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.

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 »

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere

September 28, 2015

Everyone has clutter. For some it’s not visible, but the mental residue of unwanted thoughts and worries rests in their mind. For others, a pile here and a pile there are periodically swept away and then a new pile is born.

But what about the person who feels the need to cover every flat surface in her home with a multitude of crystals, knickknacks, and tchotchkes? Or the person who has so many clothes, she cannot fit them all into her closets and bureaus? Or the person who cannot get through the endless stacks of paper that confront him in his home office, on his kitchen counter or covering his coffee table?

Why does clutter exist?

What I’ve learned during the past 10 years of helping people de-clutter is to listen to each client’s back-story, because in that story lie the reasons why the clutter exists and persists. In most cases there is loss or trauma hidden underneath all the stuff. How much clutter there is at the present time and how it is handled depends on the degree to which the trauma has been dealt with.

Those who have undergone a loss or a trauma have a critical need to feel safe. Job loss, death of a loved one, a sudden disability, or a violation of any sort is an example of such trauma. Tangible, physical items, like clothes, shoes, cars, or even paper, can give the illusion of safety and control. Since most of us determine what we bring into our home, the single act of buying an item we want but don’t need can give us a sense of control—control that didn’t exist when or after the trauma occurred.

Why is there such resistance to addressing clutter?

Most people don’t realize there is a whole lot more to clutter than just stuff. Having possessions is a wonderful distraction. Anything you own means you have to manage it, store it, maintain it, repair it, use it, clean it, or display it. When you have too much of it, it becomes clutter. We Americans have the wherewithal to buy lots of stuff we don’t need. Why do we do it? Because we can and because it soothes us temporarily. I suspect, though, there are other reasons.

If we were to probe more deeply, we might discover the feelings that propel us to acquire unnecessary, excess stuff. If we were to face these feelings squarely, we might call a halt to the endless influx of stuff we allow and usually welcome into our homes. This is not easy to do. In fact, this is a profound realization, and when people get it, they are willing to start dealing with their clutter in a deep and lasting way.

Develop a Good Forgettery

August 11, 2014

My friend Lynn (not her real name) is strong-willed and whatever she sets her mind to, she does.  I have known her for 30 years.  About six years ago she had a fall, which confined her to a wheelchair.  In and out of assisted living and rehabilitation residences, she had had enough of residential living and set her sights on the house where she lived before the fall as her next and last destination.

Her house is the one where she returned to live with her parents after her second divorce, approximately 40 years ago.  Not long after her return, her father was killed walking down a neighborhood street by a hit-and-run driver.  Years later, her mother battled cancer in a hospital bed in the dining room.  She later succumbed in a nearby hospital.  The house held a lot of sad energy.

It was not conducive for a wheelchair-bound person.  So, before she moved in, she had an extensive ramp installed at her back door and a lift from the first floor to the second floor.  There is no bathroom on the first floor and the washer and dryer are located in the basement, accessible only by stairs.  It is essential for her to have help if she is to live in a clean, healthy environment.

Welded to the Past

I know Lynn better than most.  We have shared our victories and vulnerabilities consistently throughout the years.  She listens with great understanding to the questions I grapple with. I listen to hers.  I respect her opinion and find comfort in the constancy of our friendship.  Lately, though, I am frustrated, at times even angry, with Lynn.  She has forgotten how powerful she is.  Instead of moving forward with life, she seems to be making a “too comfortable niche” for herself in the past.

During the past few months she requested my help by going through her papers, photos and clothes and advising her on what to keep.  I have worked with her for more than 20 hours, and in my estimation we’ve made little progress.  She remains firm in her choices:  Ten-year-old bank statements must be kept.  Books that haven’t been read in 20 years and more than likely never will be must be kept.  Gizmos and tchotchkes she doesn’t know what to do with must be kept.  The dining room has become a warehouse of bags and containers storing memorabilia she feels she must keep but doesn’t look at.  From my perspective, it feels like she has welded herself to the past.  To hell with the present!  The future be damned!

The Conundrum:  To Hold On or To Let Go?

I have thought long and hard about this conundrum:  Her hiring me to de-clutter and her vice-like grip on her clutter.  It’s not easy living in a wheelchair, and I have the utmost respect for her determination to live independently.  Working with another disabled client helped me understand Lynn better.  I started noticing his references to the past when we talked.  It gave me pause.

Both clients are in their eighties.  Both had successful careers.  Both were more able-bodied in the past.  Lynn traveled the world.  Even with “bad” knees, she climbed the Egyptian pyramids.  She ducked to safety when terrorists bombed the Rome airport.  She’s been in every state in the union except two.  She found great joy, excitement and freedom in her travels.  From today’s wheelchair perspective, the past looks rosy and the present grim.

What about Now?

If Lynn wanted, she could still travel.  She would need an aide and it would take an amazing amount of effort, but she could do it.  She keeps thinking someday she will make it to those two states she missed.  In the meantime, she chooses to surround herself with stuff of the past–her very own composition of clutter.

Clutter is dense, sticky energy–filled with memories that cloud the mind, fog our vision and suffocate our energy.  It slows us down.  It blocks our way.  It keeps us glued to those memories and averts our gaze away from the present moment, the only moment where our power resides.  Eric Butterworth in his book Spiritual Economics nailed it:

We should not try to get fulfillment from past successes nor be bound by past failures.  Consider people such as Lincoln, Churchill and Edison.  They respected their minds too much to clutter them with thoughts of failure or bitterness.  They had good ‘forgetteries.’  So if there be any virtue or praise, think on these things, file them in the memory mind and forget the rest.  Develop a good forgettery and you will find yourself with an amazingly good memory too, for the two conditions are indissolubly linked.

Our Power is in the Present

Lynn has forgotten her power is in the present–in her choices of how she spends her time, who she hangs out with, and where she chooses to go.  It’s not in all that dusty, musty stuff.  It’s not in those bittersweet memories she clings to.  What keeps her in this mode of stuckness?  Fear.  Fear of letting go of things she believes constitute her identity.  Fear of breaking the boundaries of her disabled life.  Fear of no longer claiming she is a victim.  Fear that she will be more alone than she is with all her clutter.

Stripping away the clutter makes her feel vulnerable.  The protection it gives her is an illusion.  She wants it because it’s tangible.  It’s something she can hold and tell herself, “Look, I accomplished this.  I had these friends.  My mother loved this ring.”  In contrast, what if she chose to make new friends by joining a group at her church?  What if she found a place where she could exercise with professional help?  What if she arranged for a drive in the country?  Her power is in the now–not in the paper, gizmos or clothes.  Only Lynn can decide what’s best for her.  Only Lynn can change how she sees her stuff and ultimately herself–a powerful woman who happens to use a wheelchair to get around.  Only Lynn can make these changes now.

The Map Analogy

April 30, 2014

“Some people seem well-suited to following maps, while others are always looking for new ways to get where they’re going. In the end, the only reliable compass is within, as every great spiritual guide will tell you.” –Madisyn Taylor, from her blog The Daily Om

Years ago I asked a friend to drive me to the airport from work. This was in the days when Mapquest was the rage and GPS systems were just a glint in someone’s eye. I had dutifully printed Mapquest’s directions. With my bag, purse and directions in hand, I hopped in the car and off we went.

It was the beginning of rush hour and in Northern Virginia. That’s not a pretty picture, especially when you’ve got a plane to catch. My friend Kathy had a meeting to attend as well.  Time was of the essence.

We seemed to be buzzing along fine at first, until Mapquest led us off the main streets and into a rural area. Kathy started asking questions, and I anxiously tried to assuage her that I had had great luck with Mapquest in the past. Their directions certainly wouldn’t lead us astray. Before we knew it, we faced a roadblock on what seemed to be a dirt road with no human habitation in sight. Where had “trusty” Mapquest led us?

I won’t share with you the panicky feelings I had on whether I would make my plane or the embarrassment I felt urging Kathy to drive the Mapquest way. The only thing we could do was turnaround and find a main road that would lead us toward the airport. We eventually felt our way back to civilization and the airport.  Kathy made it to her meeting on time and I made it to my plane, but not without a lot of anxiety.

What’s This Say about Maps

Madisyn Taylor goes on to write, “The maps and travelogues left behind by others are great blessings, full useful information and inspiration, but they cannot take the journey for us. When it is time to merge onto the highway or pull up anchor, we are ostensibly on our own.”

Kathy and I had to figure out how to get to the airport on our own. We knew the general direction, but the exact route had to be discovered by our own choices. This meant taking steps we weren’t sure would lead to our desired destination. It also meant possibly making mistakes and missing our respective appointments. The pressure was on.

Maps are a good thing because they get you headed in the right direction, or at least in a direction that feels comforting to start with; however, they are based on, what Ms. Taylor calls “observations from the past.” New roads are built every day; highways cut through neighborhoods we thought were sacrosanct. That map we’ve been using could be woefully out-of-date.

With or Without a Map

A lifelong challenge of mine has been believing in myself. So, when I read Ms. Taylor’s blog, it gave me pause. For years I’ve tried following the guidance of therapists, mentors and gurus. In some cases, their advice has been invaluable, just like a map. In other instances, I wasted, or at least I thought I had wasted, valuable time and money that didn’t get me to where I thought I needed to go. I had reached another roadblock. I had to turn around and find my own way.

That stirred up feelings of anger, hurt and resentment. I wanted someone else to tell me where to go and how to do it and then I would discover that’s not where I wanted to go or how I wanted to do it. I had to deal with those feelings and learn that that was just another bend in the road, one that wasn’t on the map I was following.

Ultimately, I had to decide for myself which way to go, what would serve me best, and how to honor my true self.  Ms. Taylor describes this awareness as “moments when we learn to attune ourselves to our inner compass, following a map only we can see, as we make our way into the unknown territory of our own enlightenment.”

Attuning to Our Own Inner Compass

Perhaps the best thing we can do before we embark on any new project or direction is to check in with ourselves. This may be difficult when some expert has had so much success with his/her approach to the same issue we are wrestling with. We see the possibility for our own success using that person’s step-by-step approach.

Our enthusiasm for it can be blinding, so much so we can’t see the compass needle, which is telling us to do whatever we are seeking in another way that uniquely works for us.  At the same time the enthusiasm for following another person’s path drowns out our own inner voice–a voice that always speaks the truth.

Essentially it’s a battle between the inner voice and the ego. Discerning which is which takes time, practice and perhaps a number of missteps. For some of us, it takes many missteps before we slow down and start listening.  Maps are good, but we are the only true experts on our individual journey of life.  By believing in ourselves and paying attention to our own inner compass, we’ll get to where we want to go, perhaps with more ease than expected.

No, this is not a term used in high school chemistry.  Chemicalization is a metaphysical term.  Unity Church co-founder Charles Fillmore calls it “a condition of the mind that is brought about by the conflict that takes place when a high spiritual condition contacts an old error state of consciousness,” from his book The Revealing Word, first published in 1959.

Error states of consciousness are negative thoughts most of us walk around believing about ourselves and others.  These thoughts are untrue even though we convince ourselves they are as real as our own flesh.  Some of those thoughts are conscious, others unconscious.  They become our basis for handling life.  As a result, these error states of consciousness block us from where we so fervently want to go.  Try as we might to achieve whatever goal we are seeking, we can’t seem to get there.

Charles Fillmore goes on to clarify his definition of chemicalization, “Whenever a new spiritual idea is introduced into the mind, some negative belief is disturbed.  It resists.  With this resistance comes more or less commotion in the consciousness. This is called chemicalization.”

My Own Experience with Chemicalization

More than 20 years ago I attended a Good Friday service at my church Unity of Washington, DC.  The woman who led the service shared a powerful prayer with the congregation.  It was called the Grace Prayer:

I thirst.  Into Thy hands I commit my body, spirit, mind, this situation.  Thy will is my will.  Heal me at depth.  Reveal that which needs to be revealed to me.  Heal that which needs to be healed in me.  So that I may glorify you, God.  It is finished.  Amen.

She said that if we prayed this prayer every day for one year, our lives would change substantially for the better.

Well, that hint of guidance was all I needed.  Why not say the prayer?  Of course, I couldn’t just say it.  I had to say it, and say it, and say it!  I am an Aries after all.  Why not speed up the process?

I don’t know how many times I said it that Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, but it was a lot.  I committed it to memory, so I wouldn’t have to carry around a piece of paper with the words on it.  I took walks saying it. I took my showers saying it.  I woke up saying it and I went to sleep saying it.  I had it down pat.

The Crucifixion

Let me digress for a moment.  I live on a street where probably 150 cars park every night.  I was driving a Honda Civic at the time, and my car was parked close to my front door on that Easter Sunday evening.

Ten hours later I stepped outside my door to discover my car had been broken into.  It was a crucifixion of sorts except it happened early Monday morning, not on Good Friday.  The passenger window had been shattered and my car radio had been yanked out and stolen.  The cars on both sides of mine had remained untouched.

Why had my car been chosen?  You might say because it was a Honda Civic and those models were easy targets for break-ins.  Perhaps, but I believe there is more to the story.  I see my car as an extension of me, so the new energy I was pumping into me could affect the car.  If all that intense prayer-work was transforming me, surely the same energy was having some kind of transformative effect on my car.

Missed an Important Step–Denial

Let’s go back to this concept of chemicalization.  I embraced the Grace Prayer because I wanted to transform, to move beyond where I was.  Frustrated by being stuck, I grabbed hold of the Grace Prayer with a vengeance, but I missed a step–what metaphysicians call denial.

Most people consider denial as a refusal to admit the truth—a common occurrence when it comes to illness or crumbling relationships.  That’s not the kind of denial I am referring to here.  In this case, denial is the mental process of erasing false beliefs from your mind.  These false beliefs could be “I’m not good enough.” “I am not worthy.” “No one takes me seriously.”  Plug in whatever negative beliefs you are holding about yourself and you’ve got something to deny.

Our thoughts are powerful, and if we believe negative ones about ourselves, we need to, in fact we MUST, cleanse ourselves of them before we start praying for the good stuff!  Examples might be “I let go of feeling unworthy.”  “I release my fears of being poor.”  “I leave my low self-esteem in the past.”

I’ve been working with these metaphysical concepts for almost 25 years.  I confess I never quite understood this concept of denial until recently.  I kept thinking denial means avoiding reality, not wanting to admit there is a problem.  I now know that it is a way of cleansing myself of negative thoughts about myself.

Charles Fillmore makes the case for denial as part of the prayer process. “Denial clears away belief in evil as reality and thus makes room for the establishing the Truth.”  By denying those negative thoughts that appear real, we make way for our own transformation and manifestations. Here’s the rub, he goes on to say, “If the cleansing baptism of denial does not precede the Holy Spirit’s descent, there is a conflict in the consciousness–the old error thoughts contend for their place, refuse to go out, and a veritable war is the result.”

My Car was the Battlefield

I confess–I didn’t do any denials before I started ferociously reciting the Grace Prayer.  I didn’t even know what a denial was.  Unknowingly I positioned myself for war, and my car ended up being the battlefield.  That Easter Monday the Grace Prayer was shelved as I turned my attention to calling the police and getting the car repaired.

After this incident, I still didn’t know about denials, but I kept saying the Grace Prayer just a lot less frequently and with a lot less gusto.  I am now realizing the power of my words and thoughts.  I also understand that the best way to pray and to manifest my good is to deny the error thoughts and pray for the good, in that order!

Charles Fillmore wraps up his definition with these words, “When the conscious mind has been put in order, the Holy Spirit descends with peace like a dove.”   That’s how I want positive change and answered prayers to enter my life these days, feeling peace and hearing the cooing of the dove.

 

The sister of a friend of mine is wrestling with a relationship. She met the guy online 18 months ago. They agreed it would be exclusive. Today she is struggling with whether to continue seeing him. She discovered his online search to meet new partners—not once but twice. The first time she succumbed to his pleas to stay together. That was six months ago. Now it’s happened again.

“Drop him!” That’s what my friend wants to tell her, probably in a more diplomatic way. After all, isn’t giving free advice what big sisters do? Her wisdom comes from years of working on herself through counseling and introspection. She can spot the shards of broken trust in a New-York-minute. She loves her sister and doesn’t want to see her hurt. Throughout her sister’s life, she’s witnessed her trials and tribulations (e.g., divorce, bankruptcy) and struggles with seeing her make another misstep. The urge to protect her sister surges forth from deep inside.

Making Their Business Ours

What propels us to counsel the ones we love or intervene in their lives, especially when we haven’t been asked? What’s in it for us?

It sure seemed plausible to me to insert myself into my brother’s life when he told me he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I didn’t want to believe it was true, so I hustled around the Internet and found a physician not far from where he works who practices medicine using alternative approaches. I believe in and use alternative health care. In place of prescriptions, I use supplements and essential oils. Alternative care providers have worked for me. Surely, I was convinced, they would work for him, or at best, supplement the care he would get from conventional medicine.

My brother had two appointments with this alternative care physician. The second one ended disastrously. The doctor prescribed a list of supplements for him to purchase without explaining, even after he asked, why he needed to take them and what they could do for him. To add insult to injury, he confused another’s test results with my brother’s and read him the wrong results. This inexcusable error abruptly ended his foray into alternative medicine and catapulted him back into the conventional, medical world. I ended up scraping the proverbial mud off my face.

What propelled me to insert myself into this scenario? Spare him pain, augment his care, and ensure his longevity all sound good. I love my brother. Maybe I could save him. In retrospect, I am shocked by my egocentricity of pushing him into an arena with which he was unfamiliar and not inclined to explore. It reflects more my fear for his well-being than believing in his judgment to care for himself.

It’s Not Ours To Do

Shortly after my brother’s fiasco with alternative care, I found myself in my own doctor’s office describing the whole sad tale. My doctor gave a thoughtful response. She explained that by attempting to take control of, or insert ourselves into, the care of another, we thwart that person’s growth. We come into this life to learn certain lessons. Each of us has our own set. Probably the best way to be of service is to focus on our own.

This is a tough credo to live by, especially if we are co-dependent enablers. Helping others gives us focus, purpose and meaning; yet it can be a great distraction from doing our own work. It can delay our own growth.

Love Plays a Role

After pondering this more, I’ve concluded that perhaps the best thing I can do is to love myself first and then my brother. Luther VanDross’s song “Love the One You’re With” comes to mind. I’m the one I’m with. By loving myself first, I invite my deepest feelings to be heard. If I had listened to what was going on inside me instead of rushing to find an alternative care physician for my brother, I would have acknowledged my fear for his well-being and confronted mortality inching ever closer—not necessarily his, but my own. Those feelings emerge as a tangled web of loss, grief, fear and death.

By giving myself time to get acquainted with these unpleasant intruders, I can calm myself and assess the situation with greater clarity. I am better able to listen to my brother and hear whatever he has to say. Letting him adjust to his own diagnosis and honoring his decisions on how to handle his care are the best form of love I can give.

The same goes for my friend and her sister. If she were to shine a light on the uncomfortable feelings her sister’s choices elicit, identify and ultimately befriend them, it’s likely her angst would transform into acceptance. She would remain a witness to her sister’s struggle, no longer trying to save her.

Side-stepping and back-stepping are integral parts of the growth process for us all, and sometimes it goes on and on, seemingly without end. We do it all the time, often unwittingly. The challenge is to hang in there and listen. Accept responsibility for what is ours to do and let go of the rest. That’s love. That’s what love has got to do with it. Thanks, Tina, for asking the question!

Bev Hitchins © 2013