t know how. So I wallow while I imagine others are cheering. Ironically, I am grateful to go back to work, because at least there I know what I am supposed to be doing.

Could I be the only one who feels this way? Look and see the truth about what you tell yourself you are “supposed” to be doing, feeling and experiencing on a holiday.  What I hear from most of my clients and friends is that my experience is not uncommon. The resistance we have to life shows up on days when we are not so preoccupied with activity. (What a relief to just pay attention to fireworks for 60 minutes!)

When you do have the time, when you’re not preoccupied with activity, this is an opportunity to listen to the background noise of your mind. What are you telling yourself when you are not busy with work, commitments and chores? Or do you just keep yourself too busy to hear it at all?

I’m getting better at just allowing myself the freedom to enjoy. But it still feels dangerous to let down my guard. It feels like if I do allow enjoyment, it will just be taken away. So, I take it away from myself before anyone else can. That way, at least I am in control. For others, there is a feeling of not deserving or experiencing guilt, instead of allowing what is theirs to enjoy. Most of us experience at least some form of resistance to fun, pleasure, enjoyment and so on.

Sometimes we put on top of this resistance an exaggerated outward appearance of having pleasure, but if seen closely, the forcing is rather obvious. What happens if you let down your guard and allow yourself to see the wonders and simple pleasures that life has to offer? Automatically we judge, compare and come up short. Or worry that this moment won’t last and we had best prepare for disappointment.

There is a watching of others to see what it is they’ve got that we don’t, and we feel “less than” or shortchanged. This dualism, this comparing ourselves to others, is a slippery slope.

It is important to listen to the background noise. We cannot transform something we don’t know exists. Who wants to realize that the thoughts in the background are so disturbing? Not me. But my commitment to transformation is larger than any need to hide my darkest secrets.

I know that the stories my mind tells itself about what I should be doing, what others appear to be doing and so on, are a pack of lies. The freedom comes in telling the truth. Just writing this here, already I feel that something else is now available.

Transformation only comes after we tell ourselves the truth about our negative thoughts.  What are yours? I invite you to share them.

To the best of your ability, I hope you have a happy Fourth of July!

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