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Owning Our Choices: The Power Within

Blogger Galen Pearl is is one of my favorite writers. She is also a very good friend to Betty and me. So, I wasn't surprised when I asked her to write a guest post and she quickly agreed. You probably know her from the 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place blog, or her latest effort, No Way Cafe.

Here is her insight on an important satisfying retirement topic: choice. I look forward to your comments.

“I have no choice!” Recently, several people spoke these words to me while describing situations that were causing them deep distress. The situations were very different, but in each case, my first thought was, “Of course you have a choice.”

In one situation, for example, the parents were in despair over an adult child who was still living at home. Not an unusual scenario these days. But the adult child was not making any effort to find work or otherwise contribute to the household. On the contrary, she took over the living room, falling asleep on the couch watching TV till late at night, then screaming at her parents for waking her in the morning as they were getting ready to go to work.  

I’m not telling the story as a critique of their parenting style. What struck me about the story was the parents' perception that they had no choice but to suffer under the tyranny of a child who, if evicted, might end up in danger, or might, out of anger, distance herself from the family. The parents saw themselves as helpless and powerless victims of circumstances rather than as a people who were making a choice.

That story is a dramatic example, but there are other, less obvious, more mundane examples. I’m thinking of my mother who lived a full and blessed life, but who, in her later years, frequently said, “Aging is a bitch.” So succinct! Now that I am among the aging, I hear her words repeated in countless variations among my peers, often with a sense of resignation, sometimes bitterness, or even anger, but always with a sense of helplessness. Yet when questioned, the folks expressing this view frequently identify reasons that are based in choice.

Marianne Williamson wrote that our deepest fear is not that we are powerless. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

One of the greatest powers we have is the power to choose. Yet this is a power we are so quick to abdicate. Why would we prefer to be powerless rather than own our choices? Because owning our choices means accepting responsibility for their consequences. We are no longer a victim, and there is no longer someone or something to blame. It is tremendously liberating and scary, all at the same time.

Bob posted an excellent article on this blog about five things successful retirees do well.As I looked for a theme in these five things, what became apparent to me was that the attributes Bob identified all involve recognizing our power to make choices, and then consciously making choices that enhance our well being and the well being of others.

Just recognizing that we have a choice, regardless of which path we choose, can be beneficial. When my friend with the difficult adult child could see that she really had a choice, she was able to examine the reasons she was making the choice to let her child stay. Once she owned her choice, she felt more at peace. And more willing to explore other choices in the future.

The subtitle of this blog is “Passionate About Living a Retired life with Purpose & Joy.” Passion, purpose, and joy all come from within ourselves, from claiming our power to choose, and owning the choices we make.

Next time you hear yourself think or say “I have no choice,” look a little deeper. I bet you’ll find one hiding somewhere, waiting for you.

I could choose to see this differently. ~A Course in Miracles

Thank you, Galen. You have shown us a potential for positive change that too many of us have a tendency to overlook. 


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