Staying Tuned In--Gifts Await
Thoughts from Dr. Zan:
Sometimes the Universe sends you a gift. If you’re lucky enough to notice and then embrace your gratitude for the gift, your delight can be ongoing. This is my fervent belief and my experience. For me, the greatest gifts arrive in the form of relationships. Despite all of the stuff, both literal and figurative, that we can become captivated by, when you get right down to it, all that really matters in this world is our connection to other living beings. For those of us who are pet lovers, the import of those relationships is undeniable and largely uncomplicated. Humans can make it a little harder to relate within a perpetual state of bliss, but who doesn’t like a good challenge?
Back in the early 90’s I received the gift of a relationship that has persisted with gusto since its inception. I remain grateful that I was tuned in enough to recognize the precious and unique nature of the connection. As I was beginning a graduate program that would require more perseverance that I could have imagined, more time than I might have preferred, and more patience to find adequate parking than is defensible, I had the honor of making the acquaintance of a group of women who would come to be a source of constant support and unconditional love. They were also the most amazing study buddies and dinner mates I could have dreamed of. Truly, in the sharing of challenging experiences such as demanding coursework, research, dissertation, and licensing exams, a bond emerges that is remarkable. That’s to say nothing of all of the regular life upsets that were shared along the way. Part of the beauty of this group is its longevity and stability. Part of the unique quality is the ability to its members to connect in smaller dyads and triads without concern for others feeling excluded or left out. The knowledge and belief that you are fully valued and appreciated does wonders for one’s ability to presume the best of others and release the need to look for social slights.
The learning about relationships that occurs within the context of being in ongoing healthy relationships is the most relevant I have ever known. Grant it, years of studying humans in relation while completing an advanced degree in Counseling Psychology is useful. However, it is in the application of this knowledge where the real growth lies. In the living out of our connections, it most certainly gets real. For this reason, I am delighted to now devote my career to facilitating relationships. The best part is that I have the pleasure of pursuing this work with one of my dearest colleagues and friends who was my gift during those first tense moments of grad school.
So I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts:
Are you staying tuned in to your daily experience so that you actually notice when the Universe is trying to offer you the gift of a lifetime, perhaps one that will even last a lifetime?
Can you take a moment to think about those relationships in your life that are profoundly meaningful to you and then offer gratitude for those gifts?
If you would like to continue to enhance those special connections, please stay tuned.
Reflections from Dr. Nadine:
I was smiling as I relived the early days of our friendship by reading Zan’s beautiful description of our time in grad school. I remembered the happiness and delight we felt as we five women negotiated those first years together. We’d share classes that were traumatic, then dinners that were healing. We slowly learned about one another, carefully daring to reveal our innermost selves, hoping to be accepted and loved for who we are.
It was through this experience that I began what you described as “learning about relationships…within the context of being in ongoing, healthy relationships…” We usually think about our friendships by considering who the other person is. Is our friend someone we respect and admire? Is our friend someone who has what we want? Is our friend someone we want to emulate? Is our friend someone who can offer something we value—emotional, physical, societal, etc.? We less often ask ourselves who we are within the relationship. Do we ask, “Am I someone that my friend respects/admires/emulates?” “What do I offer that my friend needs and values?” “Who am I in this relationship; what does it bring out in me?”
I began to learn about myself as our friendships germinated and grew. I started to pay attention differently to my daily experiences. People’s comments or behaviors captured me in new ways. I began to see each day through new eyes – my own, and my friends’. Then I would be excited to share my week with my buddies -- my occasionally brilliant realizations, and my usual not-brilliant activities. For the first time I felt less alone.