A gentleman I know recently described an aspect of his childhood that felt different from mine yet familiar. “As a child, I slept under an army blanket with no top sheet. I learned how to lie very still, because whenever I moved, it would be scratchy and uncomfortable. I learned to lie still, to stay in one place while I slept.”
How many of you have learned to adapt to what is until you realized that there was another better way available to you?
I don’t think they had 400-threadcount sheets when I was growing up, but we definitely had fully-made beds. My physical comfort was not an issue. I had the freedom to thrash around in my sleep, could rely on three meals a day and a paid-for college education. For that, I am extremely grateful.
My adaptation looked different, but felt the same, as I learned to not make waves in my family. I remember describing my childhood to a therapist, then remarking, “I should have been happy.” I thought I was. We were a ‘looking-good’ family. You should see the pictures! Same thing in my marriage. I had everything I thought I wanted: a husband, three great kids, a house in the ‘burbs and satisfying work. It wasn’t until I was 41 that I discovered that what was passing for happiness may not have been the real deal. Whatever wakes you up, wakes you up.
What roused me was attending a group that shows love in a way I’d never before experienced. Back then, for the first time ever, I realized that what had been passing for happiness wasn’t the full picture. In my new surroundings, I had the full focus of those present, time to share what was on my mind, and the assurance that whatever I spoke would be held in confidence and with respect and regard–not criticism or denial of my feeling.
I had not actually felt fully seen, admired and respected on a regular, reliable, renewable basis before entering this realm.
Yes, there were a few friends and teachers (Professor C, are you reading this?!) who did make me feel acknowledged and appreciated. But they had their families, other students and responsibilities. It wasn’t their full-time job to make me happy. It was, and will always be, my job. That’s why I needed something I could tap into, that was always available and unconditionally accepting for me to really grow.
It was in this unconditionally loving environment that I began to feel joy in a new way. I noticed that I had been settling for itchy-blanket comfort for most of my life. I’d taught myself to accept crumbs. Having now learned what being loved and seen felt like, I could no longer tolerate the other.
My early rebellion was messy, confrontive and immature. But it got me out of a toxic friendship, helped me shed other difficult relationships, and started me on a new path that has, in the decades that followed, brought me into a consciousness I had not dared dream about.
If you want to read more about my transformation, that’s what my memoir Too Much of Not Enough is all about. You can find the details there. I’m not proselytizing, but I do want you to understand how I got my seat on this ride.
And, I want to offer you the opportunity to transform as well. Not your whole life at once, but one aspect that’s itching you right now. Is there a relationship that’s no longer satisfying, a job that feels confining, the need to change something in your life? This fall I am offering a new program, Transformative Coaching Circles, for anyone wanting to make a significant change and needs support. I’ll be posting more about this in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for my announcement of dates, time and place. Give me a call (347-878-6096), or shoot me an email if you think this has your name on it. Groups will be small, curated and productive, and I’d love to work with you towards your greatest satisfaction.