“I’ve spent too many years at war with myself…”

Every time I listen to Sting sing “Consider me gone” I get stuck on these words. Why do we spend so much time picking on ourselves? As a psychologist I assume we learn how to do this from our overly self-critical parents, and then carry on the practice by habit. Some say these patterns get stuck in our brains and are almost impossible to fight against or change.

I know I have been far too self-effacing for as long as I can remember and then, of course, others along the way helped me become even more critical. Now, in my 60s, I’m still working at fighting this pattern in various ways. It helps so much to have a close friend or life partner who points out how hard we can be on ourselves. I remember back in my late 40s I gained a lot of new insight when I read Gloria Steinem’s book “Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions” but this is a process that will last forever I’m afraid.

The three Carter kids at Grandma’s house at Christmas

Just recently I was rearranging things and came across a small photo of myself at around age three, looking pretty sassy in my new Easter clothes. Now I focus for a few minutes everyday on that little girl, on loving her all the way through and sending good thoughts for the many ways she might feel really good about herself for the rest of her life. I feel so much compassion for the battles she has fought in her war against herself and visualize how much easier her life could have been if she had learned self-love at an early age. I seems it has always been easier to be critical rather than compassionate towards myself.

I watched a marvelous 2005 movie recently called, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.” It’s about a retired older woman, played wonderfully by Joan Plowright, who befriends a young man, played by Rupert Friend, (YUM!) by chance on the streets of London. It’s has a lot of insights into aging and how we treat our elders with a number of great lines, but the one that keeps coming back to me is:

“It’s very important to praise people a lot early on, otherwise they might die of disappointment.

Love: The Only Why

So here we are facing Valentine’s Day again, a Hallmark holiday whose origins, much like Halloween, are rooted in pagan partying. This lovers’ holiday traces its roots to raucous annual Roman festivals where men stripped naked, grabbed goat or dog skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility, so says classics professor Noel Lenski at University of Colorado, Boulder. What do pagan parties have to do with love? Nothing.

After being abused in most of my early relationships and spending most of my adult life without any idea what love feels like, I spent some serious time after my divorce around age 49, studying love and how I had missed out on it so completely.

How had I lost my ability to trust anyone else? Did I want to spend the rest of my life that way? Time was up for me. It was time to decide. Would I ever believe in love again?

I was quite lucky. After decades of struggle, study, and contemplation I finally met someone who was worthy of my love. Of course I didn’t know that at first. In my case I felt certain of his love whenever I was around him, but completely uncertain when I wasn’t. It took me a long time to truly trust him with my heart, but he has always been patient and loving around my trust issues.

For us it was a life and death struggle in a world full of complete nonsense. He had a chronic illness which had challenged his will to live for decades. I had lost my will to live after so many decades of disappointment with the human race. He wanted to find new reasons to live, and he wanted to help me find new sources of joy.

snowy west peak with comanche home in foreground

We decided to make life great again TOGETHER…

From this I have learned that when you struggle together against great odds, you can build a powerful, trusting relationship, and you will never be the same after sharing struggles like this. Fifteen years later we still face many daily challenges, and we know we will face them together until the end.

How to believe in love again, by Laura Lee Carter, M.A. Transpersonal Counseling Psychology

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Most of us start out believing that love can transform our lonely lives into something better. When that doesn’t work out as hoped for or planned, do we dare dream again? After 25 years, I lost my job back in 2004.  I was 49, divorced with no kids. With five months warning, I watched the career I had counted on for decades for my bread and butter disappear before my very eyes.

Totally focused on “What’s next?”, the rational, practical side of my brain told me to go get another job doing exactly what I had always done, but my inner wisdom begged to differ.  It kept prodding me to open my own non-Internet-based matchmaking service. Eventually I agreed. I figured, what did I have to lose? I needed a date and a job.

Little did I know that this new business would unconsciously nudge me towards an even more profound use of my intuition and inner wisdom to guide me towards a rejuvenated approach to love and life…