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Issue 106

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In this issue ~~

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Is It Me, or Is It Being Human?

Most of us, as we go through life, strive to be the best person we can be. But hard as we try, there seem to be certain patterns that keep coming up for us that feel beyond our control. It can be frustrating and demoralizing, and perhaps impact our sense of self-esteem.

Several years ago, I did some work with a life coach that involved looking back at key moments in my life and discerning patterns from the events. One pattern that came out was that of being abandoned by close friends, sometimes without any warning. As someone who highly values my friends, as well as close connections and trust, those incidences had been very painful for me. I wondered what it was about me that caused people to leave me.

As I worked with the exercise, it dawned on me that there was a bigger picture here: People change -- sometimes without warning -- and not everybody valued loyalty and commitment the way I did. It was a huge relief to realize that while it hurt to lose dear friends, it didn't mean that there was something inherently wrong with me. There may have been something about me that prompted them to leave, or maybe it was about what was going on with them. But ultimately, it was part of the human experience: Situations change and people move on.

We all have experiences or patterns that reoccur in our lives that make us feel like we have a kind of "fatal flaw" and perhaps there's nothing we can do about it. People will love us and leave us. As hard as we try to be our best selves, some people just won't like us. We can take great care of ourselves, but ultimately, we will encounter illness and death, for ourselves or others in our lives.

My pattern was about losing dear friends. Yours may be about having health crises or losing jobs or feeling lonely or being mistreated or encountering hurtful people. There's certainly value in taking a hard look at your pattern and seeing where you can take ownership and make appropriate changes. But it's also helpful to understand how much of it is part of the human condition. Think of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

In my experience, the patterns that we are "blessed" with are there to compel us to grow. This can be a painful journey, but if we can discern what's ours and what's part of the human condition, we can do what we can to change and come to peace with the rest.

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Action Challenge

Sit down and make a list of key points in your life -- good and bad. You might go through a timeline, year by year. Take your time; don't rush this. Once the list feels complete, look for patterns. You might highlight each pattern with a different color. See what you notice about each pattern. How much of it reflects the human experience? What parts of it can you own and change?

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Wise Words

"When we look away from our own unique peccadilloes towards a more impersonal inquiry into the nature of the human experience, we discover a very interesting thing -- most of the things we thought were wrong with us are simply a part of the human condition."

~ Michael Neill

"One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that the person I think I am must endure is unavoidable. It is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we must pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world wholly indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death. The remaining two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary."

~ Aldous Huxley, Island

"The human condition is such that pain and effort are not just symptoms which can be removed without changing life itself; they are the modes in which life itself, together with the necessity to which it is bound, makes itself felt. For mortals, the 'easy life of the gods' would be a lifeless life."

~ Hannah Arendt

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Bookshelf

(click on the book to see a description at Amazon.com)

Feel Happy Now . . . Michael Neill

The Human Condition . . . Hannah Arendt

The Life of the Mind . . . Hannah Arendt

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews . . . Geoff Dyer

The Human Condition . . . John Kekes

A Human Condition . . . Rob Shepherd

The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation . . . Thomas Keating


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© 2012 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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