Those who know me will laugh when they read this article because they know that paying for parking is one of my pet peeves. I think that parking should be free and I will go out of my way to look for a free parking spot, rather than paying to park my car somewhere. When I was in Los Angeles with a friend recently, we drove around for fifteen minutes looking for a free parking spot but we eventually had to pay a nominal rate because there were no free spaces available. I had to make the choice between paying for parking ($8 an hour) or driving around looking for something that I was not going to find in Los Angeles, free parking! We are now faced with these kinds of choices in our lives now, making assessments about what we want to give in exchange for our relationships, and whether the price of staying is one we can afford and want to pay, or find alternative choices that will bring more joy and fulfillment to our lives.
When we are ready to make profound life changes, we begin to feel the pain of our difficult and draining relationships. We begin to see where they rob us of our joy, they are not peaceful, they aren’t fulfilling, and we are sending them energy and getting little or nothing in return. While we may have been paying for parking, or paying a high cost to stay in that relationship, we no longer want to do that. And we have three choices: stay where we are and continue to pay the energetic and emotional price, talk to our partners and see if they will change, or move on.
A situation you are faced with now may be like ‘paying for parking’, you may not want to do it but changing the rules, introducing your needs or finding a more painless solution may not be an option or it may not be the option you want to or are ready to take. And if you decide that you are no longer willing to pay that price, you may have to risk alienating people in your life, who won’t be happy with any of the choices you make. When you have been the one they can count on, been their source of power or their support, removing that energy shifts your relationship dramatically. You may feel guilty because they counted on you and they are angry because now they have to find another power and energy resource. You have two options, stay where you are and ‘pay for parking’ or drive on. Both have their drawbacks but eventually the one you’ll choose is the one that gives you the greatest return in joy and peace of mind and heart.
So many of us give endlessly and continuously to others because we feel their pain and we believe that we can help. We think that if we show up for them they will be grateful and appreciative. But what we believe will be a one-time effort can turn into a long term commitment and now we are doing things we don’t want to do, with no end in sight. In short, we are paying for parking and it is expensive.
How do we end the situation in a loving way that helps us establish clear boundaries, empowers us and them and doesn’t destroy a relationship? Sometimes all of those results are not possible and we have to choose the one that suits us best. And there are times when we just have to put our needs first, assert our right to have joy in our life, and acknowledge our responsibility in the situation while we disconnect, disengage from our commitments, and move on.
Sometimes the choice is not as easy and we have to stay within a commitment until we can find a better alternative. In that case we can spend time understanding the lesson, seeing how we give our power away and learn to say ‘no’ and really mean it. Just as there are times when I cannot avoid paying for parking, there are times when we have to know when we’re done and make a commitment to ourselves to be more aware of our needs, to see others as powerful and to stay within our power so that we are aware of where we make commitments, especially where we commit to others’ healing, how much those commitments will cost us and whether we are willing to pay that price. When the price isn’t worth the pain, we will realize that there are better alternatives to that expensive parking spot and we will move on.
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