By Elaine Voci, Phd. Certified Lifecycle Celebrant®, Life Coach
Abraham Lincoln (no stranger to heart ache and stress) who wisely observed more than a hundred years ago, “Folks are about as happy in this life as they make their minds up to be.”
The mind-body-spirit connection is well known in our modern world. Medical researchers in the past thirty years have demonstrated that our thoughts affect what happens in our bodies and that our spiritual selves are integrated with our mental and physical selves because we are whole human beings. As a result, we know that stress is not so much what happens to us, but how we “take it” (what we tell ourselves about what has happened).
Let me tell you a true story that illustrates this mind-body-spirit relationship. I met two spinal-cord injured men during my graduate studies when I was an interviewer on a research collaboration by the IU School of Medicine and the Kinsey Institute. Both men were paralyzed around the same time, at about the same age, in separate diving accidents. But each made very different responses to their radically altered lives and subsequent recuperation. They turned out to be exquisite teachers that I have never forgotten.
Jeff lived far north of Indianapolis in his parents’ home; his world consisted of a bedroom with TV, a hospital bed, and a wheelchair. The house was dark and gloomy, the window shades pulled down low. It felt like being in a funeral home when I interviewed him. Jeff was angry at God for his injuries and had withdrawn from college, refusing to see old friends and classmates because he didn’t want their “pity.” He was often sarcastic in response to the interview questions and he made it clear that he thought his life was over. With no plans for the future, he was filled with self-pity and self-loathing, and seemed unable to move beyond his circumstances.
Mark lived south of Indianapolis in the home he shared with his wife; it was bright and filled with light from an abundance of windows. He greeted me at the front door holding his first child, a baby girl that he and his wife had conceived with artificial insemination. They made me feel welcome and invited me to stay for lunch during which we talked and laughed often.
During the interview, Mark expressed pride in his marriage, his family and his career with a local company. He told me that his disability was “an inconvenience” and reminded me that “we are all disabled in some way.” When he described how he had wooed and won his wife, a nurse in the rehabilitation hospital where he had been treated, there was a twinkle in his eyes.
Mark had gone back to school after the accident and not only finished his undergraduate degree, but also earned a master’s degree. It was apparent that he had made a successful recovery. Everyone in town recognized him as he drove around in his van equipped with hand controls; many knew him because he coached Little League games. His wife told me that some of the traits that made Mark so beloved were his joy of living, his great love for people, and his belief in something greater than himself.
What made the difference in how these two men reacted? Their attitude. Attitude is the key to building resilience in life and being able to sustain a healthy outlook through life’s ups and downs. Whether you are a new celebrant or one with years of experience, the balance in your life derives from your attitude and has a direct impact on the quality of your work as a celebrant because you, too, are a combination of mind, body and spirit.
Being a celebrant is happy work, but it has its challenges, and our attitude is what gets us through trying times. For example, you might have put hours of work into creating a beautiful ceremony for a client, only to have that person change their mind at the last minute to have someone else perform it. While you collected the first payment, you lost the remaining income and you may have been left without a clear explanation for their change of heart.
This represents a choice point – a fork in the road where you get to choose which way to go. One road is full of anger and leads to self-righteous bitterness, and judgmental generalizations about “all clients” being untrustworthy. This tempting road will initially make you feel good about yourself because it supports your assumption that you were grievously wronged, but it will turn into a dead-end, eventually, and leave you out of gas and out of confidence.
The other road (known as the “high road”) is based on a more tolerant world view that acknowledges human frailty and the foibles of human nature. It even draws on some mild humor to assert (as a boss once told me) that ‘all customers lie’ – not to be intentionally deceitful, but to be self-protective and allow for an “escape” route. Taking the high road is better for your health than continuing to fret, complain, or resent the outcome. This road is long and wide, well-traveled and scenic; it is a road that will dependably lead you to new career adventures and a sense of satisfaction with your life.
That’s the difference attitude makes. We can either choose to learn from each experience and adapt our expectations going forward with a bit of wry wisdom, or we can choose to be wary of clients, and less giving and spontaneous in our role as celebrants. It’s up to each of us to make choices that will best serve us and this uniquely creative career we have chosen.
We can draw inspiration from historical figures who served the public, often called upon to provide ceremony and wisdom for the nation. One example was Abraham Lincoln (no stranger to heartache and stress) who wisely observed more than a hundred years ago, “Folks are about as happy in this life as they make their minds up to be.”
If you think being a Certified Lifecycle Celebrant might be part of your happiness, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org