The End of an Era

Truth Byte #55

 

“Everyone changes, even you.”

 

For a long time, I used to wonder whether people could change.  I would have late-night debates with my friends from university about whether lasting change is possible, or if people just put on a show to win whatever life goal they are grasping for without ever really changing the fundamental fabric of who they are.

 

What I learned last weekend is that everyone changes, even me.

 

And I learned this lesson in the most unexpected place: on the ski hill.

 

But wait a second, let me back up a few years.

 

When I was in fifth grade, my eldest cousin took me and a gaggle of other little cousins up to a ski hill.  For an immigrant child, skiing was about the most “Canadian” we could get (besides drinking beer and eating back bacon, neither of which were culturally sanctioned for me as a nine-year old Muslim girl), and maybe playing hockey, a sport that was way to expensive for a “working-three-jobs-each-to-make- ends-meet” parental budget.
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Finding Fun in Food and Paint

Truth Byte #54

 

 “It was always supposed to be fun.”

 

When I was a kid, everything was so much fun.  Whether it was playing in the forest behind my house, late-night-hide-and-seek with the neighbourhood kids, or Disney movie marathons, my life was so full and rich and fun.  Even the summer I spent with a cast on my leg was fun as people wrote messages of hope in their first grade printing and my little brother devised secret contraptions to help me deal with the itchiness.

 

Being a kid was fun, and yet I couldn’t wait to grow up.

 

I see this pattern repeating with my own kids.  They love to measure themselves against my abdomen to see how much they have grown, and whenever someone compliments them on getting taller, they beam from the inside.  They can’t wait to be older.

 

But why?

 

From where I am sitting, older is often the opposite of fun.  Older means more responsibility, unavoidable obligations, and being bored or stressed a lot of the time.

 

Why would anyone want that?

 

My guess is most of us don’t.  When we were teenagers, we had big ideas about what it would mean to be a grown-up. We imagined adult-ing to be a lot like childhood, except with less people bossing us around, setting curfews, and telling us what to do.  We imagined we would be doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and thoroughly enjoying it.  We imagined we would be loved, and respected, and valued, and that our voice and perspective would really matter.
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Befriending that Voice

Truth Byte #53

 

“Even in partnership, you must learn to walk alone.”

 

I have an incredible husband. Despite my drama stories to the contrary, he is the most patient, steady, loveable, and supportive guy I know. He rides with me on the roller-coaster of parenthood, the stormy ship of entrepreneurship, and the oft hum drum boredom of long-term commitment. He is in it for the long haul, says the right thing at the right time and always knows how to make me laugh (or at least roll my eyes while smiling).

 

But even in the midst of a truly rich marriage, I have learned that I am alone.

 

And not in a bad way, just alone.

 

Let me explain.

 

It hit me during the first few months of our marriage.  We had been building up to our big day for months, and had waited until after the wedding to move in together. Our honeymoon was perfect, two weeks of uninterrupted time in a tropical paradise.

 

And then we came home.

 

And we had jobs, and groceries, and car payments, and in-laws, and laundry, and all the other little things that “real life” is composed of.

 

At first, I happily played along in my new role as “wife”. But after a while, I noticed that we had separate lives. We work in completely different fields, so there isn’t really any “shop talk” that happens at home.  The poor guy had to explain his early tech projects to me in fashion metaphors, it was the only way I was going to follow along!  We had different work schedules, so the time that we spent at our home just playing was minimal.  But it worked for a while.

 

Then the babies came, one then another. And that changed everything.  Suddenly, we were tag-teaming as we negotiated who would do what for which kid and how we could be impactful and available parents while still trying to build our careers and run a household. And there were moments when I was nursing a baby or driving a little one to preschool or trying to make friends at some mommy-social that I felt so alone. And not in a good way.

 

Somewhere along my journey of university, career, marriage, and kids, I had to face the fact that I am alone. All alone.  Late at night, when I wake up with a start, it’s just me. Sure, I could reach over and shake him awake, or cuddle up with a kid or two, but what happens in my inner landscape is something only I can experience.

 

So why am I telling you this? What’s the point?

 

I have had many clients over the years that are running from loneliness.  Whether it’s a spouse they yearn for, a child, a pet, or some other kind of companionship or love, so many of us are looking to fill the emptiness inside. And what I have learned, both personally and professionally, is that no matter what the quality of our relationships, if we can’t be comfortable alone, those relationships will never be enough.

 

Let me say that again: if you aren’t okay being alone, no one else’s love will ever be enough.

 

Now I am speaking as an extrovert, and I know there are introverts out there who are probably thinking: "I am TOTALLY fine by myself!" And that may be true for some.

 

But for all of us, no matter what our social leanings, there is that corrosive voice inside that we don’t want to be left alone with.  You know, that voice that tells you that you are a failure, that you are screwing up, that you are a fraud and a fake, and that all your plans will ultimately fail.

 

That voice.

 

When you can learn to be in the presence of that voice and just not believe it, then you have really arrived.

 

Then you have a hope in hell of letting someone love you all the way, and being able to love them back without walls.

 

So this week, I challenge you to face that voice. To look deep inside into the part of you that was planted a long, long time ago, and really hear it. Hear the pain, the hopelessness, and the judgment. And just let it be.  Don’t “technique” it away with all the self-help tools you have collected (journaling, meditation, positive self-talk, etc. etc.), just be with it.

 

See what happens. 

 

See if you can sit in that uncomfortable place of self-attack and find another way, find another truth. Because until you do, you will be looking for someone else to drown out that voice. And no one else really can.

 

Ultimately, the only relationship that matters is the one you have with yourself.

 

And isn’t it time to listen to the most important person in your life: you? Even if you don’t like what s/he has to say?  Of course, there are ways to be supported in this task, and many people seek out counselling to have a reliable and consistent framework as they move through befriending that voice, so if you need that support, get it.

 

And in the meantime, keep looking inward. It’s where all the answers lie.  More at www.talktosaira.com