We all have the experience of making New Year’s resolutions, promises, and intentions for new beginnings in parts of our lives. And then, we don’t follow through. How can we make this year different? Let’s explore aligning the depths of who we are with what we really want. What if we choose well-being goals as well as practical ones that affect our whole health? Our well-being not only helps us, but benefits everyone around us. As Tim Kasser says, “Intrinsic” pursuits encourage people to become who they really are and to deeply connect with other people and the broader world.” Enjoy this little video with Ellen De Generes and children to see how much we can learn from their joie de vivre. Also, be inspired by some words of wisdom from Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming. These can support us with motivation for our own dreams, goals, intentions and changes.
The holidays are here and that usually means spending time with family. Some of these people we connect with easily and we are so happy to see them. Others are not quite so easily received. Whether it be old patterns, habits, unresolved issues, our thoughts and feelings are not in a place that supports our well-being and connection with self and others that we might want. Also, the unsettling times in which we live can tend to exacerbate worry, anxiety, resentments, anger and a myriad of other thoughts and feelings that are difficult to manage. Here are 4 pointers to help you get along with relatives during the holidays.
By Lynn Francis
There is a story of a man walking down the beach and he sees thousands of starfish on the shore. A woman is picking them up one at a time and putting them back in the water. The man says to her, “there are so many starfish here, how do you think you can make a difference?” She picks one up as she puts it in the water and says “I made a difference to this one.” And she picks up another and says “and this one too”. (adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley.) Some of us make a difference in smaller, deeper ways and others in big, broad ways and everything in between.
Probably most of us, if not all of us entered the field of education in some capacity because we wanted to make a difference– not because we needed any old job. We loved the students, the diversity, and for many, the travel. We flourished in gathering resources, methods, techniques, activities at workshops and conferences, and shared and collaborated with others. We returned for graduate studies and/or presented our own workshops, created curriculum in a never ending force of creativity, joy and hard work. We developed friends and were guided by mentors. And then…after a period of time…
A close relationship with a significant other offers connection, love, fun and a special bond. It also seems to bring about conflict, lack of communication and patterns that can erode the relationship leading to complacency, settling, or separating. We enter into this bond with the best of intentions and expectations whether it be an arranged marriage (still happening) or whether we choose a mate ourselves.
With different levels of consciousness, differing personalities, cultures, changes as we mature and age, how do we continue to grow with our partner over time in a healthy way? We all bring our unconscious, unprocessed needs, wants, and patterns into our closest relationship. This is normal. The good news it can be seen as an exquisite adventure to explore yourself, your partner and the interaction of the two. You are creating a dyad that has never been created before!
The death of a colleague, (family member or friend) is an invitation for self-reflection and contemplation about our own being and place in the world. It is a reminder of our own mortality. Along with the myriad of feelings that surface for weeks and months down the road, death is an inevitability that we all face. We all know this intellectually, but emotion and spirituality bring a different kind of perception and poignancy.
If you are reading this, you are still alive. You are still on your journey. Perhaps we can learn something from those who went before and offered some of their own reflections before passing. Here are the top 5 regrets of the dying according to the Huffington Post and the Guardian.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
A lot of what we spend our energies on is a social construct or a distraction. So what is real for you? How do you want to be spending your time and your energy? What do you value highly? These are not static questions. They change with time, age and experience. And, ultimately, there is only now to be asking them.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Perhaps there is a time for working hard and a time for finding balance. Different people have differing views about ‘working hard’. What is yours?
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Personally, this has been a challenge for me over the years. But now having trusted others to express my feelings is one of my greatest joys. As a therapist, I also see how difficult the emotional body is to understand, accept and learn to express in a safe, healthy and fulfilling way. How and to whom do you express your feelings?
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
The term ‘friends’ seems to be changing and perhaps is more on a continuum. Facebook ‘friends’ are a way to know people in a certain way. Close friends are there no matter what and there is everything in between. Do you stay in touch with the friends that matter to you?
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I am not sure that I always knew what a choice this can be at times. What I am learning is the empowerment of responsibility for my own happiness. Many ‘things out there’ aren’t really what stress us (not to negate those out of our control that do). It is our reaction, our perception, our past conditioning which can be skillfully reckoned with and changed to live with greater joy and happiness from the inside out.
How do we balance the ‘have tos’ and the ‘want tos’? How do we find a surrender to what is while at the same time setting intentions and moving forward? How do we find discernment about what is important and what isn’t. Perhaps the truth lies in the paradox of seeming opposites.
To keep renewing a sense of purpose, freshness, creativity, and aliveness is a formidable quest as an individual and educator. It is something I strive for through self-care, continual learning and curiosity about myself and others and serving in ways that I feel drawn to serve as an educator and as a Marriage Family Therapist. It is an ongoing pursuit.
In sum, death affects us deeply. It is not completely separate from our professional life but deeply integrated into it. May you embrace and cherish the rest of your journey. May your departed colleagues, family members and friends rest in peace.
Lynn Francis is a Therapist and Life Coach with a private practice in San Diego.