My name is Barbie…and I am a recovering workaholic. Over the years, I’ve found myself working relentlessly through migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, and morning sickness that lasted well into the afternoons. Once, I returned to a transcription job the day after I had surgery to place two rods in a severely broken finger. I was typing with one good hand plus two fingers on my “bad hand,” quite proud of the fact that I could still type about 70 words a minute. Crazy!
We all have behaviors that don’t seem to make sense. But when we take time to step back and observe ourselves with genuine curiosity, we can oftentimes find the faulty wiring that causes this kind of short circuited behavior.
When I was very young and feeling sick, Mom would pop a thermometer into my mouth to see if I had a fever. If I didn’t, then I couldn’t stay home from school. It was just that simple.
I carried that marginally useful measuring stick into adulthood where it became part of my unconscious belief system that sounded something like this: If I don’t have a fever, I’m not really sick. And if I’m not really sick, then I need to go to work (or otherwise tend fully to my commitments and responsibilities).
There is, of course, a major problem with that particular belief: not all “sickness” is accompanied by fever. The debilitation caused by headaches, pregnancy, and even broken bones can’t be measured with a thermometer. I can see that now, and I’m also beginning to see many other places where my faulty thinking has caused irrational behavior.
I noticed it yesterday when I went out for a run. A week ago I strained my Achilles tendon, and so I rested it for a week and then resumed my usual running pace. There were a few twinges at first, but I ran through them. A couple of miles in, I couldn’t take the pain any more, so I limped home while listening to brain chatter: “It should be healed by now. I took the week off. It should be all right. What’s wrong?”
There’s that “should” word, a definite red flag that something’s going on under the surface. So I simply observed and eventually noticed my belief in the “fact,” that all injuries and illnesses clear up on their own in about a week. I don’t know where that came from, but it is clearly not serving me nor my unhealed Achilles tendon. With awareness comes the freedom to make new choices.
So, as I move into the days and weeks ahead, I want to pay closer attention to the unconscious beliefs that operate quietly in the background of my life. Some are useful; some are not.
Living consciously is all about exploration, discovery, and choices. It’s only when we find the short circuits that we can consciously choose to begin rewiring our belief system to something useful and supportive. When that happens, our lights shine more and more brightly, and the whole world reaps the benefits of lives lived consciously.