last weekend i was with my oldest friend and her husband and we got to talking about how there are individual themes in your life that will always be there. i was specifically talking about how i found those old journals and was split on how it felt that i essentially deal with the same issues today that i was dealing with 13 years ago. i think i got past the life hump where you realize that life is never fixed and smooth sailing. like, you don’t fix all your problems with yourself and then begin to really live. that’s not how it works.
so during this conversation last weekend, he said that what we were talking about reminded him of something a teacher told him about meditation. the teacher said, “the problems you have with meditation now are the problems you will always have.” instead of being bummed out by that, my friend was relieved to hear this information, explaining that at least you know what your problems will be.
i liked the analogy. reading about myself in my 20s at first kind of scared me to death, the similarities on the topics i still deal with: self-esteem, race, dating, relationships, drinking, identity, boundaries, family. when i read them, i was struck by the simplicity/directness/pinpointing of the reasoning. i have evolved, but i was confronted with a … like a 1-2 punch to the heart of the issues…
with men. having a dad who was always described as a wonderful man who couldn’t be there, i developed a long-term pattern of inviting interesting men who wouldn’t/couldn’t stay to use me for a time and then leave.
with boundaries. having all these weird enmeshed relationships with people, generally friends, sometimes ambiguous romance. losing myself by focusing on what they need. putting myself last until i couldn’t take it anymore and reatreat. repeat cycle.
with self-esteem and identity. not feeling comfortable in my own skin for so long. ignoring race, trying to outrun race. not black enough. certainly not white. the shameful secret of not knowing who to be. never feeling fully comfortable with anyone. feeling safe only by myself.
with drinking. my sweet, magical potion that i utilized to just not fucking care about safety, about race, about appearances, about my faults. it was fascinating to read how at 22 i was already questioning alcohol’s place in my life. i’m really happy it has no place anymore.
it was amazing to me, reading that journal, where i was then and where i am now. just like my friend’s teacher said, the problems you have now are the problems you will always have. i first viewed that as sad, terrifying, depressing. but why can’t it be great? there are themes in my life. i know what the main themes will be, and i learn to deal with them. i have learned many things over the past 13 years in each thematic area.
i’m learning to work with my problems.
i think that’s what we all do. we don’t solve our problems, we don’t make them go away. if we can learn to accept the themes in our lives and figure out how to work with them, that is our success.
the other day i had this client who was talking about her own problems with judging herself. she began to talk about these small bursts of freedom where she allowed things to just be, where she didn’t force perfection and punishment on herself. i encouraged her to tell me more about what freedom felt like. she said, “it feels like when you wake up in the morning and the sun is shining and you weren’t expecting it. but you wake up and it’s just there.” i thought that was a really lovely picture of how someone else who struggles with perfectionism, self-judgment, and low self-esteem pictures the freedom that comes from giving yourself a break. freedom from our issues is so important.
this is what i love about my work. i’m never gonna be fixed, i’m not going to fix my clients. but i get to learn from them everyday. it’s really beautiful work sometimes.