What if nothing ever changes? What if nothing ever gets any better? What if “this” is all there is, and yet “this” simply is not enough . . . okay . . . acceptable . . . what you want?
These are the questions I’m asking myself this week. Here’s my confession: I have a very vexing problem. It has dogged me my entire life.
No matter what I have, I want something else. I want something “other.”
I don’t want “this.”
And whatever “this” is, no matter now accomplished I get at “this” it is never ever completely enough. Whatever I have, whatever I do, whatever I achieve, when I finally get “there,” I want something different.
Recently, I had two very big professional “wins.” They were both things that I had worked towards for a very long time. They were both things that I had previously set aside as “pinnacle” achievements in my profession. Until I accomplished them (My book and The Huffington Post), I told myself that either would be a CLEAR indication that I was successful.
And yet, when each of these things finally happened, I had absolutely no sense of accomplishment, or pride, or self-congratulations. In spite of what I had always told myself, I DID NOT feel like, ‘Yes! I have arrived!”
In fact, what I really felt after these accomplishments, was that I must not have set the bar very high in the first place. In other words, if I could achieve it, it must not have been very difficult after all.
My inability to feel happy or proud of my work extended outward, too. When others acknowledged my achievements, I felt absolutely nothing. I couldn’t take it in. I could not receive the praise.
I secretly felt like I had somehow been dishonest with others. I had the thought “Yeah, well, if you only really knew me and what I was like, you wouldn’t want to … be my friend … hire me … publish my work… have one more thing to do with me EVER.”
Joy just doesn’t stick to me.
Difficulty does. Worry does.
But joy? Praise? Recognition? These things slide right off of me into the dust at my feet.
I have always had an anxious personality. I have a habit of scanning my environment looking for things that are off, or broken, or lurking about in such a way as to suddenly lurch up and hurt me.
Psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally, I know WHY I am that way. I have teased out the origin of this problem and I can cogently discuss the particulars of how I developed this particular coping mechanism. And yet, understanding WHY I am a certain way does not alleviate the suffering I inflict on myself because of the problem.
I KNOW why I am the way I am. I KNOW that it was a very early survival mechanism. I KNOW that it has to do with abandonment and the high conflict behavior of those who came before me.
I KNOW all these things, and yet, when it comes to helping myself by “changing” this part of my personality, I am utterly and completely powerless.
Self-knowledge avails me NOTHING.
I simply want things to be different. No matter what is going in my life, I find a way to recalibrate the yardstick that I’ve set for measuring my success in such a way that always has me coming up short.
And I’m sick of it.
I want things to be different. In fact, I want the fact that I want things to be different to be different. You tracked that completely, right?
No matter what I have, there is at least some small part of me that wonders if the other thing could have been better. And, no matter where I am or what I am doing, there is usually a part of me that is outside of my own experience, wishing and longing for even the slightest little modification with what IS.
I want things to be different. I want the way that I am with myself to be different. And yet, in spite of the fact that I am an EXPERT in the area of change, and adversity, and triumph, this is one aspect of my personality that simply will not yield.
I am powerless to change myself. I’m powerless to change you, too. I know this. And yet, I’d still like to change the fact that I can’t change myself.
It’s a maddening, exhausting, behavioral habit and, by writing this to you, I am fully conceding to my innermost self that I am beaten. I am flummoxed. I am unable to change this thing about myself.
So, as I hit the wall of unrequited longing once again, a new idea occurs to me.
What if “this” never changes? What if “this” is the best I can do? What if my career is never really going to be any more that “this?” What if I never achieve the things I hope to achieve? What if this – this very moment right now – is the absolute best it will ever be?
What if this is the best I ever get or am in life. What if this is what my body just looks like? What if these really are my thighs?
What if I never really set aside enough for old age? Will that be enough? Will I be okay? Will I be able to provide for myself? Will it even matter that I was here and can I make peace with this? Can I rightly relate myself to this truth about myself? Can I learn to live serenely with this completely broken part of myself? Can I stop seeing myself as broken, in fact?
What if I’m not broken?
What if they are put there to remind us that
* we are human, not divine,
* we therefore must seek, one day at a time, to connect with the Source that is
* our brokenness is actually the beautiful “hook-up” that allows us to have compassionate love for our sisters because self-acceptance is the key to other-acceptance?
In other words, what if our broken place is actually the crevasse upon which God can get a foothold and build a society of people that – TOGETHER – one day at a time – provides hope and healing and sustenance for the whole?
What if our flaws are essential because, accepting them, allows our species to work together toward a greater good that transcends any one person’s personal ambition?
What if this is all there is and, in accepting “this” we actually acknowledge the miracle of grace in our lives?
What if nothing changes? What if nothing ever gets any better? Do I need things to get better? Or, can I trust that, even if it doesn’t I will be safe, I will be provided for, I will be okay in the world?
It’s fascinating really. My anxiety developed because, from the earliest age, I didn’t feel safe in my own world. The anxiety triggered the behavior of STRIVING and LONGING that keeps me dissatisfied. The dissatisfaction triggers my need for the healing power of grace, and my forgetting, triggers the whole pattern once more, so that – again and again – I must surrender to my own humanity and ask for help from that power that is so very much greater than I am.
What if nothing ever changes? Well, fortunately for me, in my own experience, Source never changes either. And, as I see myself devolving again and again and again in this own hamster wheel that I don’t seem to step away from, I am reminded once again, that faith never changes.
Source never changes.
Instead of trying to change myself today, I will instead connect myself rightly with Source. I will co-create with God today.
And that will be enough.
photo: flickr, woupidy