“Don’t let me down.” Remember that time when you believed that someone held the answer to your happiness? Remember when you had expectations and people met them? Hopefully you grew up with food, shelter and love. Some of us didn’t get all three at the same time. And it was then that don-don-don-doooooon, we were disappointed!
Thus began the hunt for people you could depend upon and trust. Your best friend. Your teacher. Your first love. Your spouse. And then, they showed their humanity, made mistakes and let you down. Now you are self-reliant and subscribe to the best approach: “I”ll just do it myself, it’s faster/better/easier/safer that way.”
Alas, it’s exhausting to live like that, isn’t it?
Expectations: To paraphrase author Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk about the weight of creative genius, she said that expecting someone to take responsibility for that genius is like, “asking someone to swallow the sun.” Sometimes the expectations of ourselves and others can feel like that: impossible, and a little dangerous.
As an adult, how can someone else be responsible for your happiness? Or your pain? I woke this morning with a new nightmare. Two people who played a part in a childhood trauma were in it. I confronted the one who played a passive role in the dream. And then I awoke. I could have berated myself for not being over that trauma with an, “I thought we were done with these nightmares!” I took a completely new approach and said, “Thanks God, for the object lesson. I release you, pain. I release this story. I rubbed my neck and stretched my shoulder and went back to bed. And then I thought, it’s time to write to you.
Event + Response = Outcome: I could choose to carry the pain from the dream or the childhood experience with me in an active way. It could manifest in all kinds of areas and relationships in my life at work, at home, on the bus. Even if it lives in my subconscious, it makes up the parts of me that are more sensitive to those who have gone through something similar. And I’ll quote my friend’s mom, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
I had a wise woman talk to me about a friend who is in a lot of pain. There is nothing more that I can do to help her with that pain. The wise woman told me that she was “externalizing” her pain and that I wasn’t responsible for it. When I woke this morning from the nightmare, I had that experience of knowing whatever happened in the past is in the past and I don’t need to blame those individuals for that pain. I know who was responsible, yet I don’t need to carry the blame, hurt, fear and pain. What I have NOW in my life is joy, knowledge and lotus flower love.
If you are still interacting with people who “cause you pain” because you are related to them or you work for them, you still have a choice about how you react to those individuals. You can feel pain or look at them differently. You only have control over your response and that will impact the outcome. It’s that formula Event + Response = Outcome.
When being right is wrong for you: I think, at times, when my ego bubbles up the fear, it manifests itself in wanting people to do things my way. In having EXPECTATIONS. They need to operate with my rulebook. Because, I’m right. And when they don’t do it my way, when they don’t meet my expectations, they let me down. I’m disappointed. Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this sound unhealthy? I’m laughing as I write this because it’s a joy to see the fallibility of this theory outlined. Go ahead, reread this paragraph. It’s preposterous!
La-Z-Boy, Bed on the Beach or Massage Chair: As an adult, you are responsible for your pain and your joy. Sometimes, we can externalize that pain and make others responsible for it. “Don’t let me down!” Or better yet, self-flagellation, blaming yourself for not meeting those high expectations–that can be a comfortable place to be. Lots of us know how to sit, wallow and stretch out on the La-Z-Boy of disappointment, pain, fear, hurt, abandonment and betrayal. The upholstery has that familiar orange and olive green pattern from your childhood. It’s soft and worn, the cushion fits your bottom just right. And there’s that adjustable handle you used to play rocketship.
Do we know how to sit in the joy? The happiness? The quiet contentment? What does that chair or bed look like? Make it one of those fabulous beds on the beach that you see featured on the cover of Travel and Leisure. Or make it one of those massage chairs you like to sit in at the airport or at Costco. Only it’s in your living room, a soft italian leather with shiatsu massage and a built-in television and music remote. You can use your visualization in times of crisis, “Where’s my massage chair? Oh it’s over there!” You can also call yourself out and say, “Stop playing rocketship already, this is getting old.”
I’m inviting you to find your place of kindness. Get comfortable. Start with yourself: be kind and forgiving. Then forgive those who let you down. That was then.
You have now. So stretch out, relax and enjoy it.