A few days ago I embarked upon a new journey – a milestone birthday that ushered me into the final phase of my life. It may last only five more years (as it did for my mother), close to 20 more years (as it did for my father), almost 30 more years (as it did for my grandmother and her parents), or a few years more or less, but it’s winding down. I’ve already surpassed the longevity of many other family members of my parents’ generation and earlier – we have a relatively easy life compared to them. But the truth is that the bulk of my life is now in the rearview mirror. This particular milestone has me reflecting on how I got here, and wanting to share what I’ve learned. Be warned – this is the longest blog I’ve ever written, but stream of consciousness is how I write. I’m hoping you’ll find some of this helpful or useful, and maybe avoid some of my mistakes!
- No Regrets
Regrets? I’ve had a few. Actually, more than a few. Lots, to be honest. Things I’ve said or done, things I didn’t say or do. People I pushed away, or welcomed into my life, later to find that their toxicity was detrimental to my life for many years to follow. My first marriage. Jobs I took, or didn’t try hard enough to get. The way I thought. The way I treated others. The way I parented. The way I treated myself.
But what good does it do to dwell on the past? Every mistake that I have made was a learning experience. Seeing the effects of my unkind words and deeds, sometimes hours, days, years or even decades later, taught me how much pain I could inflict on others through thoughtlessness. It was a terrible feeling. I’ve felt that pain, and now strive not to cause others humiliation through my words or actions again.
As for other missteps, each one of them led to something better, even when I was inconsolable at the time. The jobs that were the most stressful taught me strength, resilience, and gave me permission to move on to other things when I had enough. My first marriage brought me intense misery, but also gifted me with my children – the joys of my life. And the painful relationships that I cycled through afterward taught me what the right person would look like when I found him. And find him I did. All clouds have a silver lining. And experience, no matter how acquired, is always valuable.
- Love Fiercely
So many of us, burned by difficult, unfulfilling, abusive or “meh” relationships, feel jaded and may even give up on finding love. If we do find a new possibility, we may be guarded and only “half there,” afraid to go all in with a lover who may end up hurting us. I’ve been one of those folks who felt unlucky in love. After a while the serial first dates became so tedious and exhausting – the fruitless searches and mismatches wore on me and, frankly, made me feel more hopeless than excited to go on date after date only to realize that this one, as well, was not right for me. I then tried not dating for a while, even though I very much wanted to be in a relationship. Giving up on what you really want isn’t the way to happiness. The only thing that helped was focusing on what I really wanted, dissecting relationships that didn’t work to figure out why, and comparing notes. When I realized that I was getting just what I wanted – but my wish list was fatally flawed – I was able to reboot my search process and find my one and only. If you’d like help to find your own special someone, ask me about Twin Flame Manifestation coaching. It works!
Finally, I know that it’s not always easy when your sexual inclinations and/or identity aren’t accepted by family, friends, and society, and may even put you in danger physically, emotionally or economically. Although some cultures are becoming more accepting of all people, regardless of their sexuality, it’s still far from safe for some people to love openly. My hope and wish for you is that you keep striving, keep on loving who and how you love, and do so with all your heart. Fulfillment will come to you. And if you’re one of those people who really don’t feel as though you need a relationship with someone else to feel fulfilled, that’s great! Everyone’s needs are different. You’ll find plenty of gratification from other parts of your life. Love who you are – no explanations necessary.
Note: If you are staying in a relationship with someone you don’t fully love with your whole heart, soul, mind and body, and you truly feel that having a partner in life is important to your happiness and well being, please consider moving on. Don’t settle – follow your gut and if it feels wrong, it is. Not only will you be happier, with that happiness having the effect of drawing the right person to you; staying where you don’t belong will keep you from the arms of the person who is out there for you. Being unpartnered for a while is much better than being only partially present in a relationship. Wait for what gives you joy.
- Just Do It – But…
Those of us of a certain age remember the phrase from a few decades back – “If it feels good, do it.” And of course there’s a certain sportswear brand that tells us to “Just do it” to this day. The idea is that you should do what you want to, and not hold back for fear that you might not succeed, nor care about what other people think. I’m on board with that idea, as long as the activity is safe and legal (except for acts of civil disobedience, which are fine by me!). Forget about what “they” say – it’s nobody’s business what you want to do, at what age, and for what purpose. Success breeds success, so keep trying to go outside of your comfort zone, if it’s what you really want to do. Some of those regrets mentioned above come from waiting too long to do what you are longing to, and the moment passes you by. And if you’re more of a sideline-sitter, do that. The point is, the choice is yours.
In my life so far I’ve gone from attorney to stay at home mom and sheep/goat/rabbit/chicken farmer, to mediator, to Executive Director of two non-profit organizations, to Guardian ad Litem, to attorney again, to mediator again, author, and now artist, instructor, life coach and (wtf) psychic. I’m sure I’m foretting a few. All along the way, at each phase, I had people telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing, and how I was wrong or right to make the decisions I was making. Bite me. I did what I did because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I very much enjoyed some of those positions; others, not so much. But every step led me to where I am today. And I have a feeling I’m not yet finished creating and recreating the wonderful person who is “me” in this lifetime.
“If it feels good, do it” has a corollary, though – if it feels uncomfortable, don’t do it. I’ve had countless ill-advised experiences throughout my life through going against that feeling, especially in relationships, and especially when I was in a particularly vulnerable or lonely place. That feeling in our guts is there for a reason – often it’s our Higher Self or Guardian Angel telling us to rethink our plan and trying to save us from heartache. If we go forward anyway, sure, there’s the learning part, which is good for our Spirit in the long run. But, man, it can sometimes really hurt. I have gone against my instincts many times, always to my detriment. Three notable examples – my first marriage (yeah, I keep mentioning it, to make the point), hiring someone I had qualms about (but the other two candidates weren’t as qualified) and a job interview during which I recognized that my boss and I were not going to be on the same wavelength (but I so needed a job that I took it). My instincts were dead on in each instance, and each of these situations ended painfully. Don’t talk yourself into something you know probably won’t lead to happiness, especially if you’re feeling an internal pressure to do it because you are worried the alternative will be worse. The results are unlikely to be happy. You can’t get to a good place in a bad way. TRUST that the Universe has a plan for you, and wait for what’s right.
- Make Kindness, Compassion and Empathy Your Go-To
As I mentioned above – sometimes regret leads to the development of compassion and empathy for others. Nothing like a healthy dose of guilt, or embarrassment over your actions, to help you to put yourself in another person’s shoes. But not everyone feels that embarrassment, or guilt, but rather a cruel sense of accomplishment and superiority from hurting others.
Today’s world can be so mean-spirited. Our humor, memes and social media, our politics, our prejudices, and even our music and other entertainment, have turned us sarcastic and vicious. Anyone who doesn’t strike first is weak or a sucker. People who cry or complain about harsh treatment are ridiculed and subjected to even more abuse. Bullies are lionized, victims are blamed, or mocked and derided. What’s happening to us as a species? The more of us that jump on the no-holds-barred, go-for-the-jugular mentality, the worse off we will be. We need to stop the cycle that leads us to think that kill or be killed (sadly, sometimes literally in our gun-crazed nation) is the rule to live by.
Try to suspend your judgments, and treat others with patience and kindness – one person at a time. Start with those you love (should be a no-brainer), then move on to your co-workers, celebrities and folks you see on the street. Try to stop seeing sarcasm and “teasing” as humorous and good clean fun. Find something beautiful about everyone you encounter, even if you don’t have anything in common with them, or if they look different from you, or there’s something that stands out about them. Voice truthful compliments. Smile at strangers. Don’t spread that rumor or repost that derogatory meme. Ask yourself if it’s true, if it’s kind, if it’s necessary (Rumi’s “Three Gates”) before saying or posting it. Does it spread acceptance and love, or perpetuate a stereotype and stoke the fires of division, anger and hatred? It takes patience and practice, but the more you greet someone (even from afar) with a kind and mindful heart, the sooner we will change our world for the better.
We’ve all been through trauma – it’s the reason we’re put here in the first place. Our purpose is to learn and grow, no matter what’s thrown at us along the way. Injustice, abuse, loss are all a part of life here on this planet. I know some folks who believe that we form a “soul contract” with the Universe before birth, in which we agree to whatever will happen in this life – that we choose the type of learning we’re ready for, and our life follows that set path. I’m not sure that I believe that wholeheartedly, but I do understand the concept, and find it as good an explanation as any.
The point is, we’re going to have a lot of lessons here – big and little pain – and suffering is often part of the deal. The worst thing we can do with our hurt is to stuff it. Old trauma, new trauma – we need to bring it out into the Light and deal with it. Feel it, grieve it, heal it. American culture is full of “suck it up, buttercup” sentiment and being “tough” is seen as a virtue. Working through your hurts is not weakness, it’s strength – especially in this environment that often blames the victim or tries to judge whether the person “deserved” what happened. The mentality of – “it happened, get over it, let it go” is so damaging. Don’t let it change the way you grieve and heal. You may choose to go to counseling, go on a retreat, throw yourself into work, read and research, listen to music, do something creative, spend time with family, spend time alone – it’s all about what works for you. Mourn in your own way, take your time, let your own heart and mind and body tell you when you’re ready to emerge.
- Put Yourself First
Yep, it sounds selfish. Women, especially, are taught that we should do for others, often at great personal cost to ourselves, because we need them to be happy (I often ask female clients who are at the end of their physical, emotional and mental rope whether they think it would be selfish for their male partners to take a break under the same circumstances – “that’s different…” they usually say). This idea of self-interest being selfish is at the root of most of the guilt we feel as partners, parents and adult children. When the Muskrat comes up in a reading, I talk to the client about unapologetic survival. Doing what you need to do for yourself isn’t a bad thing. It’s why you’re told on the plane to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. If you need a selfless reason, look at it this way: if you’re a lifeless husk of a human being because you’re exhausted, no one will be there to continue to take care of your loved ones.
Rest and respite is absolutely crucial to our health. Learn to say NO, and stick to it, take a nap or read, take a day off from whatever responsibilities you’re faced with, spend money on yourself, indulge in something you love – don’t fall into the “but I have to…” trap. Self-care is never selfish. It’s survival.
- Create Your Own Energy
This is the “You Be You” section of my advice post. Some people are not going to like you. It’s a hard fact, but a fact nonetheless. Just as there are some people who rub you the wrong way for one reason or another, you will do the same to some others. Striving and trying with all your might to get others to like you is a waste of time and energy. Because for every person who doesn’t like you, there are two who do. Proven fact – just look at your circle of friends. They love you because of who you are, or despite it! If you changed yourself to try to make yourself likeable to those who aren’t compatible with you, you risk losing those who love you as-is.
We all have an energy surrounding us. Some people actually see this aura energy field, but everyone feels it, whether they know it or not. Your particular energy draws to you those who will become part of your circle – for good or ill. Be wary and wise about whom you allow into your circle. Some are there because they love you, some because they see you as an easy means to their narcissistic ends or want to take advantage of you. Trust your instincts in deciding which is which. If someone gives you the heebie-jeebies, avoid them whenever possible.
You be You is great as a slogan in a soft drink commercial, but isn’t always easy to do openly when the rest of society thinks your vibe is weird. I grew up being the quirky one – the woo-woo wooly (sometimes crazy) one that no one understood and many made fun of (starting with family members). But I was able to draw others to me who were just as weird (or weirder) or loved the weird. That’s my tribe. Find yours – let your energy emanate like an ambassador, and allow it to form a bubble around you that draws the right people to you. Embrace who you are, and you’ll be embraced in return.
- Have a Beginner’s Mind
My mother saw the word “stupid” as so offensive that we weren’t allowed to say that “curse word” in the house. Yet we children were given that label often. As a consequence, I tried to know-it-all, and it carried over into my relationships, friendships and work life. I was too embarrassed and self-conscious to admit that I didn’t know something, and therefore did a lot of faking knowledge and/or trying to limp by with just a rudimentary understanding of a subject. I tried to learn everything I could about everything I could, but, of course, no one can know everything. It got to the point where I was so anxious about looking stupid or being found out, that I stopped talking unless I was absolutely sure I knew what I was talking about. And even when I did contribute to a conversation, I was anxious that I wasn’t remembering what I thought I knew and may be embarrassed by a correction. Since there are so many people who are eager to prove their own knowledge, there is no shortage of people willing to trip me up or put me down for making mistakes.
My solution is to try as often as possible to have a “Beginner’s Mind.” I ask questions, even when I think I know the answers. I’m working on being willing to be proven wrong, and admit my mistakes. I’m willing to admit that I don’t know everything about a subject, and to learn from others, even those who aren’t experts. Which is SO much easier now, when I don’t have to consult “Facts on File,” an out of date encyclopedia or a card catalog. “Tell me more about that” is the new “Here’s what I’ve heard…” This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to change, and I grapple with it daily. But one step at a time is the only way to take a journey. In this age of information overload, when all information is suspect and subject to political whim, asking questions and doing your own research (from a reliable and reputable source) is always a good thing. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re always willing to learn (or learn more), even when you really are an expert. It’s a good thing.
My years on this planet have taught me that life is messy, uncomfortable, joyful, enlightening, tragic, triumphant, and so much more. We’re here to learn, and learning comes from making mistakes. I’ve made some, and plan on making more. Go out there and make your own, as you go through your wonderful journey through this lifetime. Blessed be.
Tree Photo Credit – Lars Nissen on Pixabay.com