Copyright © Louis Schmier

Date: Wed 2/1/2006 3:21 AM
Random Thought: It Happened On The Way, II

Here it is, 4:15 am, and I've already hit the streets. A lot of stuff is happening around the house that's been chasing Morpheus away. This morning's walk was in one way like all my walks this week. All week I've been walking past that spot on Oak St. where I had that conversation with the young lady last Saturday. Today, I stopped for a second to gaze across the street, almost hoping I would see her red truck, wondering how she did on whatever exam she took. I've thinking of little else this passing week, thinking especially about parts of our conversation I did not share and the deep lessons I've learned.

When I told her that I understand her deep need to change, I explained how I had changed since that fateful October, 1991, day at Hyde School. I told her simply that at first I thought I was simply changing as if I was either a chameleon or an ugly worm metamorphosing into a beautiful butterfly. For almost a decade, Then, I explained, I began to see that it wasn't me that had been changing. The real "me" had always been there. It was just a matter of discovering and uncovering the real "me" that lay hidden. But, that wasn't the end of it. About two years ago, I told her, I realized my change was all about my perceptions of myself, that I had been seeing I was worth mining for, and that I had been acquiring a faith and belief that I possessed undreamed of and untapped talents and abilities and worth. And now, I think that the real journey was and still is about discovering the power in "me," the power that comes straight from the heart..

"Loving and believing in yourself is what creates that power. No, it is that power. You know," I emphasized, "you can love your neighbor only as you love yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, as I truly did not, if you don't love yourself, then you are powerless and you're going to be at your best. It's like saying if you don't believe you're a good waitress and if you don't love waiting on people, you won't love your customers, you won't love helping them to enjoy themselves, and you won't be good at waitressing and serving your customers. So, as I started loving myself, I started loving what I was doing, loving the students, helping them help themselves to better themselves, and serving something more than myself."

"That's true enough, but how can I change like you did to betterin' myself so's I can get to likin' and believin' in myself, like you said, to findin' that gold inside me because I know I can be better than just a waitress.?"

It was a question I've heard for many years. Always I answer, "I don't know how you do it. I only know how I did and still do it, and stand here as an example that it can be done." And, I left it at that as I always had.

But, she was the first one who wouldn't leave it that way. "That's not good enough. You're leavin' me hangin' out there."

I looked at her in silence and heard she plea, "There must be some way. You must know how. I gotta know. Please."

I looked at her desperate face. Suddenly it hit me. She was right. That wasn't good enough for anyone, including me. Laying out some steps are important. To say "I changed" and to describe that change requires some sort of description of the process.

"Haven't thought about the steps all that much. Let's see if I can do this," I slowly started feeling an anxious lump in my gut. "It's not really like following instructions to put something together You don't do step one, then go on to step two, then on to step three. I think there about a dozen or so intermingling and intertwined parts to what happened and is still happening to me."

In so many words, I heard myself explaining that first (1), on the fateful October day at Hyde School, I was uncontrollably overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to heal the festering wounds in my spirit. It was a wish, a need, a desperation, and a willingness to do whatever it took to move on, to go someplace else, to be someone else. It was necessary if I wanted to change, to take myself out from my stagnating quagmire-- how I perceive myself, how I expect myself to behave, how I label others, and how that labeling affects my attitudes toward others--to start losing my apparent self and to start finding my authentic self. That's how to best describe what happened to me at that explosive moment of my epiphany. And, looking back it was a sudden rush, a splash of freezing water on my soul, a grand moment, almost an inner screaming at myself.

In reply to her question whether I afraid of what was happening, I explained that I thought I was more confused than scared. And, it was only when I was confused, when I lost my cocksuredness, did my defenses start to lower and I began to ask myself questions and to start reading myself for the unexpected, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.

So, the "second" step (2) was that I had to hear and listen to myself; I had to look at and see myself; I had to acknowledge my negative emotions. I could no longer bury them, set them aside, disguise them, rationalize them away as I had for as long as I could remember.

Now I was on a roll as it suddenly the process that I had been and am still experiencing became. Third (3), I had to recognize that they--my fears, sense of failure, lack of confidence, weakened self-esteem-- were holding me back and that the walls I had erected which were protecting me were also imprisoning me. I had to recognize as well that only positive emotions--a belief in myself, a faith in myself, a love of myself, a hope for myself--would break those walls, release me, and push me forward out into the fresh and invigorating air.

Fourth (4), I had to acquire a conviction, a conviction of the need to change. I had to convince myself of that the hard work ahead of me was worth the effort. The person I had to sign on to this project was me. Nothing half-hearted about it. No doubt. Nothing haphazard. I had to become my most avid and vocal advocate. I had to have the conviction deep down, in every fiber of my being, why I wanted what I wanted, and that there was both a will and a way to find it.

Fifth (5), that conviction helped create, support, and increase my commitment to find myself. I couldn't fight against myself. I had to have myself on my side. I had to sincerely put all I had on the table, to put my heart completely into it. I had to slowly abandon all resistance to what was happening if I was going to truly transform myself.

Sixth (6), as I acquired a conviction and commitment, I felt a determination, a resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before me. It is unreasonable to think that the road to feeling good, to becoming the person you are capable of becoming, is yellow-bricked. It's not. There will be problems, discomforts, inconveniences, distresses, fears, and even pain. Don't recoil from them. Your conviction and commitment and determination to keep reaching for my goal carried and still carry me past seemingly insurmountable obstacles and makes things real that I once considered impossible.

Seventh (7), as I acquired a determination, a perseverance appeared. True and lasting change, transforming change, takes time. It's a good thing I didn't know how much time it would take. It's a slow and steady, moment by moment, little by little, drip. I learned that any great and extraordinary act arrives gradually, that it is accomplished by a series of supposedly small, little, and ordinary acts. Every public and private feeling and thought and action weaves, unravels, and reweaves the fabric of your life. Every moment counts. Every moment is the finishing line of the last and the starting line of the next. It's a string of moments you can't remember and can't forget, seen and unseen, that take you from where you were, where you are now, and bring you to where you want to be.

Eighth (8), I did a lot of this gazing into my mirror during a "Just to..." time in a "Just to...." place I created. Mine evolved from a reluctant, fearful jogging during the day to a desired, joyful meditative pre-dawn walking. I came to need and love the quiet stillness and aloneness before the sun rose. It's a period of restoration and recovery, a time of catching my breath, of taking a deep breath, of settling my heart. It's my time for finding rest and renewal and delight, a time to let everything but my soul lie fallow. I often explain that those five miles and 75 minutes every other dawn is a time of finding myself when I struggle to see more soulfully, to listen more attentively, to imagine more keenly. I find that it is a time of renewal and resurgence. It is a place of such clarity, a genesis place, where I have come to harvest the fruits of an ongoing reflective, exploratory, uncovering, discovering, truthful, and personal conversation between myself and my self.

Ninth, (9) it was there, on the darkened streets that I saw the light. I developed a vision: I would be the person who is there to help others help themselves, as I am helping myself, to become the persons they are capable of becoming. Visions have a power. They provide your meaning, your purpose, your inner motivation, your drive, your strength, your courage, your direction. They focus you; give you an awareness; impose an attentiveness; the images may be 'fantasy,' but their effects are real, for there's an occillation between vision and action. Each has a resounding impact on the other. It's brought spirituality, something greater than myself, into the midst of my life where I make my moral, ethical decisions and practice my values.

Tenth, (10) was "simple." As I began to change who I was, as I began to change the questions I asked, as I began to alter my perceptions, as I began to change the feelings and attitudes I had, I began to change what I did. As I began to transform, I began taking my conviction, commitment and determination and perseverance into action. I began to go beyond my thinking, feeling, speaking and writing of words. I began to live them.

Eleventh, (11), somehow I was realistic from the start. Though I "demanded" growth, change, and development of myself, I had this feeling that it was not going to be quick and easy. I kind of knew that any accomplishment without challenge, effort, and difficulty was not worthwhile or long lasting. I knew true transformation came if I asked of myself that which I was capable of doing at the time, and maybe more. I knew the great journey came in small step that were not small and no less great. I knew I could only nourish my spirit one bite at a time. I somehow knew I had to be patient. Patience. That's the winning slow and steady tortoise word; that's the long term view word; that's the it was going to be a long, slow, gradual, and difficult process word. It took me a long time to develop habits of behavior and attitude about myself and others. I had become accustomed to feeling, thinking and doing things in a certain way. I had become spoiled, doing only the things I like to do, that are comfortable doing, that I was used to doing, even if they were negative and perhaps harmful. So, it was going to take an equally long time to unlearn those habits and replace them with new ones that made me satisfied, accomplished, fulfilled, and happy. Patience is crucial to persistence. It goes hand in hand with confidence. Trust me, it will hearten you, deepen your faith, strengthen your spirit, and quiet your soul. It will weaken annoyance and frustration. It puts you in a real position of positive control and effectiveness. It saves a lot of frustration. . It'll stop you from spiraling downward as your own victim. I understood this was not going to be a "quick fix," a magically elixir, a mere waving of a wand. This was going to be a gradual process of affirming my inner self, of mining my inner mother lode, of discovering my inner child.

And finally, and maybe the most critical of all the steps (12), it helps to keep at it and to remember to remember it, for none of the above is more than a concept in my mind and a motivation within. I practiced and sustained all this moment by moment, day after day after day. By practice, I don't mean a rote going over the same thing. I don't mean being repetitive until I got good at something. I don't mean rehearsing lines, cues, entrances, and exits. I mean being fully committed, determined, persevering, and patient in each moment. I mean paying attention, being awake, being aware, knowing what I am thinking, feeling, saying, and doing. I mean reminding myself each moment. I mean remembering and checking in over and over and over again. I mean, then, developing a habit of awareness and mindfulness. As long as you can keep all this the driving force of your spirit and keep it at the forefront of your mind, as long as you can remember, with passion and with clarity, the what, why and how of it all, it will carry you forward. Though all this won't make the changes for you, it can keep you going long enough for you to change yourself. I say the last is most critical because my epiphany was only a splash of cold water on my soul. But, water doesn't change things like that. If that splash was merely a single downpour on hardened rock, it would have merely slipped off without leaving a trace. Waters carvesonly if it falls and chisels away drop by drop, moment by moment, day after day, month after month, year after year, without a pause.

After I finished the list, she said, "I get the idea.."

So, as she drove off part of my stunned "what in heavens had just happened" was wondering who just had just learned from whom.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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