Opinion poll.

Why do we care what other people think? I’ve read recently that humans need community. We need each other to create our understanding of reality. But I’ve found that if we pay too much attention to what other people think, then we stop being able to think for ourselves. We stop being able to act too.

Say I’m at work. A lady gets upset that I’m smiling. She thinks that I’m making fun of her, that I’m smirking. Then I’ll make a point of not smiling, and another person thinks I’m not being friendly enough. It is healthier for my soul to just do whatever I’m going to do and let them deal with their issues themselves. Otherwise I’m constantly second guessing myself.

I try to adapt myself to other people. I think it is kind to adjust myself so I’m at eye height to them, or that I know enough about their reading interests that I can suggest something for them to read when they ask. Remember how the apostle Paul tells us we must be all things to all people? Yeah. That.

But there is a big difference in being accommodating and being a doormat.

And there is something very dangerous in letting someone else shape your behavior. When you do, you are giving up your autonomy. You are giving up control. You are letting someone else tell you how to live your life.

I have a friend who was told that he would amount to nothing, that all he was good for was factory work. He was told this by an authority figure at school. Fortunately he had a strong mother who told him a different story. He is soon to graduate as a social worker.

Imagine the loss to our world if he had listened to that negative person.

We are often told that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t do something, or that we should give up or never even start. The secret is that other people are mirrors of you. If someone is telling you that, it is their own fear of failure they are pushing onto you.

Don’t take it. It isn’t healthy.

Think of this. Use “you can’t do that” as a dare, as a springboard. Use it as a sign that you are on the right path. There is something you are about to do that frightens them, because they think they can’t do it. But they aren’t you. Prove that person wrong. Do it instead of them. Do it because of them. But just do it.

And forget about what they think. They don’t know anything anyway.

Stumbling block, or stepping stone?

My craft room is the wrong color. When it got the house, it was teal. I quickly painted it fern green. I find green soothing. It is something of a neutral color for me, a default. But then I realized that I wasn’t using the room. It has great light. It has a lot of space. But I wasn’t spending any time in there. I was storing my beads and fabric and paint in there, but not using them there. I’d take them to other parts of the house, usually the living room, and work there.

It has taken me ten years to get back into that room. It was yoga that did it, and it is yoga that teaches me about it. I feel that I’ve wasted a lot of time not using it all this time, but I often feel that. I suspect a lot of that comes from the fact that my parents died young. I don’t want to be wasteful of time, or to assume that I have a lot of time. I think that wanting to have lived a meaningful life is common to most people, and it is hard to have lived a meaningful one if you’ve frittered it away. I’m trying to be mindful. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it seems there are a lot of unnoticed things that thwart me.

I needed space to do yoga every morning. I needed a space that was big enough for a yoga mat and for me to be able to do some side twists. I have a tiny house. It was what I could afford at the time. Plus, a small house (hopefully) means not accumulating a bunch of stuff. So, this means that the living room is not really big enough. There is room for the mat, but not the side twists. The same is true in the bedroom. I’ve got plenty of room on the porch, but it is outside and I don’t want to be stared at while I’m doing yoga. Actually, I’m very self-conscious about being outside at all, but that is another story.

So I put the mat in the craft room, and I made myself do yoga every morning. I realized that I didn’t want to go in there. Yoga is teaching me to look adversity head on – to not run away from it. Study it. Dig down to the roots. Why am I feeling this way – like I want to run away? Why don’t I want to be in this room? The first and deepest impression was that it was the color. Too dark. Not energizing. It is calming, but a little too much. Now, there is a lot of light from the north – the light is great for painting in the morning. But it just didn’t strike my eyes right, and the color wasn’t inspiring.

I got a book called “Sacred Spaces”, about how to make sanctuaries wherever you are. One of the sections was on feng shui. I determined that something more like a sea-blue, or slate-grey-blue would be better. It would be a pain to drag out everything in that room and repaint it. So I made some suggested amendments to the room. More blue pictures. Seashells. I made a point of closing the closet so the mirror showed. Either it helped, or I thought it did, because I was more likely to want to be in there.

But I’m leaving the walls. Part of it is that I feel that removing all difficulties actually can be a problem. Having an obstacle, having something that annoys me, actually wakes me up. It strengthens me. It keeps me conscious.

I’ve noticed that if everything is fine, I don’t push myself. I don’t stretch or grow. And I don’t pray. When everything is going fine, I don’t seek God nearly as often.

Turns out I’m in really good company. Plenty of people throughout the Bible did that. When things were going bad, they called on God. When things were going great, they forgot about God. Have a pain in your back that you are worried about? Pray. When it stops hurting, you stop praying. Normal.

God likes to hear from us. God wants to be connected to us. It is sad that we often only remember to pray, to connect with God, when things aren’t going well. What would happen if we treated our friends like this? If we only call them when we have something to complain about, the relationship isn’t going to last. God wants to have a relationship with us.

So maybe we should be thankful for the obstacles, and the pains, and the things that annoy us. Maybe they are our rescue. Maybe instead of being stumbling blocks, they are stepping stones.

I’ve decided not to repaint that room. I’ve decided it keeps me mindful of how to be calm and present amidst adversity.