It’s common this time of the year to reflect. As I think about my 2015, I would say I’ve tuned in to myself (and the world) in a deeper, more realistic and accepting way. My post-divorce 40s was a time to fly free and spread my wings: to pursue “super stretchy” career dreams, become a happy single person and heal emotionally.
Ten years later, now that I am in my 50s, I see myself becoming more accepting, practical and grounded. I don’t relish all of this, given I am naturally an activist / cheerleader / healer / Pollyanna personality, but I will quote here zen masters who say you can work your butt off, but that doesn’t mean you can control the outcome. No matter how much you may want something or work to make something happen, you can’t always bend the world to your desires.
I am discovering – over and over it seems – that some of my life’s richest lessons are about acceptance and working with what is. Perhaps life’s greatest lesson is learning to work with life versus giving up or fighting it. Working with life is not giving – up or in – at all. And, fighting others is just a pissing match as they say.
As I write this to you I realize in my work I attempt to mirror this philosophy, when it comes to teaching my clients (whether that means a couple, a CEO, a department manager, a group, or an individual) as well as how I aspire to be in all of my relationships. Whether you call it resilience or emotional intelligence, research into successful personal and professional relationships shows this repeating common thread of the players finding ways to be respectful of each other without erasing oneself in the relationship to please the other, or trying to control or erase the other. It’s about accepting and managing (not curing) the inevitable differences and negative emotions that come up anytime you are in relationship, with yourself or with others.
I was reminded many times in 2015 that the closest relationship in my life is the one I have with myself. I must therefore walk my talk. Without beating myself up, I aspire to work with myself (instead of fighting myself or denying what is, in terms of my own thoughts and feelings and the world’s reaction to me). Another way of saying it is that no one is an island. All of us must live in the world. So instead of looking at that world as the enemy, more and more my wise self suggests I consider how I can work with and in the world to get more of what I want and need.
You see it seems to me a primary challenge in today’s world is sorting out what is frivolous and distracting from what is truly necessary, satisfying and “enough.” Perhaps we too often allow a dependence on consumerism to pervade our thinking and thus, our decisions. It is kind of a big deal: we may wish or be lulled in to thinking “the sky is the limit” (and yes, marketing geniuses and even positive psychology is also a part of the problem here), but I would challenge you to also consider that simple may bring you more prosperity – in all senses – in the long run.
I am learning that I better create a healthier relationship with my body, for example, if I want it to continue to support me as well as it always has. Emotionally, I’m processing my grief about my losses, savoring what’s good – including some great memories – and moving forward. And gaining wisdom from all of it. Yes, there are times when it’s scary, but as I explored with a pre-teen client the other day, most of our fears are paper tigers!
For me looking forward there are some amazing L word phrases to focus on: living well, loving much and laughing often. Yes, it’s a cleansing and a simplifying isn’t it? I find in today’s environment of ‘too much’ this fresh focus fits me well.
So, be sure to stay tuned for what I’m up to in 2016.
Barb Elgin has been helping lesbians thrive since the mid-1980s as a psychotherapist, life/love coach, matchmaker, author, radio-show host and more. Her current focus is the Lasting Lesbian Love Social / Travel Club. If you’re ready to unwind, unplug, and become healthier and happier, while having fun and meeting other like-hearted LBT women, sign up for L3’s complimentary Social/Travel E-Zine at Lastinglesbianlove.com/lesbian-social-and-travel-with-heart.