Telling people I grew up in Kansas is rarely a conversation starter. Tornadoes and The Wizard of Oz is usually as far as the conversation goes. It was a wonderful place to be raised and I definitely have inherited the Midwestern, blue-collar, bucking hay bales and up early to milk the cows work ethic as well as the wave at every car that passes level of friendliness and accessibility.
Let me preface what is coming. I love my family and enjoy heading back there to see them and old friends from high school from time to time. But as I was talking to a friend about holiday plans for last year and really for every year for the foreseeable future, I described what I call the “Mid-Western Curse.” Obviously being a little dramatic about it but also having a little bit of truth to it. The “Mid-Western Curse” happens when someone moves out of Kansas or anywhere in the rural, Midwest and moves to a desirable, often coastal, city or location, San Diego for this example, but nobody else moves. So, in order to see family every holiday it’s expected that you spend your holidays where it’s 10 degrees rather than 70 and there is little to do other than stare at family members and eat too many carbs.
Again, there’s truth to this and I am being a little dramatic about “the curse”. Dealing with reality on reality’s terms is been something I’ve tried to orient toward more and more over the last 15 plus years. The Midwestern curse is not really the main the topic of this blog post but sets us up for the punch line here.
My mom turns 75 this week. Which means at least two things, one I need send her a card today – thanks for the reminder. And two, as she fortunately comes from a long-living blood line, with her parents and their siblings usually living into their late 90’s and as old as 109, we have a lot more years with her. In light of the “Midwestern Curse”, it’s easy for me to rationalize skipping a Christmas/Hanukah season with her and taking my daughter on a surf trip to Baja with their friends and kids. We can and will do this other times but there’s really no better time to go. And it would just be one time we’d be skipping the family holiday and would likely be ok if we did.
But, here is the reality. Even if my mom or your mom lives to 100, we don’t really have 15 more years with her. Since I see her at most twice a year, as does my daughter, when you do the math we don’t have “15 years”. What we have is the opportunity to see her 30 more times. This makes me cry as I’m writing this. But it also helps me re-orient to what is really important. Someone, we often let the idea that we have a lot of time obscure us from seeing what is really important and we don’t frame reality in a pragmatic or accurate way. When I think in terms of 15 years.. of course we’re going to Baja. When I think that we will see her 30 more times, however, there’s not a question as to what we will be doing. We’ll plan a different time to go to Baja but there is no way we will miss a trip back to Kansas for the holidays. When I frame it like this, not only is it a clear choice, I’m better able to look forward these trips and get excited about our family rituals and traditions. This more practical perception of time is effective and powerful medicine and can help us make the right choice in this or similar situations.
If there is a sin, I think it is this — to forget the urgency of the situation of loving those in our lives and putting things in our lives in the proper perspective. This is not just about staying in touch or visiting family, it’s also about the truth of what can happen if you really start to double down on pursuing the dreams that you’ve been sitting on for far too long.
We owe this to ourselves, to our loved ones and to the world as well. That is, to orient to reality in a way that our perception of time does not dilute the reality of our lives. We don’t have 15 years, or whatever you were number or scenario is. The time is now. The time is now to pick up the phone to call your family. The time is now to to dust off your dreams and breathe life back into them, to pursue them wholeheartedly. Because magical things can and do happen if we attune to reality and let it be the wind in our sails moving us swiftly toward our destinations. In the words of Rumi, “Don’t go back to sleep.”
The work that we do with our clients and families in this industry requires us to continue to do our own work of attuning to reality and to waking up. If we do this in parallel with our clients and families they begin to understand that they are less the “identified patient” in the family and understand that this is just their personal flavor of unfolding as a human. In our work with families and clients they know that it’s a parallel process. We require the families to do the work, understand the curriculum and walk through the self-assessment, awareness and exploration process. When parents or loved ones are doing it with the clients things often change.
As we continue to walk the path of cultivating self-awareness, becoming more psychologically sound and waking up spiritually we owe it to ourselves to continue to think outside the box. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our clients to continue to be curious, courageous and resolute on our continued unfolding. If we focus on this we might find that we live a life with less regret and fewer missed opportunities. We might also find that we are surround by friends and loved ones. And that even though it’s 10 degrees in Kansas in December, the memories that we create with those we love will keep us much warmer than time at the beach ever will.