Why Getting What You Want Can SUCK
Summary: Sometimes, it's actually easier to be the person wanting something - and enjoying all the splendid excuses that come with not having it - rather than having the work of honoring what we get.
Ok, this is going to be another one of my "don't shoot the messenger" articles. :)
Let me start off with my own story.
Growing up, I was pretty sick. A lot. I had trouble with my legs too, and was in and out of wheelchairs, leg braces, canes, crutches, and walkers. I was a frequent visitor to hospitals -- I wouldn't have been surprised if their revolving door had been put there just for me.
Medical crises were my life. I got a lot of praise for fighting my illnesses... which was great and all, but it became my identity. I started feeling that recovery - and a hearty pain tolerance level - were my only strengths.
In my mind, I dreamed of being better. Normal. Having a job. Going out. That, I told myself, was when life would begin. When I'd do and be all those marvelous things I thought about from bed.
Boy was I wrong.
Longing for the path is very different from choosing to walk the path.
Longing can be an addictive experience. It’s the ultimate excuse, putting my growth “out there”, waiting for things to be right, instead of taking responsibility in my everyday life.
There is a compelling story to longing; we are the dedicated, exiled lovers, seeking a way back to the Way. We cannot be held accountable for our choices, because they are being made from the agony of our exile. I enjoyed feeling noble, longing for something instead of looking for daily habits I could build that very day.
Over time, my body healed. And at first, I was thrilled. I danced, I socialized, I did all sorts of stuff.
But it didn't stay that way. I started resenting having to work. I just wanted to go back to resting all the time. I hated the responsibility. All the work.
That's when I learned that working, and having the power to earn what I want, is much harder than wanting.
And... it's ordinary. Boring. It's not some burst that turns into bliss... it's the every-day slog through responsibilities. It sounded a whole lot cooler when I was still in bed, not doing it.
But when I allowed myself to truly be in the ordinary, it brought me many gifts.
In my uncomfortably honest and terribly ordinary moments of paying attention to my plain old self, I found a different level of commitment was needed. When I did the work, as unadorned as it (and I) was, things began to change. I looked at many ooky little bits that I have in myself: awful self identities, what I “should” be by now, the many ways I shame and bully myself into staying small, and much more. In the process of seeing where I was really at, instead of using affirmations or concepts I read about to try and talk myself into being somewhere else developmentally, I was finally able to work on my core issues. Not surprisingly, I got healthier, stronger, had more fun, and I felt I had as much right as anyone to participate in the great adventure of being human.
And it wasn't just my body. Here's an example from getting ordinary and practical around money. This is a loaded topic for a lot of people. It was one of my most difficult areas.
In the past, I would try to manifest abundance, to get out of being in poverty. While it sounded great on paper, I kept staying stuck in the same difficult situations, repeating the same lessons. I had goals. I had a vision board. I had sticky notes on my walls and mirrors. I had bills up the wazoo that I would quietly creep by, hoping to remain unnoticed by them. They'd been piling up for so long that I was convinced they were forming a primitive society on my table.
Then came the work I do now. Instead of telling myself I deserved a better life, as I had always done, I asked myself why I don’t want things to get better. Just put it out there. I made a list of all the ways that being poor made life easier for me, as weird as that may sound. Here’s a few, just to give you an idea:
-I get special attention and treatment because of my hardship.
-I could become pathetic enough to compel others to take care of me, making me think I felt safe and wanted (although I really felt unsafe, and a burden).
-I didn’t have to learn to manage my money, because I didn’t have any.
-I could qualify for all sorts of discounts and get free stuff out of pity.
It was like the warped version of feeling important (or really, of earning my own and others’ respect). I felt so invisible; this gave me an identity that I could point to.
In seeing this, I was able to begin to realize why I kept up these situations. I was also able to see that because of this, I have never known myself as independent and capable. It took striking out on my own, and struggling as I flailed around, seeing all the ways I made things harder for myself, before I could begin to earn my own trust. Ignoring what I don’t want to know is like seeing a roadmap to my destination and trying to draw out a route that starts from another town.
This is the heart of why we avoid what we have always been waiting for: it involves the discomfort of hard work and change. An old mentor used to say “You will change when the pain of being where you are is greater than the pain of being vulnerable.” Finding a path where we can really grow is a mighty gift, but a difficult one to unwrap. It involves change, and getting into the things that I’d rather leave behind and not touch.
In my younger days, I was always looking to leave my past behind and reinvent myself anew, into someone much better than me. I am realizing now that by doing the hard work, by going into my past and seeing the mechanisms I have placed in myself, I can have the richness of all my experiences, failures, embarrassments and insights as my foundation. I just want to be me.
There’s nothing I need to reject and leave behind; there is only me to gain.
Here's to being you!