We think there is a way to go about it, a way to do it, that will make it easy. Maybe it’s a matter of keeping the rules. You know, doing the right things, the things that are supposed to be done the way they supposed to be done. We do things everyone thinks they ought to be done without understanding, or questioning. We keep rules we don’t understand because we think keeping the rules will make it easy, and we can relax and enjoy our lives.
Maybe it’s a matter of getting good grades. We turn in our assignments on time and volunteer for everything that has an extra point attached to it. We never talk in class, have perfect attendance, and are horrified if we make less than a 95 on anything. Because we think getting good grades will make it easy. Maybe it’s a matter of believing the right beliefs. You wouldn’t believe the things we have believed because someone told us they were the right things to believe, because we believed believing them would make it easy.
Maybe it’s a matter of being approved. We check our appearance throughout the day, make sure our tie still matches our shirt, and that we don’t have blue socks with black shoes. We drive the right cars, and live in the right neighborhoods, and cut the lawn to the right height at the right times, and make sure our children are well-behaved, and work hard to keep up appearances in order to be approved because we think that will make it easy.
Maybe it’s a matter of making enough money, of eating the right number of calories, and the right amount of fiber, and walking the right number of miles, and praying the right prayers, and meditating with the right mantra, and reading the right books, and, well, the list is rather endless. And, there are several different lists, actually, but we are confident that if we find the right one and apply it with the right amount of diligence and concentration it will all fall into place for us, make beautiful sense, and be easy. If we only can figure out the right way to do it and do it that way, it will be easy. We know it will be.
Okay. Here’s your assignment. Explore easy. If it were easy, how would it be different from the way it is? What is presently hard? What would have to happen for it to be easy? What will it take to make that happen? Will keeping the rules do it? Making enough money? Believing the right beliefs? Being approved? Having good grades? Tell me again. What is hard that you want to be easy? What would it take to make that happen? What exactly do you need for your life to be easy? What needs to happen for you to have what you need for your life to be easy?
Sheldon Kopp says we have to run our own lives as well as we can and take the consequences as they come without making any excuses (He also says, “Being neurotic is being able to act badly without feeling responsible for what you do”). There are people who think they can be liked, accepted, loved, if they make other people happy. And, they think they can make other people happy by living in certain ways, doing certain things. And, they live their lives like a puppet on a string. But, no one is happy with their performance, certainly not themselves.
The key to being liked is to let yourself be liked by those who like you, and to let yourself be un-liked by those who don’t like you. Jesus said it like this: “Those who are with us are with us, and those who are against us are against us” (Or words to that effect). Sheldon Kopp says, “You can’t make anyone love you. You just have to reveal who you are and take your chances.” It’s the wisdom of the chorus of a song by Sawyer Brown: “Some girls don’t like boys like me, ah, but some girls do!”
We only make ourselves crazy trying to make everyone like us—or just all the important ones. The important ones may not like us. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with us. It just means there are people who don’t like us. We have to recognize that as the way it is and let it be, because it is. We may try to make everyone like us to off-set the fact that our father, or our mother, or both, didn’t like us, when we only have to let our father, or our mother, or both, not like us. “Some girls don’t like boys like me.” Leave them to their likes and their dislikes, and walk on, enjoying the company of those that do.
Babies have no trouble being themselves. When we are born, we are who we are around everyone. It doesn’t take us long to learn that isn’t permitted. By the time we are 13, no one knows who we are, not even ourselves. We spend the first 13 years of our life learning to not be who we are, to be someone else instead. In order to be liked, or to survive, we have to be someone else. We have to disappear and become Who We Are Supposed To Be. We spend the rest of our lives trying to remember who we were when we were born, who we were born to be.
Sheldon Kopp says that our only real power lies in taking charge of our own life, enjoying being who we are, and making our life as meaningful for ourselves as we can, whatever others may or may not expect of us, or think about us. Are we looking for applause? Approval? Are we living our lives with one eye on who is watching us live our lives? Who do we live trying to please? Whose approval is important for us to receive? Are we living our lives in order to be seen living our lives? If no one were watching, what would we do? If no one knew what we did, what would we do? What are the things that matter to us because they matter to us, and no one else? The things we would do because they are important to us whether anyone is watching or not? These are the things we have to do first. They form the foundation. If we have them going for us, we will be less dependent upon the applause.
What are we going to do with the time that is ours? I recommend spending it on things that are important to us. I recommend doing more of what we like to do, and less of what we don’t like to do. I recommend doing more of what interests us and less of what doesn’t. I recommend spending as little time as possible being dead before we die. I know you think this sounds selfish and self-centered, and I know you think that’s the wrong thing to be, but don’t close me off too quickly. The issue here is exactly the same as the one on the airlines when the flight attendant tells you to place the oxygen mask on your face first, and then take care of whoever else might be in your charge. We cannot be of any help to anyone if we are living out of an emotional deficit. Growing up is about taking care of ourselves in the right kinds of ways.
Here is the recipe, the model, the way of doing it for the rest of your life: We have to take everything into account and do what we feel like doing, and let the outcome be the outcome, and be responsible for the consequences, and respond to what happens by taking everything into account and doing what we feel like doing. Etc., ad nauseam, forever. Get it?
If what you are doing isn’t doing it for you, why do it? Why not do something else instead? What’s keeping you locked in place when you should be somewhere else? No one is alive who is only what other people think she, think he, should be. To be alive, we have to have a life of our own. We have to soothe ourselves, calm ourselves, take care of ourselves in the right kind of way. Maybe, it’s just a stamp collection, or a beehive, but it is ours and we don’t do it the way anyone thinks we ought to do it. We do it the way WE do it. It’s ours. And, in that space, we don’t think about how other people would do it, or expect us to. To be alive, we have to have our own space and a life to call our own.
There is more to us all than meets the eye, or needs to be. Nothing is more pointless than a person who has become the norm and is transparently exactly who she, or he, is supposed to be. We have to have a life no one knows about. We have to leave town from time to time, go to the beach or the mountains, and not tell anyone where we are going or what we do there. Maybe we only sleep late, or get up early and look for shells or watch the sun rise. Maybe we don’t do anything worth talking about, but we don’t talk about it. It’s ours. We have some private space that no one knows about but us. We have a secret side. There is more to us than meets the eye. We have depth. We are three dimensional. And alive.
All the interesting people have a life, a perspective, a way of seeing and being in the world that sets them apart. They are alive, and they are alive in their own way. They are interested in something beyond themselves. Interesting people are interested people, but they aren’t interested in being interesting. The people who strive to be interesting by having all the qualities of interesting people are only boring. Interesting people don’t try to be interesting. They don’t try to be visible. They disappear into the ordinariness of their own lives, doing what interests them, unable to see why anyone would be interested in them or what interests them, and become interesting thereby. Interesting, don’t you think?
But, here’s the deal. Two things: In order to be interesting and alive, in order to have a life, we have to trust ourselves to make our own choices. We cannot think that there is someone else who will take care of us and tell us what to do and protect us from mistakes and wrong turns and bad judgment. We are on our own here. Our lives are ours to live, for better or worse. Look around. There is no one here who knows better than you do how to live your life. Who are you going to look to to tell you what to do, and when to do it, and how to do it, and when to quit doing it? Who knows more about what you need to do, how you need to be, than you do? That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that there is no end to it. Sheldon Knopp says, “Nothing important gets solved once and for all, finally and forever.” We don’t get it figured out, solved, resolved, taken care of, finished and completed. We don’t get “all our ducks in a row.” We don’t get all our problems worked out. We don’t get over one hump before here comes another one. There are no grown ups. We never get beyond the need to grow up. Here we go again!