• Carolyn

A Scene From Couples Therapy

Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 40, the powerful idealism of youth often transforms into the mundane, task-orientation of adulthood. This might be inevitable as jobs get bigger, we enter the trance of raising children, and mortgages weigh heavy, but that can’t be the end of the story. The longing to feel alive doesn’t diminish as we get older, the way our desire to go to Coachella does.

How do we dig out from under the tasks of adulting to enjoy our lives and maximize our time on earth?

One way to reduce the hamster wheel energy and open up to a sense of aliveness is to try to be less productive. Busyness is still considered virtuous in our culture; we must be important if we have too much to do. Perhaps there’s been a slight shift away from the admiration of the workaholic, but working too much or being too busy is still not considered a crisis that requires intervention.

For some, myself included, the busyness is fueled by a never-ending To-do list, not necessarily prioritized. My relationship with my To-do list is kinda dysfunctional.

If my To-do list and I went to couples’ therapy together, it would have a lot to say.

The therapist would allow the To-Do list to speak first, since it would be visibly distressed.

“Carolyn is always putting way too many expectations on me! I appreciate her idealism, and her optimism, (that’s one of the things I love about her), but she refuses to see me for who I am! I can’t do everything she expects from me every day. There are limits- a certain number of hours in the day, a limited amount of energy I have, and she just doesn’t understand this. Every single night we talk it through, she says she gets it, she promises tomorrow will be different. But it’s always the same! Empty promises.”

My to-do list has made it clear we have a real problem, and it’s time for me to take it seriously. Which is easier said than done. I’m working hard on limiting my list to 3 items per day. Then if I finish those three and get more done, bonus! But most of the time I don’t.

If you find yourself in a similar dysfunctional relationship, here are some mantras you can use.

- I will not diminish my enjoyment of my one and only life with unrealistic expectations.

- No one benefits from my unrealistic expectations or impossible To-do list. It serves no purpose. It accomplishes nothing.

- I choose to acknowledge and accept the reality of what I, as a regular human, am capable of.

- I reject frantic, rushed, and panicky energy.

- I refuse to overburden myself with a fantasy of how things should be.

It’s my hope and expectation that with practice, a new habits can develop, and more space will open up for mindfulness and the simple enjoyment of each day. And then my To-do list and I will have a second honeymoon - and pursue our dreams, help others, and make the world a better place.

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