Heart of Life

//Heart of Life

heart of lifeEvery year I look forward to my holiday vacations when I can reunite with family whom I have not seen much through the year. As I prepare, I envision the bliss I will feel, unencumbered by daily responsibilities and minutia. I have a thousand thoughts of all the relaxing and adventures to be shared; sightseeing, indulgent Netflix binges and lingering afternoons with my books and coffee. The vision for my time off is usually tucked neatly against a silver lining, partnered with unyielding optimism. In truth, holiday vacations can be challenging at times too. Not to say that I do not get to indulge in the ways I aforementioned. But I have learned that life plays out in ebbs and flows of positives and negatives. I have learned that amongst times of great joy, I can also experience deep frustration. Sometimes this surprises me, and at times I get caught in thinking that I “should” not experience this.

I think there are legitimate reasons that frustrations arise during the holidays for us. For me, I am out of my routine, more often trying to compromise, and experiencing life with the people that I care most deeply for. Out of everyone I interact with, my close friends and family are the ones whose opinions and feelings I care most about. I am invested, and that investment means that if I sense disapproval, frustration, irritation I am more likely to take it to heart. I believe this is the nature of intimate relationships. Love involves an element of risk. We are all fallible, imperfect and bound to unintentionally hurt one another. Holidays bring us closer and the nature of proximity increases likelihood that we will hit a nerve.

I realized this vacation that I had an opportunity to learn the ways I armor myself from feeling overwhelmed, sad, hurt, etc. The ways that I cope with being out of my routine, making compromise, and handling snags with my loved ones. I have many armors. I have a shutdown mode that happens when I am overwhelmed. It’s when I check out and do not even register that something might be upsetting me. On the other hand, I can get snippy when I am hurt. Or I may hide behind being the “calm and collected” one, when really that is just a way for me to avoid vulnerability. All of these armors block my connection with people I care about, though they feel protective in the moment. It makes sense I have them, that we all have some version of them. But the armor means that I miss the opportunity to feel supported because I appear as though nothing is wrong, or I am prickly and people distance. Realizing when this is happening helps me to show up in my relationships in a different way. It’s more honest, more raw, and also a little scary.

Though freckled with moments of tension, discomfort, and feeling overwhelmed my vacation was so valuable to me. I got to be honest, be authentically myself and feel loved at the same time. There is no greater comfort than that. Having people in my life that truly accept me for exactly who I am made this holiday season very special. I hope to continue to be this fortunate, and I wish this experience for us all. May this holiday season be a reminder to us that the heart of life is good, even though there are challenges.  Sending my love to you this holiday season and may the new year bring you many loving connections.

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About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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