Last week I took advantage of early voting in Texas. All the voting locations near me had incredibly long waits so I ventured farther south to a voting spot in a large shopping center on the outskirts of Austin. I walked into the bright, air-conditioned, now-vacant Carter’s retail space and headed to the end of the line. After five minutes, I almost turned around and left. The anxiety in the packed room was thick and palpable.
Whether it was nervousness around being in such a large, foreign, public space, stress about the long lines or an uneasiness about the ultimate presidential race outcome (“I wonder who he/she is voting for?!”), there was a lot of tension in the air.
I scanned the room, pondering this. Then, I decided to create a shift. I dug deep for my friendliest voice, turned around and struck up a conversation with the women behind me. This was the best decision I had made all day. Despite our outward differences, we had a beautiful, real connection. We joked, laughed, shared about our teenagers, our husbands and talked about the state of healthcare in America. Our hour-long conversation went a long way in settling our nerves.
Most great spiritual teachers and traditions tell us, we only ever have two choices in how we approach our lives and day-to-day interactions: from fear or from love.
When relationships are viewed through the eyes of love, we:
• trust — and allow those we love to follow their unique path (even if we don’t agree);
• practice acceptance and let go (of parenting struggles, of who’s right, and so on);
• listen from our hearts in our interactions and respond in the moment;
• communicate openly and are more receptive and flexible;
• come from a prosperity mindset and see that there is always “enough” time, attention, space, and resources;
• see everyone’s true essence, who they really are, not how they’re acting in the moment; and
• are able to feel more compassionate towards ourselves and others.
When relationships are viewed through the eyes of fear, we
• try to control, manipulate, and micromanage people and situations, thinking we always know best;
• think things are good only when they’re going “our” way;
• operate from our heads and fall into over-thinking, criticizing and over-managing;
• become reactive and get easily triggered;
• react negatively and see problems first, instead of acknowledging what’s going well;
• come from a poverty mindset and feel like there is never enough;
• punish, judge, and isolate ourselves from others.
Reading these extremes, who wouldn’t want to choose love over fear (read more about my I Choose Love movement) when relating to those around us? We all want to feel open, free, generous and fully available to one another. But often this is hard. It’s easy to fall into old habitual patterns –like feeling victimized, righteous, resentful or seeing what’s wrong in a situation without acknowledging what’s right. Choosing love over fear takes mindfulness–even vigilance–and a willingness to consciously choose this path, moment to moment. Again and again.
Walking out of the voting location an hour and a half later, I was so grateful that I had chosen love and connection instead of succumbing to fear. It was a powerful reminder that we always, at any point, can pause, shift and course-correct. We can choose to drop our fear-filled backpacks and step into a lighter more open way of being. We can choose love.
Get out there and vote and let your heart’s wishes be heard (go Warren!).
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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker and mindfulness teacher Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups and women’s retreats based on her work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 17-year-old son. More on Renee here.