When I reached midlife, I started seeing a therapist. I was desperate. I realized how unhappy I was and how disconnected I was from my wife and children.
I had never been able to understand my feelings “real-time”. Anger, resentment, happiness, ecstasy, it didn’t matter. It was only in retrospect I realized how I had felt.
This particular challenge created a Trumpian-sized wall between me and my ability to connect. I didn’t realize the challenge existed until I started therapy, with the right therapist. When I was younger, I didn’t have the self-awareness to understand I was in need of “fixing”. It wasn’t until I reached mid-life that I understood how unsatisfied I was with my journey. So I took a detour.
Therapy was an arduous process for me. Before I began I typically characterized the world into two categories, those who blame their parents for how their lives have turned out and those who don’t.
My sister, for instance, is a flag-bearer for the first category. Whenever we talk (infrequently, not surprisingly) she obsesses on the bad job our parents did in raising us. I’d roll my eyes and humor her. For the record, I don’t think they did that badly a job.
Anyhow, in therapy, I came to realize that it isn’t necessarily a case of blaming one’s parents for who you are as much as understanding who you are.
In my case, understanding who I am relates specifically to my lack of awareness of my feelings. I didn’t have particularly good role models. I began to understand some people have it, others don’t.
When my therapist suggested it is never too late to learn how to live in the moment, I derided the idea. I was 52 years old. I couldn’t even stop biting my nails! How the hell could I change the way I perceive my self?
As it turns out, change is possible.
Behavioral change is a matter of habit. Listen to a Ted Talk, visit a self-help website. You’ll hear that if you repeat a behavior X number of times over Y number of days, it becomes a habit.
Changing the way I look at the world isn’t quite that easy, but the process has basically been the same. It just take practice. Years and years of practice.
One habit I developed since moving into my apartment involves my eyeglasses. For years, my glasses were perpetually dirty. I’d rub them on my shirt to “clean” them. Dip a napkin in my water and wipe them, but a majority of the time, live with slightly blurred vision.
At a dear friend’s house one day, she grabbed my glasses and brought out a lint-free cloth and lens cleaner solution, sprayed the lenses and voila!
So now I have the same set-up in my apartment. Before I go out, I pause by the door and clean my glasses. It has become a habit. I can see more clearly as a result. As I continue practicing living in the moment, I find myself seeing even more clearly, though I still haven’t kicked the nail-biting.