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Recently I came home from a gathering with a group of friends. I had fun, but some of the discussion left me feeling a little sad, and out of sorts, as I drove home feeling sad I started thinking an old familiar thought “if only I had someone special in my life then this wouldn’t matter.” Embarrassingly I allowed myself to flow down that thought path for a few moments before I realized, wait a minute, I have someone in special in my life, in all honesty, I have many ‘special someone’s’ in my life, but specifically, I have a nearest and dearest. And then I got a little sadder when I realized how that old tape just plays there over and over saying if only…
A little background, I have been single for much of my adult life. Much of my twenties and thirties were spent pouring myself into my career and secretly hoping to find a nearest and dearest that would make all my woes disappear.
Had a bad day “If only I had a nearest and dearest to share this with life would be better.”
Fight with a friend “If only I could rely on a nearest and dearest.”
Feeling sick “If only I had someone to take care of me,”
Feeling sad about my dad’s Parkinson’s illness “If only my I had a nearest and dearest to ease this burden” and on and on and on.
ANYTIME something was out of sorts I would blame it on not having a significant other–it was my go to, fix all, catch-all reason I was unhappy. That if only tape allowed me to move around a lot of uncomfortable emotions because any time I felt any uncomfortable emotion, sadness, anger, doubt, or fear I would shut it down, excuse it and put it in the if only box.
And now amazingly I have a nearest and dearest, a warm caring couldn’t-have-made-him-up-to-be-more-perfect-for-me, guy and yep there are times when I drive home upset and sad about something. And yes, I have him to talk to about it and yes I have him to take care of me when I am sick, and yes there are times it makes life easier. But as wonderful as he is, he doesn’t have magical powers, he can’t make my colds go away, he can’t heal my father (although he does a great job of making him laugh), he can’t make my neurosis vanish. All of that stuff, that life-being-human-sometimes annoying emotional stuff that is the stuff I have to handle. That is the stuff that makes life rich and gooey and challenging and joyful. And while, yes I can experience it with him and share my joys and sorrows with him, at the end of the day I have to figure out how to make myself happy.
So as I rode in the car, realizing that my catch-all unhappiness ‘if only’ was gone I had a moment of mourning. I realized the last thing I wanted to do was create another substitute ‘if only.’ Then came a ‘growing up’ moment, if you will, a moment of relief. A moment of realizing, it is all within my capabilities there isn’t a magical if only it is all just life. It is up to me to deal with my emotions as they arise rather than pouring them all into the ‘if only’ excuse. I admit after the initial shock; it was rather freeing. I also admit that I have caught myself more than once since the realization saying “if only I had a significant other” and just allowed a little grin to spread across my face. And then I asked myself, “what’s going on here, what emotion are you trying to ignore” and inevitable some uncomfortable emotion springs forth.
If only’s don’t just have to be significant others then can be if only:
you had the perfect job
the kids were grown,
you got the promotion,
you won the lottery
on and on and on.
We tend to look for the magic bullet, the place to pour all our excuses and uncomfortableness, so we don’t have to deal with it. What is your if-only? Is it still true? How is it serving you and how is it holding you back?