Should you follow the leader or forge your own path?
If I lived my life by the way things were supposed to go…
I would have not made the effort to have a good relationship with my ex-husband. When a couple breaks up, their relationship tends to stay frozen as if someone had taken a snapshot of it in that emotional time and place. Unless a couple makes a conscious choice to continue to work on their friendship, their relationship forever rests in that place of hurt and disappointment. My ex-husband and I chose a different path. As I write this I am looking forward to having lunch with him, his wife, and our children to celebrate both Father’s Day and my birthday.
If I lived my life by the way it is supposed to go, I would not be able to call my ex-husband’s wife my friend. She would have remained for me what she was when she first came into our lives: someone I thought was a threat to my relationship with my children. Who she is for me today is a partner in raising our children. And she’s also my fitness coach. She is someone whose very presence in my life has taught me how to expand what I know about love and how to trust someone despite what the old familiar script dictates.
If I had lived life the way it is supposed to go, I would not be able to call my ex-boyfriend my best friend. We would have parted ways, wishing each other well and perhaps touching base on Christmas or birthdays the way old lovers do. Instead he is my biggest supporter and the inspiration behind much of what I write. He continues to be a teacher to me about love and relationships, even though we are no longer a couple.
If I had lived life the way it was supposed to go, I would have not started writing blog posts about my life and about my relationships. I would have kept private matters private and been more discrete. Now, after writing articles for two years, my writing has been featured on multiple websites and what I write is shared around the world. I will submit my first book for publication by August and I am creating a career that includes public speaking to empower the choices we make about sexuality, love and relationships.
With all that extraordinary living, there are still boundaries yet to be broken. There are still unexpected futures to create. That will only happen by ignoring the stream of narration in my own head that says, “That isn’t going to work out,” “You don’t know what you are doing,” “You can’t trust people,” and even, “What makes you think you are better than anybody else?”
Sometimes, like every week (sometimes every day) those conversations stop my progress. I put a project aside I was really excited about just the day before. I get busy doing work with which I am comfortable and tell myself I will get to the projects that break new ground when I finish the other projects. I might even pick a fight just to throw that beautiful and uncomfortable experience of success and peace off track.
And then I stop and I realize that those movies that I had been playing in my head — where my work was rejected or even laughed at, where arrogance stopped me from seeing a flaw in my work, or where I had trusted someone who turned out to be besting me all along — are just that. They are movies in my head in which I am the writer, director and producer. Those things aren’t really happening and likely won’t happen. I had made it all up. None of it is true.
So I stop the movie. Then I send my work in to Oprah to consider for her magazine. I call my friend in humility. I share the dreams I am creating for my life with anyone who will listen, no matter how outlandish it sounds to me as I hear myself speak this future into existence — and then I do the things I need to do to create the future that was never supposed to happen if I had kept on living life the way it was supposed to go.
Editor’s Note: To make a comment on this essay click on the ““comments” button below Cris’ bio, or look for the white box at the bottom of the page. If you want more info, go here for step-by-step instructions.
This essay was created by Dr. Cristin Whiting, Psy.D: Triad Tribe author, clinical psychologist, and adjunct professor at Wake Forest University. In addition to writing for Bridges, Cristin is launching a new website and multimedia blog called The Love Tango: The Extraordinary Dance Between Sex, Love and Intimacy. Cristin also writes monthly on the topic of relationships for Dr. Lara Fernandez.com who’s tag line is “Live the life of your dreams with your soulmate by your side.” She also blogs for Triad Mom’s on Main. Beyond her writing, Cristin is the mother of two children who are the joy of her life. She also volunteers as a leadership coach, empowering others to live lives they love so they can be a contribution to their communities. Cristin currently resides in Winston-Salem and has a private psychotherapy practice.