Five weeks ago, I moved in with my boyfriend. He recently bought a bungalow in Chicago, and what was once a household of two became a household of five.
I’m embarrassed to say that adapting to this new living arrangement has been hard for me..
Prior to this, I had prided myself on being a compassionate, (mostly) Zen human who weathered change with grace. If nothing else, this experience has shown me that I still have a ways to go.
Issues with control
Moving in together has unveiled some serious control issues I barely realized I had. We are not a couple that gets swept up in drama. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had a go-to-bed-upset incident in our nearly two years of dating.
Well, shit hit the fan the other day.
The incident that sparked the drama would seem inconsequential to most, but for me, it was like the weight of every struggle I faced as I tried to adapt to my new living arrangement bore down on me with a vengeance. In short, my ability to create a space that was in harmony with my lifestyle was in jeopardy, and I wasn’t handling it well.
I adopted a victim mindset that day – I wallowed in my misery and focused on the “unfairness” of it all.
I wondered if I should move out (yes, I actually went there…my brain isn’t always my friend). But, I adore my boyfriend to the moon and back. Going to sleep and waking up next to him are literally the highlights of my days, and I didn’t want my control issues getting in the way of that. I was experiencing a state of profound dis-ease and felt thoroughly defeated and exhausted.
A change in focus
What if you were profoundly at peace with your own inner world?
I came across a quote similar to this that day, and it was just what I needed to help me begin to shift my focus.
You see, I had been trying to create an external environment that reflected the internal harmony I craved. I was seeking tranquility in the external – if my home had the right vibe, all would be well – and I had made my wellbeing dependent on this.
But inner harmony is not dependent on external harmony.
External harmony – when it exists – is fragile and fleeting. Any sense of control I have over my external world is an illusion. No matter what I do, something will eventually disrupt all semblance of harmony. Simply put, I can’t always get what I want or even what I think I need.
However, I do have control over what I say to myself, the way I react to my environment, and where I choose to place my focus.
If I direct my focus on being at peace with myself and in spite of whatever is happening around me, my wellbeing is not dependent on my external circumstances cooperating.
Easier said than done…
If only it were as easy as telling myself to just relax, stop being petty, and find tranquility in the midst of chaos.
Well, doing this is hard AF. When the feedback loop from hell is replaying in my head, when I feel justified in my anger, when he’s not doing it right, it’s incredibly challenging for me to return to a state of grace.
And, when I’m super worked up I can forget about meditating because my mind is far too active. That’s right – my go-to tool for just about everything is useless when I’m in the midst of an uber-stressed state like the one I was in the other day.
Barring divine intervention, the only thing that has consistently worked to help me change my focus during such moments is to both remove myself from my environment and yearn to see things differently.
I spent hours that day at the lagoon near my home. I walked barefoot through the soft grass, admired the beauty of hundreds of monarch butterflies dancing in the breeze, watched a heron stalk fish, and gazed at turtles sunning on driftwood.
I listened to kirtan on repeat and filled my heart with the warmth of love (this regularly happens when I listen to kirtan…try checking out Krishna Das, Govind Das and Radha, or Jaya Lakshmi on Spotify sometime).
And, I reflected on being at peace with my inner world so that it wouldn’t matter what my wonderful boyfriend wanted to hang on our walls.
The next day, I hung up the canvas of Hoboken, NJ’s skyline in our bedroom (seriously, this was the trigger!). A few days later, I replaced it with a clock. We both seem satisfied with this compromise.
I don’t want my happiness to depend on whether things go my way. So often they don’t, and it sucks to give away my power so readily. Being forced to reckon with myself in these instances allows me to reclaim my power. I have the power to be at harmony when there’s a shit storm around me, chaos ensues, or my boyfriend wants to hang a pic of the Jersey skyline in our bedroom.
What helps me to change my focus when I am too worked up to meditate, things are not going my way, or I’m struggling to adapt to change:
- I physically remove myself from my environment.
- If possible, I go to my favorite spot in nature to process things.
- I listen to kirtan music (chanting), which deeply nourishes my heart.
- I reflect on what it would take to become at peace with my inner world, inspite of my external world.
I know that not everyone has the luxury of living next door to such a beautiful nature sanctuary (which, for the record, is in Chicago!), and kirtan may be too foreign-sounding to unfamiliar ears. So, if I were to give advice, I’d say to go anywhere that’s away from the triggering environment – maybe the library or coffee shop if nature’s not an option. And try listening to music that uplifts your spirit. This combination alone is often enough to end my feedback loop from hell. Let me know if it works for you!
The tools I used to change my focus can be applied to pretty much every situation where dis-ease is present. But, if circumstances don’t allow you to work through the above steps, practicing gratitude may help.
Practicing gratitude is super simple! Just identify several things about the situation and/or person that you are truly grateful for. There are always things to find…and if you truly can’t find something, you can be grateful for being given the opportunity to grow from the incident (check out this post for inspiration).
And just in case it needs to be stated, if your external world includes abuse of any kind, please get help. These tools are not intended to help rationalize or accept violence of any kind.