Up On A Pedestal

You’ve never had delusions of perfection, or you’ve given them up some time ago. Bravo! But what about your perception of perfection in others?

I know that no one believes that others are incapable of mistakes. That’s not the kind of perfection I’m talking about. I’m talking about the kind where one believes that another is lacking in character flaws, is a super star, and/or somehow manages to explain away ongoing, egregious behavior. It’s also the kind of perfection that leads one to believe that someone else is better or more important than they are.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with giving your loved ones the benefit of the doubt and seeing their best side every day. I’m all for that. But putting someone up on a pedestal means being blind to their shortcomings as well as their needs.   For example, if I can’t see the shortcomings of my best friend, then I won’t be positioned to help her when she is open, receptive, or even asking to make a change. If she’s “perfect as she is” then I may not believe that she has any room for growth and may unintentionally discourage that growth. In contrast, believing she is “awesome as she is” allows room for growth.

Another way that the pedestal can be a bad for relationships is that it may be a barrier to real intimacy. For example, if you cannot see or understand the things that I struggle with, we can only communicate on a superficial level. I know that it feels gratifying to vilify your friend’s boyfriend when she complains about him. But when the same pattern emerges repeatedly over time and across the different men that she has dated, reinforcing her belief that it’s always someone else’s fault is not helpful.

Another example of pedestal behavior is viewing the other through the lens of who you think they are. I once had a friend who frequently said, “You must think that I’m….” even though I assured her repeatedly that I did not think that way. This type of behavior is a barrier to intimacy because she would not see who I really was, but rather she chose to see me only as she wished to see me.

The pedestal may include viewing another as a super-human who can handle and excel at the impossible and who doesn’t need any help or time off. I have seen this pedestal belief result in completely unrealistic expectations of another. For example, a superstar may be expected to take on an unreasonable load at work, home or school, without any help, sympathy or support. Again, this belief fails to see the person for who they truly are and stands in the way of an intimate relationship.

I’m not at all suggesting that we look for or focus on the flaws or limitations of our loved ones. Rather, I’m suggesting that we:

  • Stay open, curious, and nonjudgmental to whatever struggles, virtues, vices, and achievements that our loved ones bring to us
  • Be supportive without being critical or dismissive
  • Listen carefully when they share their true selves
  • Avoid giving advice unless asked (unlike this blog, but I assume you’re reading of your own volition)
  • View the relationship as a partnership, with both parties having equal standing

If you are lucky enough to have someone who is that special in your life, then do your part to see them for who they are. That super star may not need much, except a sympathetic ear and someone who understands them, flaws and all.

A Fresh Look at Holiday Stress

Going back to graduate school this Fall has been a learning experience, not just academically, but personally.   Prior to this return to school, I was never an academic overachiever.  Usually I was happy with just an A-/B+ level of performance.  I felt those grades were sufficient to get me to wherever I wanted to go without stressing myself out and also allowing me to pursue my other interests.  That worked, for the most part, anyway.

The stakes have changed this time around.  Somehow, in the 20 years since I graduated, apparently I have developed some ego regarding my academic performance.  I have wanted to perform to impress – myself and others.  Suddenly, here in my mid-life, I feel like I have something to prove.

This mindset is insane, given that I just added a full-time graduate program on top of my already busy life.  The stress from my own expectations was impairing my ability to enjoy being back in school and my ability to be present in the rest of my life.  In short, I was making myself miserable and my grades were, well, still A-/B+.

We learned in school about satisficing, or being happy with excellence instead of perfection.  I decided to satisfice more regarding school.  I changed my strategy a bit so that I was working more consistently, even during so called ‘down times’, but I also would stop myself from over-editing by turning my assignments in when I felt they were pretty good rather than editing up to the deadline.

Not surprisingly, I have started to enjoy school and my life once again.  Surprisingly, my grades went up when I stressed less and enjoyed more.

I have found this phenomenon to also often apply when it comes to blogging.  Sometimes when I overthink a blog, the response is well, tepid.  My most popular blogs have been more spontaneous and off the cuff.

How does this lesson apply to the holidays?

Let me digress first to two other related concepts.  Another phenomenon we learned about in school is the hedonic treadmill.  The hedonic treadmill refers to the euphoria we get from things that bring us pleasure, say a nice new television, quickly wears off and then we need something even nicer the next time.  “You got me only one more pair of Jimmy Choos?”   We also learned about the peak-end heuristic: what we remember about an event is the peak experience, whether good or bad, and the ending.  We tend to forget everything in-between.

In other words, most of what we do over the holidays will not be noticed, will result in the need for something bigger/better, will be forgotten, or will stress us out to the point we or others cannot enjoy it or it impairs our performance.   So don’t be afraid to scale it down and choose being present with your loved ones over focusing on the trappings of the holidays.  Being calm and happy during the holidays will make you the Christmas valedictorian.

When Helping Becomes Hurtful

Helping

Helping

With our success- and perfection-driven culture, the often unspoken expectation to be “unselfish” and “care” for others, and the competitive economy, it’s no wonder that people seem to have difficulty finding the right balance between doing too much for (enabling) versus just helping or guiding others.  You know you’ve likely crossed the line into enabling when the person you have been helping becomes increasingly dependent instead of increasingly independent and/or one or both parties have resentment resulting from this arrangement.

It’s a tempting trap, especially for well-meaning parents.  For example, dressing your child and making them breakfast every morning may feel helpful, caring, a requirement for a minimally-competent parent.  But if by the age of 15 your child still cannot or will not dress or feed themself, then maybe you’ve ventured into the enabling side of the equation.  By then it’s mostly too late and you get to try to teach a hormonal, entitled teenager to grow up.

It may be more difficult to identify when enabling occurs between adults, since those tell-tale developmental milestones like puberty are fewer and farther between.  A classic enabling example is the spouse of the alcoholic calling in sick for their partner – thus helping the patient avoid the consequences of a binge and the motivation to get  treatment.    A less obvious example might be a spouse who spends on luxury items beyond the family means.  Instead of setting and enforcing real boundaries, an enabling partner may take a second job, make cuts in necessary and/or important expenses like education or retirement to provide a continued source of funding to the spender, or perhaps do nothing as the debt piles up putting the family at escalating financial risk.  The behavior is enabling because it is neither questioned nor stopped, and the cash flow is maintained at great expense (pun intended) to “enable” more spending, possibly at the expense of the partner or the family itself.

My own version of enabling has to do with caregiving.  My sometimes subconscious script and self-talk dictate that I “must” take care of not only myself but those around me.  For years I told myself I was being a good Mom, wife, daughter, friend, employee.  I would rarely ask people for help, and instead eagerly carry their load or fix their problems.  I did not require them to help me when I needed help,  to do their share, or fix their own problems.   So how did they respond?  You got it.

This dynamic was unbeknownst to me, though obvious in hindsight.  What I thought was a selfless gift was really just me caving to satisfying my emotional script at the expense of those around me.  By failing to both teach, have reasonable yet high expectations, and enforce age- and role-appropriate actions in those around me, I was encouraging the lowest common denominator behavior.  That is no way to develop the best behavior, talents and independence of others.  To add insult to injury, it was not uncommon for me to get stressed and then resentful for – you got it – no one helping me.   A lil’ darling, wasn’t I?

I don’t mean to sound too harsh or judgmental about my behavior back then.  After all, I was doing what I thought was the right thing for those around me, misguided though it was. The dynamic was in my blind spot, so by definition, was outside my awareness.  Now that I am aware of this disabling and counterproductive tendency, I am more sensitive to the impact of my actions.

If only awareness is enough.  Instead, it is only the beginning of trying to find the right balance for helping others without protecting them from the age-appropriate consequences of their choices.   To complicate matters, what each person needs or views as help is as individual as they are, and subject to change.   I also must focus on finding and maintaining my own balance of asking for help/being independent.  I know when I’m stressed out and reacting by being grumpy to the family, I am not doing a good job balancing my enabling/vulnerable spectrum.  Being willing to tell others I need their support is a good strategy to counter my enabling tendencies, and not just waiting to do so when I’m already stressed out.   Otherwise it’s like a pop quiz – they were not expecting it, they won’t know what to do, they’re like to resent the sudden change in expectations and unlikely to do well.

This is one of the many facets of my personal journey.  On some measures I’m pretty far ahead, others I’m way behind.   I have a feeling the road ahead for me is much longer on improving this enabling issue than it is behind me.  I’m moving forward; don’t judge me for where I am now.   More importantly, don’t judge yourself if you have not yet mastered this or another skill.  At least we know more now than we used to, and we’re getting more proficient.   We will be better parents, spouses, friends and workers as a result, and help model healthy behavior for the next generation.  We have to walk before we run, run before we can fly.

Healing the Perfectionist and Control Freak

Perfectionist

Perfectionist

Someone needs to tell the perfectionists and control freaks out there that they are making everyone else miserable.  We don’t need your stinkin’ perfection!

You know those the traits that you find most frustrating in others are the really the things that you hate about yourself?  You know what I’m saying.

Hello, my name is Susanna and I’m a perfectionist/control freak.

In my defense, perfectionism is considered sort of a virtue in our society.   Perfectionists do a great job with the things they choose to focus on.  Every detail is considered, every inch of the car, yard, or kitchen in perfect condition, everything beautifully decorated or presented.  Forget about the rest of your lives or relationships, they play second fiddle to the perfectionist/control freak’s obsessions.

I thought I was so clever during  interviews to answer “I’m a perfectionist” when someone asked me what was my biggest flaw.   That’s right, turn that frown upside down and turn my shortcoming into an asset!

Yeah, right.  I hope they saw right through my little charade.  What I should’ve said, if I was really truthful, was that I’m too insecure to tolerate human imperfection from myself or anyone else.  Or, it’s too scary for me to consider that I might not be perfect because that might mean I need to change, or worse, that I’m an unworthy human being.  Or maybe I’d say that the world is too scary to me, and so I have to try to control everything in it to feel safe.

But if I had said those things, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job or admitted to school because then I just sound like a head case.

I know the truth now.  When students or prospective employees tell me somewhat proudly about how they’re perfectionists, then I know they’re full of it.  They’re still in denial about how miserable they’re making themselves and others, how counterproductive that philosophy is toward their work and their relationships.  On the surface, they may look completely put together – articulate, poised, well dressed, well groomed.  But inside, they’re a mess just like I am.

Or I was.  I’m in the recovery phase, and to shake off that delusion of control and perfection was not pretty.

First I had to take a hard look at myself to determine how I was contributing to my dysfunctional life and relationships. Simply examining my expectations of myself and my loved ones and putting them into realistic context for the first time was a sobering experience.  This takes a fair amount of honesty that doesn’t come easily.  I had to do it because my marriage was falling apart and I was becoming ill.  If you haven’t reached rock bottom, then this step takes a huge  amount of courage and maturity.   If you’re the type that is never satisfied with yourself or others – maybe this should be your wake-up call.

Underneath my unrealistic and unfair expectations I was imposing on myself and others was also my hateful self-talk.  This talk was not at all conscious.  It was this inner slave-driver that kept saying something like, “if you’re not perfect, you’re not going to be OK, you will not be acceptable or worthy of love.”  This voice was absolutely relentless but totally subconscious. If someone tried to tell me I was being over-the-top, I just brushed them off as being too lax.  After all, I had high standards.

I think the most important step for me was then to forgive myself for being, well, commonly human.  Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes I’m clueless – oh well.  I’m just like everyone else.  Strangely, when I forgave myself, I was able to forgive others for just being commonly human too.

I’m having this control freak/perfectionism conversation with myself when 9/11 happened.  The remnants of my  illusions of control came tumbling down with the towers.  How’s that for finding a silver lining out of an unimaginable disaster?  It is a small one but a silver lining nonetheless.

Now I am a recovering perfectionist/control freak.  I have learned to be more comfortable with those now-occasional  feelings of not being good enough, realizing that quality of life, balance, healthy relationships and working on that which is most important is a much preferable approach to controlling a few things to perfection.  I have really, truly learned that my loved ones love me anyway, maybe more, when I’m not trying to be something that I’m not, or make them into something they’re not.  I have embraced the parts of me that suck, for those are the places I can grow.  My blind spots are still my blind spots, I can’t do anything about that but try to be open to finding them.  I’m much more accepting of the uncertainty of life, and the unimaginable possibilities that accompany the unknown.

“There is much more in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy” – William Shakespeare.

I have a much, much lighter feeling in my chest.  That tightness that comes from always believing something is wrong, something is wrong, I’m bad/wrong, is gone.  In its place is an openness to exploring the beautiful nuance that is the human struggle to find our place in the world, and the way our lives open up if we don’t try to control it.  My remaining perfectionist/control freak tendencies are focused on balance and quality of life.  That is really where the money is.

Your Shadow Self

split_personality_by_jenajumbled-d428dqcSometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Actually, I feel safe in generalizing that we consistently, predictably, inevitably don’t know what we don’t know. There is so much about our physical world that is unknown, and that world is for the most part, largely observable and measurable.  Now consider our emotional/psychological world.  Much of that world is by definition, unconscious.  This is undiscovered territory.

When I am open to exploring this undiscovered territory, I feel like I uncover something new about myself all the time.  I know I’ve also made many assumptions about myself that I have eventually found to be completely wrong, assumptions in place and unquestioned for literally decades.

I know a lot of people who seem to be more certain about who they are, what they can do, what they know, than I am.  Are other people’s beliefs about themselves just more on target than mine? Or is it that they have not yet begun questioning their own long-standing assumptions?

There are certain assumptions that I have made that I think have been good for me.  I have always thought I was fairly smart, kind of cute, kind of fun to be with, sort of unconventional, pretty outspoken, a hard worker, a caregiver.  Those are mostly good assumptions and helped me be an effective at my job and mothering (I won’t draw conclusions on the wife role I played for so long).

But there were also other assumptions that I think served only to confine me to thoughts and actions that were safe, but not necessarily true.  For instance, I’ve always thought I was not creative, not artistic, not intuitive, not empathic, not attractive.  Is there anything wrong with that?  I mean, what does it really matter how I view myself and my capabilities or assets?

Some labels that I thought were good were actually sometimes bad.  Often, I used the caretaker label to create an unnecessary and unhealthy burden on myself and dependency in others.   The outspoken self sometimes over-compensates and isn’t able to self-advocate.  The hard worker sometimes doesn’t know how to relax.  Being invested in my smart self sometimes means that I over-value cognition when other talents, such as intuition and empathy are just as or even more important.

Probably a bigger problem with my prior assumptions was that I was quitting in areas “I was not good at” before I even started. I closed off to myself whole worlds of creativity, artistry, intuition, spirituality and empathy.  I just knew I wasn’t good at those things.  So why try?  These parts of myself that I could’ve been exploring, cultivating, nurturing have just languished for decades.   So have the same parts of my human potential. If this was my approach when I went to the gym, I might focus only on my strong upper body muscles and neglect my weak legs and buttocks, leaving me looking like some kind of female, tree-swinging primate.

At this point in my life, I want to try to recognize and cultivate ALL my strengths and interests, rather than being an intellectually, psychologically and emotionally lopsided, knuckle-dragging orangutan.  I still don’t know what all my latent strengths are, but I have a much better idea of them than I used to.  Some of these strengths and interests, like writing about and cultivating positivity and optimism in others, were not ever on my radar until recently.  Once I was open to both self-discovery and not being so darn left-brained all the time, this passion came out of hiding.

I didn’t even know that I had these self-defeating and obstructive self-assumptions, self-images, self-perspectives.  It’s easy to understand why they were there.  By questioning my own assumptions about my hidden talents, I may also have uncovered unacknowledged, hidden liabilities.  Way too scary to go there.  So scary, I didn’t even know it should go onto my To Do When I’m Not Terrified list.

So, all those things that I don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know are there to protect me from myself.  They  keep me in my safe little assumption-cocoon where I don’t have to face the possibility of being worse than I already am.  They also prevent me from facing the possibility that I’m better than I think I am.

It took me way longer to get here than it probably should have.  But it’s a journey that I began only when I was ready to embark.  I had to be ready to confront whatever I might find, good or bad.  I had to be ready to admit that no one is perfect, least of all me.  I had to be ready to forgive myself for just being human.  I had to be ready to focus on my potential, not my shortcomings.  I had to be ready to free myself from the burden of the unfair assumptions made by myself and others that I have carried for decades, and the feeling of freedom and empowerment that resulted from this release.  I had to be ready to nurture all of me, not just the little pieces that I allowed myself to recognize.

The interesting thing about being open to all of my possibilities is that it’s like the Matrix.  Once you see what your true (relatively speaking) reality is, you just can’t go back.  And you really don’t want to anyway.  The weather is nice in the undiscovered territory, come out to play.

My Age, My Asset

I made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror during aerobics class.  Chicken wings, muffin top, apple-shape.  Sounds like a smorgasbord, instead of the effects of one too many.

My self-esteem is as good as the next woman, but sometimes I can’t help but cringe when I look in the mirror.   We always hear about the unrealistic expectations of beauty we have that are perpetuated by the media.  I have been no exception to that influence, as you’ve probably figured.  It was much worse for me when I was a teen and young woman than it is now.   I know better, now that I am in my ripe middle age, that these supermodel images are not reasonable standards. That doesn’t stop me from going there sometimes.

Wrinkles, grey hair, double chin, cellulite.

Young men and women these days still seem to have especially high standards for their appearance.    I guess when you’re at your physical peak, it’s natural to have really high expectations.  The problem is, those expectations too easily become unrealistic.  So when young people should most be enjoying their Aphrodite- and Adonis-ness, they are spending their time feeling inadequate.  What a waste of an opportunity to be vain.

“Youth is wasted on the young” – Mark Twain.

Therefore, I wish to tell all the young people I meet  to enjoy their youthful beauty while it last.  Be proud of it!  Wear fun, flirty clothes while you have the figure and the youth.  Enjoy your strength, your good health, your beautiful, full head of hair and skin.  All too soon, it’ll be gone and you’re going to long for that level of imperfection.

Sagging, age spots, dry hair.

As I was bemoaning my lost youthful perfection when I was in my 30’s, it dawned on me that I was making the same mistake I made when I was in my 20’s.   I realized that I would never be satisfied with my appearance if all I did was compare myself to some unreasonable standard (supermodel, 20 year old).  Instead, I should have considered how I was looking pretty good for my age, or even better, compared to a 40 year old.  To only focus on my shortcomings  ensured a constant feeling of inadequacy.

I can make a better choice.

Wisdom, smile lines, inner beauty.

We don’t have to be slaves to our and society’s unrealistic expectations.  We don’t have to constantly focus on what we lack or how we don’t measure up.  We can choose our own perspective and our own reality, and focus instead on what we have to offer.   I now choose to see myself as looking pretty good for a 40-something, and really fantastic compared to a 50-something.  Thirty-somethings are for 20-somethings to compare themselves to; those beautiful creatures not on my yardstick.  I choose as my role models the gorgeous older female celebrities who have chosen to stay real:  Jamie Lee Curtis and Susan Sarandon.

Confidence, poise, character, style.

There are advantages to showing my age.  My grey hair is my platinum highlights, and they don’t cost me $75 at the salon.  I can afford $75 at the salon if I choose to make a change, and I now have the confidence to dye my hair purple if I want.  I don’t feel the need to dress or act to conform to some external standard.     I understand that beauty comes from within and feel confident enough to share that part of myself with others.  I know to look for that inner beauty in others as well.  The reality of my chicken wings?  Well, maybe I should stay in the back row of the aerobics class.

silver sneakers

Aging gracefully

Holiday Reductionism: Scrooge-y or Sanity?

I love Christmas as much as the next gal.  OK, maybe I really don’t.  It’s not that I don’t like Christmas.  It’s just that I like other holidays more.  Am I the only one that doesn’t feel like Christmas is the End All-Be All holiday?  Just saying it makes me feel like I’m blaspheming.

Thanksgiving is a much better holiday in my opinion.  The focus of Thanksgiving is on loved ones and food, period.  What else matters?

Maybe Christmas is like Thanksgiving on steroids and with a different theme.  It’s family and food, but it’s also religion/spirituality, decorations, gifts, Christmas movies, dancing reindeer, plus-sized men with white beards.  With each of these additions, potentially comes time, effort, expense and worst of all, stress.

As a recovering perfectionist, in the past I had to do all of these things in spades.  My perfectionist tendencies were peaking around the time our kids were pretty young and career-building was in full swing.   The end result was adding one more straw to the proverbial Wise Men’s camel’s back.

In post-Perfectionland, I still love Christmas decorations and parties.  Other people’s.  I love the music, the embellished sweaters.  Ditto.

Don’t get me wrong, I do still participate in Christmas, but in a very scaled down way.  I don’t spend as much money on gifts as I used to, shopping may happen by mail.  The tree is smaller and simpler, so is the décor and gift wrap.  There aren’t as many parties to go to because of the economy, but if there were, I would say No to all except those involving the people I care most about.  Christmas cards?  What Christmas cards?

I don’t think our neighbors appreciate our minimalistic approach to exterior holiday decorating, which has pretty much been boiled down to a door wreath. We found some covertly-added holiday-themed ornaments in our yard a couple of years that I suspect was the work of a mischievous neighbor.  They’ve either gotten used to the minimalism, they decided we’re hopeless, or the home baked cookies assuaged their need to supplement.

The end result of Christmas down-sizing: I can actually relax during December and enjoy the spirit, the décor, the music, the craziness without getting caught up in it.  I look forward to the Salvation Army lady at the grocery store (where are they this year?).   I can enjoy the time with my family because I’ve had my work-out, some sleep, and time to write. I don’t feel guilty, resentful or stressed.  Does that make me Scrooge or Sane?

sleepingsantas

How Difficult People Are a Blessing. Part I – Those Closest To You (AKA: How I Create Difficulty For People)

There are certain people that have brought out the worst in me.  After many years,  I believe I now have a much healthier approach to dealing with such difficult people and the conflict-ridden relationships that seem to inevitably accompany them.

For me, first I had to learn to deal with the difficult people that were closest to me. In either case, whether in a close or casual relationship, difficult people do not do what I want them to do – either in their actions, their words or their attitudes.  Behavior that really pushes my buttons are cruelty, hypocrisy, disrespect, treating others unfairly or narcissism, a list that  may differ from yours.    To make matters worse, when these difficult folks are close to you, such behavior has a much larger impact on how you feel, what you think, and the choices you make; therefore, being objective is all the more difficult, and their behavior all the more trying.

Ironically, the answer for me crystallized when I looked at myself for my role in the unhappy dynamic.  In other words, until I had taken ownership of my role in the conflict, I was going to be forever stuck in blaming someone else and unable to improve.   Granted, this was a difficult step, but was critical for me to make any positive change.  My big mistake in the dysfunctional dance?  Having unrealistic expectations.

My role, thus my responsibility.   They were not the “difficult people”, I was the difficult person – and the common denominator.  I was a perfectionist, i.e. I had ridiculously high standards for myself, meaning that I was not accepting myself and my imperfect humanity.  My subconscious belief was that if I was not always smart, talented, cute, right, then I just wouldn’t be safe, accepted, loved, or approved of.  I had to realize, finally, that perfection is not a virtue, it’s a cruel illusion that fosters lack of both authenticity and opportunity for improvement.  Importantly, I had to forgive myself for being, well, human.  Imperfect.  Ripe for growth and development.   “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself” (Suzanne Somers) is really true, and the benefits of self-forgiveness are vast, pervasive and unexpected.

Forgiveness of myself for being imperfect also allowed me to forgive others for their humanity and all the times they have disappointed me.    Since I have learned to forgive myself for being insensitive, ignorant, selfish, undiplomatic, not loving, argumentative, defensive, I was able to forgive my loved ones for when they were being overly sensitive, know-it-all, demanding, needy, judgmental, hypocritical and critical.   I was able to forgive them, since I had already forgiven myself.

Finally, a wise friend (ok, it was my therapist) once told me that I may never have the relationship I want with my loved ones.  Wow, that was an epiphany:  accepting the person and relationship as it is.  In other words, I should release my expectations, not only of myself and my loved ones, but of the relationship too.  The lesson of 9/11 also reinforced this notion that control is an illusion.  The more we invest in illusions such as control or perfection, the more frustrated, angry, resentful, and exhausted we become when we fail to meet expectation.  I’m never going to be perfect, my loved ones will never be perfect, and it’s OK if our relationship is just – OK.  Paradoxically the relationship improves when I don’t expect too much of it or my loved one.

Therefore, in the end, I was the source of my own dissatisfaction. I was the difficult person.  The problem was my lack of forgiveness, my failure to accept the reality of what was possible or even desirable for myself, others, or my relationships, and my insistence that it was someone else’s responsibility to fix the conflict and my own frustration.  I was the only person I could change and I did not have to continue employing an unforgiving, judgmental, and blaming lens to view myself or my relationships.  Accepting and forgiving myself and others for what is, rather than what should be, was a relief to my loved ones, but a transformative and loving gift to myself.