For our own good

Sometimes the things we want aren’t good for us.

This message has come to me in various forms, from several different people, in the last couple of years.

I think it has to do with the way we want to see ourselves, and the difference between how we want things to be and how they really are. And maybe even the difference between who we want to be and who we really are.

For example, for a very long time I’ve wished I lived in a warmer climate. I imagine how much better I’d feel if it was warm year-round. And perhaps it’s true. I might feel fantastic.

It’s equally possible that I might not appreciate it the way I imagine I would. Now, I value each day of beautiful weather, because I know it won’t last. But if every day was perfect weather, I doubt it would have the same meaning for me. I probably wouldn’t spend as much time outside as I do now.

Another example would be having the desire for personal space, and the ability to make everything just the way you want it. What if, when you get exactly what you want, you find that you miss the company of others, and you would rather things be a little bit messier, but a little more lively? On the flip side, what if you’ve wished for years for companionship, and when it arrives, you realize how much you miss the quiet?

Over the years, I’ve learned that things in our lives are the way they are for a reason. It’s often an opportunity to learn something. If we can stop resisting what is, we may be more able to see how a current circumstance or situation can be an opportunity to grow.

What if everything is as it should be, right now?

No is not a dirty word

An important part of being an adult is being a good parent to yourself. In other words, looking out for your own well-being.

This means giving yourself permission to say no – to anything that doesn’t serve you.

If you’re used to saying yes a lot, saying no might be a bit difficult at first. Especially if, like so many people, you are worried about what others might think of you. Or, if you feel like you are letting someone else down by saying no.

Being a good parent is actually a form of practicing good self-care. It’s about being learning to be kind to you.

Now, if learning to behave in a loving way towards yourself is going to be a process, you’re not alone. I know that I was well-practiced at lecturing myself and pointing out my own mistakes, and it took time to re-learn those habits.  It can take some practice to become a good parent.

The first step is noticing how you typically talk to yourself. It’s all too common for many of us to over-commit, or say yes to things we really don’t want to do, and then berate ourselves for not getting it all done.

Honor what you really want or need: practice saying no.

Saying no to what you don’t want leaves you plenty of time to say yes to what you do.

Just a number

I recently celebrated another birthday, and it gave me a chance to reflect on the way that we tend to assign certain meaning to milestone birthdays, or to have internalized judgments about who we should be, or what we should be doing, at a certain age or stage in life.

Age is just a number. And yes, 50 is different from 20. But is one better than the other? Not really. There are pleasures to be enjoyed at each stage in life.

We often fall victim to our preconceptions about what a certain number means, since there’s really no hard and fast way of determining of what it means to be a particular age. I’ve known people in their seventies and eighties who were vibrant and active, while I’ve known people much younger who were completely mired in the idea that “it’s all downhill from here…”

It’s only downhill if you think it is.

And since you’re the one writing the story, you can create the landscape any way you like.

Nothing but Stories

“I’d once heard that we are nothing but our stories. Forget the blood and bones and genes and cells. They’re not what we are. We are, rather, our stories. We are an accumulation of experiences that we have fashioned into our own grand, sweeping narrative. We are the events and people and places to which we’ve assigned symbolic meaning. And it’s when we step outside our stories that we feel most lost.” – Ken Ilgunas

I’ve written about stories a lot here. And this quote from Walden on Wheels is a reminder that everything that happens to us in life becomes part of an inner narrative. I’ve said over and over that it’s not the events themselves, but the meaning we attach to them, that’s important. One really great example of that can be found in Life of Pi. And, if you’re looking to explore the meaning of your own stories, I recommend Everything Happens for a Reason.

Stepping outside of our own stories can be one of the most valuable experiences in life. While losing the certainty of the narrative can be an unsettling experience, it also contains an incredible opportunity. Sometimes we’re so busy slotting people and events in our lives into the prefabricated story that we lose the ability to experience them as they are. (“Oh, this always happens to me…” Cue the self-pity, entitlement, or whatever you like.)

Sometimes getting lost is just what’s needed. When we step outside of ourselves, we gain a whole new perspective on just about everything, that is, if we allow ourselves to just be a little lost. To experience the surprises that await us outside of the familiar and predictable.

Enjoying the journey, detours and all, is part of living well.


On Scars

I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. In it, a missionary moves his family from Georgia to the Congo in the late 1950s to convert the natives to Christianity. The experience profoundly affects his wife and children, each in a different way.

Near the end of the story, his daughter Adah reflects on the experience, saying, “If chained is where you have been, your arms will always bear marks of the shackles. What you have to lose is your story, your own slant. You’ll look at the scars on your arms and see mere ugliness, or you’ll take great care to look away from them and see nothing. Either way, you have no words for the story of where you came from.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on how this is true in many situations. We all have injuries, some physical and some emotional. And in some way we are all marked by those experiences. Healing isn’t about erasing the experience itself, so much as it is about integrating it. Our hurts are part of us. They aren’t evidence of weakness. They can, in fact, be evidence of strength.

Later, she concludes, “The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.” Thus, if we allow all of our experiences to become part of the tapestry of our lives, we can create something even more beautiful than we might by simply cataloguing our success stories.

There’s a lesson in here, too, about not holding too tightly to our own stories, to our “slant.” If we identify too strongly with a certain role, as victim, or if we cast others as perpetrators, we run the risk of getting too entrenched in our own stories, getting stuck in an emotional and psychological rut.

If we can find the balance, indeed if we can find words to weave our own stories, in full color and complexity, they acquire a richness that serves as inspiration for others, and a catalyst for our own growth and development.

Inquire Within

“Nothing in the world can ever make you happy, because happiness comes from within.” – David Hawkins

I’ve been listening to Healing by Dr. David Hawkins on CD in my car. He presents a scenario: you are sitting in a chair, and someone comes in and hands you a bag of money. You immediately feel happier. But nothing in your life has really changed. You feel happier because you have a thought that reflects the belief that money can make you happy.

Likewise, your thoughts can make you unhappy. And they can be a reflection of limiting beliefs you hold about yourself and the world around you. So, thoughts generate feelings which create and color experiences in life.

Happiness is an inside job.


It may seem like it’s not true at first, but it is. Oh sure, life is easier (and arguably better) when you have good friends, a nice place to live, and a great job.

But true happiness isn’t a feeling state, it’s a being state.

Feelings are reactive, and transitory. If you spend your life chasing a happy feeling, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Think of some of the happiest people you know. I mean the ones who are always up. The ones you feel good just being around. Are they happy because of circumstances? Or because of an attitude and approach to life that reflects an unshakeable inner quality?

Want to start an inner journey towards greater happiness and well-being? Meditation is a good first step. Why? Because a meditation practice makes you more aware of your thoughts, and your thoughts shape your experience of the world. How do you change your thoughts? Start by watching them – the act of observation itself is powerful because it makes you less reactive.

The big picture? Change your thoughts, and you will change your life.

Is it worth it?

A friend recently asked this question: “What makes relationships/friendships worth not giving up on?”

The short answer? If you have to ask yourself if any relationship (romantic or otherwise) is worth it, the answer is that it probably isn’t.

Unfortunately, some people and situations will just be a drain on your energy (as well as your time). What constitutes a drain differs from person to person, but when you come upon an energy vampire, you will know it. How? By the way that you feel.

Take a moment to think about some of the people in your life. Which ones do you consistently look forward to spending time with? Which ones lift you up and allow you to be your best self? Which ones encourage you and support your dreams? These are the relationships that are worth it.

Now, of course, it’s important to look at the overall tone of the relationship. Just because someone in your life has a bad day, or a bad week, doesn’t mean it’s time to give them the boot. But if you notice a pattern of behavior that leaves you drained, depressed, discouraged and exhausted, it’s time to walk.

Likewise, if it feels like the relationship is a constant battle in which your needs never get met, or in which you find yourself virtually begging the other person to consider your feelings and your perspective, it’s time to leave. The sooner the better.

You’ll not regret taking care of you. But you will certainly regret sacrificing your peace of mind and emotional well-being in order to keep questionable people in your life.