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Monday, March 26, 2012

Detachment is not indifference, it is freedom

The past two years have been a steep personal growth point for me- a VERY STEEP growth point. I have come to understand many things about myself and the world around me. I have learned some very tough and difficult lessons about my life, the people who truly matter most in my life, and sadly, some who never did nor will. It hasn’t been easy, but it has allowed me to become a better person in every aspect of my life.
Detachment has a great deal to do with the growth I have experienced. Detachment from unhealthy thoughts, feelings, people, and activities has freed up my mind, heart, and time to explore and know a world of wonder. It took many years and a great deal of soul-searching and introspection to get where I am. Once I got it, I REALLY got it! Detachment is an amazing thing! So this is what real freedom feels like!

What is detachment?

Detachment is the:

* Ability to allow people, places or things the freedom to be themselves

* Holding back from the need to rescue, save or fix another person from being sick, dysfunctional or irrational

* Giving another person "the space" to be herself

* Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with people

* Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place or thing

* Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life

* Establishing of emotional boundaries between you and those people you have become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order that all of you might be able to develop your own sense of autonomy and independence

* Process by which you are free to feel your own feelings when you see another person falter and fail and not be led by guilt to feel responsible for their failure or faltering

* Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern and caring without the negative results of rescuing, enabling, fixing or controlling

* Placing of all things in life into a healthy, rational perspective and recognizing that there is a need to back away from the uncontrollable and unchangeable realities of life

* Ability to exercise emotional self-protection and prevention so as not to experience greater emotional devastation from having hung on beyond a reasonable and rational point

* Ability to let people you love and care for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love and not give in when they come to you to bail them out when their actions lead to failure or trouble for them

* Ability to allow people to be who they "really are" rather than who you "want them to be"

* Ability to avoid being hurt, abused, taken advantage of by people who in the past have been overly dependent or enmeshed with you

-  from the Livestrong website

Detachment has given me a sense of peace and allowed me to release hurt and disappointment. It isn’t a deadening or denial of feelings. It is actually quite the opposite!

Detachment has cleared the way for me to remove myself from people and things that were holding me back, or drawing me into situations of drama and unhealthy and unbalanced relationships and situations. It was affecting my professional, as well as, my personal life. It’s okay that I can’t “FIX “everything and everyone around me. And on the flip side, I respect their right to their own way of feeling and acting. It isn’t my job to worry about everyone and every situation. It is my job to worry about my own actions and choices.
For many years, I was too trusting and accepting for my own good. I wanted to see things that either didn’t exist or I imagined possibility where there was none. I am a naturally optimistic person, but I have learned the hard way that there are going to be relationships and situations where people are just not going to understand, accept, like, appreciate or love me. And that is okay!  It is up to me to LOVE MYSELF.

   I found that I was emotionally investing in people I should not have.  I was allowing myself to be hurt over and over again. And for what? For whom? Really!!! WHY was I doing that to myself? I finally had that “AHA” moment and understood it was up to ME to finally realize that I can’t change others, I can only change myself. Establishing emotional boundaries was one of the greatest steps I have ever taken to get to the place of peace and happiness I have finally attained.

If others want to engage in "dramarific" and petty games because they are emotionally or intellectually incapable of having healthy relationships, so be it. I am not signing on for those kind of relationships anymore.
I wasted too many years of my life on situations/friendships/ relationships/people  that either wouldn’t or couldn’t give me the respect or consideration I deserved. It wasn’t up to me to FIX every situation! 
It has taken nearly all of my life to get here, but it was worth every minute. WhileI wish I could have gotten here sooner, the truly important thing is that I made it.

And of course there are still situations and people which cause me to feel negative feelings, emotions, and distress. I am only human. But I find these situations become less frequent and less powerful with each passing day.

It feels good to be in control of myself, my actions, my life and my choices without having to obsess or worry about those things in others.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Share the gift of wisdom and life experiences with loved ones

Imagine all of the knowledge and experience a person gains throughout their life as money in a bank account. At the beginning, there is very little, but by the end, there is usually a fortune in lessons learned.

Sharing life’s lessons is one of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children, even when the children are adults. Teaching and giving them counsel continues throughout their lives. The learning doesn’t end once they reach eighteen or twenty-one. There is always another valuable bit of information they can benefit from and another opportunity for insights they may have missed.

No two lives within a family will be exactly the same. Siblings may have had the same parents and experiences, but their life choices and paths may be quite unique. Adult children may take different paths or lifestyles than their parents. And there can be situations and circumstances in the children’s lives which mirror the experience of their parents. Common events like marriage, raising a family, and careers- are often shared. But, even in areas of life where parents have little or no experience, guidance and counsel can be important and welcomed.

A few subjects and occurrences can be too uncomfortable for some parents and adult children to discuss. Divorce, substance abuse problems, death of a spouse, loss of a job and financial problems are a few examples of issues that can cause a breakdown in communication due to feelings of discomfort and pain. But, these are examples of important and critical situations which can benefit by sharing life lessons and discussion.

Reaching out and giving advice to adult children is a great gift, but parents must understand that often their children may seem resistant or hesitant to change their opinions. Patience, love, and understanding are important things to embrace at these times. Leaving ego-based emotions out of the picture is critical for there to be successful interaction. Taking things too personally damages the opportunity for conveying the information and the most important part- the experience.

Being open and honest are key aspects in sharing knowledge with adult children. Expecting adult children to share their intimate feelings and fears is only viable if the parent is willing to share information and lessons which are equally personal. No one likes to feel that they are sharing and the other person is not doing the same. Being vulnerable and admitting fears, mistakes and lessons learned is not an easy task. Parents may feel that they are stepping down from a pedestal if they admit to mistakes or failures. In reality, these are exactly the moments when the parent and adult child can gain the most from one another and the lessons.

Discussing feelings of disappointment and loss to an adult child can feel very disconcerting at first- for both parties; but in time and with practice, it will seem less and less uncomfortable. The foundation should already exist, but this is the time where the most beautiful aspects of the relationship can be formed. While parents and children, of any age, are never 100% equal in the relationship dynamic, the intimacy and closeness these interactions create will bring parent and child to a level of closeness that is truly wonderful. The foundation of the relationship which was built in childhood will become a beautiful structure to be enjoyed for the remaining years together.

Keep in mind; one’s children are only truly “children” for the first eighteen years. The remaining years, which can be many, are the ones where the adult child/parent relationship will have the greatest opportunity to evolve into a beautiful, loving, giving, friendship.

Sharing pains and past disappointments with adult children can help to cement the strong bonds which began when they were young and parents seemed invincible. Adult children need to see their parents for the people they are, not the image the parent had when they were young. The image must be replaced with reality. Authenticity is the basis for building and sustaining the truthful and genuine relationship.

As more and more marriages now end in divorce, the parent/child relationship is often the most long-lasting, enduring, relationships of many people’s lives. Exploring, discussing, and sharing the life experiences with adult children is the greatest inheritance they can receive. They can benefit from the hard earned wisdom and the life lessoned their parents learned along the way.

This was orignially written for

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A reflection on loss - Life is loss

"He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness."  – Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

I think about loss a great deal. Some days, thoughts of loss consume me. And though thoughts of loss can be incredibly sad, they aren’t as depressing as they may seem. There are many degrees and levels of loss. I am one of those people who develops very strong attachments, so loss has been especially hard for me all of my life. Many people feel their losses much more deeply than others, but loss is a universal experience that every person on the planet has experienced. No one gets through life without loss.

When I think about loss, I grieve for lost loved ones and lost years. I think about beloved pets that have gone on. I mourn lost friendships, ruined relationships, former jobs and coworkers, and lost belongings. I wonder about people I haven’t seen for years and how they were once a part of my life… and now are not.

I also feel for friends and the losses they have experienced, the struggles they have endured, and the pain of dealing with disappointments and endings. My loved ones and I have shared many losses from death, divorce, change, and growth. In truth, nothing really stays the same for very long, and inevitably people and things get lost along the way.

"Who except the gods can live time through forever without any pain?"  - Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Sometimes I think of my younger self, when I was raising small children. The world seemed very small then and I had my whole life ahead of me. Since those days, there have been small losses and unbearable tragedies to bear. Losses we never expected nor could have imagined. And yet, we survived. A very wise therapist once told me something I will never forget. “Life is loss.” I have thought of those three tiny words so very often, and the incredible weight in their truth. Yes, life is loss, and once you understand the inevitability of that fact- you are able to find the lesson and the hope you need to accept it.

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

It violently sweeps everything
out of your house, so that new
joy can find space to enter.

It shakes the yellow leaves
from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can
grown in their place.

It pulls up rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden
beneath have room to grow.

Whatever sorrow shakes from
your heart, far better things
will take their place.
- Rumi

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always easy to understand or accept. I don’t just mourn the loss of life of friends and family. I also feel the incredible loss of lost time and wasted moments that can never be regained.

And although I think on loss a great deal, I am not hopeless nor am I depressed. I have come to understand and accept it; I live with it, and I deal with my losses- great and small. I do not allow loss to consume me. It is a teacher and a guide. My losses remind me of who I am and where I have been; and my losses guide my future decisions and choices. I do not dwell in misery or despair. I accept that loss is a huge part of life, but it is NOT every part of life.

"... even out of unspeakable grief, beautiful things take wing."  - A.R. Torres, The Lessons of Loss

The pain of losing people and things, that I have truly loved, reminds me to cherish the people and things I still have right now. Loss has taught me to appreciate what I still have and what is yet to come.