Whenever I talk with someone who is dubious about the value of therapy, I explain to them that for many of us, the point is to have a great relationship with yourself. I hate that that sounds a little touchy/feely, but it’s the truth. Folks tend to think of relationships as something we only have with others, not ourselves. I see that we are going to spend 24/7 365 with the same person until the day we die. That’s a solid reason to be on the best possible terms with ourselves.
Just as with any other relationship, authenticity is key. Fake relationships suck and pretending to like someone never quite works. Being honest with ourselves and having a willingness to discover what we want and need is where real change occurs. People always look at their external selves and their external lives and they say things like, “I’ll be happy when…”, “I just wish…” or “If I could get…” Blah, blah, blah. It’s nice getting to an age where you can see with absolute clarity that losing 15 pounds isn’t going to make you happy in any other part of your life, getting a bigger house won’t change your self esteem, and getting a promotion won’t make you feel fulfilled.
It’s amazing that we’re still chasing some modernized and slightly apathetic version of the American Dream. I understand that young people need to do this – need to find out through trial and error who they are and how the world works. One of the nicest things about flying past 40 is that you realize you’re half way there and you’re wondering just where/what the hell “there” is. Then you realize that, “There” is being freaking dead. Welcome to your new perspective. Now you have a choice – would you like the cliché of a mid life crisis or would you like to get on the same page with you and stop driving yourself nuts?
“I’m halfway gone and I’m on way” – Lifehouse “Halfway Gone”
I have lived long enough and well enough to find wisdom in what I used to mock. Country music and “light rock” were insufferable in my youth. Today I see that a lot of those songs tell great stories. Somewhere from the obscurity of the 1970’s I hear Ricky Nelson singing, “It’s alright now. I’ve learned my lesson well. You can’t please everyone. You’ve got to please yourself.”
In the past this lesson was too simple to learn because it was too painful to accept that what I most wanted could never be. So I made it complicated and turned it into a series of unattainable goals in order to prove my worth and win over the people I share DNA with. Today it’s simple. Being who others wanted me to be never got me what I needed much less what I wanted. So I removed the impossible and asked the Universe to save me from myself.
I talk to the Universe/Higher Power/God and I reason that in the worst case scenario I am talking only to myself, which I find helpful because it helps me to be on the same page with me. William James was right, “Faith is a bet you can’t lose.” Religion did not bring me faith in myself or in other people. It brought me fear of damnation which it turns out was redundant at the time (trying to do the impossible is a form of Hell). Today I’m not hedging my bets nor worried about the next life or whether there is one. I’m trying to get this one to be as good as I can have it. I don’t believe that asking for anything changes what the Universe is going to do but I have noticed that it changes what I do.
I receive more. I learn more. I have incredible “coincidences” in my life. Through no pattern I can discern other than being open to possibilities and paying attention, I meet amazing people doing amazing things and I’ll be damned but they all kinda like me real well. That’s cool. Took me a long time to get used to that. Being in the company of passionate, loving, and accepting people will take you a long ways toward knowing yourself. Too many of us spend our lives trying to make mean people happy.
To know what you truly want takes courage. It’s easier to not know – because as long as you don’t know – as long as it’s complicated, you don’t have to face any fears and you don’t have to grow or heal or dance, or learn anything new. Build your stock portfolio. Buy a retirement home in Florida. Get a facelift. Do all that crap, just don’t do it around those of us who have a zest for living.
A dear friend explained it to me this way: You spend your 20’s figuring out who you are and what you want. You spend your 30’s trying to get it. You reach your 40’s and it’s make or break time. Did you choose wisely? Are you on the right track? How happy are you?
Well, how happy would you like to be? Most importantly – what are you willing to do to achieve it? It’s time to stop looking outwardly and begin taking stock of who you are, what you are, and what you’re willing to do about it. Take stock. Choose. We don’t get to know how much time we have left but we get to decide what we’re going to do with it.