Jim’s heart issue, it turns out, is a perfect metaphor to illustrate the idea of keeping open the possibility of having a full life.
To set the stage, let me offer my common woman’s anatomy lesson:
In our bodies, usually we have a pretty effective mechanism for ridding toxins, for breaking down fats and unwanted materials and filtering them out of the body. Sometimes, a certain body is unable to fulfill this role efficiently. In Jim’s case, his body does not do a great job of breaking down and getting rid of fat (cholesterol). When the body can’t handle (or manage, or deal with, or stand to be with) extra fats, its default position is to take it and plaster it to the inside of an artery. This causes the artery to narrow and begin to harden. It is almost as if the body is saying, “I can’t handle you right now, so I am just going to set you here in this artery, out of the way, and let the blood flow around you.” We can all imagine that this works pretty well at first. If there is only one piece of cholesterol that the body can’t handle, then it is easy for blood to move around it. However, if there are many pieces that the body can’t handle, eventually there is less and less space in which the blood can flow. (You might be thinking that this explanation may not get me a degree in medicine; you would be right. It does however give the general idea : ) )
You might also wonder how this applies to our daily lives. Imagine your life as a circle. Inside of the circle are all of the possible things that might make up any life. Now imagine a conveyor belt slowly moving past you, inside this circle. On the conveyor belt are all of the possible things that might make up a life. Your job is to look at the things on the conveyor belt and put a sticker on the things that you can’t handle (or manage, or deal with, or stand to be with) in your life. Some common things that people mention that they can’t be with include:
Rudeness, people who are late, insincerity, clutter, violence, laziness, wasting time, materialistic people, bad manners, self righteous people, ignorance, idle gossip, being tired, loss of control, spontaneity, lack of spontaneity, schedules, lack of schedule, unpredictability, lack of integrity, religion, lack of religion, old age, children, racism, intolerance, narrow mindedness, disappointment etc.
As the items on the conveyor belt come past the second time, pick off all of the stickered items and plaster them to the inner sides of the circle. You will notice that the more things you plaster on the walls (the more things you can’t be with), the smaller your life becomes.
In the extreme, some people create such a small life that they go very few places and have only a very select number of people in their worked. Most of us are not this extreme. However, it is important for us to recognize that each time we decide we can’t be with something, we do in fact, make our world smaller.
If for instance we can’t be with loud people, we begin to avoid places and events where they might be. We achieve our goal of avoiding the noise, but we also get the unintended consequence of missing out on some potential wonderful events.
I know that I love a clean kitchen counter. I have even said that I can’t stand a messy counter. The truth is that if I allowed this to be a deciding factor in choosing activities in my life, I would narrow my life significantly. Often when my counter is the ‘messiest’, I look around my kitchen and see friends and family, I hear laughing and notice memories being made. I have learned that allowing messy counters to flow through my life, allows me huge rewards. I also notice that by allowing messy counters to flow through, means I am not necessarily choosing for them to be there permanently.
My request for you this week is to simply notice all of the things that you have trouble ‘being with’. My inquiry is, “What could I gain by allowing this to be in my life?”
Note: There are some situations where it is imperative to keep something out of a life, even though by doing so it may reduce the ‘size’ of that life. This would include any type of abuse. What is interesting to note is that often the life has already been significantly reduced in ‘size’ by keeping the abuse in it. In the long run, removing the abuse allows for a much more full life.