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March 17, 2013

Our lives are made up of the stuff we think shouldn’t be happening…

I was with a client the other day and she was telling me about a very difficult history that she’s experienced over the last twenty years or so.  She said when she was younger she was carefree and that was evidenced in pictures taken at that time.  She presented the pictures as proof that something is wrong today.  Because she doesn’t smile like that anymore.

After reviewing a long list of occurrences that have made her stop smiling, she seemed to be waiting for confirmation that indeed her life has been exceptionally painful.  And it has.  We sat together with the knowledge that she was unprepared for much of what she experienced, and acknowledged the reality that she has come to believe life has singled her out for some unknown, unfair reason, and that perspective has left her feeling pretty hopeless about her future.  In some ways she feels debilitated.

We sat with that for a moment and then I wondered out loud, “It seems to me that you just described a very full life—a life filled with what life does, what life gives—love, birth, death and change.  The real problem may be the meaning you’ve given all that.  The moment you told yourself it shouldn’t have happened, though it did, you lost your ability to smile or appreciate the nature of life.  Is it life that creates the sense of hopelessness and excruciating pain, or the resistance?”

The client looked at me with a dawning awareness, and then she smiled.

This post may create some discomfort for some, even anger.  It may seem impossible if you’ve experienced a major loss that somehow you have to ‘accept it’.  From my heart I want to be very clear that I’m not callously suggesting that we should accept life’s painful happenings with a smile.  What I am suggesting is that we can better deal with what life hands us, painful and joyful, if we don’t maintain and nurture resistance to the point that future joy becomes impossible.

Do you have resistance to a past experience or loss that’s keeping you from experiencing joy in your life today?  And are you willing to loosen your hold on it even a little bit?