“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”–Anais Nin
Someone I love very much had his heart broken last weekend. Yes, Valentine’s Day weekend. On the biggest day for love and togetherness, I know he was not the only one suffering. I usually talk about taking risks in business but it is the same for love.
As a clinical psychologist turned web-marketing guru, I know that loving and letting ourselves be loved takes an immense amount of courage. It is one of the bravest things we can do. It’s not a stretch to say that it’s like putting yourself out there in your business or on your website, because both require vulnerability and perhaps failing more than a time or two. So despite the painful stories we have desperately been holding onto, we have to reach out and make and connections, even when we think we can’t possibly take that risk again.
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Wired to Connect
People need people. We are herd animals. Occasionally, it’s great to have a pajama day, and hole up alone and watch movies all day. In the long run, though, it is not good for us to go it alone.
I was reminded of this recently while watching “Law & Order” (one of my guilty pleasures, and how can there be so many of them?). Detective Elliot Stabler couldn’t believe that a defendant had gone psychotic from spending so much time in solitary confinement. Stabler set out to disprove this by having a prison guard lock him up in solitary for three days. It didn’t take long for macho man Stabler to lose all sense of time and start freaking out. When the guard let him out, he went ballistic convinced he had been left there for over a week. But it was only three days. When we are separated from our pack, it doesn’t take long for our mental health to suffer.
Even though we are social creatures, it doesn’t take much for us to get hurt, and for that hurt to scar us and become emotionally fragile. When confronted with the possibility of new opportunities, we tell ourselves a story based upon hurts and fears about what happened to us before, and make up viewpoints like they were reality.
These stories might as well be etched in stone. What we can’t have or do that might actually be the just thing we need to do next to have love/success.
A long time ago, I was really devastated after one of my major heartbreaks and was moping around and talking to a friend about how sad it was that my relationship didn’t work out. He stopped me and said, “But it is going to work out”. I stopped in my tracks, turned to him and asked, “How do you know it’s going to work out?” He said, one of the most important things I ever learned, “It always works out, just not how you thought it would.”
Yes it is sad that something didn’t work out like we thought it would, or that we lost whatever or whomever in our lives—but these stories become our beliefs, and many of us live our whole lives accordingly when maybe it was working out. To live otherwise whether in love or business, will keep us stuck in a life that gets smaller and smaller as we go on.
Claiming New Possibilities: Three Examples
As painful as it is to try something new and risk heartbreak again, we can choose to have a different story today. Let me share how several friends came around to a new reality.
You probably know by now, that I love dogs. This past year, my friend Renee lost her three greyhounds to different illnesses one at a time. Losing one dog at a time is enough to lay you low, so I knew how hard it was on Renee. After a few months, I asked her if there was another dog in her near future. She insisted that she just couldn’t handle it and that it would be a long time before she was ready.
But then, she saw a picture of Milo. The cutest little face ever. She was mush. The mush changed her story. Her hurt was real but she let go and moved towards letting herself love that sweet dog. Today little Milo is with Renee and her husband, and they are a very happy family.
Another friend had been in some long-term relationships but never married. She had yet to find the person who loved to make her happy. At age 57, she decided to try OKCupid.com. She met a man with four grown kids, whose wife had died of cancer. He and my friend share the same political beliefs and similar interests, and they knew pretty quickly that they had a good thing. They married several years ago. As I prepared to write this post, he tagged me in a Facebook post thanking me for letting them use my beach house a couple of years ago. The best thing is that he just loves to make her happy, and he shared with me this picture of her standing at the end of the dune walkover looking out at the water. This, he told me, was one of the favorite pictures of his bride. How great is that to be so sweet on her online? They both took a chance and opened themselves to risk and possibility. To a new story together.
My sister Linda was age 55 and divorced for some time when she and her single daughter, loaded up the Tinder one night just joking around. You see, Tinder is a dating/hookup app that had just come out. It lets you discover people nearby, see what they look like and show your interest in each person by swiping their image to the left – a no or the right- a yes.
To Linda’s surprise, she saw a guy she liked and swiped to the right. It so happened that was Tom, a dentist in Atlanta goaded on by his kids, was also just checking out Tinder. He saw Linda and immediately swiped right. They have been dating now for a couple of years, and I haven’t met a more suited pair. They are both from big families, have grown children, love to travel, cook and entertain. I am so glad they found each other, even if it involved an app that the younger generation uses for one-night stands! Who knew?
What Real Connections and Openness Looks Like
I don’t mean to say that happiness depends on having a soul mate. Most of us have very conventional pictures of what is acceptable. If we let go of our old story, we have the story of what would be appropriate, and we have to let go of that story too. The truth is that relating can look a lot of ways.
After my divorce, I had joint custody of my teenaged kids. When they weren’t around, it was a bit lonely rattling around my place. I had plenty of extra room. My friend Robin and I got talking one day and decided that she would move in. It worked for her since she was able to rent out her place and save money. We both look back on that year as one of the best in our lives. Despite my somewhat fragile post-divorce state of mind, I have to say, I had a blast. She got me into dancing, we went to festivals; we were there for each other through the ups and downs of dating in the late forties. I loved that year together.
Another example happened before that, the first Christmas morning after my divorce. I woke up that day alone for the first time in my life. My kids were having Christmas at their dad’s house. The man I was dating (now my husband) was with his kids at his ex-wife’s house and I was alone, on the verge of feeling sorry for myself when the doorbell rang.
It was my handyman, Leroy wondering if I had any work for him. I was so happy to see him! I fixed a great breakfast for us and then we worked together in the yard for the rest of that sunny Christmas day. Leroy didn’t have anyone in his life and I was glad he reached out and came over, and that I got over myself and used his offer of help to change the day for both of us. Leroy is no longer with us, and that day together is one of my fondest memories.
There are lots of ways to love and have people in your life, and connect to the greater world around you—if you choose to step away from tired old stories that keep you stuck. You can’t change what happened in your life. What happened most likely was bad and very painful but you can choose how you feel and what you do. You can take a risk to tell a different story in love and in business, it is the way to success.
Challenging the beliefs you have that aren’t rational and aren’t working for you. I promise it will work out. And sometimes, in fact most times things works out beyond our wildest dreams.