Go ahead, make mistakes

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I broke out of a marriage, took up with an old flame and retired, all in the last 18 months. I have adequate income, but recently made some impulsive, even irrational, choices. I’m concerned that I am not taking care of myself. I tend to seek confirmation from others that I did the right thing. I have few friends and struggle with keeping in contact with my family. I want to be bold but when I attempt new things, I get nervous and withdraw. How I can improve?

Recognize that you have dismantled two major structures: love and work. That’s a lot of birth and death in 18 months. Change is good, but even positive change produces stress. To improve confidence in decision making, try this: Stand in front of a mirror, stare into your own eyes and say, “Congratulations! You are creating the life you desire through every choice you make. Compassionate and wise decisions ensure that all people, creatures, places and important things are cherished. Open to see and hear what is needed to make wise decisions.” Daily self talk can help to counteract insecurities that threaten serenity.

Let’s do a deeper dive on those insecurities. Most people second-guess decisions when they fear making a mistake. This stems in part from a denial of errors made daily over the course of a day, or a life. These are the kind of easily corrected errors that have no long-term negative consequences. In other words, if you accept that most mistakes are repairable, anxiety about decision making will be radically reduced.

You must also tend to any unresolved marital wounds, like blame or resentment. If you don’t, arguments with your new love could follow old patterns. Suddenly, you’ll be arguing with your new flame but repeating the pattern of an old argument with your ex. It may sound odd but it happens a lot, and leads to more uncertainty about whether the relationship is the right one.

The gift of retirement means you have the freedom to spend each day as you please. With hours to fill you may struggle with loneliness, boredom or uselessness. The most important issue to confront is this: Do you enjoy your own company? If being alone does not inspire happiness, the world will always be a lonely place. You may stay in unhealthy relationships or situations too long, just to avoid being on your own. In the process, you might question why you stay, but be too afraid to leave. Who wants that stress?

As you trust your capacity to make good decisions, you will be less impulsive. That’s because impulsivity occurs when a person resists excessive or unnecessary rules, whether self-enforced or enforced by others. By contrast, self-discipline is essential. By mindfully selecting words and behaviors to benefit the woman you are shaping yourself to be, you will evolve accordingly. Enjoy!

My boyfriend and I were very happy until he started bossing me around. Now he tries to control the makeup I wear. He doesn’t like my friends and doesn’t want me hanging out with them. I know he loves me but I’m feeling stressed out all the time. How do I get him back to being in love?

You can’t. The man you know now is the man he actually is: controlling and insecure. You’re controlling, too, but it manifests as a refusal to let go of him. Why waste time, energy or your health trying to force him to be different? It won’t work. The more you give in to his demands, the more he will control you. End this unhealthy relationship. Find a man who focuses on building a lifetime of intimacy with you, not on a man who is trying to police you.

Meditation of the Week

“We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character,” says David Brooks in his book, <i>The Road to Character</i>. When was the last time you confronted yourself?