This is the third in a three-part series on seeking life purpose. The first was posted on April 7 and the second on April 18, 2017.

A friend of mind came to me asking about her life purpose. A favorite way for me to explore complex issues like this one is using Tarot cards. She picked seven cards for a spread called “My Blind Spot.” Three, in particular, caught my attention.

In my first blog of this series we looked at the card she pulled for the position of “Blind Spot” – the Eight of Pentacles. The second blog examines the position of “What I don’t know, but everyone else does.” For that she pulled the King of Pentacles.

Even though these cards relate directly to my friend and her question, they may hold relevance for you as well. Since the cards and their meaning are all connected to each other in a spread, you may find it helpful to check out the two other blogs in this series.

At Last—A Feminine Counterpoint

The third card in my friend’s spread was the Queen of Cups. It landed in the position of “Insight.” Insight is the ability to see intuitively or to understand the inner nature of things. A card in this position can help us discern a deeper understanding of what was uncovered in the previous two cards and causes us to look at the situation through a different lens.

How interesting that a female figure shows up this time, and instead of a pentacle, she holds a cup. She is quite a contrast to the men in both the Eight and King of Pentacles. Let’s explore the differences as well as the details of the card.

First, she’s a queen! She has power and it resides within her. She knows what she wants and how to get it. How does she do that? With love! Cups represent emotions, intuition, love, and creativity—the intangible stuff, within and between people. This queen is also maternal. She’s sensitive to not only to her feelings, but to those of others. Cups are quite a contrast to the pentacles that showed up in the previous two cards. Pentacles represent things material like houses, jobs, cars and relationships (having a partner, friend, or colleague, but not necessarily loving him/her).

Listening to and Loving Oneself

At first blush, the Queen of Cups implies my friend could benefit by spending more time with and by herself. She may see this as a radical shift from how she spends time. The Eight of Pentacles is working, working, working while the King of Pentacles is doing for others or making sure others are taken care of on a material, tangible level. What if she were to simply love others, instead of doing for them?

The Tarot suggests she turn her focus inward for that is where the answer to her question resides. This queen stares intently at the ornate cup she’s holding. A.E. Waite, one of the creators of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, describes the cup as one that she has created. He goes on to say that it “symbolizes achievement brought about through using imagination.” (Pollack, Rachel, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom). In other words, this queen, when she allows herself to imagine what she wants, can make it real. The message to my friend might well be, “Indulge yourself. Love yourself. Give yourself time to imagine what you want. You can create it.”

Imagination Coupled with Love

Another important aspect must also be considered. Sheer will is not enough to create this cup. She must infuse the process with love—love of herself, her imagination, and her ability to create. This focus is starkly different from that of the pentacle cards. It’s not so much about doing (i.e., getting things done) or taking care of others, but letting oneself dream and getting excited about those dreams. That’s a form of self-love.

Maybe my friend hasn’t allowed herself this luxury of dreaming lately. Filling one’s day with a to-do list can easily block the tender dreams of a beginning life purpose seeker. How many times have we filled our day with tasks that don’t nourish our spirit or encroach on our alone-time? Probably, way too often.

The Insight

When it comes to answering the question of life purpose, this Queen must relinquish her role as King of Pentacles, that guy who spends most of his time overseeing his kingdom—the out there. It’s time for her to go inward and tend to her spiritual self.

In her book mentioned above, Rachel Pollack describes the cup this queen holds as having “a church-like shape.” Apparently before the modern age “all art expressed and glorified spiritual experience.” You see, for my friend to even ask the question about life purpose, indicates her spirit is nudging her for more attention. That elusive life purpose she seeks is within her. Spending more time meditating, walking in nature, and being by herself will likely lead to the next step of her self-discovery.

This may seem frivolous to a lot of us doers out there. When we are doing, we usually see the tangible results of our work. Spiritual work, however, doesn’t necessarily produce the tangible results we doers aim for. Instead it nurtures and nourishes our spirit. When that happens, life looks and feels different. What didn’t seem possible becomes possible.

The Tarot’s advice for my friend: “Seek the riches that lie within your spirit. The answer to your life purpose question will be revealed, especially if you listen to your spirit.”

For a Tarot reading, e-mail me at bev@alignyourlife.net or call  703.998.0880.

“You picked HIM!” That’s what a therapist said to me as I was licking my wounds from a failed relationship when I was in my twenties. My reply, “No, I didn’t!” Then I went on to explain that HE approached me and that some kind of chemistry enveloped me. I couldn’t escape. I was caught in the magical web of attraction.

Now more than 40 years later I finally got it—what the therapist was trying to tell me. I did choose HIM. I chose to write his name on my dance card, and then I chose to dance with him until he decided to dance with someone else. He left me. I was left holding the detritus of a fantasy.

I writhed in the grief of abandonment and victimhood for a good long while…actually too long. I claimed my victimhood, made depression my best friend and shrouded myself with self-protection. As much as I wanted another relationship, I wasn’t going to let this scenario happen again. The sad thing is that it happened several more times.

And why was I seeking a relationship anyway? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating under the false premise that if I had a relationship I would be complete. It was the tangible proof I was lovable—a necessary notch in my self-esteem. Without it who was I?

Are You Really Taking Responsibility?

Taking responsibility is not an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been ignoring its role in your life or worse—thinking you’ve been taking responsibility all along when, in fact, you haven’t been.

This notion started coming clear to me just a few years ago. The story begins in 2005, when I started a new career as a Tarot card reader. As destiny would have it, I quickly met and became friends with a Tarot entrepreneur in my area. I was hungry to learn. She offered classes, workshops with renowned Tarot experts and opportunities to read at Tarot parties. Why wouldn’t I befriend her?

About a year later, she suggested we teach a class together using Tarot cards and essential oils to unlock blocks to prosperity. It was a cool idea and since I teach and create classes, I was in. As we developed the class I started noticing her sidelining my ideas. She named the class, wrote the marketing materials and developed the agenda. My job was to say yes and carry out the role she had slotted for me.

Sacrificing Integrity

That insidious feeling of “being controlled” started inserting itself into my psyche. I expressed my concerns, but timidly because I felt beholden to her for all those opportunities previously mentioned that she appeared to offer. Ah, the classic case of sacrificing your integrity in order to get something you believe you can’t get on your own. I saw her as my doorway to new people, experiences and business. Arguing with her that my ideas merited attention wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t jeopardize the relationship if I wanted to get more of the “goodies” she offered.

I am not proud to admit this. On the other hand, this friendship did give me many opportunities to learn more about who I am and how I choose to live my life. We had a friendship for at least nine years and during that time I learned a lot, not only about Tarot but about myself. The control factor, however, became intolerable. I found I didn’t trust her. I didn’t want to share my thoughts and feelings with her. I wanted her to go away. Eventually I went away.

Two years later I learned about the Emotional Freedom Technique, known as EFT or tapping. Because I kept stewing about this relationship, I decided to tap on it. (For those who don’t know about tapping, check out www.thetappingsolution.com.) I held no expectations that anything would happen when I started the tapping protocol.

Midway through lightning struck—a moment of blinding clarity came through. I saw my complicity in this relationship in a way I had never acknowledged before. It was visceral. I had to admit that once again I had written a name on my dance card and chosen to dance with that person. I had been feeling victimized and controlled when I was just as much a player as she. I had agreed to the tacit contract we both signed.

Here’s the Secret

Feeling like a victim takes time and energy. It can suck you dry. I spent an inordinate amount of time perseverating over the shards of this friendship gone awry, resenting her, feeling hurt and, yes, struggling with its loss. The moment I learned of my complicity in that tapping session was the moment I freed myself from those painful emotions. I could move on. I could take responsibility. I could claim my power again. I could independently blaze my own trail in the Tarot world.

Gregg Braden in his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (Hay House, 2008), underscores the point I am making:

“The fact that someone else did what they hadn’t been able to do themselves plays right into their subconscious beliefs of limitation.

When this happens, people tend to look to someone or something else to intervene where they feel powerless. They’re looking for a savior, whether it’s a drug or another person performing a miraculous healing. If we’re convinced that we’re powerless and dependent upon something beyond ourselves in order to have the experience, then we’ll also feel the need to return to that “something” again and again to get what we need. We will, that is, until we realize that we can do for ourselves what is being done by someone else for us. It’s at this point that the savior is no longer needed and we’re truly healed.”

In both cases with the boyfriend and the Tarot entrepreneur, I was seeking completion outside myself. I handed my power to them and deemed them my savior. These may seem like easily reached conclusions, but they’ve taken years to solidify in my mind. I can now pick them up, look them in the eye and claim responsibility for how things unfolded and turned out.

This is the second in a three-part series on seeking life purpose. The first was posted on April 7, 2017.

A friend of mine came to me asking about her life purpose. A favorite way for me to explore complex issues like this one is using Tarot cards. She picked seven cards for a spread called “My Blind Spot.” Three, in particular, caught my attention. In the first blog of this series we looked at the card she pulled for the position of “Blind Spot”—the Eight of Pentacles. Check out the first blog for a more thorough discussion of the card and how it relates to my friend’s quest for life purpose. You may find it relevant to your own search.

How Others See Her—As a King!

The second card that caught my attention was the King of Pentacles. It landed in the position of “What I don’t know, but everyone else does.” Another pentacle card, but this time the figure is a king, not a worker! What does the notion of a king conjure up for you? Someone powerful, with authority, who rules? Someone with a kingdom?

Keywords often associated with this card are responsible, resolute and unshakeable, and competent, no-nonsense approach. Sarah Bartlett in her book The Tarot Bible describes this king as having “The Midas Touch.” To me this means able to resolve the problems that come up—the benevolent problem-solver. Let’s explore the details of this card.

Bogged Down with Responsibilities

In contrast with the Eight, her blind spot, this card spoke volumes. First, my friend doesn’t seem to be aware of how powerful she truly is. She is the person who commands not only her household but her life; this king is how others see her. Family members and most certainly friends come to her for advice and direction. She knows what to do and makes sure it gets done, if not by her, by someone else.

The challenge of being king may be that she is called on way more than she would like. Look at how bogged down this king is. Even though his robe is covered with grapes, a symbol of abundance, it looks heavy and cumbersome—an impediment to getting out of that throne. How spontaneous can this king be? He isn’t free to jump up and leave.

Could the responsibilities my friend has assumed prevent her from being spontaneous? Spontaneity carries energy, sudden creative urges and little to no planning. When we are fulfilling our life purpose, spontaneity sprinkles itself in between the plans and projects we embrace. Whimsical ideas, humor and fun get integrated into the process. Our King of Pentacles, however, feels the weight of his authority and may not be quick to inject humor into the mix. He is, above all else, at least in this context, responsible.

Making pentacles is like honoring commitments. Those commitments can blind us from seeing what’s best for our own spirit and well being. If we lighten our load, we can create the necessary space for finding and defining our life purpose. Like the Eight, the King is preoccupied with the pentacle he’s holding. He’s not free to go to the castle behind him. Instead he sits on this throne maintaining the authoritative, responsible role that a king assumes.

What’s Missing?

Pentacles represent things tangible and material like money, cars, houses and even relationships. If we are seeking our life purpose, where are our emotions, passions and plans? Life purpose without passion seems pretty dismal. How can you go after your life purpose if your emotions aren’t engaged?

The fact that my friend’s blind spot is the Eight of Pentacles, how she sees her situation, and others see her as the King of Pentacles seems limiting. An emphasis on being responsible can curtail the excitement and enthusiasm that a life purpose inspires. Other suits in the Tarot, like Wands, Cups and Swords, reflect these aspects.

Male versus Female

Once again the male figure as in the Eight shows up. Even though the Tarot has a Queen of Pentacles, my friend picked the King. Kings represent a dynamic force for change or choices to be made. Coupled with pentacles, this King has reached a level of maturation. He’s made his dynamic choices. No longer impatient to achieve his material goals, he can relax and enjoy them.

What a conundrum for my friend! The King of Pentacles is how others see her, yet on the inside she feels restless and seeks her life purpose. If the card she picked for this position were the Queen of Pentacles, others would see her peaceful and relaxed at where she finds herself in this world.

The masculine energy of the king is practical and pragmatic. Whatever the issue will be handled and resolved. Once handled, he will wait for the next one. In contrast, the feminine energy is typically more sensitive. Rather than quick to take action, the female is attuned to her feelings and those of others. It’s likely she’ll address those feelings before taking any action.

Let’s remember my friend is the one feminine voice in a family of men—her husband and three sons. Outnumbered. It makes sense that after years of being immersed in male energy, she might acquire some of it for herself. No surprise that others see her as the King of Pentacles.

In Short

The King of Pentacles is telling my friend to take off the kingly robe and get off the throne. Another way of saying this is “Just say No!” “No!” to taking on others’ issues. “No!” to believing it’s her responsibility to solve others’ problems. “No!” to always being available to others at the expense of her own peace of mind. She must be her Number One Priority. Her dreams, desires and urges need to see the light of day. Honoring them will open the door to life purpose.

My third blog in this series will address the third card that caught my attention, the insight my friend can glean from this reading. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re all supposed to know our life purpose, right? It turns out that pinpointing what that is eludes many of us. If we knew it, perhaps we would have the key to life. For those of us still wondering what that is, just asking the question can point us in the right direction. Many don’t ask the question, but when we do, answers can begin to emerge when we least expect it.

A friend came to me asking about her life purpose. She has three grown sons in their thirties and a loving husband. She heads a smooth-running household, has friends she gets together with often and meets regularly with a spiritual mentor. Something, however, is missing.

My favorite way to get answers to a question like this is to pull a few Tarot cards. She pulled seven, but three, in particular, stood out for me. This essay is the first of three in a series that looks at how the Tarot can be used to explore complex issues—in this case, finding one’s life purpose.

Eight of Pentacles

We agreed to use a spread called “Blind Spot,” which seemed appropriate for the issue she was exploring, her life purpose. The Eight of Pentacles, the first card she pulled, was in the position called “My Blind Spot.” The man in the card is making pentacles, those yellow discs you see in the card. Pentacles represent things tangible and material like money, cars, houses, even relationships.

How Many of These Pentacles Do I Have to Make?

He’s doing a good job with six of them lined up in front of him like diplomas on a wall.  Let’s look at some of the details in the picture that might shed a brighter light on my friend’s question.

Before we started the reading, she mentioned her family and her home are a large part of her daily life. The man in this card, however, is alone with no family in sight. He is busy working. He’s making pentacles, one pentacle right after another. Even though he’s pretty intent on doing the job and doesn’t seem unhappy, his work could be perceived as rote and monotonous. Does he have an option to create something different? Is this his choice to keep making pentacles? Certainly no one is looking over his shoulder telling him what to do.

Alone and Safe in Our Routine

His aloneness in the card might reflect my friend’s preference for being alone. The vital role she plays as mother and wife doesn’t preclude the pleasure she finds in being by herself. That’s an aspect to keep in mind when and if she decides to venture beyond the familiar to find her life purpose.

Sometimes we are so immersed in our own routine, we can’t see ourselves outside it. I remember a metaphor I heard long ago. A woman had to clean her fishbowl, so she filled her bathtub with water and put her fish in the tub temporarily while she cleaned the bowl. When she came back, the fish were swimming in a circle, the actual size of the bowl, when they had the whole tub to swim in.

Many of us stay in familiar situations because it’s safe, comfortable in its discomfort, and mostly risk-free. When we don’t quite know what to do next, we usually stay where we are and do the same thing we usually do. We keep our routine alive.

But I Want Something More!

The number eight in this card is worth noting. Eights represent mastery and accomplishments. It’s no surprise that my client is secure and confident in handling the needs of her family and the concerns of her household. She’s been married for 30-plus years. She has had the time and intention to master the responsibilities as wife and mother, but the unrest within her signals something more. Her quest for mastery is not yet complete.

In the Tarot, nine is the number of completion. It makes sense my friend picked the Eight of Pentacles when asking about her life purpose. Even though she has achieved mastery within her family and home, her search for mastery somewhere else is not over. With this first card, we can’t tell what endeavor that is, but we can deduce she may need to stop making pentacles or at least make fewer of them in order to engage in something new and outside her comfort zone.

Have I Sidelined My Feelings?

One last point: my friend is female, and the figure in the card is male. Typically males are doers, not that women aren’t, but the male prototype is all about getting things done. Males don’t usually consider emotions, something the female is known to excel at, when they have a job to do. Rather, they’re all about the nuts and bolts of getting the job done. The end result is their focus.

I wonder if my friend has sidelined her feelings about fulfilling her life purpose. Pentacles reflect the practical, hard-working side of us. How often do we sideline our feelings when it comes to issues that really matter? It’s easier to do the work at hand, which is usually tangible and finite rather than deal with the confusing, complex feelings entwined in the bigger issue. This may be the case with my friend. Perhaps we’ll get the answer when I share the subsequent blogs in this series.

In Short

The Eight of Pentacles reflects how my friend sees herself now—questioning the sameness of her routine, alone by choice and comfortable in her comfort zone. This is her blind spot. The warm and cozy cocoon of familiarity and mastery she has created for herself prevents her from seeing the different opportunities where her life purpose might flourish. She may need to drop the figurative pentacle she’s working on and head toward the village in the distance on the card to find that life purpose. If this holds relevance for you, is there a pentacle you need to drop?

You are going to laugh. I haven’t had a boyfriend for years and don’t have one now. On a few occasions I’ve tried to find him, but no one made my heart sing. And the effort it takes to find THE ONE didn’t seem worth it. I was too committed to building my business ALIGN. So, what motivates me to even write this blog?

It hit me when I was reading a client’s Tarot cards. She wanted to know if she was going to get back with her boyfriend, with whom she had had three major arguments. All three involved her being the target of physical abuse. After the third one, she called the police.

During the reading, my client shared that her father had left her mother when she was in utero. Never having a father, especially in the formative years, leaves an indelible, life-long scull-and-crossbones on one’s heart. The issues it elicits are complex. I can speak to this with some authority, even though I had a relationship with my father until age ten, when he died of cancer.

Abandonment
Abandonment is like a plague upon the land. When the father disappears, it drops a pall over one’s spirit, especially when the grief of loss is not dealt with. In my case, I couldn’t get out from under that pall.

My father’s departure set me up to choose unavailable men. The men whom I found wildly attractive either lived out of town, were already involved with someone else, or were not emotionally available. I kept searching for a relationship that worked, but I could never find one.

And those who did express interest in me never met my rigid standards of what a suitable partner should be. I rejected them outright. In hindsight, those standards were a defense. Those men were probably quite suitable.

Low Self-Esteem
My Tarot client opened my eyes. When I mentioned that her longing to resume her abusive relationship might be an issue of low self-esteem, she responded with “I have a good job and good friends.” I suspect low self-esteem never factored into her equation of being in an abusive relationship—a relationship that touches her on a deeply intimate level, where job and friends do not gain admittance.

This is an important point that took hundreds of conversations with therapists and friends to gain a foothold in my awareness. Thoughts like, “My father left, I must not be worthy. If I were worthy, he would have stuck around, watched me grow up, been there to support me through the trials of adolescence and young adulthood.” took up residence in my subconscious and ruled my most intimate judgments.

Because my father died of an illness he couldn’t control, getting angry at his leaving didn’t seem legitimate. I had no idea that his early departure affected my relationships with men, or more importantly, my choice of a partner.

My most intimate, emotional development had arrested at age ten. I kept choosing men who weren’t there for me, but who were safe. They were safe because I unwittingly blocked their entry into my heart. My father’s departure turned into a benchmark for all my boyfriends. In my unconscious state, when I met a prospective boyfriend, I suspect my subconscious self would rant, “This man is eventually going to leave, just like my father, so be sure this one will make his get-away, and if he gets too close, you bolt.”

Self-Sabotage
This is where it gets complicated. Low self-esteem is such an insidious, wily character flaw. By choosing a so-called partner who wasn’t committed to having a mature healthy relationship with me or to working through issues on a deeply intimate level (because I wasn’t willing to do it either), I could continue to pursue the father who left me. Even though the relationships I have had improved over time, they never got to the point of a mature trustworthy, long-term commitment.

If certain relationships looked like they might go farther than I anticipated, I would help bring them to a crashing end. And if they looked like they were going to leave, I would preempt them and end it before they could. Since I didn’t have an opportunity to work out the complex psychological issues that occur between a father and his daughter when my father was alive, I used my boyfriends as my lab rats. Believe me, I was not doing any of this consciously, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful.

My Self-Esteem Barometer
My client helped me see how our choice of partner reflects our own level of self-esteem. If he treats me badly and I allow him to treat me badly, then I probably feel I deserve to be treated badly. In other words, I am not worthy of the loving, kind behavior I believe I want and deserve. Like most abused persons, we keep going back to the abuser, thinking we can get what we long for or if we work hard enough, maybe we can even change him/her to love us the way we want and deserve.

We have to move on. That’s why I’ve decided that my next boyfriend will be my barometer. I will pay close attention to how he responds to me when I voice concerns or when we disagree. I will be alert to how easily I can express myself and how honest I can be. When I feel I can trust him and myself, then, maybe, just maybe, I can open my heart and with his hand in mine invite him in. When that happens, my self-esteem barometer will have reached an all-time high, and I’ll be sure to congratulate myself for hanging in there long enough to witness my own monumental growth.

Looking for “More”

November 15, 2016

“Who are these people?” That’s the question I asked myself upon leaving my fiftieth high school reunion dinner one Saturday evening last month.

I went to a small country day school in Connecticut, starting at age four and ending at age 18. I was one of thirty-eight students who graduated on a sunny Friday morning in June 1966. Such a small number allowed us to believe we knew each other pretty well by the time we were handed that diploma. But, really, at age 18 how well do you know anybody? How discerning can you be?

We each had our own page in the Class of 1966 yearbook. As was the custom, we wrote long, gushy love notes to each other on our own page of each others’ yearbook. We promised to stay in touch.

But we didn’t. We had more important things to do–grow up, figure out our life purpose, have our heart broken and repaired, and discover what’s right and wrong. Career, family and community took center stage.

Fast Forward Fifty Years
In May of this year I was reminded that my fiftieth high school class reunion was slated for the first weekend in October. Even though the Alumni Office would send out one or two notices during the next six months, no one else was going to take the time to round up my classmates unless a few of us made the concerted effort.

Having organized lots of groups over the years, I identified three classmates who wanted to join me in planning our reunion. This entailed finding lost classmates, divvying the class list among the four of us and calling folks to stir up interest. One classmate who had been a librarian used her sleuthing skills on the Internet to find those without contact information. She found one classmate from his daughter’s wedding announcement in The New York Times and helped me confirm another’s death by locating his daughter in San Francisco.

The initial calls surprised me. Conversations averaged 45 minutes, and that was with people I hadn’t spoken with for 50 years. When I got off those calls, I was excited and hopeful. People who expressed doubt and reluctance about coming back for reunion at the beginning of the call said they would give the idea serious thought by the time we hung up.

The Planning Process
When we started, the planning committee met on the phone every two weeks. We were serious. In addition to calling classmates, we had to identify a restaurant for our Saturday night dinner. It took more than one try, but once a restaurant was found and our reservation was locked in, we could focus on making sure people came.

I created e-mails to gin up interest. I asked a few classmates to write about their favorite teacher, describe a memorable moment, and/or share why they wanted to attend reunion. I asked for current photos of those who contributed, so folks would recognize them when reading the article. Thanks to the Internet, I added cartoons, pictures and a relevant blog one guy wrote about attending his fortieth.

“We Got the Best We Could.”
The reunion was a two-pronged event: A lunch at the school on Friday and a dinner at a restaurant on Saturday. Out of 33 living classmates six attended the school lunch on Friday and 11 attended the dinner. This may not sound like much, but statistics would probably deem it a success.

One woman who attended the lunch delayed her winter sojourn to Florida for a week so she could join us. Out of the 11 who came to dinner, five of us were from out of state. One classmate arrived home in New Jersey on the morning of our dinner after taking the red-eye from Seattle to Newark, retrieved her dog from the kennel, and then drove to Connecticut to be with us for our 6:00 PM start time. That afternoon another drove from Massachusetts and two more from Rhode Island. All of them save the New Jersey classmate were driving home after the dinner.

Without our calling, cajoling and corralling our classmates, it’s highly unlikely there would have been any reunion. What touched me the most was learning two classmates who deemed each other best friends in high school had had no contact for 50 years. At the dinner they pledged to resume their friendship. As one classmate on the planning committee put it, “We got the best we could.”

So, Where Did I End Up?
In short, I was not where I wanted to be. Sitting at a long table with access only to the people on both sides of me and the one in front of me was not ideal for mixing with everyone who attended. The man across from me spent the better part of the evening proudly telling me and the woman to my left how many houses, boats and cars he had acquired through the years. For some reason this conversation dragged on and on. The woman to my right was consumed with the conversation to her right.

Usually I can talk easily with people I meet, but that evening I found myself disinterested in the conversation and too exhausted to interject my own stories. No one cared enough to ask. Dazed, I couldn’t figure out what had happened. After all the calls, e-mails and planning meetings, I felt disconnected and disappointed. Who were these people anyway?

Once home, I separately shared my disappointment with my doctor and my meditation teacher. Both had experienced the same phenomenon with old friends–lonely, empty connections. And then my minister made it exceedingly clear in her Sunday message, “When you open the spiritual door in your life, there is no going back.”

I opened that door in the early nineties, and assumed that most people I knew came with me. Not so. I went to my reunion looking for a connection with my childhood friends. I guess that’s why I unwittingly left home in the first place—looking for rewarding connections. Lovely as my adult classmates are, we are in different places today where my connection to them is tenuous and no longer needed. I wanted “more” from them and this experience. I learned this is not where “more” resides.

Time’s Up! What’s Your Exit Strategy?

Imagine being in a weekly bridge group for 44 years and wanting out. This is the dilemma a friend of mine has found himself in. To the outsider, it seems easy. Tell the other person(s) you are leaving and go.

Well, it’s really not that simple. A lot of personal information is shared during those meetings. You become privy to the intimacies of what’s going on with those other people, and you’ve probably shared some pretty personal stuff yourself. It can feel like being stuck in a sticky spider’s web. If you lift your foot to leave, you end up with half the web stuck to your shoe.

You probably know “those people” more than you care to. Not all the information is discussed at the meeting, but may be gleaned on the sidelines. It can come from other sources, like mutual friends or even the newspaper.

The Elephant on the Table

One day when reading the newspaper my weekly bridge-playing friend discovered that one of his bridge partners broke the law. Yep, he read it in the newspaper! This was no small crime, but a pretty hefty embezzlement. You are probably wondering how the subject was broached at the bridge table? Well, it never was. They just kept playing bridge. You can imagine what everyone was thinking, yet nothing was said.

How many times have you gotten together with “friends” and had a running subtext going on in your head? That subtext might go like this, “Why did I say yes again? I am done with these folks. I am ready to find someone else who I can connect with more honestly or who I can grow with or learn from.” While this is going on, the “outer you” is congenial, friendly and, above all else, pleasant.

What Keeps Us Tied In?

When this conflict keeps turning your stomach in knots, this is when you must go within. You’ve got to ask yourself some tough questions. What keeps me coming back? What’s my role in the group or with that other person? What would happen if I left? Could my leaving affect relationships that my family members or other close friends have with members of the group? Answering those questions may cause you to feel that spider web getting stickier. Don’t let that stop you.

Guilt weighs heavily in this equation. By ending your commitment, you might think you are letting the other person(s) down. Of course, this is all supposition, because you probably haven’t asked the other person(s) how he/she (they) feels if you were to leave. And what if they pitch a fit and beg you not to leave? Does that mean you can’t? Did you make a lifetime commitment when you agreed to join this group or meet regularly with these persons? I bet you did not.

And how many times have people left you or a group you are in? You got over it, right? My bridge-playing friend has seen people come and go throughout the 44 years he’s played with these cronies. He’s now found another bridge group that plays at a higher level. He wants to leave. In fact, he’s straddling the line. He’s already playing with the new group, wants to ditch the old, but feels he cannot.

What’s Important?

The simple answer is YOU—how you feel and how you spend your time. A long-time friend once told me when I was wrangling with a decision that involved others, “Do what is best for you. Because whatever you decide will be best for everyone else.” It took me awhile to wrap my arms around that, but the more I applied that philosophy to any decision I made, the more it felt right and made sense.

Why spend time with people just to assuage your guilt, which, by the way, rarely works? If those other people knew you felt guilty, they probably wouldn’t want you to hang around. Don’t you have better things to do that inspire happiness or expand your mind? If you find yourself bored with others’ company or stopped from moving into new areas of learning because the group wants to stay right where it is, then ask yourself why are you there? Guilt is not a good enough answer.

The old cliché “People come into our lives for a season, a reason or a lifetime,” seems to fit here. These groups we join or alliances we make fit into one of these categories. I suspect a season or a reason is the optimal choice in this discussion. Which is it for you? Has the reason been fulfilled or the season ended? If it has, then time’s up. Be kind, honest, and diplomatic. Give thanks and then say “Good-bye.”