Saturday, September 22, 2007


Have you ever learned something about yourself that you really never wanted to know?

I think I’m the process of doing that now. I say “in the process” because I’m constantly waffling between accepting this new self-knowledge as truth . . . and discounting it as over-spiritualized crap. It would seem like an easy and obvious decision—you cannot ever fully deny the truth, after all—but the truth can certainly be ignored, veneered over; hidden for quite some time.

Either way, there is pain (on one hand, the pain of facing your darkest thoughts and feelings; on the other hand, the pain of dishonesty and stagnation). The latter, I believe, is a form of pain that is actually quite simple to medicate for long periods of time. And I suppose that’s what I’ve been doing for many years now: medicating. Mind you—following the pain metaphor—it’s not like I’d ever been given an accurate diagnosis before; I’d only ever seen and treated the symptoms.

But now that I have an inkling of what is really going on with me—why I seem to have so much trouble with stress and managing it—I think it might be better to face the pain and get it over with, rather than ignoring it for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I’m quite ready to face all of this yet, to talk about every detail. But I know I need to say this: I have never really thought about myself as a selfish, greedy person. But I have come to realize in the past few weeks that I care more about my vision, my goals, and my ideas of precisely how my life should unfold—I care more about these things than I had ever realized, and like a spoiled child, I am unwilling to accept anything that’s outside of my own plans and visions.

And when my life experience and dreams don’t match up closely enough . . . that’s when I feel stressed. Well, that’s the definition of stress, isn’t it? The trouble is, I suppose, that I haven’t really learned the art of reconciling these two things—a skill that all spoiled children need to learn.

There are probably several ways to do this. Stoics like Mr. Wonderful may choose to have no expectations at all (at least that’s what he claims sometimes), while seriously nerdy overachiever types just try harder to “do it all” (yes, that would be more my personality). But if you think about it, neither of these approaches is really that effective. It’s neither feasible nor healthy to empty yourself of all dreams and aspirations, and try as I might, I can never live up to my own expectations. I may be smart and talented, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try; sometimes I just won’t succeed in the way I want to.

Over the past few months, despite the fact that I threw myself, body and soul, into the task of finding a job that would pay well and make the best use of my skills, I failed. It didn't matter if I stayed up another hour to search for more jobs, or if I revised my resume for the eighteenth time; I just couldn't do it. And now, take the house: I can't really work any harder to suddenly make this house beautiful and perfect and 100 percent guest-ready; these things just don't depend on me like I think they do.

So if I can’t just try harder, or do much in the way of lowering my expectations, what is the solution? It might just be that I need to accept someone else’s expectations and vision for my life, instead of my own. Someone who has a broader perspective. Someone who “works for the good of those who love him.”

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