Glad No Matter What
After many years of resisting change and grieving losses in my life, I embarked on a journey of choosing to be – Glad No Matter What. This choice sprang from how dreadful the alternatives seemed, and also from burrowing into my own psychology for many years, and finding out that weaving the dark and the light together creates a rich, fertile “middle ground” to live in. From this middle ground came my gladness.
So what does it mean to be “Glad No Matter What”?
It does NOT mean feeling glad when you don’t. How annoying.
It means finding the gladnesses in all of your feelings. I still feel all the challenging kinds of feelings; I just don’t spend so much time there. I call this way of living “practical gladness.” With a basis of practical gladness, the cup is both half empty and half full at the same time. Our lives are made of all of the feelings, not just the happy or sad ones.
Most of us were not taught how to hold or have multiple feelings. In the family I grew up in, you could only have one feeling at a time, and you’d better go to your room to have it, and come out feeling “better.” Better was applied liberally to feelings, especially complex ones. So I learned to hide the complexities and present a “happy face.” Beneath this happy face was rage, but everyone else was doing the same thing, so it seemed okay, or at least tolerable. It became intolerable when I tried to actually live that way.
Feelings are always there. I believed I could control, deny, avoid, resist, or just stop them. This belief system persisted for years with some success, until I attempted suicide in my mid-thirties, and I entered psychotherapy to try to understand why. The suicide prevention line person asked me, “Did you really want to die, or did you just want the pain to end?” I realized that I just wanted the pain to end, and this pain was related to my resistance of the feelings I was actually having. So I very reluctantly went to therapy. My reluctance was directly related to having been in family therapy when I was 8 years old, due to being abused by my older brother, although that abuse was not uncovered in the therapy. The therapist let me sit on his lap during the session, and then asked me to step outside so he could talk to my parents. I listened through the door and heard him say, “You have a very seductive little girl, and all the problems in your family are because of her.”
I carried that sentence and the feelings that came with it until I was 35 years old and started having flashbacks of the incest, which lasted for weeks and I couldn’t eat or sleep. That was why I wanted the pain to end.
In therapy I learned to just experience my feelings, and a brand-new world materialized. In the brand-new world, my feelings were important to and acknowledged by me. I created a “family of choice” where it felt safe to express feelings and hear others’ feelings. I also learned to trust my male therapist, and repaired so many of what felt like the broken places inside me. There is a marvelous quote by William Stafford: I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.
That’s how I feel now.
I also feel glad and grateful for all the love and care I did receive in childhood, and have forgiven all involved.
Being Glad No Matter What is both a choice and a commitment. I commit and choose to feel all of my feelings, and alchemize and transform them into being glad more often. In that way, I’ve become a “transformational change agent.” I have invented processes to support this, and talked with hundreds of people about the subjects of loss and change, and what they’ve learned and experienced. After the deaths of my parents, cat, and loss of significant love relationships and dreams, I wrote a book about my experiences and processes of growth.
The book is called Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity. Every loss has within it significant gifts, every change has many opportunities. Our losses and changes happen so we can transform, and we have the chance to do our transformational work. And it does involve perspective shifts to allow those transformations to take place. Before my mother died at age 80, I asked her what wisdom she would like to pass along. She said,
“I just wish I hadn’t resisted everything so much.”
As a former all-star resister, I took her words into my being and chose to do it differently going forward. I’ve created a lot of support for doing this, and I’m practicing with all the things I write about in my book.
When my friend Isabel died at age 90, I asked her what wisdom she’d like to share, and she answered,
“Every single change in my whole life, without exception, was always for the better.”
I now experience every change that occurs with a different set of eyes. My eyes see with practical gladness, and I know that whatever has happened, is happening, or will happen, I choose to be glad as often as I possibly can. I choose to feel all of my feelings, all of my life. Which does not make me a mindlessly-positive person who tells people to just “look on the bright side.” Those people annoy me.
Go to http://www.planetsark.com/ to sign up for my free, colorful handwritten eLetter and receive news about my upcoming book: Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity, being published by New World Library in Fall 2010.