Noticing Gifts

“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” –  Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I was speaking to a client the other day about things that we learn in life and how each of them seems to have to be learned personally even though generations before us have tried to impart the knowledge. We often don’t value the wisdom of people who have already experienced part of a journey. In this case, we were talking about aging and accomplishments. She is approaching thirty and feels as if time is running out for her to reach some of her goals. I made the comment that I recall thinking the same thing and then I didn’t finish grad school until age fifty. I assured her there is plenty of time. She said, “yeah, that’s what everyone tells me”. The thought occurred to me that if ‘everyone is saying it’ – might it really be true?? What would we do differently if we actually ‘believed’ the information that people who went before us, shared? How can it be wrong if everyone says it?

Now… keep in mind that I’m speaking about life experience here – not whether or not the world is actually flat or that infections can’t be cured. I realize that there are a time and place to forge ahead with one’s own hypothesis but we weren’t talking science or metaphysics. We were keeping it pretty simple that day and focusing on accomplishments. Age is only a number!

When I turned thirty, I believed my ability to impact the world was over. For some reason, I had the mindset that if I was going to be accomplished or achieve anything significant, I would have to be half way there. I wasn’t. I had not finished college, hadn’t had any great success in my job at that point, and had recently quit altogether. I had decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a while – a decision that my step-father thought was a tremendous waste of ‘my talents’ – whatever they were. I never could have imagined the road that has led me to where I am today – never!!

I believe one of the challenges we face in adulthood is having the patience to allow the Universe to deliver. We – at least those of us with control issues – are so often focused on what we think needs to be happening that we don’t just allow unfolding. We get tunnel vision – rigid expectations of how things should be. Indeed, sometimes our sight is so focused on a specific vision that we fail to notice what is right in front of us.

 

I wrote a book. I’ve said it isn’t the book I thought I was going to write when I imagined it all this time but today, after talking with a very special person, I noticed a few more dots that I hadn’t connected before. I see the perfection in what has happened – in the way that it happened and I realize that God had delivered exactly what I had asked for. In our discussion, I imagined exactly how I see the cover of the book – a dilemma I’ve recently considered. It makes sense to me in a way that I hadn’t been open to contemplating before. I continue to stand in awe at the Universe’s ability to manifest exactly what is good for us – when it is good.

Late this past summer I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I love the way that she writes and being the aspiring creative that I am, I loved what she wrote on those pages. She touts “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them”. I know that to be a true statement.

I feel like I walked in circles around an idea, never really allowing it to stand out because I anticipated that it would look a certain way. When it jiggled my mind, I ignored it because it didn’t fit the vision I had. And then, I just trusted. I started something without an expectation of what it would be and in the end… it was that idea – the one that had pulled at me and I saw it clearly.

It was there the whole time but it didn’t look the way I thought it would and so – I didn’t recognize it. I’ve had this lesson before! A few years after Rocky died, I was ready to marry again, I wanted more children but nothing was happening in the dating realm. My options were bleak and I was headed toward 30. I was convinced that it might not be in the cards for me. And then… I had an epiphany. I realized that a family was still possible in any number of possible ways. I could meet a man with children – I could have children later than I imagined – I could adopt a six-year-old… really, the vision I had of my life was so rigid that only one possibility seemed desirable until I considered how many others were plausible.

I had imagined a life of ABC but got a life of XYZ…. Same alphabet, just different letters. Instead of green bows on the gifts, they were red. Because I was looking for green ones, I never stopped to consider that what I wanted was in the boxes with red bows.

Today, I realized that I was noticing that lesson over again. Funny how we forget what we know and need to be reminded! Christianity teaches us (Matthew 7:7) “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find” – that God wants to give us the things that we ask for. The Law of Attraction tells us to ‘visualize what you want and you will manifest it’. Oprah taught us that “you get in life what you have the courage to ask for”.

I’m not sure which one of those universal truths or guiding statements is responsible for the progress I’ve made here over the last several months but I know that I’ve just trusted it to happen – with no expectations of what it will look like. I trusted it by staying present. By focusing not on what I was going to accomplish that day specifically but by relying on the here and now… what is happening now? What is the message at this moment? What do I feel led toward at present? I did only what felt authentic in real time and today, I realized that it was there all along. The book I had imagined years ago, was sitting right there, ready to be written.

I can’t help but consider how many other areas of my life this applies to? What am I missing by structuring my vision so strictly? How many times do I need to learn this lesson?

My client imagined her life a particular way by the age of 30 – as I had. She had a very narrow perspective of how to get there and how it would unfold. I never allowed myself to write because I couldn’t figure out how to get from where I was to what I imagined and without a specific and direct plan I didn’t want to go forward.

The substance here is the principle of trust; of believing that it will be exactly what we need – when we most need it but only recognizable if we have opened our mind to ALL potentialities. Don’t allow yourself to be so focused that what you are seeking goes unnoticed.

Soul Theory and Chances

Continued from Stepping Out

“The purpose of our journey on this precious Earth is now to align our personalities with our souls. It is to create harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life.
It is to grow spiritually.” ~ Gary Zukav

Taking classes online meant that almost all my work was writing – probably 98%. We had discussion questions to post and respond to, as well as papers to write, in most classes, weekly. The discussions were designed to generate critical thinking. Why?? We were always asking why. Why do you think that way? Where does that originate from? What are you trying to accomplish? The student body was much more diversified than the undergrad scene I had just come from and so it was a pleasure to have in-depth conversations with people who had some life experience under their belt as well.

By Spring, I was deep into learning different counseling theories. As it turns out, mental health counseling was a rather ‘new’ profession – not derived from psychology – as most of us probably assume as I did. It morphed from the Parsons vocational counseling efforts which began just after the turn of the twentieth century. Up to that point, Psychiatrists and Psychologists gave mental health advice – predominately at the doctorate level and they are trained in a ‘medical model’. Essentially, a medical model attempts to determine what is wrong or broken physically (i.e., brain chemistry) and then works to ‘fix’ it. The counseling profession today is mostly designed to address mental health from a ‘strengths’ perspective. We consider all the things that are good – what skills, attributes, resources, etc., do you already possess that can help you move through the challenges that you face on a day to day basis?

There are a half dozen or so mainstream theories on human behavior in the counseling field and very few therapists today use one of them exclusively. Most of us begin by utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in its core form – looking at how we think and then encouraging supportive behavior to reinforce new / improved thoughts. Along the way, we will inject tidbits from other ideologies such as…. humanistic, existential, and transpersonal concepts.

One of my final papers was to conceptualize and present a new, personal theory of counseling. I called it Soul Theory. It was complete with a view of human nature, therapeutic goals, anticipated client experience, and therapeutic techniques. It also outlined therapists function and roles along with a guide to direct the relationship between the therapist and client. The basic tenant was this:

In soul theory, it is postulated that an individual is comprised of not only body and mind, but also of the soul.  It is the soul’s purpose to guide the human existence on a journey toward the ability to experience complete unconditional love at all times.  When the soul is in balance with the body and mind – in a state of love – behavior is normalized and absent of maladaptive patterns or pathology.  The human experience of emotional states is the result of an imbalance between the soul and one’s behavior or thoughts.  Soul theory is based on the premise that the soul is connected directly to the divine and is all knowing.

I’ve added the paper in its entirety as a page for anyone interested in reading and thinking about it.

I was more fortunate than many and didn’t have to do anything except concentrate on school. When the girls left for high school each morning, I grabbed my coffee cup and headed into my home office where I was able to sit in a comfortable chair and work on a recent model desktop computer. I stayed in my jammies most days until mid-afternoon. Occasionally, I would grab a textbook and head out to the hot tub to study. It wasn’t a bad life and I expressed gratitude for it on a daily basis. The one thing that ex-Hubby always deserves credit for is making that deposit every month that allowed me to educate myself and raise our daughters. I am grateful to him for that privilege. It was a solitary life, though. I was in the house alone or with teens all of the time. Once in a while I would go to lunch with a friend or talk with a neighbor but it wasn’t ‘company’ or ‘companionship’ and I am a social creature… I wanted to meet someone. I wanted to hold hands and kiss and… well – I was craving camaraderie with someone of the opposite sex.

By now it was late October and the quandary was still the dating thing – it just wasn’t my style really and yet, how does one meet someone in Suburbia? I meditated on it for over a week, I prayed and allowed my mind to be open for an answer. I sat quietly during the day for a month or more and ‘heard’ that I needed to put myself out there. I knew I needed to ‘open the door’ at least so that the Universe could send people my way. A month had gone by and Thanksgiving had passed, Christmas was around the corner… time was passing and I was still lonely. I decided to do it in the least aggressive, least intrusive, and least risky manner… I refreshed my Match.com profile and promised myself that I wouldn’t sit there for hours looking through profiles but I would wait. That was the open door – a picture and a paragraph that offered a glimpse of myself, of my life. I vowed to respond to anyone – everyone who made an effort to reach out to me after all, I didn’t know who they might be and I secretly self-pledged not to judge the people knocking on the proverbial door.

And there was nothing for a solid week. I was beginning to feel like a true loser. I asked the Universe again… “what’s going on”? I would whisper to myself in my thoughts / prayers and I got busy preparing for the holidays.

Just after the first of December, I received an email notifying me that there was a message in my Match.com inbox. The tagline of the message was ‘You have a nice smile’. Ahh… that’s cute – a bit corny, but cute. I liked the idea that someone noticed ‘a smile’ and that it prompted him to mention it. I clicked on the profile of the person who had messaged me and saw a man in sunglasses, sitting down but looking kind of ‘up’ toward the camera. He was wearing dark clothing and had a grin – not a smile – on his face. Crap. I couldn’t see his eyes. I put a lot of stock in what I saw in someone’s eyes.

I could tell by reading his personal paragraph that he was eight years older than me, was divorced a few years ago, and bought his clothing at EMS. I’ll admit that I had to look up what kind of store EMS was and I thought it was a bit strange that someone would tell me – actually, the world – where they bought their clothes, but o.k., perhaps it was an identity thing. After researching EMS, I got a handle on a guy who was probably athletic and ‘earthy’. Simple.

I could tell by his photograph that he had blondish hair and a HUGE mustache. That would be different for me – I never got too into facial hair but hey… I was on an adventure. He claimed to be six foot four inches – Yay for me! A tall guy. I ‘winked’ back at him. I had no idea what the proper ‘protocol’ was and I had asserted to myself that I was NOT going to be aggressively pursuing a companion. I wanted to be chased a bit.

I was about to find out if I had any ‘flirting’ energy left in my spirit.