It’s difficult to bear sometimes, but life may not unfold the way we envisioned or hoped. Sometimes we have an attachment to how we wanted things to look, feel or be, and sometimes we’re attached to how we want things to be for those we love, too. It’s particularly piercing as a parent to have to accept that you can’t save your children from pain; it’s part of life. Someone at school might say something or do something that crushes your little person and makes her feel small or ashamed. One day, someone will come along and break your daughter’s heart, someone else, your son’s. Life and circumstances will bring their own challenges, it’s the way of things. We all have our heartbreaks and confusion, those things we have to grapple with and accept. It isn’t possible to make it to adulthood without having some areas within us that require examination and healing. It probably wouldn’t be ideal if that happened, anyway because a big part of empathy comes from having been there.
Wanting to manage another person’s path is human and understandable, but it isn’t possible. You can love the people in your life. If you’re a parent, you can teach your children about compassion by having compassion for them, and for all the people you encounter. You can teach them the vulnerability of being human by acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake and apologizing for it, and by teaching them to appreciate each day by doing that yourself. You can show them what it looks like to be strong, and also what it is to have people in your life you can count on and lean on when times are tough. You can teach them how to show up for themselves and for other people. You can show them that they matter, that what they say or feel is important to you, and that they have an impact on the world around them. You can teach them how to listen by listening. You can give them the tools to face life with all its beauty and all its pain. You can show them what it means to love with your whole heart. But you cannot manage their paths or anyone else’s.
People try to do this all over the place, not just with their children, but with romantic partners, siblings, parents and friends. The truth is, we really don’t know what another person needs in order to learn and to grow. You can’t control what another person will do, want, say, feel or need, nor do you want to try. Accept people where they are and as they are, anything else is a set-up for pain. Everyone longs to be seen and understood, so if you claim to love someone, do that for them, see them clearly, and love them, even if they’re struggling, or flailing or walking down a path you don’t understand. I can tell you in some areas in my life, I had to ride the train into the brick wall over and over again, sometimes knowingly and without a helmet to finally understand and accept certain lessons. Do you have any friends in your life whom you look at and think, “How many times do you need to do this same thing you keep doing before the light goes on? Hello?!” Do you realize they probably have, or have had, the same thoughts about you? We learn the way we need to learn, and it isn’t always pretty, and it certainly isn’t always logical.
When things don’t unfold according to the picture in your head of how things should be, see if you can open to a new vision. Let the painting reveal itself to you. Maybe there are going to be colors you never would have imagined, adventures it wouldn’t have occurred to you to dream about. Twists and turns that take you deeper, and make you more vulnerable and compassionate than you ever could have been otherwise. Maybe you’ll discover a depth of love you didn’t know you possessed, an accepting love that opens to a new path that doesn’t look anything like the one you planned, but loves anyway. Because what else can you do, really? You can fight and cling, or you can let go and love. I really recommend the latter.
Sending you love, as always,