11 Apr Finding Simple Again Preface
“Every day is an adventure!” That’s how my husband, Sean, consoled me when I felt bogged down from having young children. I missed being able to get up and go, without the extra load. Beyond wanting to sock him one, my first thought was “yeah right, sure it is”. But looking past his often-sarcastic style and a big picture view, I saw truth. He’s right: Life is an adventure. And our journey can be reframed as one, but this isn’t a simple proposition. First, we need to make a choice that we’ll be open minded. Open to change. Next comes our ability to define and adopt a hopeful mindset around what motivates us. Persevering toward whatever our life trajectory may be, is where the real challenge comes. Whenever our circumstances change for the worse, we’re disappointed and feel sideswiped. It’s not what we expected, then we’re left to clean up the mess. And what life hit us with, may be something we have little control over. It isn’t fair. However, whatever our obstacles, the biology we’re born with or circumstances we’re born into, we do have a choice about how we respond. It is in our response to whatever comes our way, where we can find room to be adventurous. To have the best shot of reacting well to our stress, requires us to evaluate our expectations and how we might reframe them. Ugh. And the plot thickens. To have a willingness to try new ways of thinking or seek help for our troubles is difficult as it is, let alone when we’re overwhelmed by stress too. How can we be open to change, especially for ourselves, if we feel defensive or ticked off about our predicament? Well, I guess no one said it was going to be easy, did they? But if we don’t try to make our lives better, we’re left feeling helpless and hopeless about our predicament.
I am humbled after spending many decades as a counselor and working with people experiencing profound struggle. Amazed at their inspiration, I still don’t understand how some of my clients faced each day, given their hellish circumstances. A big part of who I am is about helping others choose better for themselves, and those they love. That’s why, when my role as a professional counselor came to an abrupt halt, because of my own traumatic events, I wrote. By writing about what my family and I endured, I hoped to make sense of the chaos we met. If I could home in on how we did it, how we’d managed to get through our monumental life hits, I figured I’d be able to pass on what I learned.
The process of putting this book together, and then openly sharing my stories, has been difficult. A lot harder than I thought it would be. I feel vulnerable, and at times ashamed, that I haven’t been able to just get over it, get over what happened to us, and move on. It’s easy for me to compare the obstacles I’ve met, with those who must deal with ongoing atrocities. Awful ones. But then I’m reminded that my journey is not theirs. My psyche has had to travel from a place of shame, analyzing and rehashing what happened to my family and I, write about it, and then, let go of it by sharing with you. This has been quite a ride.
When the thought “maybe I could write a memoir” popped into my head after our three years of trauma, I guess you could say it was a “lightbulb” moment. My idea grew to become an obsession that I had to follow through with. But after jumping in with both feet, what had seemed like a great idea, was nothing like I’d envisioned. The reality of writing a book, especially a very private one, is an arduous path. And I’d already experienced one of those! I’ve come to realize the two are one and the same, and to not do what I feel compelled to do, isn’t an option. I’ve also suffered from worrying about what others think of me, way too much. After my family’s extraordinary stress, I fell long and hard from my position as a “together” helper, armed with answers and direction for my clients, to the one feeling desperate helplessness. My ego and sense of pride was crushed. In my perseverance to piece my life back together along with my family’s, I discovered a big void inside of me. Geez. To recover emotionally, I had no choice, but to put giving myself true grace into practice, and learn how to freely receive from others. (And not feel like I owed them something.) I had to examine and change my relationship patterns too! I discovered that my need to be the predominant giver in my relationships is best abandoned. A willingness to let go of old, unhealthy patterns, even though they feel “normal”, is what continues to set me free in the adventure of life. A stronger and rebuilt sense of self is my priceless gift!
And it’s a gift I can share. Lucky you, ha-ha. As the overarching narrator for Finding Simple Again, I have strategically integrated a counseling perspective into the story. Because my counselor voice is part of who I am, making a showing in my own life every day, she’s here too, along for the ride. This voice is part of my maturing emotional intelligence, reminding me how to stay on track toward healthier patterns in my relationships. Over the years, I’ve fed my counselor voice with knowledge and experiences to bring her new perspectives and skills. Not just there for my clients, she’s earned a prominent position for my own wellbeing. When I’m fighting my sometimes-crippling self-doubt and anxieties, she’s my go-to. Living in my gut, she knows me enough to remember what’s worked and what hasn’t in my goal toward betterment and contentment. How she helps me in this process is depicted here. My counselor voice shows how unhealthy childhood assumptions can lead to an unbalanced sense of self in adulthood. This lack of secure foundation can then be a set up for an emotional crisis, when faced with added stress. In my case, I couldn’t have climbed out of the pit of despair I’d fallen into, or rebuilt a stronger sense of self, without my faith or counselor within. I continue to learn in the challenge of life too, as some days are better than others. It’s unfortunate that most people don’t have the chance or know how, to access what I’ve been privy to as a counselor. To help fill in some of this opportunity gap, I’ve written about what happened to my family and I, from a counselor’s perspective: Finding Simple Again is a memoir with a self and family development focus.
Do you know, or have you found what makes your soul sing? What gives you contentment even when life tries to shut you down? Does your life look disheveled, messy? Mine sure did, when life tried to shut me down. What and how will you plan for your dreams, and how will you persevere? The monster of interruptions visits often, bringing circumstances you won’t always be able to control. Scary ones, too. How will you choose to react? Will you face the challenge and accept the struggle? Dealing with what lies ahead of you is better than the alternative; it’s better than giving up. You won’t regret your persistence; your efforts will bring reward. You are worth the struggle. And so are your family and friends, all of whom are affected by your wake and your inspiration.
At first glance, my life may seem idyllic, as if I’ve got it made. I do. But it’s been something like rocket science to keep it simple. Keeping what I cherish at the forefront of the hurdles that have come my way has been a difficult art form to learn. It’s still my biggest challenge and I know I’m not alone in my quest. As a daughter, wife, mom, professional therapist, and then just me, I share my blueprint. One made up of hard found insights as they came into this world because of following, and then learning to trust my gut. I have built a model for finding contentment. If you feel like you can’t get through life as well as you’d like, then I wrote this for you. I don’t want you to lose your cherished hopes or give up on finding your dreams in your own adventure!
I finally have a grip on the clarity I’ve been looking for all this time. Being privy to other people’s stories, their hurts, and then making sense of them, has been a blessing. I hope it has been for my clients too. Now, I have another opportunity. By sharing with you how I managed to unwind my own puzzles, I have a chance to help you with your mysteries too and make them easier for you to solve. I think the parallels you’ll be able to draw upon in these pages, will help you face the obstacles in your path, especially the ones you can’t control.
Here is how it happened; how my knots inside became complex, and about how I untangled them to discover contentment. This is my story of how I found simple again. Happy reading!