4. It's too late to turn toxic people into healthy ones.
Tilda has done everything she can to establish a relationship with her alcoholic sister, Leah. She's spent hours talking Leah out of the depression that makes her drink. She's gone to her AA meetings. She's paid for rehab. And Leah keeps getting worse.
Many people become wiser, calmer, and more emotionally healthy with age and experience. Other people display neither psychological health nor interest in changing. You may already have spent much of your life trying to get the love you deserve and need from someone in that second group. I'm so sorry, dear, but it's too late. That love will not be forthcoming.
Here's an idea: How's about you spend less time on relationships in which you feel like Charlie Brown, trying to kick the football Lucy invariably pulls away, and spend more time with people who don't leave you crushed and disappointed over and over and over? Go find the people who are waiting to love you. Because they do exist.
5. It's too late to feel guilty about enjoying simple things.
Purging your bucket list creates space for all the little things that make up happiness. My clients are shocked when I advise giving top priority to napping, watching television, petting the cat, climbing trees, or solving crosswords. What sane adult has time for such activities, they ask, when there are so many Important Things to achieve?
Well, I do. I spent years working hard to accomplish Important Things, only to realize that I get limitless joy from filling my bird feeder, reading books about stuff that never happened, and sitting still for hours at a time, not even thinking. Our culture doesn't consider these acceptable alternatives to hard-driving, high-earning Important Things, yet they're the very activities we turn to once hard work and self-denial have freed up a little time. Think of Vicky. Don't wait. Free that time now.
Today, spend an hour savoring a simple pleasure. If someone accuses you of wasting time, tell them that a doctor (that would be me—I have a PhD) has just informed you that you have a fatal condition (life) and don't have long to live (even a hundred years is brief in, say, geologic time). Then go back to learning origami or watching cat videos on YouTube. It is truly too late to postpone these things any longer.
We are a time-starved people, obsessed with fitting huge achievements into our few years. In the process, we often fill our buckets with things that don't matter or work. But when we give up on trying to change what can't be changed, and simply embrace what we love, a miracle occurs. We notice that the moment to be happy has already arrived. It's here, now.
Martha Beck's latest book is The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).
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