During difficult times in my life, people have given me all kinds of advice. They told me what worked for them or what they would do if they were in my shoes.
The best advice I never received, “This is your life, only you must live with the consequences.”
It is easy to sit on the sidelines and tell people what they should do because you will never experience the ramifications of those decisions. I understand that people give advice out of love, concern, and with the best of intentions. What worked wonderfully for your parents, brothers, or friends may not work for you. You are a different person, with a different lifestyle, experiencing the situation at a different time. The variables are not the same. Things may be similar, but they are not identical.
On your terms
The most difficult part of living life my way has been knowing what “my way” means to me. Disengaging from the opinions of family and friends, quieting societal expectations, and listening to myself has been a long, slow process. Solitude and silence have been the key contributors to learning about myself. Journaling, meditation, asking myself difficult questions and patiently waiting for the answers from deep within.
Trickier still is that “my way” has changed over time. As I have grown older and the situations in my life have changed with marriage, children, and health challenges, “my way” has varied with them. Getting to know myself has not been a destination, but rather a journey that I see lasting my whole life through.
Confidence in knowing who I am has become easier over time and after navigating difficult encounters. It has been my experience that in the darkest of times when I am left with limited choices, my true feelings become clear.
Own your situation
Take responsibility for where you currently are and whatever change is necessary to get you where you would like to go. You can’t blame anyone else for how things turn out because every decision you make is your own. Well, I suppose you could blame someone else, but that is neither true nor helpful. Even if you listen to someone else’s advice you have still made the decision to listen, to follow their lead.
Loving acceptance of others
If we all live our own way, we must practice humility, love, and acceptance because my life is going to look different from your life and your life is going to look different from others lives. That’s okay, in fact, that is how it is supposed to be. All of our differences make life rich and help us to see things differently, solving problems more creatively. I know that I operate best with a slow and purposeful life, you might feel happiest with a blindingly fast life full of noise and color. We all have different needs and are fulfilled with different outputs/inputs.
Having children has helped me understand this notion of different things make different people happy. Night and day are how I describe the differences in my sons. Our family has had to strike a balance between all of our needs to ensure that each person is fulfilled. My closest friends are quite different from me, but we complement each other beautifully. Isn’t that what life is all about? Lifting each other up, helping people connect, fulfilling needs?
Advice upon request
When I share my struggles, I am looking for understanding, for encouragement, for someone to hold space for me, to sit with me, to just listen. I am not seeking advice. I just want to vent, clear out the illogical emotions floating through me. I don’t need a fixer, I need a friend.
If a friend is sharing their difficulties with me and I get the feeling they may want my advice, I ask them. Do you need me to listen or are you asking for my thoughts? I have been guilty of wanting to share my personal experience and projecting that as the intuition that they want to hear it.
I told you so
This is one of the most irritating phrases I have ever heard. It’s like a punch in the gut. Experience is the best teacher, not a “friend” coaching from the sideline. If someone attempted to solve their own problem and failed, now is not the time to rub it in their face. Instead, it is a time to practice humility and loving acceptance.
This is your life, only you must live with the consequences
Life is messy, full of missteps, accidents, and occasional catastrophes. Are you going to make your own way along this journey or live someone else’s vision?