The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

February 2023: Bargaining

Posted on Feb 20, 2023

February 2023: Bargaining
Sept 2007, Limestone Lookout, Alberta

For this month’s blog entry and healing journey update, I have decided to go with a journal entry from earlier this month. It was rather poignant at the time; and I’m sure it will be revisited. As such, the verb tense will shift, but you’ll get the drift. In the first few days of this month, I found myself once again grieving the loss of wellness, getting stuck in the bargaining stage.

For those not familiar with the five stages of grief, which are not linear by the way but more of a spiral, they are: shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can experience all of these in a single day or even a moment and cycle through them at various times in our lives and/or be triggered by other losses. Active grieving means spending time observing what is happening rather than fighting or ignoring it. As such, here are my observances.

In my bargaining stage, I found myself asking: What if I could work a “real job”? What if I had steady employment [aka income]? What if… and If only… My options in life would be much different. I think I have also been in the grieving stage of depression: sad that my options are so limited; feeling helpless and powerless. Abandoned.

Then Gaia [another name for Mother Earth or the Divine Feminine] reminded me that I’m not alone nor completely powerless or helpless. After all, I am part of the Great Goddess Sisterhood [a feminine reframing of the masculine Trinity Godhead]. I think I need to let that sink into my bones. What does that mean for me to be part of this Sisterhood? But I feel I’m digressing as I haven’t properly addressed the bargaining stage issues.

Obviously, there is a part of me that resists having a chronic, physical illness, let alone the mental ones. There is some piece of radical acceptance I am missing. In my mind, I cannot have a full life if I have a chronic illness, or two, or three. Now that I see that written down, I think that’s absurd! But there it is none-the-less. A self-limiting belief that I am less-than and certain aspects of life are out of reach. In some regards, yes—like mobility and energy—but that doesn’t mean “everything” is off limits. Adaptations may be required. Compromise: give a little to get a little -or- give a lot to get a lot.

Perspective. I can have a full and satisfying life. Just this morning, I was musing that I have had a good/full life. A hard life, but a good life. I have endured much to experience much. My life has not been empty or even boring! My life isn’t perfect nor idyllic; but it is pretty good. A quiet life, yet a full life. I have to remain open and hopeful and receptive to what is all yet to come…

I have to let go the “what if’s” to embrace the “what’s next.” Just because my life hasn’t followed a “normal” trajectory does not make it less meaningful or worthwhile. I was dealt a very unique hand in life—and I like to think I’ve played the hell out of it.

Watching old episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” has prompted me to consider the job of professional genealogist. I would have loved that! Following clues, putting pieces together, connecting the dots. Another “what if.” What if I had known about that option when I was considering careers? Maybe I could’ve had a “normal” life of a livable career. A profession that didn’t take too much out of me but could still pay the bills.

However, I did feel called to counselling. A calling is a difficult thing to resist! There is something to that. But I think genealogy would’ve been fun. Not sure what training is involved. Maybe it’s still an option? But I saw myself in rather limited ways back in the day. I did not see my options as limitless. I didn’t have exposure to all the ways we can earn a living. Life was suffering. It wasn’t meant to be fun. And then there was the silence about my birth mother. Obviously my life wasn’t meant to go any other direction than what it did. Doesn’t mean it can’t change direction now. Something to look into. Didn’t’ see that one coming! To do what I love, live within my means, and within my limitations.

I have lived my life for other people—making them happy. I have given very little consideration to what makes me happy. I think that’s what these past five years have been about. What do I want? What brings me joy? What is pleasurable for me? And I think it’s been a bit of  shock for certain members of my family to not have this same dedication—to in fact have the opposite approach: I don’t care what makes you happy.

My life has been about duty, service, keeping the peace, accepting suffering, relieving the suffering of others. My life has not been about me per se—as per my indoctrination/upbringing. So, it is new for me to consider what makes me happy, what is my life all about. What do I want to do with my time, and energy, and money, and gifts, and abilities, and skills. Hmmm. That last line. My gifts, abilities, and skills. I don’t think I’ve taken ownership of them before. They’ve always been for the use and benefit of other people or systems.

…As I reflect back on what I wrote in my journal earlier this month, I am intrigued how my observance of the bargaining and depression stages of grief led to musing about what makes me happy, what brings me joy. I am still spending time with this. But I have certainly sensed an internal shift which is difficult to explain. What comes to mind is the healing journey from fragmentation of Self towards integration. I actually feel less fragmented, as weird as that may sound.

So, I am curious to find out if you have spent any time paying attention to what brings you joy. And if so, what sets your heart alight? What makes the day more bearable? What is worth exerting your precious energy? Or spending your hard-earned dollars upon? Feel free to share in the comments, or any other anecdote about becoming an Integrated Self.

Happy Trails! Or as the dogs would say, Happy Tails! 🙂


  1. Beyond anything to do with family and “tribe”? I get a lot of joy out of helping people out, whether it’s using my van to do pickups for the food bank, working hard for my coworkers wearing one of my Union hats, or surprising someone with a little pick me up.

    On a more “for me” level (I’m sure there’s a word, but my brain’s fuzzy today), it’s collecting records and getting tattoos. The tattoos, if I’m honest, are probably the biggest thing I do strictly for myself. Simply put, they boost me mentally. No matter how crappy my day is, or how crappy I’m feeling about myself, I can look at them and think “…but hot damn, these are amazing, and they’re ME!!!”

    So it’s a mix of the external (people and critter related), and internal (records and tattoos, but mostly tattoos) that give me joy. On any given day one aspect might be more prevalent, but both are equally important to who I am.

    • Thanks for so much for sharing Dough!

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