Sometimes you must take two steps back, to move forward.
As Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
For some of us, this means that long-term unemployment will dictate not only tightening the belt, but also moving to a household with lower overhead. Or letting go of directing children toward what we think best, and allowing them the independence to make their own choices and experience consequences. It could also manifest as changing our marital situation to be released from chronically dysfunctional circumstances, and instead creating something healthier.
There may be a precipitating event that makes us give up on the plan we had for ourselves. It may be a moment of realization that the struggle in which we are engaged is the wrong battle; the best battle is not to hold onto the past, but to make a new life. Or the realization to change may build slowly, over time.
As I rode the stationery bicycle this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend who was walking the treadmill nearby. She revealed her own life story, and the complexities of her journey, including a difficult marriage in Russia, caring for children and for aging parents, and turning in varying directions at different times.
At one point, she commented, she and her husband divorced over issues that plagued them. Among their issues: he visited his elderly parents every day, and in Russia, no one had cars to make this simple and quick. It took him away from the natal home until well after her son was tucked into bed.
I don’t mean to simplify; this was only one difficulty in a life full of challenges. But they divorced even though he loved her, and she could feel the love.
Then, a little down the road, he wanted to move to America, and he wished her to come with him. Believe it or not, they married again and decided to make the move.
Having immigrated, they began from nothing, without money, without personal connections, without knowing English, and without a roadmap for how to build a life. In fact, while they brought over their parents and raised two kids, in an astonishing turn, just as their younger son was about to exit home and head to college, she found the yearnings to start all over rearing children. They adopted an orphan girl from Russia, a feat requiring enormous patience as the teenager had been deprived for years.
The affairs of the heart can be very messy.
The affairs of the marketplace can also be obtuse. We don’t know whether we missed on the second round of interviews because of something we did, or because an employee had preferences for another candidate. We may think we are perfect for a job we seek, and then find we are dropped like a hot potato. We may be confronted with illness in a child for which there is no certain answer, and then be at a loss to determine the right path. Maybe we didn’t ask for what comes our way, but there you have it, you face it without choice.
Yes, you need to give up on what you thought would be in store for you, because you are not really in control. Do what you can to stack the deck in your favor, and then step back and let your future unfold, amid a sense of optimism. Because what is coming to you will be good, if you make it so. And what is not coming to you, well, you don’t need anyway.
- Strive to keep your sense of optimism. You were born with it, and it is a real treasure in turbulent times. Do not fall into the trap of negativity.
- Research your options exhaustively when you face difficulties, and verify what you learn from a second source. Do not react in the moment. Think deeply, and let your thoughts percolate a bit before opting for a path.
- You may not know that you will be happier after your decision takes hold, but if you know that you are unfulfilled in what you have and it simply won’t get better, then wanting something else can fuel your decision to change things up. You deserve to lead a fulfilling life.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Phil Dowsing Creative.
What decisions do you face, and how are you thinking them through?
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