Sooner or later, everyone leaves. Bring to mind the people you love. The blunt truth is this: sooner or later, one of you will go, and the other will be left behind. And, as you well know, there's no way to know who's "next in line."
Once, while working in oncology, the doctor in charge of the ward focused our attention on how much time "Mrs. Jones" might have left. He thought her death was imminent. Six hours later, it was he who died on the treadmill, having suffered a heart attack at 39. You just never know. So, between now and whenever your "schoolhouse bell rings," what do you want to create?
Let's review. We come. We spend time here. We learn what we learn. Hopefully, we grow in our willingness to connect. Sometimes, we resist what's in our best interest and waste time.
You remember, don't you, those times when you stood on the cusp of some greater good in your life, but you hesitated? Why? We trick ourselves, don't we, by making up stories of what's possible and what's not? The truth bears little resemblance to fantasies we spin. Think back. When did you last resist receiving what was yours for the asking? What goes? How do you get derailed?
Some days, we spend far too much time mucking around in the mud of limited thinking and faux self-doubt. When you do that, you break connection with what makes your heart sing. You cheat yourself. You break faith with a deeper purpose for your life. During such times, we do well to give ourselves permission to re-engage with life boosters and disengage with what depletes energy and robs you of joy.
A Case in Point
Just the other day, a woman by the name of Annette (OK, I tweaked the name to protect us both) approached me with that woebegone look of a beagle who'd missed his feeding. Now, if there were ever four words in the English language that warn you of an approaching storm, they are these: "We need to talk." When these "fatal four" words arrive, fasten your seatbelt: inclement weather is on its way. This was no exception. Annette complained that she felt excluded from a group that loves celebrating their friendship. Unwilling to be vulnerable, Annette insisted that she had not been invited. (In reality, no one had been "invited." Each had simply responded to the spontaneous desire to gather for a meal.) Projection has a nasty way of creating paranoia and burning bridges. Who wants to be around a victim? Not I. I don't even want to be around myself when I'm acting this way! Do you?
Choosing a Better Way
Here's the truth. It's up to us to self-elect. You either give yourself permission to receive more of life's goodies, or you deny yourself the gift deeper connection brings. You either take courage in hand and "go first," expressing your natural desire to be with those you love, in more meaningful ways, or you play "read-my-mind games," losing the game by default. Those who self-elect, who choose to receive the gold from heartfelt connection, do not waste time in mental blame-games. Instead, they dare vulnerability. They practice the art and science of "going first" by voicing their heart's desire. Those willing to self-elect have the courage to "chance it" by risking looking foolish.
Remember the adage, "Only those who dance are thought foolish by those who cannot hear the music."
Do you want to receive more joy? If you want more joy and less woe, be willing to "hear the music" more and intiate your original dance with those willing to co-create, even when yours looks foolish to others. How?
Practicing the Power of Receptivity
"The Three Cs":
Practice your relationship with imperfection. "Double-dog dare" yourself to listen to your instinctual "music" and dance your own dance. Suspend your self-judgment and your fear of being judged.
Recently, I was reminded of how important it is to maintain a "listening heart" when it comes to hearing your own instincts and honoring them. Months before my approaching 65th birthday, folks began to ask how I wanted to celebrate. I considered other people's "launchings." Some rented ballrooms, hired bands. Others gifted their friends beautiful retreats by the sea, shared journeys or fancy dinner parties. The list is endless. The more I reflected, the more confused I became. You've got the "tiger by the tail" whenever you look for the answer outside yourself.
As the day drew closer, people began to press for an answer. My clock has always been slower. It takes my soul time to catch up with my body. A standard party didn't "do it" for me, either. The fact is that I hate chit-chat. Always have. There are few things more painful to me than being with a group of people in which each of us hides behind the veneer of the superficial party face. To be completely candid, it's always seemed a blasphemy to the precious time we've got in these bodies, which will be dust one day. Perhaps we can chalk it up to awareness gained through so many losses? Who knows?
Practice treating yourself with tender regard and patience. Whatever is yours to receive will require this on your part. What is meant will come, if you listen deeply and trust the process. The date for a plan might be different from what you've got on your calendar.
In my own case, the fog cleared, and direction arrived in an unexpected way. I realized that the "missing link" for me was that what I really wanted to do was celebrate the magnificent gifts of friendship I've received over the course of my life by celebrating the generous people who brought them to my heart. One couple volunteered their home, insisting that nothing was out of the question. The hostess insisted that she and a friend do the cooking, and that we use china and silver. This was not what I wanted, however. What I wanted was the gift of her presence, the gift of her blessing, the gift of ease. Instead, I voiced my desire for the plain and simple: paper plates, cups and their ilk, along with potluck. We are a village, after all. Gathering up self-compassion, I spoke directly, and she understood. What I wanted was for the focus to be on the unique beauty of each and every guest, not on external props, even though this is the tradition.
Go first. Say "I love you" in your unique way. Damn the torpedos; full steam ahead! I've always been happiest when creating homemade expressions of love that are simple, natural and direct. This turned out to be the theme of the event, inviting the guests to lay down the burden of "social intercourse niceties" and be with one another in beautiful ways. I asked each person to pretend that they were best friends reuniting after having not seen each other for 25 years. I asked that they greet one another as such (although many had never met) and express their appreciation for one another's gifts. Naturally, they had to trust their instincts! Their mission was to celebrate the unique ways that life and love were flowing through each other. We sang. We played. We mingled with clear intention, sharing with one another essential messages. We feasted. We lit candles. We rejoiced in the opportunity to become vulnerable to our hearts, to live as though this were the point of our time here on Earth. And why not?
The Power of Vulnerability
Vulnerability brings with it the charm of authenticity, but not only that. Vulnerability, as Brené Brown points out, brings with it an indescribable power to live wholeheartedly. Brené, who researches human connection, recently spoke in Houston at a TED conference. She's got a lot to say worth hearing.
Please receive my deepest gratitude, dear HuffPost reader, for the honor of meeting with you here, week after week, for the past two and a half years in the Living section. You have kidnapped my heart. Your ongoing expressions of vulnerability, courage, compassion, inspiration and resources have deepened my connection with this One Love, this One Life, through which we each are joined. As I celebrate with family away from home on Jan. 28, know that my birthday wish for the many candles is that you and I will receive, in Grace and with grateful hearts, the much we are given, and that we dance on down the road to the tune of our own heart's song, together, as long as possible. I shall return here on Feb. 9. Oh, did I mention that I've decided to spend the entire year celebrating this birthday?!
Your turn: I know that you are a giver. But, it "takes two to tango." Don't forget to practice the art of receiving. What would you like to receive more? What have you received that has meant the most to you? I'm listening.
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