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Life Advice from Catherine Ingram

Life Advice
from Catherine Ingram

Hello Catherine,
I have a question about your views on love and marriage. I have been married for twenty-four years, and the connection with my husband has been mainly at the intellectual level rather than at the heart level. I’ve been pursuing a spiritual path and now realize that I want and need a connection at the heart level. I have felt that my lesson/challenge in life is to learn to show true love to my husband, but I have to admit that we have twenty years of communication problems and disconnection. I’m pondering the question about whether to stay with him as this is my life path, or whether I choose to go with another person whom I love at the spiritual and heart level (and who loves me as well).
With kind regards, DB, Portland, OR

Dear DB,
While I cannot advise you to stay with or leave your husband, I can simply say this: stay true to yourself and leave aside the “shoulds” as well as the spiritual ideas about lessons and challenges. These ideas often make martyrs of people who sacrifice their satisfaction in this very life with a belief that they are going to be rewarded in another time or in some magical way. This is not to say that one shirks responsibility or runs at the first sign of trouble in a marriage or partnership, but it is to affirm one’s right to recognize the current reality of any relationship, even if it means that relationship needs to change form. As Gandhi said, “My commitment is to truth, not to consistency.” - Catherine

Dear Catherine,
What part do you think we play in creating the specifics of our individual journeys? And how much of the wonder of life is simply that we bring our aliveness and attention to what is being laid out for us? I think my question has to do with wanting the security and certainty of knowing that the life I’m living is useful and worthwhile. In so many ways, it’s not the “special” life I thought I needed and deserved, and yet there’s great joy and aliveness in it as it is. I sometimes wonder if there isn’t more for me to do with my talents, skills, and passion? - SB, Los Angeles

Dear SB,
It is a joy and privilege in life to feel that our talents and passions are being well used, that our lives are good compost for the world. But I would also propose to you that the world can well use many more people who have no need to make their mark on it. There is plenty of room—and great need—for much of humanity to live more quiet and contented lives and to experience the wonders of this world without leaving a trace of themselves when they are gone. If you are mostly enjoying your life in its simplicity, let go of stories that tell you it should be different. Your talents may be used in ways you don’t yet understand, or you may be as one of the beautiful flowers who bloom in deserts once in a hundred years and are never seen by anyone. They bloom for their own sake. - Catherine

Dear Catherine,
What advice do you have for parents who want to impart values for our children when those values are different from the culture in which those children are being reared? We have two teenagers and seem to be out of step with standard American ways of bringing up children. For instance, our children don’t run the household or make the major decisions about purchases, vacations, and what time they would like to come home when they go out. They complain that their friends’ parents are much more cool and that my wife and I are old fashioned. Sometimes I can see what they mean when I hear myself saying things like, “When I was young my parents ruled, and that was that.” What do you think? - ML, Gresham OR

Dear ML,
I’m with you on this one. I find the permissiveness on the part of parents and the entitlement and general lack of basic manners that is common in today’s American youth quite appalling. I can well imagine that it is a challenge for parents who want to raise their children in a different way when they are up against such a powerful cultural and media trance as we have here in America. But it is worth the effort. I cannot help but notice that young people seem healthier and happier when their parents have imposed reasonable boundaries and instilled basic manners and courtesies. Those who have not had these benefits often find, when they get out in the big wide world, that the rest of us are not inclined to behave toward them as their parents did in fulfilling their whims or seeking their company no matter how inconsiderate their behavior. But maybe I’m old fashioned, too. - Catherine

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