Thursday, October 06, 2011

Life Stages

What is the difference between sharing one's joy and bragging? How much power do our words have on other people and how much responsibility do we need to take to guard those words? When does sensitivity to another's situation turn into withholding the truth of what is going on in our own lives? I have been asking these questions lately because I recognize that there are people around me who are not necessarily in the same place that I am. Yes, there always have been, but for some reason it feels more acute right now.

When I examine the big picture of my life, I see the things that I've always imagined I would have in my early thirties: health, a loving husband, a stable career, a rich faith life, family, friends, a cute dog, a relatively solid financial position, a home in a beautiful place, and the hope of a growing family. Granted, not every one of those facets is perfect (are they ever?), but overall I am very happy. I pretty much have what I've always wanted, or I'm on the way to getting there.

Not everyone can say that. In fact, just a few years ago, although I was happy, I couldn't have said that I had all of the things listed above. At that point in my life I was yearning for certain aspects that I saw in other people's lives, wondering when it would all happen for me. I suppose this is natural. Hoping for what's ahead helps us move toward those goals, can keep us centered in prayer, and can open our eyes to opportunities that we may have otherwise overlooked if we had been sitting idly by.

I think back to that time when things were uncertain in my life, and I wonder about the people who were in the places I found myself wanting to be. Were they aware that I was sometimes jealous of their lives? Did they know that no matter how incredibly happy I was for their successes (I truly was!), there was still a tiny part of me that felt stung that it wasn't happening for me yet? Did they ever try to "protect" me from those feelings by purposely holding back something joyous happening in their lives so that there didn't appear to be such a discrepancy between our situations? I wonder.

I also wonder what that means for me now, being the one who is satisfied with my life. Sure there are always things to strive for and pursue so that life doesn't become stagnant, but at this moment I am content. I know some people who desire to be in some of the situations I am in. Knowing what that felt like, what do I do about that? I am pretty sure about some things that don't help: 1) complaining about my life, 2) telling them I remember what it was like to be where they are, 3) telling them I wish I was in their shoes, 4) boasting about things going on for me (which I think is different than simply sharing).

I can be real about my life without apology, just as I would expect anyone else I am friends with to be with me. Perhaps that's the key: focusing on the friendship for the gift that it is, rather than being caught up in the differences we might be experiencing in our individual lives. I think the best thing I can do is to ask them questions about their own lives and really listen. I can be encouraging about the things they see as positives, or maybe sometimes put a spin on a situation to help them see the potential good in it. I can cheer for their wins and feel sad when they are down. Basically, all of the things I would do and be for any one of my friends! I just think it's important to inwardly recognize that one or both of us probably feels a difference in our place in life, which is OK, so we shouldn't pretend that we're in the same place. We can be in different life stages and still be very important to one another. After all, I'm very grateful to the friends in my life who went through and are still going through certain experiences before me. There is a richness in having such a wide variety of friends! Each one of them brings something unique and special to my life. I hope I can do the same for them.

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