Words from the Wise
Seasoned advice from BOOMER magazine's Fran Marmor, LCSW
When I graduated from Tulane School of Social Work in what now seems like the year of the dinosaurs, I was 23 years old and could not wait to impart all my newfound wisdom to my future clients. I had just earned a master’s degree and was convinced I was automatically an expert!
Experience and, OK, age, has humbled me. I realize I knew very little back then. I continue to learn every day and my greatest teachers are my current and past clients. These clients are in the midst of all kinds of struggles and challenges but virtually always learn huge life lessons. I’d liked to share a few of the most important:
1. The grass isn’t greener on the other side; it is greener where you water it. People can spend a lot of time being envious of others and wishing they had what others seem to have. This time is wasted. Often when people really nurture the relationships they are in, or appreciate aspects of their current situation and express that gratitude, they feel fortunate and far less envious.
2. Don’t measure how you feel by how others appear. Clients have admitted that when they feel anxious or intimidated, they sometimes feel worse when they see other people appearing to be confident and relaxed. It helps to realize the others are often feeling the same way.
3. Choose your friends; don’t wait to be chosen. We all deserve to choose our friends and we can choose people who will treat us with respect and kindness. We don’t need to be sad when people, whom we wouldn’t pick as friends anyway, don’t pick us!
4. A mother is only as happy as her least happy child. Many clients have shared this. They’ve worked through realizing that it is not necessarily a bad thing when our children face difficulties: Resilience is developed. We can support and love our children without allowing their lives to control our emotions. I had a client say that when our children ride emotional roller coasters, we should be the ticket taker and not the passenger! That is, we can be there for them without taking the ride with them.
5. When you are angry and don’t “let someone off the hook,” you wind up carrying the hook and all of the weight of the person.Finding empathy and forgiveness feels so much better.
6. Choose faith over fear. This doesn’t necessarily mean religion. When we worry about a “what-if” outcome, we can instead ask, “What if something good happens?” Several outcomes are always possible. How nice to imagine things working out better than we expect, rather than catastrophically. Statistically, we are probably right more often if we imagine good outcomes, anyway.
7. Assume your partner has the absolute best intentions. Often, you will be right here as well.
8. It is often better to be loving than right. It doesn’t always matter if you are right, or have the best argument or point. It always matter if you are loving.
Fran Marmor, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years. Though changing some details, she writes of actual cases for BOOMER from Fort Collins, Colo. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.