Dear Dr. Norquist:
My two sisters and I get together every summer with our kids and husbands. We’ve been doing this since my mom died five years ago to try to keep some kind of family connection going because we all live in different states. I’m glad we are making the effort for our kids. For me it’s not easy. We are all well aware which sister was my mom’s favorite. I was clearly the least favored. The favorite sister and her kids seem to have an easy time of life.
I, on the other hand, haven’t. I’ve been through two divorces and my children have had their own difficulties. I’m not sure why there is such a difference in our lives. We all had the same opportunities. I always return a little depressed and down on myself. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up my life for my sisters. I just don’t understand why her life has gone so smoothly and mine hasn’t.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Outer appearances are deceptive. You do yourself a disservice to focus only on outer circumstances. The inner world is so vast, with infinite possibilities. It is your inner experience that gives richness, depth and meaning to life. Try viewing your life from the inside. How have your joys and difficulties added to your capacity for compassion? What inner wisdom is yours as a result of these experiences? How has your sorrow contributed to your ability to love, and to experience joy? A smooth life generally does not offer these rich inner rewards.
Your journey is not supposed to be the same as your sisters. You each have your own journey in life. Try to listen to your own inner desires. What matters to you? You say you would not give up your life for that lived by your sister, yet you also seem to think her life is better than yours. Perhaps it was your mother who approved of her life more than yours. Somewhere inside you, you know that you would not be satisfied with her life. I urge you to listen to your own yearnings. Trying to live a life that someone else approves of never brings contentment.
What are the hard won jewels of your own journey? There are jewels you would not have unearthed and polished if not for your “unsmooth” life. These jewels you carry with you as a rich inner tapestry that enlivens your life. This journey of life is so much more than convention would have us believe. You’ll feel much better if you practice ‘seeing’ from your own eyes rather than your mothers. You are so much more than you give yourself credit for.
(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.Ó 2016 Chaitanya Counseling Services