(Dr. Norquist is on vacation this week. We are re-running a letter that was published earlier in this column).
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I am not happy with my life and I’m definitely not happy with myself. There’s always something that’s not right. If I get a good review at work, I feel bad that I didn’t get a great review. I’m always wishing things (especially me) were more perfect, and that my life could go exactly as I wish for it to go. I get frustrated and upset when I can’t make it happen that way. I can’t enjoy things as they are. I know this affects my friendships as well. I have trouble letting go and having a good time. I don’t want to be such a drag. I’m just too serious, too worried, too cautious, and never happy with the life I’m living. What can I do to feel differently?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Life is not supposed to go perfectly, at least not according to our own narrow definitions of perfection. As the old saying goes, you may not get what you want, but you do get what you need. Consider the idea that your life is perfect for you from the vantage point that it provides you emotional opportunities and situations that are uniquely well-suited for your individual growth and emotional healing.
Try to see your life as a river, rich with twists and turns, waterfalls and eddies. You are in a boat on this river, in charge of navigating these waters as best you can. Wishing that the river were without any sudden twists will not leave you prepared for handling the twists and turns when they suddenly appear in front of you. The art of living life well starts with accepting what is. Fear, worry, anger and denial will not help you in learning to navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of life. However, if you do your best to rise to the challenge presented by the next twist, turn, waterfall, or eddy that appears in your life, you will be learning a lesson that is perfectly attuned to the next step in your growth as person. You don’t have to do it perfectly. Just be open to learning as you go along.
Simply by changing your expectations of life, your life will feel immensely more rewarding, stimulating and alive. Remember to start with an attitude of acceptance toward whatever life brings your way. Trust that it is for your own good, and learn to use it for your own growth. Become an expert in the art of navigating the twists and turns of life.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2013 Chaitanya Counseling Services