We humans strive so hard for so many things. As a young person I strived to be cool. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be wanted and I wanted to be liked. I strived to impress others and fit in. I wanted the latest clothing, the right shoes, the right clothes, the right hair cuts (that I never actually managed as a teen). I wanted to assimilate and to be part of the popular crowd. As a young adult, it didn’t change much, I wanted the right house, the right car, the right friends. I wanted ‘success’ in worldly terms: money, status and again, popularity. I wanted to escape my history of poverty and loneliness and being the odd one out. I wanted to escape my brokenness, and my memories. Especially the bad ones. Ultimately though, if you ask yourself enough questions, underneath the superficial wants, they all fill one particular need: to feel ok. I wanted to be liked and have friends because community and love is part of feeling ok. I wanted to not be made fun of and hurt by others excluding me or bullying me because that’s part of feeling ok. Later, I wanted to have the right house and car because when you’re in community with other women, (or other humans in general in western society), if you don’t have those things you’re probs a loser or a derro and people will judge you for that and bitch about you and not be your friend and again, friends and feeling like you belong is part of feeling ok.
With my broken history and my damaged heart, escaping my own mind, my own insecurities, seemed to be the only way that I could get that feeling of feeling ok. It’s why we are addicts. Some of us are addicted to work: creating that sense of achievement and purpose so we can feel ok about ourselves. If we feel like we don’t measure up – there’s social proof that we do if we have a good job and happen to be good at it. Some of us are addicted to substances: alcohol or drugs, simply because our own minds don’t want to leave us in peace for five seconds and the only way we have learnt to shut that down is with an external substance. Sometimes that’s anti-depressants, or prescription medication; more and more people just go to the doctor when they’re not feeling ok, and it’s a pretty hefty issue at the moment that doctors actually prescribe something for that. I'm not against medication by any means, but if you're only on medication and not actually looking at the reasons behind your feelings then it's another bandaid.
Some of us are addicted to sex, or ‘new love’, changing partners before there is any real depth or true transparency with each other because we want to be seen as we want to be, instead of who we really are. When the glow wears off, we think it must be their fault, or that it’s not meant to be, and instead of working towards something that builds mutual trust and personal growth for both of us, we move on to the next person who makes us feel good about ourselves again. Some of us eat food and hide behind the chocolate binge. I'm guilty of eating the whole Tim Tam packet although I can't do that anymore because I get too sick too quickly. But that's life's way of preventing me from being an addict of many descriptions. I get sick if I don't actively get healthy - I just get sicker more quickly than most and in some respects I thank my lucky stars for that. Some of us are so attached to our technology and social media that you could practically imagine a power cord as an IV drip. Also guilty. None of these things, no matter how you look at it, are better for us than the other except for the fact that some are more harmful to people around us than others and some take their toll on our minds and bodies and souls more quickly than the rest. But ultimately, it’s all for one reason: WE WANT TO FEEL OK.
We all want a sense of inner peace that is increasingly eluding us. The trick is finding ways to get that, and maintain that, in healthy ways; ways that leave us better off for the experience instead of the addiction feeders that take their toll and eventually leave us empty and broken. Even social media can do that. We spend more time looking at our phones than we do talking to our friends and family. We as a human race are losing connection faster than we can create it and we are doing it under a pretence that we are actually building it. Newsflash: your online friends, no matter what you call them, are not your FRIENDS. No amount of typing statuses, responses to statuses, likes, photos, whatever, will replace good quality face to face time with another human being. It’s why so many people feel increasingly isolated and don’t understand why. We are fooling ourselves if we think that having 2,000 online friends actually matters to our souls. Sure, social media has its place, and can help connecting and making new friends. It’s not evil and I’m not saying that at all but we need to actually have human contact. Inbox a ‘friend’ and go for coffee, or better yet a walk.
One thing we also really need as human beings is to have peace or to be ok is stillness. We need community, friendship and love, but we also need quiet and alone time. Some of us more than others. I’m a true introvert – I find too much time with people can actually break me. But I know that, so I make sure that I schedule alone time, or I don’t back to back events with loads of people, but that’s easy. What’s not so easy is if you’re an extrovert to kind of force yourself to have some alone time and be still with your own heart and soul. Learning to listen to your inner voice and have a look at your big picture.
Where are you spending your energy? Where are you spending your time? Are the things that are taking up your attention and energy things that are going to grow your sense of inner peace or are they going to cost you it in the end? Bandaid distractions only work for a while before they actually become destructive and as I’ve said before you’re only ever doing one of two things: growing or dying.
If you are finding yourself with all these wants, all these needs and desires, waiting to fulfil your potential before you will actually be happy then you’ve bought into a lie. If you’re thinking that new shirt is going to make you happy you’ve bought into a big lie. We are told to want, told that we need things, that we need to be like others, that we need ‘stuff’, constantly in the media and in society. We don’t. We need to feel ok. No ‘thing’ that we can buy or ingest is going to give us that. The things that will, are dropping all that rubbish, dropping all the bullshit and connecting or re-connecting with our true selves, our family and friends, and our own personal faith (whatever that looks like for you). Dig a bit deeper and don’t settle for what society is trying to sell you.
As I said in my Deciduous Tree poem: ‘Real life, the kind of life that is sustainable, purposeful and abundant is found not in my branches, but in my roots’.
So this week I would really like to hear from you. If you’ve been listening to the podcast or reading the blog and finding it helpful I would LOVE for you to leave a review and rate the podcast on iTunes. That would be very amazing, and for anyone who does that this week and sends me an email I have a very special offer for you. Head to the OFFER page of my website for the full details but basically you just have to send me an email and let me know that you have reviewed the podcast and what your iTunes user ID was so I can make sure I know who’s who when I’m reading the reviews – and I will post you a copy of my brand new album 'Seasons' that I am releasing next month. A full, hard copy of the album to your physical address signed out to you or whoever you would like it signed to. I have put the first song off the album, called 'Cold Winters' at the end of the podcast for you to listen to as well. You can listen to that. I HEREthink it spells out pretty clearly what I’m about and how I feel about helping others and what it’s like loving people who are hurting. For those of you who are in a shitty place right now, that song is for you. For those of you loving someone in a shitty place right now that song is for you too. I hope you enjoy the song and I hope to hear from you soon.
If you have any things that you do personally that increase your personal sense of inner peace feel free to comment and share. Shared knowledge is awesome and I've said it before: I don't have all the answers!!!
Michelle Cashman Singer/songwriter, speaker and podcaster. Founder of The Deciduous Tree Project and host of the weekly 'Transformational Personal Growth' podcast.