Tough Love

One of the most challenging things about caring for others is accepting we CANNOT control or change anyone else but ourselves.  Our adult child is being abused in relationship, or faces jail time, or is hooked on drugs, or cannot keep a job, relationship, etc.  Yes, these things are hard to witness. And no, we cannot make their choices or live their life for them.

Each of us has our own journey in life. That means when we reach adulthood and we stumble we must choose to pick ourselves up. We cannot do that if someone is there to soften our fall or always pick us up. We do not learn, grow and make positive permanent changes if other people try to do our work for us.

It’s not easy to watch those we care for collapse under the weight of their negative choices. Sometimes we witness this over and over again. But we cannot “fix” someone. Unless that person wants to fix him/herself, our words will fall on deaf ears and a closed heart. 

What we can do is set boundaries to bring a higher level of awareness to the relationship we have with those who are hurting themselves and others.  We can focus our energy on staying centered and balanced so when the people we love decide to pick themselves up and change we are there to offer support. That is why it is called “tough love.” Yes, it is hard and yes, it is still love. 

Yes, You Can

Have you noticed when we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something it actually means we don’t want to? Deep down we know we need to leave an abusive relationship, or master ourselves to say in control of our behavior, or to set boundaries out of love for ourselves. Yes, we can do these things but by saying “I can’t” we actually mean we are afraid to take the actions necessary. We are fearful because we are familiar with our current situation, no matter how bad it is. It has become uncomfortably comfortable. We don’t want to change because we are frightened of how the situation will be if we actually go through by taking the action we know we must.

The absurdity of believing the ego-motivated fear “I can’t” is that we are intentionally preventing ourselves from creating the life we say we want. The actions we are fearful of taking are the exact ones that will end our suffering.

Yes, it takes courage, determination and faith. Yes, we must love ourselves more than we fear the unknown. Yet the hard truth is, we must earn our freedom from suffering and fear because a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life does not just happen. We must intentionally create it. We start the moment we stop telling ourselves “I can’t” and began the self-support of “Yes I can and I WILL find a way.”

Trust Behavior Over Words

One of the most important things I learned is that love is not blind. People showed me exactly who they were. Too often I preferred to see who I wanted them to be rather than who they really were, even when they continued to show me the worst of themselves.

Part of loving me was learning to see people’s behavior for the truth of what it really was rather than the fantasy I was creating and clinging to in the name of love. The first step was learning to see my behavior for what it really is too.

Challenges are Opportunities

Within the first six months of 2001 I had lost my job, my home, my relationship, and the city where I had lived for almost 20 years.  Almost everything I identified with or cared about was taken from me.  This experience taught me that often it takes our being knocked down by life’s challenges for us to recognize there are changes we need to make.

Nothing we experience in life is without purpose. Each trial and tribulation presents an opportunity for us to learn how to be better people and how to do life better. I learned it is choosing to view the challenges of life as opportunities to grow, rather than viewing ourselves as a victim, that leads to our blossoming.

Illuminating Darkness

Imagine living in a society where you have no access to education or the internet, no contact with any views other than those of your political or religious oppressors. Without being encouraged to think on your own or to develop your own views based on seeking truth and fact you would simply recite a jumble of pre-programmed jargon that to others would seem madness.

Let’s keep within our heart the fact that there are people in the world who live under such oppression. Although we do not condone or tolerate violence, hate, or abuse as a result of their misguided agendas, we can have compassion for them.  No matter how unconscious we may evaluate their ignorance and hate to be, the truth remains that they can only do better when they know better. Let’s do better by not stooping to their level. Let’s continue to be strong and faithful representatives of love, the only force with the power to illuminate darkness.

We Are Powerful

When I was 21 I was briefly locked up in a psychiatric hospital. I became severely depressed.  At least that is what I was told I was.  Deep inside I knew that my depression was the result of no longer being able to outrun the personal issues I had struggled with all of my life. Without anyone to confide in and nowhere to turn for help I retreated inward as an act of desperate self-preservation.

At the time I considered life too unbearable to continue. So the answer as professionals saw it was to medicate me and slap a variety of labels on my condition.  But that only served to further distance me from a real solution to my underlying problem – self-acceptance.

While I cannot speak for everyone I have learned many things about the variety of reasons we get lost in the limitations of our mind. With our lives moving at ever faster speeds we are often too quick to reach for a drug, or to give up on ourselves, or to isolate ourselves in an attempt to cope. For me, healing began in earnest when I stopped looking for answers to repair my heart from someone or something outside me.  As long as I continued to give my power away to other people to fix my life, to accept me as I was, or to validate my existence, my life remained broken.

While one size does not fit all when we speak about moving past depression and traumatic issues, I feel it is important to remember that our soul is the force that helps us overcome many challenges that we tell ourselves that we cannot.  While physical and emotional trials are very real, so is our soul’s power to move past them. For me and countless others who have taken our power back we simply want to share our experience of how powerful we truly are when we truly want to be.

 

Stay Agreeable When Disagreeing

Recently I raised my voice in conversation with a young man who would not stop talking long enough for me to speak. I was attempting to change an airline reservation and he repeated the same things over and over without once allowing me to finish a sentence. He kept interrupting, did not answer any of my questions, and then tried to overcharge me for the reservation change.

I listened attentively each time he spoke. I waited patiently for an opening. Yet without fail each time I began to speak he interrupted me. This went on for 15 minutes. Finally I said in a strong voice, “Sir, I certainly am glad our conversation is being recorded because when dealing with the public you need to learn to listen so you can help your customers. I also sincerely hope you still have a job after we are done.” I am certain he did not hear me say this either since he was still talking over me.

There are moments when we must assert ourselves. However, on those occasions when it becomes necessary to firmly set boundaries with those who are rude and uncooperative our goal is to still remain kind and courteous. So, I was very polite when I said, “Sir, I am hanging up now.”

An Intimate Heart-Moment

Today I was eating at a local restaurant when a young woman in her early twenties sat on a bench outside the window.  She had several suitcases and other stuff.  She held a small neatly printed sign that read, “Pregnant and trying to get home to Seattle.” After a few minutes as people passed they put dollar bills in a cup she had next to her.  She thanked each one. Some stopped to talk with her.

Thinking she may be hungry I asked the waiter to take her a menu. I finished my lunch just as he took her the food and drink she’d ordered. I could tell she was asking him who bought her lunch but I’d asked him to say it was an anonymous friend.

As I left the restaurant she was enjoying the meal. I smiled at her and she smiled back. As I passed I put $5 in her cup. She reached up touched my arm and said,”Thank you so much.” “You are welcome please take care of yourself,” I said. She said, “I am. I’m going back home to people who care.”

Buying food for the young woman felt great.  Giving her money also felt good. But the most fulfilling part was sharing an intimate heart-moment in conversation and that gentle touch. It made my soul sing and it will each time I think of her and our exchange.

Broaden Your View

Have you ever seen a dog with a plastic collar? Sometimes they must wear it after surgery or when they have an injury so they do not lick the wound. But the collar severely restricts their vision to only what is directly ahead of them.

For many years I went through life wearing an invisible collar. My focus was so narrow I could only see my point of view. My thoughts, preferences, desires, and goals were the only ones that mattered. What other people thought or felt was not important because I was always right. My egocentric tunnel vision view caused me to believe I was the center of the universe. But living alone with my personal importance was not satisfying or easy. It seemed I was always in conflict. I had to defend myself against people who challenged me. I found fault, tore other people down in a need to be better, different, and special. It was a lonely and angry way to live.

One day someone close to me had the courage to tell me how self-absorbed and narrow minded I was. At first I was defensively angry. Later I realized I was hurt and embarrassed. Eventually I became grateful because she was right.

It was the painful wake-up call I needed to take off my “it’s all about me” collar. Only when I was free from the narrow view of “me” did my heart open so I appreciate the greater wisdom and power of “we.”

 

Patience is Power

It took me a while to learn how to live patient in the present. I had convinced myself that impatience effected change and got things done. But I slowly learned that was not true.

Being impatient did not result in taking purposeful actions that resulted in my best life. The exact opposite was true. Impatience caused me to be disconnected from the present moment and from the wisdom of weighing the consequences of my actions before I took action. Being impatient got me into trouble, created stress, worry, and did not create positive change.

It was not easy to move myself into a new lifestyle of being patient. My mind fought me every step of the way. But I did not give up or give in. I remained determined to teach myself to remain patiently present in the now.

Next time you feel impatient, stop and take three deep breaths. Intentionally ground yourself in the present moment. Teaching yourself to remain patient is one of the most important actions you will take to create the life you really want.  When you are patient you are in control of yourself and in control of the actions you take or decide not to take. When you are patiently in control of your now moment actions you can string those intentionally present moments together to create your best life.