How much of your life do you spend in the “should’s”, living the beliefs systems that didn’t even originate with you? How does your perception of right and wrong guide your life when, in fact, nothing is truly right or wrong and perception is a mountain of mirrored deceptions. Can you see instead that life is made up of tiny decisions made along the way and that outcome is a result of the conditions that are ripe and available in the moment of choice?
As I get older and likewise those around me, I often see a junction point... a place where we turn around and reflect or ask:
“Have I done what I came here to do?”
“If only THAT didn’t happen then THIS would have been possible!”
“Where am I supposed to go from here? I need XYZ to make me happy / support me / pay the bills.”
“How did I land in this place or situation and what does that mean for me in getting out?”
Looking at our life as chronologically half over, there’s a “AHHH” moment that sort of slaps you in the face. A little panic button gets pushed as you hear the clock ticking, eyes searching around for what to do to make the rest the best. I finally understand that “mid-life crisis” that I saw “older” folks going through when I was in my twenties. I don’t like that term “crisis”, though. It can set you into a panic mode, although the starkness of my questions above do reflect a bit of anxiety... please forgive me.
Stepping back in the choice of perception about this stage in my life, I prefer instead to see it as a wonderful opportunity to cut through the beliefs I held of what I was “supposed to do” and instead turn inside to what speaks to and honors me. With a diligent and healthy view, and lots of work to release crippling bonds to past conditioning, truly living my life may finally be mine.
I’ve had the kids, I’ve had the work-dedicated corporate life, I’ve had the marriage and the dream house.... all those things that were supposed to make me happy and provide a fulfilling life. The kids are great so I’ll keep them, of course. The rest, not so much. All of this is not meant as a negation or degradation of prior life but more of an awakening to the potential that exists now. With the kids grown/growing and the house established, there’s a freedom that wasn’t possible before.
And even as I say that, I know it’s all a mental perception. It’s my choice in how I see myself and the world. Each moment I have the choice to live fully. I don't need to travel to far away places to do that. I’m not looking to escape. My desire to see new and adventurous things is just that - to experience things I’ve not experienced and to allow myself to freely adventure in ways that I wouldn’t allow myself before. The self-inflicted restrictions may have been from fear of the unknown, lack of confidence, lack of direction, too much comfort in my zone, no one to do them with, or just being tired from so much responsible “doing”.
So how do I make the next bunch of years the best ever?
Having no regrets when I die is important. Right now there would be several. I know this sounds so bleak (and not to worry, I am healthy as I know) but sometimes you just have to think in drastic and dramatic terms. It helps wake you up.
Lately I’ve had a lot friends and relatives going through extraordinary life events. I guess they are actually just life events but since these folks are close to me, their realities are more touching. Several completely unexpected deaths of parents, a life-changing injury for a young and vibrant man, several divorces, and long-term relationship breakdowns.
Stepping back to get a bigger perspective, I see the value of each of these life events. They’ve created closeness that was challenging before, open and heart-based conversation, new community, and outpourings of love and gratitude. And I also see the continuum of life and how it unfolds in ways that we never expected.
We can set our path strong and determined but it often just shows up the way it will show up. We can’t define what will happen. We can paint white stripes but can’t expect that we won’t veer across them. Each road we take brings us somewhere new and, while we may be able to see a little ways down the road, we really don’t know where it’s going. You see, we’ve never been there before. Each road is different. It’s all unchartered.
When we drive, we have lots of options. We can stop, turn around, go left, go right... When we live fast or are on Should St or Belief Blvd, though, it’s much more difficult to stop and choose. Our GPS is on auto-pilot and doesn’t account for the fact that road conditions change along the way. Our destination is simply punched in.
When we hit the half way point and finally stop for gas, we take a breath, look around and wonder where the heck we are. None of this is familiar and certainly doesn’t match our intended destination. “I should have been Here by now. Why am I still on this road...and I’m not even sure I want to be on this road. Is this the right road?!?!” So we stop and rest, trying not to panic, trying to let go of the anxiety we feel that we totally messed up and wasted all that time and effort driving. Perhaps we shed a few tears, writhe on the ground in frustration, throw away the (insert expletive) GPS, and hope that we can find our way.
Trying to figure out what to do with the time we have left, how to make it the most valuable and joyous, from my perspective, comes from getting out of the car and simply walking. We walk each step with awareness, insight, patience, and love... love for ourselves and all the gifts we were offered during the initial part of the journey, even the turns that veered us off course (since now we know which way we don’t want to go!) We slow down to listen, to reflect, to hear that inner voice that’s been calling us all along, the voice that got drowned out with all the should’s and belief systems.
Living each step, always checking in, brings purpose and presence to what we are doing. We can notice where we get jammed up in perceptual and sensory habits and then work to let them go. While we don’t know exactly where life will lead, that’s OK. Being more aware of each step that we take right now creates a Path of Consciousness. It will be our road with a clearer view and fewer detours. And none of this means that it will all be sweet, fancy, or feel good all the time. It just means that we need to show up for our life, to live as completely as we can, from the Heart.
So make and fulfill the bucket list: see parts of the world yet unexplored, go sky diving, hike the mountain range, pick wine grapes, go to Bali, volunteer for a month with Habitat for Humanity, start a volunteer organization, write that book. Do whatever your heart calls you to. And make sure to stay out of your head and the should’s it produces. Thank the mind for the reminder of how things used to be but then travel back to your essence and what your heart is showing you. Love as much as you can!! Let your bumper sticker say FEARLESS - my personal word for truly living life!!! And cherish each of the moments we are offered.
Let’s explore this together. What are your thoughts, views, experiences, challenge and choice points? Share here or in private. None of us is doing this alone. Why make it seems like we are?
Mindfulness & Stress Management Coach