Recently I have been surrounded by loss in my life and in my clients’ lives. Recognizing the temporary and fragile nature of life has a way of clarifying priorities. In Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, she shares that most prevalent regrets of the people she worked with in palliative care are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Knowing the end will happen, even if you don’t know the timing, what are the opportunities you want to engage with in your life? Is there anything on your Someday Maybe List that is really a priority now? Let yourself be open to seeing the possibilities of moving in that direction. Allow your wisdom to guide you and simply take the next step toward it.
With the busyness of life, relationships often fall on to the back burner and become routine rather than alive. They are also often the fall guy for upset. We blame our partner for our unhappiness rather than recognize that happiness comes from within. I found myself asking a client recently what were his missed opportunities for showing up in a loving way in his relationship. It is always easy to see the missed opportunities of our partner, but ours are often invisible to us. However, our blind spots can also become our learning curve.
In relationships, one of the key missed opportunities is seeing the good in our partner and enjoying them exactly as they are. It is easy to get pulled into critical thinking and fall into the trap of believing life would be better if my partner were different. If only he/she was more/less __________, I would be happier. This immediately puts us in the victim position. It places our happiness outside of ourselves.
I am absolutely on the learning curve with this. Angus is currently away in London for a family member’s funeral and apparently also enjoying box seats at his favorite football club. I have been missing him and feeling sad. It looks like my happiness is dependent on him being physically present in my life. This is common for me. I often drop into a low mood when we are apart in a way that is not reasonable or rational.
I used to judge myself for this and see it as a weakness. In fact, I spent many years trying to be impervious to needing Angus or suffering if he wasn’t there. All this did was keep me with one foot out of the relationship. This took a tremendous toll on the goodwill and warmth in our marriage. It wasn’t all of the time, but when I would get spooked, my way of coping was to entertain thoughts of not being in the relationship — all in an attempt to protect myself. My feelings felt too much for me to handle so I would think, and sometimes-even talk, about jumping ship.
At the time, I wasn’t able to see my feelings were a reflection of my distorted thinking and not caused by Angus’s behavior. It really seemed to me if he were different then I would feel okay. I didn’t understand that my fearful thoughts were habitual and would come up independent of who I was with or even if I was with anyone at all. I didn’t see that my growth opportunity was to learn to not take my negative thinking seriously so I would be less scared by it. My edge was to become less reactive to the projection of my thoughts when they looked disturbing to me, and to see that my projection of reality shifts as my thinking naturally changes and settles down.
When my thinking got stirred up, I would lose perspective and project the reality of Angus being a terrible husband, when I was settled and calm I would project the reality of Angus being a wonderful husband independent of his behavior. I create the lens through which I see him. If I am disturbed the disturbance is a result of my lens and not him. Even if he was behaving badly, if I had perspective, I would not be disturbed by his behavior and be able to see he was having a hard time. However, without perspective, I would see his behavior through the lens of my fearful thoughts and think the worst of him. This isn’t a problem if I don’t take my thoughts seriously, but it creates more suffering if I start reacting to my perception.
It was through having an experience of feeling my innate wellbeing deeply and having my personal thinking get really quiet that I, all of a sudden, found myself two feet in the relationship. I hadn’t intended for this to happen. I had resigned myself to making the best of me being willing to be in my marriage most of the time. I wasn’t even focused on trying to improve our relationship. I thought it was good enough. Then without any effort on my part, I was all in.
I stopped fighting and resisting my love for Angus when I was more connected with my true nature and felt my innate resilience as a result of this. With love comes vulnerability, and with a greater experience of resilience I was able to tolerate my vulnerability better. Being all in means I am open to feeling deeply both the good and the difficult feelings of loss, rejection, abandonment. This is a gift. Previously, I was so afraid of the difficult feelings that I held back my love as a way to try and manage my experience. This was a lose-lose scenario. Nobody wins when love is being withheld, and I have found out there is nothing better than being all in. I wasn’t really protecting myself from anything. I was simply cutting myself off from feeling the depth of my love, or said another way the depth of my true nature. Love is behind it all so we may as well wake up to it and feel all of the human emotions that come with being open and vulnerable.
The aliveness and presence is worth it. The freedom from our own judgments and attempts to manage our experience is exhilarating. Riding the ups and downs of the human emotional experience rather than trying to change the journey fills us up, and we feel the resilience of the greater intelligence of love/spirit/God behind it all that holds us. We feel it more and that out weighs any of the discomfort on the emotional level. That connection with our soul shrinks the human experience down to a manageable size even when things feel unmanageable.
We are all on the journey of waking up to our true nature more fully. This has nothing to do with our personality and self-improvement. It simply means that we grow more room in our hearts for ourselves and others exactly as we are. We have more compassion for our humanness. This does seem to bring out the best in us more of the time, but it does not eliminate our human fragilities. Nonetheless, we may as well not hold back and simply be ourselves. We can bring the gift of living fully and allowing ourselves to be seen warts and all as we learn to be kind to each other along the way.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.