Do we choose our lives or do our lives choose us?

I had a really bad day Sunday. I was bombarded with a lot of negative energy at work associated with my new position. It was a very important and telling situation for me to experience.

I used to be a tough girl and pretend like what people thought and said about me didn’t bother me. I wasn’t surprised Sunday to realize that things like that affect me as much as they do the next person, but I was surprised by my response to it all.

I have become very attuned to what my body is telling me. I am beginning to be able to feel where certain emotions or energy take up residence in my body. I notice when I am carrying tension in my shoulders and neck, in my brow, in my bowels (tee hee — read Debbie for reference), in my jaw or wherever. I have become very intolerant of negative energy taking up residence within me. I walked through the door from a staff retreat determined to rid my body of the tense, ugly negative sensations so that I could sleep peacefully. Through a combination of focused breathing, meditation, prayer, deep relaxation techniques, venting, a couple of tears, a hot water bottle on my belly to help release the bad energy I felt there and affirmation (especially the “Our Deepest Fear” affirmation), I was able to sleep peacefully. I woke up the next morning and took inventory of my body and the negative energy was gone. I went to work the next day and the first person I saw was one of the chief culprits. She was just there to me. I felt nothing negative but nothing warm either–she was just there.

I learned a valuable lesson about this. I am responsible for how other people’s behavior affects me. I have a choice about it and therefore, I am responsible to protect my well-being. I don’t have to let other people’s jealousy, pettiness, insanity or whatever take me off course and make me sick. Stress kills, People. I was happy about making a conscious choice in the interest of my mental and physical health. It was such a far cry from pretending like it the things didn’t affect me. They did affect me. But I realized through that situation my power to create my own reality.

The truth is, I had a hand in creating the reality that led to all the negativity in the first place. Someone whose ideas I value considerably has tried to help me understand my role in creating all of my experiences. It’s been hard to wrap my head around my role in creating the situations I call bad, but I could really see it in this situation. I allowed the type of negative things that were said to me about me to be said about others in my office. By choosing to participate in and not stop those occurrences, I created a climate for the dung to be slung my way. I own that. I probably had an even more direct hand in it because I expected this to happen. Do we really draw the things to us that we dwell upon? Or, do we attract the very things we fear? I think we do.

What do you think?

P.S. I also noticed that I didn’t choose the role of “victim” in this situation. That’s huge for me.

Let’s talk about this. What do you guys think?


10 thoughts on “Do we choose our lives or do our lives choose us?

  1. This is a huge thing that I’ve dealt with in my life too. I learned at a young age this very lesson…I choose to control how I feel and what does and doesn’t affect me. Because of this, I sometimes come off as a bit cold and self-centered. Isn’t it strange when all you want to do is be happy with yourself and choose situations/surroundings/moods/people that directly enhance that happiness and peace, that people tend to blame you and criticize you for it? It’s almost like people want others to be fractured in some way or, worse yet, they want to find a piece of you that’s fractured and tug on it because it makes them feel better. I suppose that’s why the saying goes “Misery loves company”.

    I can’t deal with these energy suckers any more. I look out for me. No matter if I’m in a relationship or with family or with anyone. I will always love myself more than I love anyone else, and I think that’s the key. It’s difficult sometimes and it’s a lonely road, but I love the challenge of protecting myself and keeping myself sane in all this mess. I fall often and I get right back up, forgive myself, and give myself a huge hug.

    Bowels…you should have heard me laughing at myself over the image in my head of Joey yearning to poo on Ben. Tears running down my face, people thought I was upset. When I told them what I was laughing at, the looks…oh dear. I think many of the people I work with think I’m nuts.

  2. Wow.. what a good topic!

    I do believe we get to choose how we respond to things. I do not believe that we create our own reality. Life is what it is and we have very little control over that. The river flows its own way. The New Age thinking that posits that we can just wish hard enough and have, do or be anything we want to have, do, be is basically egocentric and defies logic. The universe isn’t a cosmic vending machine, designed to satisfy our every desire.

    In my opinion, there is nothing more toxic that work environments in this culture. What you experienced doesn’t surprise me because I would have experienced the very same thing.

    Your approach to it is so balanced, so healthy, that you just might survive it without ending up with stress-related illnesses.

    Stress is part of the money-making machine for the medical and psychiatric industries. (And that’ s just what they are… industries) As long as people are stressed out because they don’t understand there’s another way, the stockholders are happy.

    That’s why anything we can do to free ourselves, whether it’s attitudinally or physically, I say more power to all of us!

  3. The challenge for me is also getting back to feeling warm towards a person without being open to their negativity towards or about me.

    I’ve been in relationships and have been hurt by others as we all have. I often heal and return to the relationship like nothing happened or I walk away without explanation. I have to change that I guess?

  4. @ Debbie

    It is shocking that people begrudge others happiness. I think part of the reason we are accused of being selfish and all sorts of other stuff when we care for ourselves is that people really are jealous. There are so many things/ideologies/religious beliefs that compete with the desire to care for self.

    One thing I’m learning about Christianity is that in practice, it would call our focus self-centered and less than perfect; but the teaching of Jesus clearly supported (if by no other way than by example) that we are to love ourselves first. I am learning from other traditions to love myself and know myself so that I can find within me what to honor in others. I like that idea.

    I’m with you on not having time for the negative energy. I just don’t need it and I refuse to deal with it, except for the short time it takes me to choose to cast it far away from my happy, peaceful self!

    And, there is some funny shit in the Bible. Wait until you re-read the Exodus story where the fat guy (Ehud, I think) gets stabbed and the dagger gets sucked up in his FAT! That cracks me up every time. I can hear the slurping suction noise.

    @ Chani

    The river flows its own way. The New Age thinking that posits that we can just wish hard enough and have, do or be anything we want to have, do, be…

    I am somewhere between the first period and the capital T in that 2nd sentence. I don’t believe it’s all up to us, but I don’t believe it’s all up to someone/something else either. It’s thrilling to be able to place myself and know that I will continue to get clearer and clearer as I search within to find what I truly believe and to search without to understand what I am a part of.

    I’m so glad to have you and Susan and Debbie and Kwesi and Katrice and Jali and others to bounce ideas around with. I get to have a pagan, a Buddhist, a Buddhist-kinda-hybrid, a Jesus follower, a Jesus follower who won’t follow church, and a, well Jali (a fellow irreverent) all on my Council. I love it!! I couldn’t have asked for a better panel to kick around these ideas.

    @ Kwesi

    It’s interesting that you feel the need to feel warm again. I don’t. I have no reason to have warm sentiment for someone who wishes me ill. I don’t return the negativity, but neutral is perfectly fine with me. At the end of the day, I know that she’s a miserable person in her own way and I wish her a path to peace and happiness. Not warmth, just a thought! haha Lon Solomon can use that if he wants.

  5. Man! I wish I had gone to see you last night. I’ve been trying so hard to let Jason understand that only I am responsible for my behavior and that I can’t allow another’s behavior to determine mine. (so much to tell you)

    I don’t mean to put my crap out ahead of what you’re going through, but this post really hit me at the right time.

    It feels great when people laud your actions so of course when you’re criticized it feels horrible – you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel it a bit but I’m glad that it won’t change your behavior.

    I can see you smiling and speaking to yourself through your beautiful teeth, “muthaf-er, I got your number now” as you switch your pretty self through the office and continue to earn the bigger than theirs paycheck you deserve.

    I’m so happy to be your friend.

  6. I think it’s wonderful that you rose above the victim role. As a perpetual player of the “victim card” – particularly when it comes to tense moments in life, I applaud you.

    I gotta admit, as a Born-Again Christian, I try very hard to embrace trials as I was taught to do. But there are definitely moments where my logical mind kicks in and I start to question how certain things that feel so awful could possibly be for my good?

    Do we choose our lives? I would say no. I think circumstances (in many cases) dictate the direction of our lives. And heck, if you believe scripture, our paths were laid out long before any of us were even thoughts in our daddy’s draws.

    Yes, draws.

    I think only a small number of people have the resources and awareness to actually make a decision about the direction of their lives – that isn’t a reaction to something. It’s almost like the scene in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’. Does everything really begin with choice, or is everything the result of causality? You’re dirty, so you bathe. Did you really make a choice? The life chooser would then have to make the conscious decision to go against what they would normally react to. Showering again right after you’ve already showered, for example. But then, that could be a reaction to a non-reaction – LOL!

    I don’t know if there is an answer to that question, Lexi. If you figure it out, let me know.


  7. First, congratulations on handling this immense, killing stress in such a way that you deflected the negative energy. You are saving your own life, and now that you know how, you will always be able to protect yourself.

    I think that we attract such things sometimes by our expectations. What we give our attention to grows. When we can control our own minds perfectly, then nobody can hurt us without our permission.

    There will always be negative people around us, but we don’t have to buy into their belief system, or give away our own power. Stay centered and mindful of your own intention, and don’t get caught up in anything that siphons off that good energy of yours.

    And you might want to cover up that Wonder Woman suit, Lex, because it could make people nervous.

  8. The only thing I know how to let go of is bad driving. One day, I decided I shouldn’t get sucked into the bullshit because it was only hurting me me me. I get aggressive less often, and catch myself and think: I’m in no hurry; they can be assholes. And then I enjoy my music and my car and my solitude and the fact that I’m an excellent driver. When I do that, I don’t arrive late and don’t have problems. I’m not saying my attitude changed the circumstances, but boiling blood and clouded thinking would have stopped me enjoying the lack of trouble.

    Now, I can see that I shouldn’t get sucked into the bullshit can be applied to everything, I just don’t know how to do it, or how to do my part when the jerks are sticking around. When I slow down, jerkfaced drivers to go away. Jerkfaced coworkers, acquaintances, etc., do not. I am capable of forgetting my troubles, but I also can’t sleep for stewing over stuff and I’ve gone from grinding my teeth in my sleep to biting into the inside of my lower lip.

    How do you separate from the crap and stay away from it?

  9. @ Jali

    I wish I’d seen you too while I was in Atlanta. I hope you’re ok and I’ll kick Jason in the nuts if he’s making you sad.

    You raise an interesting point about comments. I always worry that my comments to someone’s post become narcissistic. I don’t mean to make it about me. But I love that this resonated with you and I want to hear how it affects you personally. So, I don’t want anyone to worry about going down their own path in my comments. That’s why I write, to share my life and to hear from others about where my thoughts hit home with them.

    I’m thrilled to be your friend too. Now we have to see each other more often!!!

  10. @ Bauer

    You’re so weird! But that’s why I keep you around.

    I wouldn’t say that I believe either that scripture teaches that our whole lives were lain out before us or that that idea is true. I believe scripture teaches that man has free will and that we are incredibly responsible for our choices. Whether I believe scripture is authoritative is a completely other issue that I won’t get into here…only because I don’t want you to run off and pray that my soul be saved from hell fire or something of the sort.

    You’re also weird because you refer to The Effing Matrix to answer philosophical questions. You know I hated that damn movie and have no idea what it was about because I CHOSE to sleep instead of watching that confusing shit. And if Reloaded is Matrix 2, then you really know I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    And you’re weird because you’re so concrete! I don’t expect a definitive answer. The joy is in the journey!

    I love you though, Weirdo!

    @ ~m~

    You know, it’s been rather easy. Once I make up my mind that someone is toxic it’s really easy to ignore the and go on with my life. I don’t feel like I have to socialize in the office. I have work to do and I do it. Once I realized that this person was loaded with negativity, I just bailed mentally. Now speak, but it doesn’t go beyond a greeting or answering a question. I just don’t have time for the nonsense.

    It is very much like the crazy drivers. I let her drive by. She’s completely off my radar now. I have decided that preserving my sanity and serenity is much more important than trying to figure out how to accommodate the lunatics in my life. I have really good boundaries that way.

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