Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
How to take the good of Life’s lessons and spit out the rest.
Yes, I’ve done it—eaten the artichoke that is – leaves, prickles and fluff.
I was nineteen at the time and in a very elegant restaurant in Montreal. I was at university on the East coast and very attached to my boyfriend in Toronto. He was my first love and very handsome—like a young Michael Caine— actually even Michael Caine was young then, too. I would send soppy letters of longing home and he would respond with a carton of cigs and a Ziggy Stardust album closing with the line: “Wish you were there,”
which was his way of saying be where you are.
That past September my folks packed up my big, blue steamer trunk
in the car for us to travel that Maritime region of Canada and get me settled into the residence at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. My boyfriend waved me off with the advice to have the time of my life, which was his way of saying that is what he intended to do.
I finally took his advice and that is when, while watching the Canadian
Varsity Football on TV, he (watching from home) happened to glimpse me in the stands wrapped in a big, red plaid blanket with a hunk of a mountain man from New Hampshire! Who knew? Anyway, true to the nature of
many men, when something looks like it might go missing it becomes
more valuable and desired. Along came his letter with a ticket to
Montreal and a heartfelt plea “Wish you were here.” Like many young
women, I finally got what I asked for. Only it wasn’t what I wanted.
Anyway, Montreal is Montreal, exotic in its French Canadian culture
and I thought it would make a nice change for him to pitch me for a
bit, and then I could ditch him. So off I went on my post romantic
adventure. I only remember two things: His very satisfying suffering
that I was no longer “his,” and the feel of a slice of artichoke in my
There I was being all haughty and cool with my newfound
power of resistance, and suddenly I was contending with a mouthful
of sharp, hairy cardboard! I instantly knew I had made a gaff—or how
could artichokes be so popular? But it wasn’t a moment to laugh off
my own silliness, a very useful trait that I have since developed. I can’t
honestly remember how I discretely disposed of the mess in my mouth,
but I do recall the lesson: Swallow the good stuff and spit out the rest.
All too often we bite off something in a job, relationship or other
commitment and it doesn’t feel so good. But this much I will guarantee:
You are being called to learn something about yourself. If you are
cheated, you can learn discernment. If you are betrayed, you can
learn forgiveness. If you have been humiliated, you can learn courage.
Strengthening character is like any muscle. You have to hit the weights
until you get strong.
Fitness clubs garner the greatest income from unused memberships. It
is not human nature to seek out the difficult and discipline ourselves.
We only “get religion” when we’ve gone too far. The dress doesn’t fit
and the party is next week or we have a heart attack. Life in its natural
yearning and push to higher evolution provides the impetus for we
humans who would avoid discomfort.
We could develop strength,courage, peace, happiness, health and vitality by choice—many do—but more don’t. Life crooks its finger and beckons to us. We, in response say, “Who me?” and look over our shoulder. “Yes,” Life says, “it is time to learn courage—you will need it later,” and sends a bully to kick sand in your face—someone for you to stand and face in your own goodness and power.
There is a lovely children’s story by Neale Donald Walsch, and I paraphrase like mad, (sorry NDW) but it goes something like this: A little soul had never been to Earth and was hearing stories about the delight of forgiveness.
“God! I want to learn forgiveness! Can I go? Pleeeease?”
“Okay,” said God, “but you can’t go alone.”
“I’ll go with Little Soul,” said Little Soul’s best friend.
“Goody!” said Little Soul.
“But you know, Little Soul,” said Best Friend, “when we get there I
will have to do something to you for you to forgive. When I do—just
remember who I am.”
I love this story because it so simply illustrates that the people and
circumstances in our lives help us to be all that we can be. We all
are born with our unique and fabulous mix of talents, competencies
and desires. Our potential is boundless and only diminished by the
limitations of our own mind, and by our latent abilities, talents and
So many whisperings by teachers, parents, and sadly our
religions, form our expectations long before we are of discerning age. As we grow, we grow according to the expectation of others. Sometimes—
often—we are unaware of the underlying sabotaging script to our own
That is when Life steps in. List all the qualities of Life you think are
desirable. Happiness is top on my list because it means all else is in
harmony. I don’t mean manic happiness, as in “I laugh in the face of
danger!” but a default setting to happiness that ensures that I can ride
the waves of joy and sorrow with equal grace.
So what are the qualities you desire most to form your life experience? Courage? Creativity? Vitality? Peace? Bliss? Now think on the various circumstances and experiences of your life, and see how each might have offered you an opportunity to achieve a measure of those values.
This is not the same as getting slugged in the head and deciding never
to venture back to that neighborhood. It is not about taking the tough
stuff on the chin and sighing in resignation, saying, “I know there is
a lesson in this for me.” It’s not Life saying, “I’m going to teach you a
lesson you’ll never forget!” It is not about punishment in any way. It is
all about freedom.
Freedom to be exactly who you are in all your creative abandon and
joyful expression—as a dancer, an artist, a salesperson, a parent or a
bank manager! If you are just exactly who you are, you can never get
it wrong! No one can criticize or judge you because you are being a
perfect expression of your whole potential. Sometimes we hang on to
relationships, jobs or possessions because we have a misguided notion
that to let go is failure. But sometimes those things have fulfilled their
purpose in our lives and can be discarded.
The beginning of wisdom and self-actualization is to get this. It helps you understand the notion that we are to see the divine in all people. Seeing
the divine doesn’t mean a rapist isn’t a rapist—really. It means that there
is a deeper soul agreement at work that is moving toward consciousness
If you balk at the example of rapist, just remember that
Life as creator is eternal and infinite. There is no death—it only exists on
the physical plane. There is nothing that can truly harm the soul. “No
fire can burn it. No water can wet it.” Life will use even death to open
our eyes to the beauty of our full human potential.
When you know this you will have a very different perspective of a
difficult passage or person. What part of you is better for this experience? Which of the qualities that you most desire are closer to you now? Now the important part is to take the gem and drop the painful experience. You may never forget it, but it no longer has an emotional hook to trip you up.
Continuing to be outraged by a painful betrayal is to stay
heavily attached to something that has outlived its use to you. Keep the
lesson of discernment; trust in your own intuition (that likely warned
you but you didn’t listen), and find the courage to call it like it is.
The emotions of the hairy, prickly stuff of Life experiences are
resentment, guilt, fear, anger, rage, depression, trepidation, self-consciousness, doubt and anxiety. Do you really want to carry these
heavy feelings with you? Are these the energies that you want attracting
circumstances and people into your life?
It’s not tough to let these lower energies go. The way is simple: You can’t focus on two things at the same time. Be conscious of your thoughts and choose to enjoy the gem. It’s valuable and you earned it! Then you can relish the lovely, fleshy, nutty green pleasure of eating artichokes and toss the hairy bits and prickles in the compost heap—they’re just fertilizer!
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