My first blog, post-cancer treatment and prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction, was a call to find Joy in the midst of Pain. Well, here’s yet another way to look at living a full life: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. You may beg to differ given the global state of affairs and what seems to be the unceasing deluge of seen and unseen Pain and Suffering . I am not arguing that truth. What I am suggesting is to recognize and embrace what little control we really have over life’s circumstances. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. To choose not to suffer can be incredibly difficult. I, by no means, want to convey that all you need to do is try the power of positive thinking and “poof”, no more suffering. It’s not that easy.
Yet, what other options do we have in this thing called “life”? Take it or leave it, we are the only animals that are capable of insight. We have the ability to be self-aware. This is a blessing and a curse. Our perception of our experiences defines our interpretation of our experiences. Choosing to interpret pain as suffering is natural. Choosing to interpret pain as anything other than suffering takes work. Researchers have studied the resilience of those who have survived unimaginable trauma. They are resilient because they do not view themselves as a victim of their circumstances. Assigning blame for what happened may bring temporary relief. It distracts us from looking at ourselves. Accepting what “is” requires coming to peace with the reality of the situation. It’s only then can we choose to suffer or survive.
Part of me cannot quite believe I’m writing about my aging process. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know the cliches. “You are only as old as you feel.”, “Age is just a number”, etc., etc., etc.. Except, I cannot deny that I’m officially (most likely) past the half-way point of my life expectancy. I mean, I might live until I’m 94, but probably not. Now, I’m not complaining. Just the opposite. I’m relieved.
As the Irish Proverb states, I am relaxing into growing older. I feel privileged to experience this life with all of it’s ups and downs. With age comes perspective. And, with perspective may come wisdom. I say “may” because wisdom just doesn’t happen. It’s cultivated. One definition of wisdom references “insight”; ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. (“Wisdom.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wisdom>.)
Ok. Let me not be so quite esoteric by putting these thoughts into context. Just to review, you probably know by now that my formal/educational training is in nutritional sciences, social work and fitness. I’ve woven these disciplines together in the work I do. So with that in mind, growing older can be an opportunity to practice self-acceptance. Growing older is a process of letting go. Faced with the prospect that we most likely have less time on this planet than we have lived on this planet means we can either react with Freudian death anxiety or embrace each moment for what it is. An even more specific example: weight loss. Putting your life on hold until you achieve that goal weight. Not allowing yourself to be happy until that is accomplished. Same concept, different example: exercise goals. Feeling disappointed if you are not seeing the results you expected such as faster, stronger, leaner, better. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I am bashing “goal-setting”. I’m just suggesting that the “setting” part of goal-setting might be reworked or better stated, relaxed.
So, isn’t this a form of wisdom? Learning from experience and with age comes experience. Let’s choose to learn from it, live by it and be with it.
Never Give UP! Don’t you DARE give up! Giving Up is NOT and option! Whew. Enough cyber yelling. Today I’m here to remind all of us that “giving up” can sometimes be the best thing we do for ourselves in our commitment to achieve our goals. Sound counter-intuitive? Probably. Let me explain.
So, most of you know I work with people in their efforts to change. I guess you could call me a Change Agent. A big part of change is setting goals or intention mostly so we can see and even measure the change. Good stuff. Except when it’s not. Look at Rumi’s quote in the photo: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Fixating on achieving the goal in spite of sacrifices it might take to get there is not the definition of success. Example: spending a lifetime of hard work to achieve financial success while losing out on the precious time spent in relationships. Example: deciding to cross that marathon finish line no matter the cost only to end up with career-ending running injury. Example: staying in that now unhealthy committed relationship because you made a commitment to stay. Last example: determined to get to that magic number on the scale, you put our life on hold deciding you cannot “be happy” until you sacrifice enough to achieve that weight (no new clothes, no dating, don’t go for that promotion, etc.).
Think of your lives and moments when you were blinded by getting to the outcome, achieving the goal no matter what. Maybe there was shame in the idea of “Giving Up”. Maybe you associated “Giving Up” with FAILURE. Here’s my suggestion. Let’s not call it “Giving Up”. Call it anything else that connotes Wisdom, Moving On, Letting Go. Or, call it “Giving Up” and embrace it! Be proud that you gave up on that toxic relationship, that crappy job or that starvation diet. Hmmmm. Maybe there’s a bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan in this somewhere. Ya think?