“No one taught me what life is really all about. As a child I remember looking forward to being “grown up” to be independent and exploring, but here I am and it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be”.
I look at Sondra, wanting to hear more. Her shoulders gently sag and there’s almost a tangible expression of sadness; a halo, lined with a tinge of disappointment.
As she settles down onto the sofa, she exhales deeply.
I’m always rushing and doing. And here I am, bringing my existential conversations. Do you think they’re silly or there’s something valid to my question?
There’s a twinkle in her eye as she lets the sentence land. For the first time since she’s walked in, her eyes gaze up, reaching for contact, and our eyes meet.
Sondra senses the gentle smile in my eyes, conveying the reassurance she seeks. Based our our past exchanges there’s a knowing that I find her insights, questions and deep thoughts to be valid and important.
Sitting with this woman, I have come to know that she is a person who leaves an impact on others. The softness in her smile fills the room, and she possess a warmth that embraces others in her presence.
There’s a shift in her energy, and her face lights up as she begins talking about her work. Her plump cheeks blush as she proudly shares about the recent improvements she’s implemented at work as an educational director.
I know I’m good at the job. But here I am, leading other vibrant minds who have their own brilliance. And truth be told, I sometimes feel lost. My life is far from what I hoped for. I pray, but some things don’t change easily. I’m left wondering what it means to “overcome hardship”, when it isn’t like there’s a step that simply needs to be “overcame”.
Sondra holds a question that has been vocalized by many. There definitely are times where you may have a sense of direction, feel like the world is bestowing gifts upon you and that your prayers are answered.
In life, there are phases that come with questions, wonders and confusions, and there are phases of answers, clarity and direction. And for those of you in the phase of questioning, I invite you to lean into finding meaning in your today.
I don’t think our job is to find the “silver bullet” ....
or to “pass that finish line” when there may not be one to be found.
Rather, it’s about weaving together the slivers of wise choices and creating joy in daily activities.
I think of “rising” as something that happens when we live with integrity. Integrity leads the way to wisest choices, thought- out decisions, and is where humility and wisdom reside. It’s where true growth happens.
Want tips to finding joy in life + rising above daily struggles?
A prerequisite to building a meaningful life? a steady foundation to build upon. In trauma therapy, the first phase of treatment is called safety and stabilization. Why? Stability in daily routines is what invites ease + creates space for growth and connection. Commit to daily routines, schedules and activities.
We can’t outsmart the “humanity” in living. Struggles are part of the human condition. The key to a better life? Increasing skills to managing stress + earn to tolerate emotional discomfort. 2 Tips: 1)Breathing: Focusing on + controlling your breath can help you refocus and calm down. Super stressed? Start with a long exhale, and then inhale. 2)Paired Muscle Relaxation: Make a tight fist, relax it, and then let allow it to rest. Try this technique by focusing on any group of muscles (face, legs, stomach) and see what happens. The science on it? Relaxed muscles require less oxygen so breathing + heart rate slow down = inducing calm.
Look at the mental image you have of a “good life”. Is it something befitting for you, today? You may need to tweak or readjust your definition. Drop comparisons and be real with yourself. It may be adding more confidence, learning to be ok with what you have + who you are on a deeper level. The first step is looking inwards and redefining your vision in a way that resonates for you
When you’re desperately wanting for something to change, you may get pulled into a whirlwind of fighting your current reality without even realizing it. You’re tired, moody and on edge. The best thing you can do for yourself is to slow down, take a step back and embrace today. Embracing reality opens up a new perspective and shifts the process. Practice letting go, allow things to unfold and notice what happens.
Feel like the world keeps presenting you with the same challenge, the same dynamic or a similar struggle? Sometimes there is something that we need to learn, and once we learn it, we can move on. Are there people who are stepping on your boundaries, are you feeling tested with your patience? Lean in to what the world is helping you learn. As the famous quote goes, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” – Pema Chodron.
A good life is a life with flexibility. Sometimes life can feel like a simple game of catch and other time it can feel like you’re in a game of dodgeball where you keep getting hit. Best thing? Keep being flexible. Even if you fall flat or “lose”, don’t lose your spirit, your energy and your openness to something different in the next day or moment in time. Flexibility is what keeps people going after they fall, and keeps us from snapping under stress. Practice the flex muscle.
Freedom isn’t about living devoid of responsibility, tasks or accountability. Rather, it is a stance, a way of engaging with the responsibilities, choices and relationships in your life from a place of choice, willingness and willfulness. Own your freedom by untangling from negative self-talk, and rather engage in life from a place of spaciousness, ease and choice.
If you have moments where you feel like Sondra I encourage you to try one of these tips on. You might find that life is anything but what you imagined, however maybe there’s something new, something different and something special to uncover and to explore.
*originally posted on integrativepsych.co
Esther Goldstein LCSW Is An Anxiety and Trauma Specialist With A Private Practice In Cedarhurst, NY. Esther Specializes In Treating Professionals With Anxiety, Survivors of Trauma And Individuals Who Want To Have More Meaningful Relationships. Specialty Areas Include: Family-of-Origin Work, Inner-Child/Ego State work, Trauma Treatment, Attachment Traumas, Complex Ptsd And Dissociative Disorder Treatment. As Well, Esther Provides Trauma Informed Consultation To Therapists Committed To Improving Their Trauma-Informed Practice And Attachment Focused EMDR Consultation To Therapist Attaining Hours Towards EMDRIA Certification. Esther's Website Is Integrativepsych.Co