For many, many years, I wanted things to be different. By “things,” I mean my life-situation, the things that happened to me, the way people were, the things they did – or didn’t do.
As a young child, I wanted my father to come back. After he died, I wanted him to be not dead. I wanted a different childhood, with a different story, a different family disease.
The first time I fell in love, I fell hard.
But then, I wanted him to be different, too.
After I graduated from college, I went to work. I wanted work to be different, less patriarchal – less “good ole boy” and more inclusive.
The one time I remember that everything was “perfect” was when we were expecting our first baby. Finally! It was different – just the way I wanted it to be.
For about five seconds.
Because the baby died. Other babies eventually came, but the death of that baby and the way it changed each of us took its toll on our marriage, and that ended, too.
It wasn’t FAIR.
And it wasn’t Fair that my Unfair stuff was harder than everyone else’s.
Okay, well maybe there were starving children in India. And, well, okay – there was all that female mutilation happening to girls in Africa. Well, now that I think about it there probably are SOME women trying to raise their children in chronic civil war, and unrest, and disease, and scarcity.
But among ME and MY CULTURE – yep, it sure did suck to be me.
The whole time I’m feeling this—the whole time I’m repeating my tale of unjust woe to myself and whomever I could corner to listen – that whole time, I know in my heart of hearts that I’m being ridiculous.
But, love, it was just TOO HARD to me.
But, mercifully, someone helped me see that, if I wanted to have hope for a beautiful future, I had to GIVE UP ALL HOPE OF A BETTER PAST!
You know, love, a lot of stuff in our world “just isn’t right.” The stuff we see, the stuff others do, the stuff that’s taken away, the stuff that finds its miserable way into our lives, a LOT of it truly, truly TRULY is unfair.
But what is fair anyway?
Is it fair that I’ve lost one child, but had three healthy ones, while some other woman who desperately wants to bear her own children can’t?
Is it fair that – purely by virtue of the circumstances of my citizenry and not because of any greatness in me – I got a free and amazing education? That I have a lifetime option to work hard and create a better life for myself and my family while women in other countries can’t even get a basic education because they were born the “wrong” sex?
“Fair” is relative. Who decides?
And even if you’re right, and you have the crappiest UNFAIR out there – So What? Now What?
If you want a better life for yourself, the one thing that you ABSOLUTELY MUST give up is ALL HOPE OF A BETTER PAST.
To the EXACT extent that you hold on to your “story” of “life done me wrong” – to just that extent do you squander all hope of a better future. You simply can’t build something lovely and promising on a foundation of bitterness.
You can’t attract the help you need if others shy away from you because your chronic self-pity is so difficult to be around. Would you want to invest in someone who was so broken all the time?
And it’s not just the distant past we must release. It’s what did or didn’t happen last weekend, last night – hell, even this morning.
And the way we do that is we –
1. Practice radical acceptance of EVERYTHING that comes our way. This does NOT mean that you are “okay” with everything no matter what. It means that you never pretend. Look your life, your relationships, your current circumstances fearlessly in the eye. See each for what it IS rather than what you want it to be, or think it ought to be, or COULD be. What IS – nothing else.
2. Are entirely willing to let go of your past – your “story.”
3. Neither minimize not dramatize.
4. Handle what needs to be handled. If something needs to be changed, change it.
5. Then, let go.
6. Actively seek and maintain a grateful heart.
7. Get some killer mindfulness practices in place – learn to live in the present – WHILE IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.
8. Practice love and service. All the time. Love. Serve.
When you begin to live this way – when you commit to letting go of all hope of a better past – then you can mindfully point the work you do TODAY toward creating more possibility in your life.
Self-pity and happiness are mutually exclusive. That means you have to pick.
What will it be? (Stake your claim on your own joy. In the Wisdom Circle comments below, let us know what you are willing to let go of today.)
Photo: Flickr, Neal