Sunday, September 28, 2008

Living with Intention -- Making Choices

So I ran into an exboyfriend last night. Or rather, he tracked me down at our college reunion so he could apologize. That was one of the strangest conversations I've ever had... and it made me think. A lot. He's looking for something -- not just forgiveness, although it was obvious he felt he needed that. He kept talking about how he thought it was so great and amazing that I make a difference in my work. He described himself as feeling like he was living someone else's life, because he's not making a bigger difference like he thought he would and wants to. He said he is happy with his life, but it seems he's not completely content with the way he is living it. Hmm, you know something's up when someone says, "I'm happy, but..."

I felt like he expected me to be able to tell him how to live his life so he feels like he's serving a greater purpose. How am I supposed to be able to tell anyone how to do that, especially the ex who broke up with me when I was grieving for my father and to whom I haven't spoken for six years? And especially when I'm not sure I can articulate why I make the choices I do, or if I really serve a greater purpose in my life. I try to live by my ideals, but it doesn't necessarily always work.

I kept thinking that I learned to live my life for real every day when I realized I had to choose to wake up every morning or give up for good. So, knowing that my giving up (even if just by not trying to be happy again someday) would cause my family so much pain, and through pure stubbornness, I chose to wake up every morning. And then, since being unhappy didn't really feel good in the long-run, I chose to look for and search out activities and people with whom I felt hopeful. Then I chose to make hopeful changes in my life and to put energy towards my dreams and hopes for the future, which I had developed slowly within the supportive network of family and friends who helped nurture my hope.

This process has taken me about six years, and it hasn't all been positive movement. It's taught me about strength and resilience, though. It's taught me about the importance of putting positive energy towards the future I want, not just planning for the worst. "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" make work for my friends in the military, but it isn't the way I want to live my life. Why not plan for both and actively work towards making the latter more likely to come about? I will actively move to figure out what I want, and I will work for that in my life.

I've been called "grounded," "down to earth," and many other things. I definitely feel like I've grown deep roots -- partly because that's just who I am, and partly because I needed them to survive. I love trees, as my friends and family know. Trees tend to have four choices when it comes to surviving windstorms: grow a few very deep roots, grow many shallow roots, become very flexible, or hunker down so the wind flows right over and past. I have chosen to focus on the first option, with a little flexibility built-in and the option to hunker-down when needed.

So, how do you boil this down into an easy answer to relay to others who want to know why you seem to be on such good terms with your own life?

Well, I haven't always been on such good terms with my life, and I am sure there will be times when I'm not feeling so grounded. However...

I choose. I choose to discover, to dream, to find joy in life, and to be myself.

When I make a choice, I ask myself why I'm making it. If I like the answer, the choice stands. If not, then it's time to re-evaluate, which usually means going back to the support network.

To those of you who are part of that support network, Thank You.