“And everything that has happened to you belongs to you. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott
Meet Mr. and Mrs. X
It started out fine. The relationship, that is. We had just moved in and they were our neighbors across the street. I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. X.
As soon as our moving van pulled up, Mrs. X came over to introduce herself. She was chatty with a wide smile and the type of conversational cadence that doesn’t leave room for commentary nor waits for replies. Within the first 15 minutes of talking she asked me what church I went to and what school my daughter attended. In the South, these two questions are often asked of perfect strangers and I’ve never gotten used to it. I mumbled something about being a recovering Catholic, to which she replied: That’s just because you need the right church!
It took me some time to realize that I was on the wrong path. That the work I was doing for a living was no longer fulfilling me; actually was no longer working on any level. Funny how the universe intervenes when you haven't been listening: Contracts are broken; new clients are nowhere to be found; the flow of money runs dry.
Early on in my personal spiritual journey, I went through a phase of watching and reading stories of NDE’s or near death experiences. It was an integral part of shedding my ingrained catholic beliefs of heaven and hell and life ending at death.
This led me to the work of Dr. Michael Newton (Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives), which quite literally blew my mind and made me eager to experience my own past life regression; which I later did with the fabulous Nancy Hajek right here in Nashville.
We can get attached to who we think we are. We can be downright stubborn about it. Our identity seamlessly and completely intertwined with what we do. What we do becomes what we are. But what if what we do is taken away from us in the blink of an eye? Who are we then?
In the words of Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu:
“When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be.”
I have a sentence that sits on the vision board above my desk. It says: I have been radically transforming. When I was drawn to those words, less than a year ago, I was decidedly not in the midst of a radical transformation. I didn’t even feel as if I were approaching one.
But something inside of me knew.
And I knew just enough at the time not to question. So I cut out the tiny sentence and placed it in the career and life purpose section of my vision board where it sits at eye level.
I love you, but I’ve got to let you go.
Each time our paths cross I open my heart with renewed hope that it will be different somehow. And each time I walk away feeling empty.
My dear (____________), I realize now that at some point, I gave away my power to you. I was rebuilding my life, creating it piece by piece, and in all of its uncertainty and tender roots, I shyly let a chosen few in to tread softly and take a peek. I wanted to share my trepidation and fear and doubt and exhilaration and sheer anticipation with you. So I gave you permission to validate me. In no small way I longed for it. But it never came.
There are some of us who are completely unaware that a pile of unmet expectations lives within us. It accumulates much like anything does in our psyche — we may recognize the pang of hurt or the sorrow of disappointment when it occurs — but then we quietly file it away and put a bunch of other folders over it so we can’t look at it. Eventually, of course, we forget it is there.
It is an expectation. It is what we strive for. It is our greatest wish for our lives, for our children’s lives. “I just want you to be happy,” we say to those we love. And yet all around us are messages that have, consciously and unconsciously, told us we can’t be happy, shouldn’t be happy, it’s impossible to be happy, how can you be happy? We put contingencies on our happiness with these two words: unless and if.