I’ve had the chance to visit with friends over the past few days. Three very different people who have all had to deal with very challenging situations in the past few years. They hold one thing in common: they took action, making significant changes to feel better. I respect that.
Their collective resourcefulness was highlighted yesterday as one friend shared his impending move to a new job after over 20 years with the same company. He was nervous but excited to be taking a huge risk with great potential rewards. It had been quite a while since he’d enjoyed his work, so imagine that.
As this friend was describing this exciting opportunity, I realized how important it is for all of us to make changes if we’re not happy where we are. I’ve never understood people who stay in situations that clearly make them unhappy. People who work every day in a job they hate or stay much too long in a relationship that is unhealthy or unhappy.
As a psychologist, I’m not the most patient with clients who want to complain about their situation but don’t want to do anything to make things better. I can only be supportive for so long before I want to shake them. (I never have, don’t worry.) But I remember a supervisor once telling me that it’s not necessarily empathic to nod and say “Boy, that’s tough!” for too long because you won’t be helping the client figure out how to make things better.
Sure, there are things we can’t change–I’ll always have two blood disorders and an ugly blood clot, barring unexpected medical advances–but we can still figure out how to make the best of a challenging situation. If I can’t control these ailments, I can control how I approach life despite them. I can choose to be happy and live well.
I don’t mean to preach because I don’t always succeed at this myself. Trust me, I kissed my share of Princesses Charming before I found someone as caring and loving and kind and loyal and patient as J. And maybe I’m just lucky that I happened upon work I really enjoy. I admit I left one job I hated only to pre-empt my firing.
Do I deal with problems more expediently now that I’m older and wiser? Not always. In the year before I was diagnosed with leukemia, I was I-forgot-to-rinse-out-my-shampoo and I-got-into-three-minor-car-accidents and I-was-a-walking-zombie exhausted before I decided I needed to reduce my workload. J. had been urging me to cut back my workload for some time before I actually did. Of course, I immediately realized I should have cut back much sooner.
The other wise thing this fellow said yesterday is that we can’t live with regrets. Maybe we wished we’d left that job/relationship/hairdresser sooner, but we didn’t, so there’s no point dwelling on that. Might as well just get on with it. Now that’s a great idea if I’ve ever heard one.