Yesterday afternoon I found myself in a place I don’t like very much, feeling sorry for myself. Now you might think, “Wait a minute, you are a life coach, aren’t you supposed to be able to stop yourself from feeling all of those negative feelings?” The fact of the matter is just because I have been trained as a life coach doesn’t mean I no longer experience the full variety of emotions just like everyone else, or get a little down in the dumps too.
Before I get too far off track let me get back to what I want to share with you. As I said, I was feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t invited to my brother’s 40th birthday party. You see, we had a falling out some years ago and while there is still love between us we don’t have much to do with each other. I have to be honest and share the fact that I made a mistake in my life that caused him to lose respect for me. I don’t beat myself up for the mistake because there have been a flood of valuable lessons that came from it. Now, had I not learned anything, it would have remained a mistake but instead it was exactly what I needed to happen at that time in my life in order to address a part of me that hadn’t seen much success, relationships.
Back to my story, so here I was yesterday, lamenting about the fact that I was left out of the celebration. Of course that righteous indignation came up inside to try to make me feel better. Now this is where my spiritual training and the education to become a life coach came in to play. First, I became conscious (spiritual training) that I was allowing feelings to be confused with facts (life coach education). The only facts in this situation are that my brother and I don’t talk much anymore and I wasn’t invited to his 40th birthday celebration. The act of feeling sorry for myself was being fueled by opinions that my ego was using to fuel the “poor me” feeling and “my family doesn’t care”, etc. Now that I had realized what I was doing I knew I was going to have to dig a little deeper into what I was feeling in order to see what was behind it. Naturally there were some deeper feelings that came up and I looked at them closely. The conversation I was having went something like this…
“I know I screwed up and I know his feelings got hurt, but after everything that’s changed since that time how can he not see that I am not the same person I used to be. You know, where does he get off judging me, like he hasn’t ever made a mistake? It must be hell to have to judge everyone and cut the ones out of your life that don’t fit your standards. I wonder who made him judge and jury!”
Now I know a lot of people have conversations that are similar because they’ve shared them with me. Certainly, I could have just kept on with that negative conversation and allowed myself to become more angry and indignant at the injustice I perceived to be applied to me, but something happened that stopped me dead in my tracks.
It was dinner time and I wasn’t much in the mood for cooking for my son and me, so I headed into town to pick up dinner. When it came time to pay, I handed the employee a $20 bill and she gave me the change, a $5 bill and a few coins. As she handed me the bill I noticed that there was something written across the front of it and I found that interesting because I while waiting in line I had noticed a web site address stamped on the $20 bill I had just used to pay for our dinner.
The word stamped on the $5 bill was “Gratitude.” Just a coincidence? First of all, I don’t believe there are many coincidences, and secondly how ironic that just at the time I was playing the “poor me” game and paying attention to what people wrote on paper currency I was handed a bill that had the one word I needed at that very moment in time. When I got in my car, I laughed at how everything I need seems to come exactly at the time I need it, then I sat there for a bit to consider what “gratitude” meant in the context of how I was feeling. Well, gratitude is the feeling of being grateful so naturally my thoughts turned to looking at what I have to be grateful for as a result of what some people might say were the “mistakes” that I’ve made throughout my life.
Well it didn’t take long for me to realize that those so-called mistakes weren’t really mistakes at all. They were, in fact, opportunities for awareness and change. When I looked closely what resulted from those “mistakes” I quickly realized that they were actually messages letting me know that some aspect of my life was out of balance and needed adjustment. If I ignored the first message I was sure to get another one down the road and chances were that the next one would be harder to ignore. Had I simply done nothing about them or chosen not to accept responsibility for my actions, then those messages would have remained mistakes. The fact of the matter is that some of the most precious things in my life are a result of what people who claimed to love me would call mistakes, then use them to cast their judgment upon me.
As I drove home, I knew I needed to reflect on what I was grateful for in my life. I thought about the amazing friends that I have, the ones that know my deepest secrets, yet they still love me unconditionally. Then I felt the love of my children and how much joy they have given me in my life. It came to light that the brothers and sisters who I am close with love me without prejudice and their love isn’t subject to some arbitrary judgment based upon their own perceptions. How fortunate am I that the people in my life love me for the person I am today and not who I was or who they would like me to be! I began to feel much better so I continued by appreciating the fact that I am able to hop in a comfortable car, drive a short distance to town, have the money to buy dinner, and drive back to a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, while there are multitudes of people who have none of those things, people who don’t have homes, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and fear for their lives inside their own homes.
I have so much love and joy in my life from those who choose to look at who I have become that I realized there is no room in my life for the negative, judgmental, unhappy, and angry people who are looking for reasons to be offended. It also came to me that the fact my brother and I haven’t reconciled has, for the most part, been my choice so I wasn’t left out of anything I wanted to be a part of anyway. It has been my choice to limit my connection to him and the other people that had been in my life who use judgment as a fuel to feel superior to others in order to compensate for their own feelings of inadequacy. I have chosen to put a layer of protection between myself and the unhappy, angry people who have learned to apply conditions to the love they give. I made a conscious decision to live a life that is energized by feelings and consciousness instead of surrendering to my egoic mind. I have done the work so that I feel empowered, not threatened, when I help others reach their full potential. In the end, as sad as it may sound, the fact of the matter is some people can’t be comfortable in a relationship with someone who refuses to build themselves up on a foundation which is created at the expense of the spiritual and emotional well being of others.
Yes, I have more to be grateful for in my life than most people and it not because I am lucky, I believe it’s because somewhere, somehow I was shown a positive way to deal with what life brings my way. I believe in part, it’s because I have gone through the process of learning how to live from the heart and not just the mind. Certainly it’s has something to do with the fact that I’ve allowed myself to accept the pain of the past, allowed myself to forgive those who I believe were responsible, and finally leave it in the past where it belongs so I could get on with my life.
Now you might ask why I would share all of this with my readers, many of whom I have never met. I did so because I want others to learn from my experiences. I want those who are hurting, lonely, or feeling sorry for themselves to be able to interrupt their current thought pattern and look at the important things in their life from another perspective.
Here are some the more important points I hope you take away from this:
1st) Look, everyone makes mistakes, some little and some not so little. Remember that it isn’t the mistakes you make in your life that reflect your character, it’s how you respond to those mistakes.
2nd) When we learn from a mistake it can no longer be called a mistake, for it has been transformed into a lesson.
3rd) We are all the same! There is not one person that is any better or worse than another. While there are others that are more hurt or angry, that doesn’t make them any less of a person. By no means does that imply that we have to make them a part of our lives, but it does carry with it a realization that each of us respond differently to pain, sorrow, and fear, and that tearing other people down for the sake of stroking our own ego only serves to create more hurt in their lives. To act in such a way is the epitome of weakness.
4th) We get to choose who we have in our lives so take some time and reflect on the people in your life then consider whther they bring joy or negativity into your world. It’s alright to put space between you and the ones that don’t give you joy, even if they are family. When it comes to family members the decision might be more difficult but it can be made easier by asking yourself a simple question, “If this person weren’t in my family, would I want them for a friend?”
5th) As often as you can throughout the day, reflect on one or more the the gifts you have to be grateful for in your life. Never start or end your day without doing this in order to be sure you don’t take a single one for granted.
6th) “Mistakes” and “Problems” are nothing more than opportunities waiting for solutions to be discovered. They are the feedback that we need in order to make corrections over the course of our lives.
7th) This is somewhat related to the fourth point, but it’s one of the most important so it needs its own space. Look, it’s hard enough to deal with all of the judgment we heap on ourselves from day to day, so why would we want to allow judgmental people to be a part of our life? We cannot allow the people that talk about others, who criticize and demean the very people they supposedly care about if we truly want to be happy. Having relationships with these kinds of people will damage an individual’s self-esteem and cause unnecessary emotional pain due to the fact that the longer we allow them to be a part of our lives the harder we will work to try to please them. The fact of the matter is that no one will ever be good enough for them because they think they are better than everyone else. These people can also be identified by the anger that comes out when someone disagrees with their opinion or points out a mistake they made.
So was it a coincidence that I was given a $5 bill stamped with the word “Gratitude” when I was feeling sorry for myself? Did I mention that I don’t believe in coincidences?