Longing for the Life We Don’t Have

by | Feb 7, 2019 | Blog | 2 comments

Do you find yourself easily overwhelmed? Are you teetering on the edge of ‘holding it all together’ and ‘fitting it all in’, all the while remaining painfully aware that one more demand, one more  ‘good idea’, and the whole thing will come crashing down?

I feel you. I tend to operate with the belief that I can live many lives in perfect parallel to one another. I want to achieve all the things, make all the choices. I want to live all the lives I think I should be living. And I’d like to live them perfectly, thank you very much.

And yet we only have the one life. That to live this life fully involves the making of many choices. A ‘yes’ to this does in fact mean a ‘no’ to that.

Why does this fill us with such dread? 

Saying ‘no’ to opportunities, even with good reason, somehow translates as compromise, as the acceptance of a life with limits.

Perhaps, like me, you grew up crossing cultures as a Third Culture Kid. When you were deciding where to attend university, your choices possibly spanned continents, as do your career options now. So many choices. So many options. So many different lives we could lead.

Maybe you manage a chronic illness or chronic pain, and are sick of limits. You are living in the shadow of the life you could have had, should have had, without pain. Making choices, living with the closed doors they represent, is maddeningly frustrating.

And yet, here we are, with one life. And I’ll tell you what I’m tired of; not fully enjoying the result of my choices. We’ve all seen (perhaps been!) that annoying restaurant-goer who, upon receiving her ordered dish, gazes longingly instead at her friend’s, wishing she’d ordered that instead.

How can we learn to love the life we are living, instead of longing for lives not ours?

Perhaps they aren’t ours because we’ve made active decisions that have lead us away from those particular paths. Maybe they aren’t our lives for reasons outside of our control. Either way, they still aren’t on our plate.

So here we are. With our life. How can we begin to love our one life?

We can turn our gaze back to our plate, back to our life.

We can remember why we made the decisions that brought us here, good decisions or simply necessary ones. We can recall they were the best decisions we could made with the resources we had to hand at the time.

We can savour our own life. 

How can we immerse ourselves in the sensory delight of our own existence? Check out my Resources page for a free download that helps refocus ourselves on what brings us joy, through using our senses. Take the time to notice what you do enjoy about your own life; remind yourself what brings you joy here, now.

We can own the choices we make.

It’s okay to say no to some achievements, commitments, experiences. Honestly. It’s okay to not be everything to everyone. It’s okay to set limits, have boundaries. If that isn’t all, here’s the real mind-blower: It’s even okay to not feel remotely guilty about your choices. Uh huh. I said it. Now it’s out there.

To be perfectly honest, a dear friend gently reminded me of this monumental truth earlier last week, and I’ve been cherishing it ever since: It’s completely and utterly ok to make a choice and then just ENJOY it. Without apology to the choice you didn’t make. Without guilt for the ‘no’.

So what about you?

Ready to take some time away from your overwhelm, to focus on the life you have? It might be that some support would help you find abundance in the life that you are living. Get in touch here. to find out how Life Story Therapies will give you the support you need to live your life now; I’d love to hear from you.




  1. Antje Geiss

    Great to read that I am not the only one wanting to escape sometimes, wishing a different life. Thank you for that! It is also comforting to read that we made choices in the past according to our conditions and possibilities and to forgive ourselves to not be able to reach beyond ourselves to create a reality that we feel could have been possible to live today. We did everything according to our capacity AND conscience.

    In a book concerning child upbringing I read something great: The greatest gift we can give our children (and ourselves!!) is to accept reality as it is. Which means to accept that there are limitations, that things end, that we cannot have endless amounts of cookies or icecream ( oh no) because our systems would break down. Our task as parents ( or adults for ouselves) is to accompany our kids and ourselves with the pain that comes with these limitations. To be there with an open heart and arms and offer comfort when the limitations of my life cause me pain.

    One last thought: I have noticed that I cut myself off of sooo much potential joy in my life, because I feel I would be cheating on friends of my past, good times that lie behind… cheating on my joy in the past. Like a contract I made with my past self that I would swear I would never be happy again after I had to leave all the good places and people. A contract that other people would never deserve to see me happy, because they are not my old friends. Can you see the little stubborn girl sitting on the floor with crossed arms and snotty nose? 🙂

    • Dr. Rachel Cason

      Oh thank you so much for sharing! Yes, I can see the little girl very well! And I wonder what she needs? The book you mention sounds wonderful too – would you mind sharing the title? Accepting our current reality can feel like a threat to our past, it’s very true… and can be so scary. But yes, so much joy is there too.


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