Dear Suzie, Ever since the affair ended, I’ve been left with a tremendous fear of being alone. I’m scared that I’ll never be loved again. I’ve lost faith in myself. My heart is heavy all the time. Suzie, how can I once again be the happy, lighthearted, carefree person I used to be? – Linda M.
Dear Linda, I wonder, are you the nurturing sort who likes to watch things grow? Here’s why I ask. Sometimes it helps to think of your life like a garden, and the people and relationships in your life as the plants and flowers that grow there. There are two types of people in the garden of your life. Some people are evergreens — constant, hardy, dependable. Others are seasonal blooms — they come, they bloom for a season, and then they’re gone. It would be a tragedy to design a garden with nothing but temporary blooms. And yet, that’s all an affair offers: a brief, momentary bloom of pleasure. The good news is that the end of the affair doesn’t mean the end of all the flowers in your garden. Think of it as more of a pruning — the removal of unhealthy parts that don’t belong there.
I don’t know if you knew this:
The idea of pruning often strikes fear in the heart of real gardeners. Why? Because at first, the fact that you must cut off the old in order for the new to grow feels counterintuitive, yet that’s exactly the principle of rebirth every gardener must come to trust.
For example, if you’re growing roses…
You quickly learn that pruning is a very important (and necessary) part of growing healthy and happy roses. Why? Because pruning rose bushes removes the old, dead, and damaged parts from the plant. Once the unhealthy parts are removed, the rose bush can then redirect its energies into producing healthy new growth. Interesting, isn’t it? The unhealthy parts of a rose bush will actually suck the life energy from the healthy parts. So when the gardener prunes her rose bush, what she’s actually doing is freeing the plant to grow stronger and more beautiful.
And here’s another funny thing about growing roses.
They might look fragile, but they’re not. They have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but they’re not. In fact, rose bushes are not flimsy. They are flowering shrubs, designed by Mother Nature to be both beautiful AND resilient. Rose bushes can survive all kinds of harsh weather, tough times, and even the inexperience of a new gardener.
The end of an affair is the pruning of an unhealthy part of your life.
Because like a rose bush, sometimes, the garden of the heart needs pruning. Sometimes we have to remove the unhealthy persons, situations, and events that suck the energy from the healthy parts… thereby freeing ourselves to grow more beautiful, healthy and vibrant.
Now, this can strike fear in the heart at first (but don’t be intimidated). Like a rose bush, your heart isn’t fragile. It might get broken, but it will keep on working. It might get bruised, but it will renew. It might be battered, but it will blossom again. The heart is evergreen because the heart was also designed by Mother Nature to be both beautiful and resilient.
Once you learn this…
You can view the end of the affair not as a loss, but as a pruning: the conscious removal of the unhealthy parts of your life. And rather than being afraid of letting go, you can learn how to trust like a gardener.
So, what can a rose bush teach you?
It can teach you how to trust in the natural principles of rebirth and renewal. (It’s the secret of happiness shared by sparrows, blue birds, oak trees, and little rose bushes everywhere.)
The book of your life has many chapters.
As one chapter ends, another chapter begins. The affair was only one of those chapters. Rather than staying sad and feeling stuck at the end of the affair, why don’t you turn the page? Why not let the affair be yesterday’s chapter? Let it be over, and let’s find out what’s next for you.
I believe there are two ways to look at the future.
One way is with anxiety, and the other way is with anticipation. From your email, it’s clear: you’ve been looking at the future with anxiety. So I must ask you the famous Dr. Phil question: “How’s that working for you?”
Has it been helpful? Has it been useful? Has it made you happy to look at the future with anxiety? I believe the best reason to STOP doing something is when you discover it isn’t working.
If looking at the future with anxiety hasn’t been working, there’s good news. You have another option. Remember I said there are two ways of looking at the future. Looking at it “through the lens of anxiety” is only ONE way, but it’s not the ONLY way. You can choose another way of looking. Since what will happen in the future can never be proved nor disproved today, how you look at the future… is a decision.
I suggest looking at the future with anticipation.
Here’s the difference between the two:
- Looking at the future with anxiety means picturing yourself in a future where things don’t work out.
- Looking at your future with anticipation means picturing yourself in a future where things do work out.
Here’s how each approach affects you…
When you picture yourself in a future where things don’t work out, those negative images create a sensation of dread.
Dread is the emotion you feel when you know something negative is about to happen, and you can’t do anything about it. The emotion of dread drains your mental and emotional energy and stops you in your tracks.
The opposite effect happens when you picture a future with the confident anticipation that things work out. These kinds of images immediately give you a booster shot of hope. That sensation of hope gives you confidence and changes the way you feel in the present.
Key Insight: Hope is the emotion you feel when you have a confident expectation that things will work out somehow.
Can you see why it’s infinitely more helpful to picture yourself in a future where things work out? Just remember, there IS another way of looking.
But don’t take my word for it…
I challenge you to test this idea. You’ve been doing it your way so far. You already know what it feels like to look toward the future with anxiety and fear. You’ve been down that road. You know where it leads.
Now, why not try another approach? Rather than looking towards the future with anxiety, try looking with a confident expectation of good. Test my way for 21 days. Experiment with it. Discover the changes for yourself because I believe, the best insights are the ones you arrive at on your own.
The best part?
If you try looking at the future with the confident expectation of good and somehow it doesn’t inspire happiness, then you can always go back to your old way.
What have you got to lose?
Nothing really… except the excess baggage of anxiety, fear, and worry.
And that’s not the baggage you would want to reclaim anyway.
One of the best things you can do to be happy right now is to shift the way you see yourself in the future. The lens (the frame that you look through) is what determines how you feel in this moment. So, will you look at the future with the confident expectation of good, or with the anxious expectation of bad?
The choice is yours.
However, it helps to remember that happiness can only be felt in the present. This means, today is the most valuable thing you have because today, happiness is possible.