Conversation with a Client*
“I woke up the other day, went into the bathroom, splashed water on my face, looked in the mirror, and wondered… when did I become 43? I started crying, staring at the face looking back at me. Where did I lose myself? I quietly said to that face.
Where did the years go, and why have I accomplished nothing I set out to accomplish? What happened to my hobbies, my interests, my passions, my dreams? How could I let it all slip away from me? I used to be a happy person. There was a time I looked forward to getting up in the morning.”
She continued talking to me through her tears, sobbing, and mourning a life that she felt hasn’t yet happened.
“I used to dream of getting older, being able to travel, painting, and creating art anywhere I wanted in the world. I have still never left the country. I haven’t held a paintbrush, well, an artist’s paintbrush, in forever.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” she answered, her face wet and stained from the mixture of tears and makeup.
“When was the last time you remember feeling free and at peace?” I asked.
“I guess the summer after college. I traveled around the country before starting my job. I was so excited I had landed the perfect job. Everything seemed so easy. I thought I had it all figured out.”
“Then what happened?”
“My life became all about my job. I didn’t realize I stopped being everything else: the artist, the athlete, and the poet. As I sit here now, I miss that me so desperately. I can see now the moment I stepped into the business world, I stepped out of my life.”
“I sit here not overweight but out of shape and doing a job I hate, a job I have hated since I started it right out of college. Oh, but it was the dream job, the job everyone envied when I landed it.” She said in a mocking tone.
“The job for a career I was told I wanted. After a few years, I met my husband, got married, and had children while continuing working in the dream career from hell.”
“I was sitting there looking at myself in the mirror thinking, ‘I cannot remember when I started to fade.’ Looking at myself in the mirror, I realized I had disappeared. I became obsessed with trying to figure out when it started to happen. I thought that would help me get it back.”
“What did you discover?” I asked.
“I remembered how all through high school I had a great interest in art, drawing, painting, and writing. When it came time to figure out the rest of my life, I was not prepared. I spent high school trying to fit in and trying to be like everyone else. I didn’t take the time to figure out who I was. I let my parents, my school counselor, and others tell me who I was. Not just in high school and in college. I realize I am still doing it. I also think it never occurred to me that something in the art world could be a career.”
We Decide When We Let Go
Together we developed and started implementing a plan to change her unfulfilled life.
Throughout our life, we have interests and hobbies that slip in and out. We need to be sure when they are no longer part of our life, it’s because we lost interest, or it no longer brings us the feeling of satisfaction it once did.
It needs to be a conscious choice.
When we drop things we love from our life because we’re too busy or too stressed, that is unacceptable. We need to be sure to make time for ourselves. When we are stressed, we need to draw on the things that bring us joy; this is how we relieve stress.
Holding onto these things is how we remain happy and fulfilled, especially during hard times.
When we keep joyful things in our life, we remain whole. Letting parts of us go when we are busy or feeling the pressures and stresses of life only hurts us.
Stress During Transitions
I work with people who are navigating through stressful transitions in their life. Often, we become so focused on what is causing us stress and trying to alleviate it; we allow it to consume every waking minute of our day.
Is it any wonder we start feeling overwhelmed, unhappy and unfulfilled?
When we are stressed or dealing with any type of transition, it is not the time to walk away from anything that relaxes us or brings us joy. We need to permit ourselves to enjoy our life. We need to continue participating in our hobbies, reading a book, playing a game, or going out with friends.
Our life does not have to shut down or lack fulfillment when experiencing a change or making adjustments that shake our foundation.
Holding On To What Brings Joy
Holding onto what brings us joy in these moments helps make these transitions less monumental and overwhelming.
Even when we are not stressed or in transition, taking time to focus on ourselves is the best way to live a fulfilling life. We need to hold onto what we love because that is what defines us. If we bring people into our lives who cause us to give up things we love, we need to ask, then do they really love us?
Do they love us for who we are if they want us to change or give up something that makes us who we are?
Small Things Define Who We Are
I have things in my life that bring me joy and fulfillment. They define me and differentiate me from you, from my sisters, and some lady sitting next to me on the bus. If I am with someone who wants me to give up the things that define me, maybe they would be better off with the lady on the bus.
If I give things up for someone else, then who do I become? What defines me? When do I start resenting them? When am I loved for who I am?
The people in our lives are supposed to love us unconditionally. They are supposed to support us and encourage us even when they are scared for us. Even when they are worried about the outcome.
Faith and trust are what a loving relationship is about, not control and manipulation. We should love the people in our lives for who they are, not for who we want them to be. Trying to change the people in our lives will lead to resentment, frustration and ultimately leads to damaging the spirits of everyone involved.
We need to live multidimensional lives so when something shifts or some aspects of our life is falling short, we have other things to draw on to relax us, bring us peace and keep us centered. When our lives are our own, we can bring happiness and fulfillment to ourselves, and others can’t hurt us or take it away.
When we give others the responsibility to make us happy, not only have we given them a job in our life, but we have handed over the ultimate power in our life. Other people and events now control our happiness. Staying true to ourselves by keeping the things we enjoy in our lives is how we remain happy and that reduces stress.
From time to time, our interests or passions might change. What used to bring us joy no longer holds the same rewards or fulfillments it used to – don’t force it.
Let it go.
But you need to be sure to replace it, find something new to bring you joy.
It must be your decision to let things go, or your spirit will feel the loss.
Life is for Exploring
If something new is interesting to you, give it a try. If you do not like it, at least you made an educated decision. It was your choice to walk away. The decision is one of knowledge, not based in the unknown world of assuming.
If we make decisions based on assumptions or based on someone else’s experience, it will continue to creep up on us.
We set ourselves up to occasionally wonder: what if? We don’t want to find ourselves wondering “where did I lose myself?”
We need to be open to bringing new interests into our lives.
Be open to trying anything once, maybe even twice.
We don’t ever want to walk away from an opportunity only to later wish we had tried it. At that point, it may be too late. The moment or the opportunity has passed and may not present itself again.
You do not want to leave yourself with regrets. And you don’t want other people making decisions for you.
What have you let slip out of your life that you would like back?
What would you like to try in your life? What have you made excuses to push off? What have you convinced yourself you are not that interested in or ready for?
Our lives are passing us by. Get on the ride and enjoy it!
I would like to leave you with the words of Henry David Thoreau
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,Henry David Thoreau
To front only the essential facts of life,
And see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
And not when I come to die,
To discover that I had not lived.”
* used with permission