Broken Record Syndrome

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It is a bit surreal that I am writing about records on a blog — and hopefully most of you know what a record is or if not can imagine what one might be — because the last time I played a record I had no vision for sharing stories on the Internet. Writing was a more contemplative, intimate process as it was assumed that much of what I wrote would not make it any further than the pages of one of my notebooks.

Now I feel a sense of responsibility to share what I write, at least those thoughts that are somewhat comprehensible and complete, if it might help someone else in some small way. To deprive the world of my writing, and the insights contained therein, when it can be so easily shared would be cruel and unfair. My audience of one has grown to a nebulous group of unknown proportions.

This has changed the tenor of my writing. It has forced me to step outside of myself and look more broadly at my feelings, circumstances, and experiences as I describe and seek to understand them. I have evolved, progressed, and transformed in response to a rapidly changing world. And I, as well as others, I hope, have benefitted.

But in many other areas of my life, I have not so easily and gracefully progressed. I have become stuck like a broken record, caught up in a fractured groove that plays over and over again. These grooves represent both thoughts and behaviors (or lack thereof). And the symphony of simultaneously repeating tracks is poorly orchestrated, resulting in an agitating undertone of dreary reputation with no end in sight. Despite my best efforts, I — like millions of others — suffer from broken record syndrome from time to time.

Broken record syndrome occurs when we have recurring thoughts or exhibit repeated behaviors without intention or purpose. Over time, these automatic repetitions become background noise; we become accustomed to their presence and accept them as normal. They become our ingrained biases and our habits. They greatly impact our lives; yet, we are largely unaware that they even exist. And when they do float in and out of our field of awareness, we forget that we have the power to transform them into something more useful and more importantly, more beautiful.

So the first step, then, is to be open to noticing the little snippets of thought and behavior which we experience so frequently, and with such subtlety, that they typically escape our attention. And once we have discovered them, and realized the nuisance and monotony of their perpetuation, we can begin to understand the purpose they have served in our lives. They have protected us, and made us feel safe, in an uncertain world. They have given us something upon which we can rely when everything else seems to slip through our fingers. But it is not enough use these incessant beasts as a crutch, and we deserve better.

We can, instead, offer ourselves freedom from reliance on things that are actually hurting us, by leaning instead on something stronger. Something more meaningful. Something transformative. Something of our choosing and our design. We can replace the cracks which cause us to trip over ourselves again and again with ideas and actions that more deeply resonate with our heart of hearts. We form new habits and develop new ways of seeing the world. And these continually evolve, in response to our changing world and our own self-growth. And through this process we discover more happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

Blasting Zones

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I had never been in a blasting zone before, nor had I even heard of them. But on a recent road trip through six states, I traveled through five blasting zones that were strikingly marked with orange warning signs.

The blasting zones are created to clear grass, trees, hills, and other earthly formations to make room for highway expansions. It is the process of permanently removing lush, lovely goodness to promote, in theory, movement, speed, and economic progress.

Similarly, we often blast away parts of ourselves to move forward in our lives. We suppress our feelings, we settle for less than we deserve, we overlook our values, and we try to transform our personalities. These little blasts, while not permanent like those by the roadside, cause long-lasting damage. While it might seem like we are removing roadblocks, we are actually creating superficial limits on who we are and our potential for fulfillment in all of its forms.

Intentionally letting go of feelings, activities, habits, rituals, thoughts, and things that no longer serve us or reflect our true nature can be a healthy practice. In order to grow, we need to make room. But when we remove, diminish, or hide our inner and outer beauty, we are instead creating a gap that will continue to suck out all of the love in our lives. Rather than discovering fulfillment, we will find ourselves empty and unsettled. Changed, but not for the better.

It is not always easy or simple to discern what should or should not remain a part of our lives. Whether or not we choose to remove the right things, the gentle process of letting go is far more forgiving and loving than that of blasting away with anger, frustration, or desperation. When we let go of things, they may float back to us — and we can then decide whether or not to welcome them back into our lives or to continue releasing our grip. When we blast away, the process of reintegration, should we choose this route, is far more difficult.