Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One's Truest Freedom - Breaking the Chains of our Past, Creation of the New Story - SYNCRO-BLOG

This post is a part of a "Syncro-Blog" which is one-topic, multiple perspectives on it by a couple/few different bloggers.  You can find links to these other perspectives at the bottom of this post.  I also invite you to post your thoughts, comments and ideas (if you're so inclined) when you're done reading this (if you make it to the end)...
Photo by Gareth Mackay
"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."
-Johnny Cash

My life is the way it is today because I've broken free of the constraints that my past history used to impose on me.  Let me back that out a moment: I am ALIVE today because I broke free of my past.

In another time (now over a decade ago) my life was a life lived in fear of people knowing my past, judging and maybe even condemning me for it. In a world quick to label and categorize (in an attempt to understand something), many are also quick to write off and give up on something (or someone).

Mary (my baby sis), Sarah (my big sis) and yours truly...
I was 11 or 12 when the proverbial $#!^ hit the fan in my happy childhood.  Up to maybe the age of 10 or so, my family unit was not only intact, but I enjoyed the carefree upper-middle-class living of suburbia.  I had (and still have) two amazing sisters book-ending me, and my parents were both physically healthy and emotionally happy people.  We lived in the 5-bedroom home in a nice neighborhood.  We all played sports (which were supported by, coached and attended by both our parents).  We had a couple dogs.  Sandbox and backyard, check.  Beautiful parks to run, play and explore all close and well maintained, check. It was a little too good to be true.  Without going into now unimportant details of the demise of my family, my parents divorced after a couple ugly years of bickering, fighting, and the loss of love/respect for each other.

My parents' divorce hit me like a ton of bricks.  My enthusiasm for school fizzled (I was at one point achieving high marks).  I withdrew.  I became depressed and finally, after one big ugly fight with my baby sis, I was cornered into a "new" family discussion with my mom and her then boyfriend/fiancee. I was stubborn then, too, and I left the discussion by running to a nearby creek to think and blow off steam.  I came home to a squad car in the driveway and a police officer intent on bullying me into 'parental submission.'  I wouldn't cave (this stubbornness has gone on to serve me well racing 100-mile mountain runs), but I had no respite to escape to this time, so I locked myself in the bathroom.  The situation escalated quickly.  I made one threat to get the cop to leave and they deemed it "suicidal tendencies" and the next thing I knew I was in a hospital, facing two of the most condescending psychologists/therapists I've ever had experience with. Again, too stubborn for my own good, I wouldn't cooperate with their attempts to manipulate me into conversation. After a cryptic exchange with my mom, I had the intuitive realization that I was in lock-down and made a break for it.  The 40-meter hall seemed longer than a mile.  My mom walked out the double doors as they closed (and latched) at the very moment I got to them.  I was shattered. LOCKED IN and abandoned. My world went from the perfect little childhood to unimaginable emotional pain. This event sealed the deal. I could tell you more about the therapy, the group sessions, watching the failed escape attempts of others, but you've all seen enough reality TV and good psychological thriller films to have a fair idea of what happens in these places. I have come to firmly believe that they aren't places for people to "get well" but rather, a place to house, catalog and care for those who are beyond sick. The quicker you can adapt and get out, the better chance you have to make it (statistically speaking). I got out in about 3-weeks.  I was only 12. The next youngest patients were 16 and 17. From that point forward, I possessed a heightened consciousness. Something developed to protect me from that type of hurt and betrayal. I was connected and detached at the same time. I became an old soul (as some have gone on to describe it). Time moved forward...

Oh boy... this is awkward.
Junior High is a tough place. You have all these girls going from awkward children to the middle phase. They suddenly have boobs and hips, they've shot up generally as tall as they're going to get (prior to boys doing the same) and they're chalk full of hormones.  Adolescent boys have it NO easier. Most are short and gawky, half of us had braces and we suddenly want to have a girlfriend (for acceptance/love and other things our bodies are chemically driving us towards).  It's hard enough to go from childhood to adulthood in that middle cocoon phase.  I was now different. Yeah, Margaret Mead said it best, "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."  But middle school and high school become more about fitting in and learning to be likable based on our deep-seated fear of rejection and being alone/abandoned.  I had two things pulling me apart now: the fear of (repeated) rejection/abandonment and the need to protect myself from even being at risk of that.  This is where I believe my over-the-top personality blossomed.

Friends from elementary school gave me the ever so charming nickname of "psycho-friend" and they even had a song they sang to go along with it. I was the only person I knew (aside from the people I was in the institution with) that had been labeled depressed and/or mentally ill. I knew I would be looked at as different from there forward. So a part of me (as a 12-13 year old) literally made up this idea, "fine, if I'm gonna be different, then I'll be really, intentionally different!"  They called me crazy! So I became the crazy kid who'd accept ANY dare. You name it.  I was a prime cut Fear Factor participant and Jackass daredevil before those shows had even been a pitched idea (I was in middle school in 1989-1990, Jackass started in 2000 & Fear Factor in 2001). I'd eat weird stuff on dares (apparently I haven't grown out of this, yet), jump off of cliffs/houses/boats into water far below, even go streaking in various places (again, haven't matured beyond these behaviors, yet).  But as I moved from middle to high school, went to summer camps, and would meet new people I'd be terrified that they'd "find me out" and not want to be around me anymore. It was a constant and all consuming fear.

Facing one of my biggest fears: the BADWATER 135
Fear will always be a part of our lives. In many ways, it can actually be positive and healthy. But there are times and areas that fear crosses over the line and becomes something counter-productive to living the lives we dream of living.  For some of you kids old enough to remember the film Dune (or the amazing book that preceded it), the Bene Gesserit (an exclusive sisterhood who trained their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning) had a mantra:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

I lost a bet. OR did I???
Now, I'm not a part of this sisterhood. I do, however, happen to have a pretty powerful relationship to my fear.  I am still afraid of so much (people mistake me for being fearless, whereas I know myself to be full of fear but I act in the face of that fear).  Freedom from fear (in one's life) doesn't mean fear-FREE, but rather, developing an acute inner dialog around fear and choosing which fear to hold on to and which fear to permit to "pass over [you] and through [you]."  This, my friends, is called being courageous.  Courage is roughly defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear (defining what you do / act upon).  Courage is a practice, not a genetic predisposition. Many times we relate to people as they either are (born) courageous beings or they are (always) cowards. Think of courage like you do fitness. If you work the muscles consistently and patiently, you become stronger. If you face some small fears and over-come them, you'll consistently be able to face bigger and more deep-seated fears. Eventually, you'll tackle the doozy in your life.  The biggest skeleton in your closet. Then you will be fully experiencing (think of Braveheart screaming here)... FREEDOM!!!!

Somewhere in my adult life, early to mid-20's, I realized I was living someone else's life.  I wasn't happy.  I was afraid to live, afraid to step out into the unknown and chase down my dreams.  I realized I didn't share with many who I truly wanted to be, I hid from my past (institutionalization) and had things I had wanted to do for 5 or more years that I had taken NO actions towards.  Here's an interesting list for you:

*I wanted to move to Los Angeles from Northern California (the San Francisco Bay Area), and had talked about it for over 5 years.
*I wanted to run a marathon (my first, as my longest race distance prior had been the 12k SF Bay to Breakers).
*I wanted to be in a relationship with the girl of my dreams (I had been in 3 or 4 relationships longer than 1 year, and one was 4+ years in two different pieces).

1st hundo - "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
In hindsight, I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. I had purchased many self-help books. I reached out to many friends who had taken bold steps towards their dreams.  My then ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend Mike was a key turning point.  He was enrolled in a course called... wait for it... "the Wisdom Course" put on by Landmark Education.  Mike was one of the wisest dudes I had met (especially considering we were both in our 20's at the time), and he's since gone on to become a very successful, sought after motivational and keynote speaker, as well as a successful author.  After a chat over a beer with Mike, I enrolled in a course called the Landmark Forum and discovered a lot about my fear.

Now you know why I love ZOOLANDER so much?
In my early-to-mid-20's transition, I challenged myself to face my fear on every possible level. It started with owning my past. I can't EVER change that I've been in lock-down psychiatric care (nor can I change that I was a "male-model" *doing best BLUE STEEL impression now*). But I hide from it no longer.  I still have tendencies that at times throw me into a depressive funk.  I now know how (and when) to reach out for help (although even now it's still HARD to reach out for that help).  It's been 24-years (two-thirds of my lifetime) since I was in lock-down.  It's been nearly 5 years since my last therapy session (I've gone to individual and couple's therapy on-and-off for some 20-years).  I talk openly and honestly about my past mistakes, the things I used to be ashamed of.  An interesting thing has opened up too... the things I used to fear judgment on, I now INVITE judgment.  Sharing my history has become a way to weed out people I don't see as "high quality" individuals who will push and challenge me to be better.  Those that are quick to judge/condemn remove themselves rather swiftly from my life. They're doing me a favor!  The people that have stuck around are the most forgiving, open, kind and compassionate people I've ever known.  I can learn from their love, friendship and generosity.

Trusting the universe (and this elephant) fully.
I have become who I am today (and I continue to work to evolve towards being a little bit better every day) based on those whom I have surrounded myself with.  We are, ultimately, a product of our immediate environment and YOU get to choose who to spend time with, who you invest love/attention in, and who's ideas and philosophies you'll embrace and perpetuate.  YOU get to choose.  In communicating my story (yes, many of you have been the victim's of me over-talking and over-communicating my stories), I have been freed of fear's shackled existence. I'm running free now and I am able to extend my hand to invite those I love to be free with me. Experience the joy on the other side of fear. It starts with jumping off the cliff, while the water may be cold at first, the time in the air and rush of cold water (and adrenaline) is exhilarating and liberating.  It starts with the simple act of loving and owning your own unique story...
"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that they are difficult."

Post a COMMENT if you enjoyed this blog (and I also invite you to post your thoughts if you offer any alternative viewpoints too)!

Found below are some other people I adore and their unique perspectives on this topic:
*Katie DeSplinter's Brain Used To Hate Her
*Nathan Coury's Heart On His Sleeve
*Ashley Walsh's Why You Front'n?



Anonymous said...

Wow Jimmy, this is awesome! Thank you for sharing your self authentically.

I too have found that being radically authentic with everyone serves to attract only those who can handle that amount of truth and openness, which tends to be very high-quality individuals I want to connect with. :-)

So grateful to have been invited to synchro-blog with you!

Shawna Barlette said...

Some day, when you finally arrive in Raleigh, have I got a story to share with you. We have much more in common than I originally thought. Well written. Good stuff. Love you. MSRG

keirahenninger said...

Amazing stuff Jimmy, and defines everything I have gone through in the last few years of my life. Amen to breaking away from what does not truly make you happy. I love you JDF. I love you. You need to share this ten times over with few people we "know" ...

Kiley said...

I, for one, have not grown "tired" or felt "victimized" by your "over-talking". Thank you for continuing to share your story Jimmy. Thank you.

Ashley Ringo Walsh said...

"Freedom from fear in one's life doesn't mean fear-free" <--- I loved that. Rawness is magnetic. Thanks for writing this and for asking me to join in.

Anonymous said...

Lululemon sent me to Landmark last year. Its a course I wish everyone could go to

Jimmy Dean said...

I agree with ya, Jen!

Landmark COULD BE "for everyone" but not everyone sees it as an opportunity for growth. Much like RUNNING could get everyone fit/healthy, but not everyone LOVES the idea of running (or loves running itself) enough to do it.

I don't just have a few people I would love to see take the Landmark Forum, I wish EVERYONE in mine & Kate's lives would take it. I invite many, and some of my closest family and friends have gotten a tremendous amount out of it.

Found an interesting Lululemon article in Fast Company Magazine about Landmark, The Secret and other self-actualization stuff...