Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

I love how kids will say whatever is on their mind, ever so innocently…

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting my brother and my 6-year-old twin nieces. At 6 years old, they are always a bundle of vibrant energy, fun… and unexpected surprises. One day, while helping the girls with their morning routine, one of the girls looked at me and said, “Aunt Jeannie, how come you don’t have a baby?”

In an instant my mind raced with all of the possible responses, searching for the most appropriate one for their innocent ears. I replied, “Well, because I haven’t yet met the right man to marry.” I can’t quite remember exactly how the conversation ensued from there, but I believe their next question was something to the effect of why I didn’t have a boyfriend. In this moment frozen in time, I was immediately reminded of so many of their kids’ movies, where the princess has to be saved by the prince, where finding her true love is always the objective, where getting married and riding off into the sunset is always the outcome; and I realized how many societal messages we are bombarded with from the time we are small children. And it occurred to me that I was being granted a very powerful teaching moment.

I then went on to explain to the girls that I didn’t have a boyfriend, and that it is ok to not have a boyfriend, that it is ok to be single. I think this was the first time that they came to understand the word “single.” I explained to them that I choose to be single because I hadn’t yet met the right man to date, and that I will very happily remain single until I do find the right match. And then they so nicely informed me, “But Aunt Jeannie, you are the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend.” Oh bless their little innocent hearts.

I then proceeded to list for them all of daddy’s friends who are “single,” the “aunts” and “uncles” who fill their lives on a regular basis, people about whom it never occurred to them to wonder their relationship status, or what that even means. After finishing the laundry list of singletons that surround their lives, I then said what I think was the most important lesson I could teach them, “We don’t have to get married. We can choose to get married or we can choose to be single. We can be anything we want in this life. But the most important thing is to be happy. I am single and I am very happy.”

As the day went on, I reflected on what a powerful moment this was for me with my nieces, and what an opportunity I have to be a positive influence in their lives: a role model to show them that they can do and be anything that they want in this life, that they do not have to settle for anything less than what they deserve, and that they do not have to follow the societal blue-print. I hope to teach them, by example, that they can forge their own paths, that they can take their own risks, that they can be bold, strong and brave, and that they can find their own life’s purpose on this Earth.

Photo by Flickr user reemer.

I then began to think about all of the people I see around me who are in unhappy relationships: people who are stuck in the societal mold and are scared to break out of it, people who are terrified to be alone. And I thought about the happy couples who are few and far between: those couples that you just look at and say “Yes! Those two are so in love!,” the couples who just exude peace and happiness, and who truly complement one another like yin and yang. And I was reminded once again that one should never settle for less than that and of how much better it is to be happily single than to be unhappily married or in a relationship with the wrong person.

I thought about all of my “happily single” friends, the empowered and independent men and women who have had so many adventures and who have done so many incredible things with their careers and their lives. And I hoped for my nieces that they would never end up in the situation of an unhappy relationship, that they would be brave enough to be alone and strong enough to wait for the right man, or if they preferred, that they would choose to be “happily single.”

Later on in the week, out of the blue, one of my nieces stood up proudly and declared, “When I grow up, I want to be single!” I smiled from ear to ear as I chucked to myself. I knew that I had planted a good seed: a seed of an independent, empowered woman who doesn’t have to be anything that society dictates; a seed of an innocent girl who will grow up to be a strong and beautiful woman who can choose to lead any kind of life that she wants.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

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Over recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several different friends from out of town, all friends who came from different cities and from previous lives of mine. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with these old friends and reminisce about times gone by, but it was a compelling opportunity to look back on my journey, to see all of the dots that have connected, and to reflect on all of the wonderful souls who have touched and shaped my path along this winding road of life.

Boston, MA

The first of these friends, Simone, was visiting from my home city of Boston. We began working together when I was a mere 23 years old, fairly fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. Looking back on that young age, now 14 years later, it is hard to even recognize the person that I once was. I was just barely beginning my journey into adulthood and I had so much to learn, and so many tough lessons that were still ahead of me. In my wildest imagination (or nightmares!), I could not have conceived of what was yet to come. I was, however, fortunate enough to land the job of a lifetime. For several years we organized student tours abroad and got to reap the benefit of traveling to exciting, foreign lands. This was a professional life filled with wonderful friends, laughter, hilarious travel stories and adventures and simply joyful and rewarding times. These were the days of our lives.

Fast forward five years and I would find myself a new resident of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and a newly enrolled graduate student. Having left behind a broken heart and dark clouds in Boston, I was starting over in a new life, preparing to embark on a career of international diplomacy and peace-keeping. However, a semester of confusion, dissatisfaction and feeling like a fish out of water, would eventually lead to my leaving graduate school and landing serendipitously in a job working for an International Human Rights organization. This is where I would meet Lauren, the second visitor to San Francisco in recent weeks.

Washington, DC

Lauren and I would become part of what I coined the “The Sex and the City” foursome of ladies who would get together regularly for dinner and girl talk. These friends were the rocks that kept me grounded during my four years in Washington. Lauren would witness me evolve into my first management role in the .com world, she would see me grapple with the stresses of a high-pressure, long-hour career, and she would see me struggle through a confusing yet painfully beautiful long-distance “relationship,” a relationship which would eventually leave me completely shattered, turned inside out and gasping for air. About to embark on what would turn out to be my “dark night of the soul,” Lauren would be part of the good group of friends that would send me off on my forever-destined journey to the west coast, leaving behind my east coast life and friends, leaving behind a part of myself.

The journey west would take me to Los Angeles, a city that would unwittingly become home to the deepest depression, the most gripping pain and the most intense struggle of my life. But simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, it would become the most bewitching and magical place I have ever lived, deeply connecting with the fibers of my spirit. Filling me up with her bittersweet nectar, Los Angeles would eventually become the gateway to a profound spiritual awakening, a complete transformation and a brand new Jeannie, alchemized by the fire of life.

Magical Los Angeles

Enter Garrett. A childhood friend of the family, Garrett had known me since I was a young girl and he had seen me grow into a woman. He had known me through various lives and several different versions of myself. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, he was one of the only people I knew and was often the only shoulder to cry on during a very dark time. Garrett was witness to the darkest years of my life, the most profound turmoil through which I have walked, and for this I am grateful.

I am grateful because today when I met Garrett and his girlfriend for coffee in downtown San Francisco, while they were visiting from Los Angeles, I was able to shine brightly and tell Garrett how happy I am, how much joy, wonder and magic I experience on a daily basis. Had Garrett not been there to witness my lowest point, I’m not sure anyone would truly know how extraordinary and powerful my transformation has been, and how grateful I am for all of the trials and tribulations that have led me to this place.

As I look back on these friends, and the many others who have laughed with me, cried with me, fought with me and walked alongside me, I am deeply touched by the indelible marks that each one has left on my soul. It is often said that we should not look back to the past, but I profoundly disagree. There is so much grace and beauty in putting the pieces together and making sense of how the journey unfolded. Some of the most important lessons, and even revelations, of our lives come from time reflecting back on our previous journeys. It is all a beautiful, and necessary, part of our evolution.

It is true that however we might plan and plot, in large part we have no idea where are journeys will take us next, or where each path will lead; but what I am sure of is that there will be beautiful souls along the way, souls who will come into our lives to help us along our journey. There will be souls who help us, souls who hurt us, and there will be souls who crack us wide open, but each one of these souls has a purpose and a powerful lesson to teach us. And as we walk along our path, however much it twists and turns, and however dark, scary and painful it may become at times… we should embrace the journey.

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Today I am 36 years old. I am single, childless, and now… jobless. This was not the plan.

Now, if you think you know where this story is going, you are probably wrong. This is not a sob-story about how my life did not turn out as I had planned. Quite the contrary.

From the time we are children, we are taught to prepare and to plan. We are taught to get good grades so that we can go to college, and get a good job. We are taught that we are supposed to get married, settle down and raise a family. Well that was certainly my plan. When I was 17 my high school Spanish teacher asked us to write an essay about where we thought we would be in 10 years. Looking back at this essay is one of my favorite things to do to this day. As my 17 year old self, I described how at age 27 I would be living on a farm in Vermont, with 3 kids and 2 dogs. Now anyone that knows me well is surely laughing out loud right now. For one, I am so not a dog person! Second, the thought of living outside of an energized, bustling city makes me want to curl up and die! But of course at age 17, I had such a narrow perspective on the world. What I wrote in that essay was all that I could possibly imagine from my limited experience.

Well, thank goodness life does not go as we plan. Since I wrote that essay, I have lived in a foreign country, I have lived in 4 different cities in the US, I have traveled to 4 continents and 18 countries. I have loved furiously and passionately, and I have lost, to the most painful depths of my soul. I have laughed and cried feverish tears of joy. I have experienced love, in its purest form, and I have experienced pain and betrayal in its ugliest form. And I have learned more hard lessons than I can count. But most importantly, I have lived. And not passively. I have experienced every emotion to its extreme high and low. I have drunk life and have let it fill up every ounce of my being.

So this all sounds great, right? Well, yes, but I’ll be honest; As wonderful as all of that sounds, when I found myself in my early-30s, and heard the loud ticking of my biological clock, it was very painful to watch friend after friend getting married and having children. After all, I’d always known that I wanted children, that was one thing that had never changed and that I had never questioned. Doctor after doctor kept asking me, “Do you plan to have children? If so, you should get started.” “Gee, thanks for the revelation.”, I would think to myself, “Let me just snap my fingers and make that happen.”

For the last few years I have been wrestling with these demons, feeling sad that it was apparently not in my cards to have this lovely life of marriage and family that I had dreamed of all of my life, and saw so many friends enjoying. The grass looked greener elsewhere.

Well, as many of you already know, I have lived through a “dark night of the soul” during these years. And the beautiful thing about living through such a period, is that if you are strong enough, brave enough to trust and let go, you will learn some profound universal secrets. One of those secrets is that try as we might to plan our lives, it will inevitably not go as we plan. And the sooner that we let go of our life “plan”, and the sooner we surrender to the Universe, the sooner it will all fall into place.

Over the past few years, I have gotten so good at the practice of letting go and each time I have truly managed to surrender myself to the invisible forces, I have experienced nothing but awe and magic. I have also learned that because our own view is so myopic, we very rarely have the capacity to even imagine what the Universe can create for us. So we can fret and toil and plan all we like, but at the end of the day, we may be defeating ourselves, because the Universe may have something so much more spectacular in mind. And this is what I have realized.

I am 36 years old. I am single, childless and jobless. And I am happy. I am no longer worried about the biological clock, nor fretting about if I will find my true love. Instead, I have surrendered, and I am filled with excitement and anticipation about what the Universe has in store for me. For I am looking at the grass over there, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn green over here.

Photo by Robert Michie, http://www.robertmichie.com

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photo by Cornell University Library, via PhotoRee

We’ve all had friends or loved ones that we can see headed for the proverbial “train-wreck:” When the person in question is so deeply entrenched in their own drama that they are blinded to what others can objectively see from the outside. So what do you do in this situation? How do you help someone that has gotten so far off the tracks? It’s not an easy answer.

But, we’ve all been there, now haven’t we? How many of us have dated the guy that we insisted up and down was the “one,” when all of our friends can see that it is a toxic and unhealthy relationship? Or how many of us have been stuck in an unhappy job situation, but found a million ways to justify why it’s the best thing for our career, despite our friends telling us to move on? We’ve all been there. Probably too often to count. I would like to think that we learn from these scenarios and that with increased wisdom we can avoid repeating the same patterns again in the future. Some of us do, some of us don’t. Some of us need to repeat it again and again until we finally learn the lesson!

So I come back to my original question. If you are the onlooking friend, watching someone agonize through an unhealthy situation, and they do not want to hear what others can see so clearly, what do you do? I have learned this the hard way- the best answer is “nothing.” The simple answer is that they are not yet ready to hear it. Now I’m of course not saying that you shouldn’t intervene if someone is ready to jump off a bridge! Nothing that literal! I’m talking more about the emotional life dramas in which we all get wrapped up. If there is one thing I have learned through years of challenging experiences, it is that we all have to learn these lessons for ourselves. 100 friends could tell me I’m with the wrong guy, and they could all be 100% right, but it doesn’t matter. If I’m not ready to admit that to myself, nothing that anyone can say or do will convince me of that fact. I can only come to that conclusion in my own time.

It is also my belief that we are all on this Earth to learn different lessons, that when we incarnated into this life, we chose key challenges throughout our life, to help us grow and evolve as souls. If there is any truth to that, then that means that each experience, no matter how painful or difficult, is invaluable and not to be missed. And as much as none of us want to deal with pain or strife in our lives, it is the most valuable tool for learning. I have a favorite saying that a wise person once said to me: “the only way out is through.” To truly learn the lessons that we were put on this Earth to learn, we must walk our own paths, we must walk through whatever trials and tribulations are set before us.

So if you have a friend or loved one that you see headed for a “train-wreck,” step back and allow them to experience their Karma, to walk through and into their own learning. Send them light and love, knowing that you will be there for them when they get to the other end of the tunnel.

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