Thursday, October 17, 2013

What if satisfaction isn't a possibility?

Self- help gurus like to talk as though we can evade the downside of life through the right kinds of visualizations and affirmations. Just set a goal and make it so. When times get tough, they cover it up so that no one will think that they were giving bad advice.

Life happens to everyone. There are days when a good result is just not possible and there are nights when you are not going to drift off into pleasant dreams. This doesn't mean you screwed up and it doesn't mean you will never be satisfied again. It just means that there are things outside of your control, and sometimes you are going to have to deal with death by a thousand paper cuts and sometimes you are going to be really scared or angry or hurt.

When life is happening to you, you will tell yourself stories and you will tell stories to the people around you. If you are wise and good, you will tell stories about value and meaning and hope. These will not be stories about the future. You do not control the future and when life is happening to you, you know that you do not control the future. It's out of your hands.  Your stories will be about what you can hold. What you can hold are the elements of today that matter to you, both the ones that are actually present and the ones that are present in memory.

There will be days when the stories life presents to you are unfair and hurtful. And you will wake up on those days and decide. Will you give yourself up to bad stories or will you begin to construct a better story out of those same raw materials? A better story tells you that you know who you are and what you value. A better story tells you that hope is not something that lives in the future: it is the belief you hold now that you are going to keep moving toward the things you value and keep fighting against anything that gets in your way. 

That's it. That's all we have: a relentless dedication to knowing what matters to us. Knowing it fully, richly, with all our senses, with all our thoughts, with all ourselves. So that on the days when satisfaction is not going to be possible, there's still a sort of defiant joy in telling yourself that you do know and you do value. And that makes just enough difference.

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