I was watching the season finale of “Private Practice” and I was struck by a question that Addison asked her doctor on the show. She asked, “When is my life going to change?” Her doctor says, “When you make it happen.” I believe that this answer really doesn't fully answer the question. And, I think it only focuses on the desirable parts of our lives. On the show quite a lot is happening in Addison's life. She has recently ended a relationship, wants a baby, her best friend is moving away and the office is under investigation. For me, the question sounds like "When is my life going to get better?" or "How can I escape and get to the good stuff?"
There are later scenes where she introduces herself to a new man and attempts to leave for a trip to Fiji with him, at least partly to escape all of the trouble and trauma happening at the office. Then while at the airport she realizes that what she is doing might be a mistake, and she turns back to confront her problems.
Recently, I’ve been rereading “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. I think it addresses some of the issues that this show tries to address. I first read the book in December of 2001. The practices in the book helped me to look at pain, change and trauma in new ways. At the time, I understood the importance of having a personal practice that incorporated regular meditation, but this book really helped to solidify why it’s so vital. The book encourages you to look within yourself at your own mindfulness. In the book, Pema writes that “the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Pema really encourages us to find a way to accept our fear, rather than hiding from it. She elaborates by saying, “When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.”
Ultimately, It’s a book about accepting life as it is, and not trying to escape or discover the perfect solution. By letting go of the need for control, we can free ourselves to face our difficulties and fears. In other words, it’s about living life in the moment and finding the space to address your doubts and embracing life at the same time. Pema writes, “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the trust is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for misery, for joy.”
Like Addison, you can find ways to lean into your life. Rather than trying to fly off with a new friend, which was extremely enticing for Addison, she understood that she needed to face her life. We see the recognition on her face as people, some of whom she knows, zoom by her to new potential. Her accepting the problems, especially those at the office, requires some big changes, but she accepts that. Of course, her work and yours is not magic.
Living your life mindfully and with compassion requires real dedication and honesty on your part. Once you recognize that you don't have to escape, the payoff comes in not feeling exhausted from continuously trying to flee from your doubt and worry, but instead honoring them.