Killing Inner Peace: A How To

SerenityThere is the popular saying that nothing in life is free, and I fully subscribe to this. There have been some really great arguments to the contrary over the years, but mostly nothing in life truly is free. What about a smile? Isn’t a smile free? That depends, really. If we’re splitting hairs, my smile has cost me quite a bit of money due to an unfortunate incident with authentic Louisiana Pork Cracklins. It’s a southern delight, and if you haven’t had them you’re missing out…but you also probably haven’t cracked a tooth in half either.

 Point being, for me, smiling at someone is not technically free. The smile cost quite a bit. The act of moving the muscles to form a half moon across the lower part of my face doesn’t really cost much monetarily, but the smile sure did. The other portion only cost a fraction of energy expended. In theory, a smile is free. In reality, everything costs something. Everything has a price.

My husband and I were talking about life, and the difficulties we’ve faced because of choices made in our youth. Stuff with kids, and difficult relationships with people involved in our lives for whatever reasons…and how unnecessarily complicated it all is sometimes. The complexity arises because of egos, because of old beliefs that just won’t die, because of ill informed opinions, hurt feelings, jealousy, insecurity… control issues. These are recurring themes for so many of us, and that speaks to the overwhelming abundance of these character flaws. These things cause so much drama and ridiculousness for some of us.

I will never understand why people cling so tightly to this way of life, or why we continuously tolerate or acquiesce to venomous people. As if we’re not interesting unless we are participating in other people’s problems, or choosing to be a constant participant in our own problems with dramatic people. I do not believe entertaining toxic people is a requirement for handling a problem. Allowing their continued presence is like paying for repeated admittance to a mentally unbalanced and unstable circus show. If you stay too long, you too will become toxic, and that does not solve anything. This can be a particularly tricky situation when children are involved in the shit show.

Caution! Toxic people ahead.
My spouse and I have had to have serious discussions about what we want in our future, what our priorities in life are, and what peace in life is worth to us. Through this situation we have discovered that having peace has a cost of its own. We truly did not realize this until we started understanding the things required in order for us to make progress in our life together. It has taken us a while to really put everything together and hammer out the root of the problems that we both carried in to our marriage. The experience has been incredibly enlightening.

He and I have come from different worlds. We were raised in vastly different households, in wildly different circumstances. Combining two different mind sets and ideas about life has been difficult. We’ve both learned and grown from it. We have both had to come to terms with the fact that we are individuals trying to work together in life, and our goals or priorities may not always align. This could be temporary, or it could be a permanent state of affairs. We have no idea, and that is okay. 

Life is trial and error, and we’ve had plenty of trials with an even mix of error. Some of it by our own doing in the life we had prior to us, and some by our own doing in our lives together. There have also been the variables and curveballs that we couldn’t see coming and had no say in at all, but this is life for most of us. The unknown and unplanned for disasters.

In the interest of prioritizing peace in life, we had to determine changes that needed to be made in the path we have been on for the last 3 years. What did we need to mend, or eliminate, or work on in order to achieve a more peaceful life? What needed to be fixed in our individual lives in order to start meeting in the middle in our life together? We had to make a list of the things we couldn’t control in our situations versus the things we did have control over and could change for the better. The end goal was taking power back over our life together by not allowing the variables, the difficulties, and the uncertainties to constantly create a barrier between us and the life we want.

…peace is found in giving up and walking away from cyclical circumstances that rotate on repeat…

The road to serenity is often paved with at least some heartache. It is par for the course that there will be some inner emotional battles that involve letting go of ideas about how things are supposed to be while allowing things to be as they will be. It involves an understanding that we are not in control of anything in this life but ourselves. We cannot control what other people do, how they behave, what they choose to say, or how they handle anything. We are not in control of people. Just as we are not in control of the environment around us.

Sometimes peace is found in giving up and walking away from cyclical circumstances that rotate on repeat, never changing or improving. It is a giant circle of much of the same thing, like a hamster on a wheel. This can wear on us, and deflate us, and it really serves no purpose other than to make us miserable. 

No one wants to keep fighting the same battles over and over again, or living the same arguments on a daily basis. Giving up in these circumstances is not because one couldn’t win. It isn’t about leaving the table because the other person/people involved were right. It is being wise enough to understand that winning and being right is achieved when a person has discovered a life of inner peace. The reality is that in cyclical battles, no one wins anyway, but perspective is everything.

Choosing to walk away from a constant fight, or crazy circumstance comes at a high price of its own. The higher the stakes, the higher the cost. It can entail giving up something you love, people you love, or understanding that circumstances will only be harder or worse if you keep holding on to an idea of what life is supposed to be. 

Finding a peaceful path is about evaluating your personal values and assigning priority to a happy existence. This is bound to create controversy because we are all different people who want different things. Someone on the outside cannot possibly know or truly understand what is happening on the inside anyway. Everyone is a critic, and most especially when they have little understanding.

Inner peace will look different to everyone, so the overall goal will also look different for everyone. The decision can be daunting depending on the situation and the only thing we can do at times is ask ourselves if the ends justify the means. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not. However, we cannot know this if we never make a choice. The alternative is being chronically unhappy and constantly wondering about the what ifs.

In the last 6 months, I deleted my Facebook account, and went on hiatus from interacting with mass groups of people. I chose to focus on the things I have had going on in my personal life and to cultivate myself. I was distracted by other people’s drama for a period, and even though I genuinely cared about some of these people, their problems had nothing to do with me. There wasn’t anything I could do to help or fix those problems, and being involved didn’t help enrich my life in any way. So, I unplugged. It has been an interesting experience. 

Just as I started stepping out of other people’s problems, my husband and I started requesting that people step out of ours. There was a time when we might have been able to converse with others about what we are dealing with in life, but the truth is that no one really understands it. They don’t live it every day, and we don’t really talk about the worst parts of it with anyone else because it really is that hard to believe. It’s our business, and only we truly know the full spectrum of what’s happening. 

My motto lately is that if it isn’t helpful and it isn’t kind, it’s pointless. Trying to explain to anyone else what has been happening in our life over the last 3 years is really just pointless, and it has brought no peace. In the interest of peace, this too, is something I have finally chosen to put down and walk away from. I have stopped trying to justify to anyone the trials we have faced, and the circumstances we have operated within. I have to give my husband and myself credit because while neither of us have been at our best at certain points through this, I would say we have dealt with it all relatively well all things considered. Only he and I can really know this.

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose…,” 

  –Me and Bobby McGee

Sometimes people get in the middle of things believing they are only being helpful. Adding fuel to the fire in a dramatic situation or trying to assert one’s self into a conflict that does not directly involve them is not helpful. Having opinions in a situation one knows little about is not helpful. 

Furthermore, getting in the middle of things is rarely a good idea because that is just enabling a cycle of drama. It is perpetuating a problem, and no matter how well intentioned a person is, it is not beneficial to anyone. This is something learned the hard way, and can include our good hearted, well intentioned family because even they have a price for their helpfulness. That price often comes in the form of expectation.

 When a person has reached their breaking point, there are a lot of social niceties that go right out the window. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose…,” a great line in a song that I believe rings true for anyone that has been forced to the edge. When you give up certain things and step away from the argument, when you choose to not explain yourself, and make decisions that work best for you, that is a kind of freedom that can feel really amazing. However, you have to be willing to do life on your own, and on your own terms.

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that figuring life out on your own was well worth it. It meant that your mistakes were yours to make, and if people weren’t bailing you out, or footing the bill, they had no right to make your choices for you. If you took all of the responsibility of your life unto yourself, other people could give their opinions, but they had no real say in your choices. 

In that scenario, my failures are my own, but so are my successes.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I know that the successes I’ve earned the hard way have felt much better than the ones I felt someone gave to me. While I love my family and friends, I am in charge of my own life. It is a freedom that is well worth upsetting people to keep. It is a peace that is well worth struggling for.

My dad was a sink or swim kind of guy. It was brutal at times, but looking back, I’m grateful. I am truly appreciative of the fact that I got to become myself on my own while making my own mistakes and fixing them. He was proud when I succeeded, and comforted me when I failed. His happiness in life did not hinge on my success or failure.  I was accepted as a separate and independent person from him. He wasn’t cruel by any definition of the term. In many ways this was a kindness so that I could find my way through anything in life whether he was around or not. He’s not around anymore, and I completely get it now.

In the search for peace, tranquility and serenity, and in examining various aspects of the things that deter us from that path in life, I have found that there are direct ways that we disrupt the possibility of our inner peace. We, as human beings, can be our own worst enemies and have a terrible habit of self sabotage with regard to our happiness. If you are looking for sure fire ways to kill your inner peace, here’s how to do it:

♥ Expectation. Set expectations for everything: life, people, and situations… then feel the disappointment flow into your life.

♥ Do not learn to do things on our own and how to fail— then to succeed.

♥ Hold on too tightly to situations that are unhappy for far too long.

♥  Follow paths that others pave for you instead of creating your own.

♥  Believe that life is about controlling everything around you instead of controlling yourself and your reactions to the life happening around you.

♥  Involve yourself too much in the drama of others, and ask them to participate in yours.

♥  Do not learn to say no, or set boundaries with people. Especially family.

♥  Entertain toxic relationships because you feel obligated. Continue to do it no matter how stressful or how little sense it makes.

♥  Do not understand that everything in life comes at a cost. Keep believing it is all free and that you deserve it.

♥  Care too much about what others think, and let it influence your choices.

There is a peace that is achieved in knowing that we have made our own path through life. We learn how to fail, and what not to do. We get to make those decisions because we are the ones paying for them and while they may indirectly affect others around us, those people also have to accept that they are not footing the bill emotionally, financially or otherwise on a regular basis. Obtaining inner peace does not mean pleasing everyone. As a matter of fact, I am coming to the understanding that it is the exact opposite. It is true that nothing in life is free, and working toward personal peace is no exception.

When you make the choice to find peace in your life, be prepared to burn bridges. Be prepared to make sacrifices and to give up old ideas. Be prepared to set hard boundaries. Most of all, understand that you will confuse and upset many people who do not understand the benefits of inner peace. 

Let your mind be free, and your heart unburdened by the bullshit in life. This is something I’m practicing daily, and it keeps getting easier. The circumstances have not changed, but the attitude is slowly changing for the better state of mind. My advice? Burn those unnecessary bridges and let your Zen flow.


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