I learned long ago that I cannot control many circumstances in my life, and therefore that I should choose to be happy regardless of the conditions that surround me. The essential lesson was around controlling other people and their choices. This was a difficult lesson to learn.
From the age of about 18 until my 32nd year, I have dedicated myself to people I have chosen to be romantically involved with. Fourteen years have been filled with 3 long relationships, a smattering of shorter but still significant, torrid romances and peppered with a few ephemeral yet passionate experiences in between.
My three longest standing relationships involved people with pretty heavy emotional baggage, and I was convinced I could help them attain happiness and peace in their lives. In the end, I wasn’t able to help them change, and ended up hurt and, in my own insecurity, believing that somehow their unhappiness was related to me. I had a very self-centered perspective of my relationships and the choices of others.
I am forever grateful for those relationships – I have no regret. These relationships I entered trying to act as a counsellor ultimately served to teach me great lessons about myself and the changes I needed to make instead.
Although I am generally an optimist, I am also a chronic thinker. I analyze situations five different ways, slicing and dicing to try to comprehend others’ behaviour or anticipate the outcomes of my own choices. Of course, this type of scrutiny and expectation usually results in disappointment. Combine all of this with the human need to be loved, and we find fourteen-plus years of great blessings and also challenge. To me, the recurring incidence of similar situations or outcomes in one’s life is an evident indicator of a lesson that needs to be learned. The lesson I’m now finding ahead of me is not related to being joyful despite others’ choices, but rather finding joy in each moment without needing to seek my crystal ball.
I have long believed that circumstances or relationships occur for a reason. A few times throughout my life, people have entered and brought with them a great whirlwind of wisdom. A small number of those people have remained in my life long-term, popping in and out at what always appears the right time for one or both of us. Despite sometimes years in between reunions, and with the intensity and abundant trust of a lifelong bond, the relationship will bloom for a short time and one or both of us will walk away renewed and constructively changed.
Recently, I made a new friend who, in the span of only a week, has had a profound impact on me. This person has begun the patient journey of continuing to teach me a lesson I have been learning most of my adult life to date. It relates to that struggle between heart and mind.
I am the only barrier to my happiness. I may put up walls between myself and the great possibility of joy. I might let the fear of tomorrow get between me and today’s elation. Ultimately, if I am self-aware and willing to accept that the only person I can control is myself, then I can choose freedom. Freedom from being obstructed by emotional responses to the choices of others…..freedom from circumstantial joy…and most importantly, freedom from my own fears. This is all easier said than done, but a chosen journey nonetheless, perhaps lifelong.
“Man is free the instant he wishes to be” ~Voltaire