So, here we are having understood that expecting other people to make us happy doesn’t work. That we are the ones responsible for our own happiness. And what do we do? We beat ourselves up for not making ourselves happy. Raise your hand if that’s what you do.
I dare say that the vast majority of us in modern society were raised “conditionally”. The German word for raising children is “Erziehung” with the root word being “ziehen”, which means pull. That should give you an idea of the concept. We’re pulling at our children so that they grow in the direction we deem appropriate, most likely to succeed and make us and supposedly them happy.
If you have ever tried to pull at a plant to make it grow, you probably learned your lesson. The plant loses its roots. Well, so do our children. So did we. Different from the plant that dies quickly when it’s pulled out of the earth, we humans have an amazing resilience. And yet, we’re uprooted. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know our roots. We were raised to fulfill expectations, to bend and twist until we meet our caregivers’ idea of a lovable person.
And now, twenty, thirty or fifty years later, we dive into personal development and learn that we better believe we’re good enough. Magic wand, anyone?
We are habitual animals. And our habit has been to establish an ideal for whatever we do or want in life. From there we compare our current state with what it should be. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that.
When I want to visit my friend on the other side of town, I better know where I am right now. First of all, “the other side of town” has no meaning unless I know what that side of town it is other than (haha, did that sentence structure make you cringe? Meditate on it).
Then, of course, I will never find my way there unless I know where I am at all times. The problem, as usual, begins when I resent where I am. When I judge my current location as “bad” just because it is not the other side of town yet.
It sounds funny, doesn’t it, when you read it like that. Surely, nobody would feel resentment in such a scenario? Think again. How many of us get frustrated in traffic jam? Or because the train is late. The flight is delayed. The four blocks turn out to be six blocks. The shortcut doesn’t work, because they’ve closed the road for a rallye. When we get worked up and frustrated over this, we resent being where we are.
Every time we beat ourselves up for not speaking Arabic fluently, not having completed our homework on time, not meditating deep enough, not reacting all Zen to our spouse’s tantrum, we resent where we are.
If I want to visit my friend on the other side of town, I take the train. The train takes me from my place to the city center, passing the river, then out east and even further into her neighborhood. I cannot reach her place unless I pass all those stations. It isn’t possible (at least until Scottie learns how to beam me up). I MUST be in the city center at some point so that I can reach my friend’s house. I must pass the river. I must be wherever I am on the way.
And so I must be where I am now. There is no other option. I must speak silly Arabic before I can speak it better. I must have my homework halfway done before I can finish it. I must allow my thoughts to chitchat into my meditation so that I can learn to observe it without engagement. I must experience my own emotional reaction to my husband’s outburst so that I can see where I need to heal.
And I must accept whatever I feel before it can feel good enough. As long as we think that good enough is better than, we keep missing the boat. How about we just feel for now? Whatever it may be.