Leslie Tourish, LPC
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A good friend and I were having lunch recently, and over our chicken salad, we got caught up on each other’s vacations, work and families. Poking her fork into her salad, she asked me, “Are you happy?”
Surprised by the question, I stopped to reflect and do a quick, mental scan, before answering, “Yeah, I guess I am. I have the occasional blues, but nothing that torpedoes me into the depths.”
I asked if she was feeling happy these days, and she said that up until recently, she had always been aware of her blessings. She has a good marriage, two intelligent, healthy young children, a lovely home and interesting, though stressful, work. “But,” she said, and I sensed that I was going to hear a fly in the ointment, “next week I’m turning forty.”
Now I’d already been down that road awhile ago, so I had an idea of some of what she was going through. However, I also knew she had her own personal spin on what this meant to her, so I asked what she was telling herself about turning the Big Four-O.
She said she felt as though she had spent the last twenty years of her life running on a treadmill of responsibility for others, but had not created enough of a life that included her own interests and talents. Her husband encourages her to try new things, but since she is out of practice with reinventing herself, the thought of new terrain scares her. After some discussion, it appeared what she was telling herself was that time is slipping by, youth, vitality and possibilities are receding into her rearview mirror, and she’s frightened of taking on new challenges for fear of failure.
When she voiced her fears, and looked at them logically, however, they began to lose their power. She was able to recognize that these were illogical assumptions based on her fears and anxiety at turning forty. And we were also able to recognize that while our culture may make a big deal about a woman turning forty, in reality, it is just another number. The only ones who can limit and diminish us are ourselves.
If you feel yourself getting depressed from distorted thinking, following these three steps may help to reduce, if not boot, the blues:
Last week I spoke with my friend again on the phone, and heard a much brighter voice on the other line. I asked her what had changed, and she said she had decided to take a chance on herself by leaving her old stressful job and taking a new position. Not only was the work more in line with her creativity, but she even got a salary increase.
And how about the blues, I asked her. She reported that the dark clouds were long gone, and, “The old me is back, and I’ve forgotten how good that feels.”