As we age, we get to choose between two paths. The first path is straight and smooth. This path doesn’t have bumps or curves. We are taught and told that, if we follow this path certain things happen. We believe that, if I work hard at this job I semi-like, stay married to a man I semi-like, and surround myself with friends who semi-get me, I will live a semi-happy life. We are told that, if I work hard, I’ll get a raise.; if I make my kids lunches, they will be happy.; if I keep the house clean and don’t gain too much weight, I’ll have a happy marriage. If these things don’t play out that way, we look for something or someone else to blame. We move forward in our lives looking for things and events outside of us to make us happy. If you hear yourself say: “I’ll be happy when…”, you’re on this path.
I’ll be happy when I get that promotion.
I’ll be happy when my kids are all in school.
I’ll be happy when life slows down.
I’ll be happy when I have money for that new car/new vacation house, etc…
Truth be told, this path is all about not taking responsibility for our lives. Our extra weight is because of our genes. Our kids are stressed because of the area we live in. Our husband is emotionally distant because of his job.
The second path is bumpy, rutted, and there are lots of curves. There are no guarantees on this path. It is not a straight line of ‘if this, then that.’ In fact, we often end up on this path because we discover that the first path isn’t as smooth as we thought. We did work hard yet still got fired. We did keep our house clean yet our husband still had an extra-marital affair. We did make our kids cute little organic lunches yet they are depressed. If you choose path two, hold on for the ride because this is the path where we become an adult. This path is al about taking responsibility for our lives and evolving to that next best version of ourselves. We feel our feelings. We address our thought patterns. We look inside of us for our happiness and when our life isn’t as we wish, we take the uncomfortable steps to change things up.
Why do some of us choose the first path? For the first half of my life I chose the first path mostly because that’s all I knew: it’s the path my parents, spouse, and friends were on. One of the last memories I have of my father is from when I told him that I would be filing for divorce and ending my 18-year marriage. I can still remember my father’s red, tight face as he told me that I was happy enough; that my marriage was good enough; that I was selfish for asking for more. In his own way, he was trying to convince me to stay on the smooth path, the one that he had chosen to live his life on. Ironically, his attempt to change my mind did the opposite and instead was a wake up call for me. His words highlighted for me that, while the first path was smooth and had little risk, it also meant that I would be choosing to live my life “happy enough” and in a fog. His words allowed me to see how limiting and destructive that first path was. My inner warrior rose up to tell me that actually, I’m not on this earth to be “happy enough”. I have special gifts and it’s my responsibility to share them. When I tell myself I’m happy enough, I suck energy from those around me because I’m looking for them to make me happy. The responsibility is my own. It was time for Susie to get off the safe and smooth path and show up for her life.
You might be on that first path now. The path is pleasantly sunny and smooth but that means you float along without paying much attention. It means you get to your son’s 11th birthday and think: “Where did that time go? He was just in diapers”. Time passes quickly and, in a way, that’s a relief since you are not truly content. You tell yourself things will be better when….. or that you’ll figure that out when things settle down. The thing is, there’s always something going on; there’s always something to figure out. Life is about highs and lows. Life has bumps. True happiness, feeling content in your soul, comes from growth. It comes from struggle. They’re different sides of the same coin. To be content we must stretch, learn, and experience discomfort. Think of an ugly little caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. That metamorphosis is not comfortable but spreading your wings to fly? #Priceless.
Try repeating this: I am here to shine. I am here for more than this.
That used to be hard for me to say. I used to hear my dad’s voice in my ear: who are you to think you deserve more? Now I hear the author Marianne Williamson’s voice in my ear: who are you not to? Who are you to play small? My playing small doesn’t serve anyone. It made me a bitter mom, a bitter spouse, and worst of all, a judgmental and critical friend to myself. Once I stood up for myself, for my right to be happy, every aspect of my life improved. The weather is not always clear on the second path but I choose to stay on the rutted, bumpy, curvy road for every single one of my remaining days.
If you are ready to spread your wings, to take the tiniest of steps onto that second path, please don’t do it alone. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just why would you? It takes longer and is harder on your physical and mental health. Life does not have to be a struggle. A one-hour session with a professional coach can do wonders but there are plenty of options:
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