A few years ago I saw a former client (let’s call her Christine) in a social setting. She had just gotten married, was about to have a baby, left her job, and moved from an urban area to a suburban one. As she updated me on things in her life, she expressed confidence in her decisions but also confessed it was rough at times. She then apologized for the latter pretty quickly, lest she sound ungrateful.
“Why wouldn’t it be hard?” I said. “You’ve made a number of major changes in your life.”
Her face instantly brightened and I thought she might cry with happiness.
“Yes!” she said. “Yes. That’s true. No one wants to hear me say that because they say I have all these things I always said I wanted.”
To be clear, these were still things she wanted. A life partner she loved and all that comes with building that life together.
This was really about the whole ‘grass is greener’ issue. A little bit on Christine’s part, but more so on the part of the female friends who were pooh-poohing her for being the least bit freaked out by all the change.
Let’s review. Completely different way of life in suburbia. A grinding halt to an active career (a temporary one, but a halt nonetheless). Independence vs. partnership. And on the brink of being a parent for the first time.
Hello, adjustment period.
Does anyone honestly think they can wrap their head around all that and just keep going? Yes, if you’re emotionally healthy you count your blessings. But you also ask yourself over and over again if you knew what you were getting into. Because boy are you going to be experiencing some radical change.
Meanwhile, Christine’s friends were wondering why she wasn’t hanging off a chandelier doing twirls in a blissful state. And it had her wondering, too.
One of the biggest challenges in life coaching is to help a client determine if she is generally a happy person and perhaps being tested by current circumstances. Or if by setting a goal for something radically new we’d just be moving her unhappy self to another environment. Somewhere in there is also the person who needs to let herself make choices that she knows will maximize her opportunity to live a fulfilled life. She needs to see for herself that she deserves that.
It is so satisfying as a coach to work with people as they go through that latter phase. They open to possibility and work at healing. Frankly, I would have been troubled if that day Christine seemed completely aglow with not a fear in the world. Granted, we all adjust differently and I don’t mean to castigate the content. But there is something unsettling about those who seamlessly flow through jarring change. It makes me wonder if they adjust better than others or if they’re just less vocal (honest?) about it.
Isn’t that why Christine’s friends had an unrealistic expectation of her disposition? It often shines a light on our own stuff when we react to friends this way. How many had their sights set on the same things Christine already had? How many expected that ‘sailing off into the sunset’ feeling once it did happen for them? Man appears, marriage comes and every darned doubt dissipates like dust.
We want ‘that’ – whatever it is, i.e., money, new job, lover, hit song — and think it’s the be-all end-all. I recently wrote a Game Plan column about women and the work/life balance issue and I said that I felt a good gauge of our lives is to ask ourselves how often we think the grass is greener. There is much to explore in that.
1 ~ What is it that I’d most like to be different about my life?
2 ~ Do I expect that the primary answer to question No. 1 would then make me happy? Or would it enhance an already good life?
3 ~ Am I taking steps to make my own grass greener? Not desperate, clutching steps, but thought-out, constructive ones?
4 ~ What is it that I think will happen if I “get” what my friend has that looks so much more appealing?
For the record, Christine has two children now and she’s working outside the home as well. On any given day she’s giddy, strung-out tired, grateful, crazed, questioning, at peace.
And her lawn usually looks pretty good.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to GamePlan@gmail.com.