There are so many people out there who feel trapped by their choices or their lack of action thus far. People who look at their lives and think, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Is this all I am, and all I’m going to do with my life?” People living in quiet desperation, feeling scared and small and unseen, and like it’s too late.
The thing is, as long as you’re breathing, it is never too late. You may look in your rear-view mirror and recognize some forks in the road that make you wish you could go back and make the other choice, but you can only be where you are, and other people can only be where they are. If you went back, and everyone was working with those same tools they had then, you’d almost certainly end up heading the way you went, and arriving where you are. There is pain on the path, that’s simply how it is. Sometimes we create more pain for ourselves because of our choices, and of course that can be hard to face. We either grow from the pain and allow it to soften us, or we run from it and allow it to harden us. I highly recommend softening. There’s no point berating yourself or hating yourself, and there’s nothing that will make you feel more miserable or alone if you do.
You start again, and you start now, that’s all. You take what you now know, and you use the tools you now have, and you plant yourself a tree. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to live long enough to see a tiny green leaf pop through; that’s good enough. In fact, just sticking your hands in the dirt is enough because in order to plant anything that will grow, you have to be working with love and focus and a willingness to be present, to give and to nurture. While I’m talking about a tree here, it could be anything. Maybe you feel totally stuck in your job, but this is how you pay your bills, and yes, it’s awful, but you’re sixty and there’s no point trying anything new now. You can retire in five years and enjoy life then. In the meantime you can live for those two weeks of vacation time. I got an email from a man who feels that way just a few days ago. Doesn’t that sound depressing? What if you don’t make it five years? I mean, I hope you make it another forty, but I’m just saying, what if you don’t? Am I suggesting you turn in your resignation and join the Peace Corps? No, because your entire family would probably come after me, but I think you have to find something that fulfills you every single day. Something you can feed, because as you feed that something that makes you feel a sense of purpose and meaning, you’ll find you’re also feeding that love within you. I don’t think it matters much if you get one day of that, or two weeks, or twenty years. Obviously the more, the better, but something is better than nothing. Dying with the feeling that you never lived is a tragedy. Coming to the end of your life with the knowledge that too many things have been left undone and unsaid must feel torturously bad, and we don’t have an expiration date stamped on our a$$es, so who’s to say when any of us are coming to the end of our lives? If you’re ninety-seven, I’d say you probably want to get your affairs in order and make sure the people you love know you love them, and then I’ll hope for ten more good years for you, but I don’t think it makes sense to wait until we’re ninety-seven.
If you feel stuck in a relationship, start with communication. So many people live in fear of saying what’s true for them; the consequences seem too big and there’s a lack of faith that something new could emerge. Maybe you’ve resigned yourself to “how things are”, but nothing living stays the same. If “how things are” feels really bad to you, open your mind to the idea that honesty is always liberating, and “how things are” could change. You can’t change other people, but sometimes if you change, it creates an effect that might surprise you. I get a lot of emails from people talking about their partners. If only they would be different, everything would be great. This person does this or that, or doesn’t do this or that. You can’t touch any of that stuff. You may have communicated how you feel, and been clear about what you want, but sometimes showing someone is a lot more powerful. You be loving and kind and thoughtful. You do something surprising and romantic for no reason even if you don’t feel like it. Do it as an experiment if you must. Make a special dinner, or plan a date night and get a sitter and surprise your partner. Do something different and see what happens. If you’ve tried all that, and you’ve tried communicating and you’re still in trouble, then you’re going to have to have a more challenging conversation, that maybe starts with, “I’m in pain,” and you go from there. But nothing can grow in an environment that lacks hope. One day of living with your heart wide open is better than zero days. You may have to go through a considerable amount of pain to start living a life that feels good to you, but that’s better than a lifetime of despair.
Start today if you need to. Pick something, anything that will make you feel a little sense of hope or excitement. Volunteering is always good. Giving of yourself is the fastest way to feel fulfilled. If that doesn’t speak to you, sign up for a cooking class, or take yourself out for a nice meal. Shake things up. Clearly, I’m not talking to people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads right now. That’s a whole other set of circumstances. Short of that, find a way to start planting your tree today. Anything will do. Trees that are planted with hope and love and a little bit of trust blossom more quickly than you might think. Don’t wait.
Sending you love,