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Not Getting What We Want


While reading the book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo, I came across a chapter titled, “Not Getting What We Want”. An internal dialogue ensued.

Me: Oh my, I need to read this. 

Book:  “We are taught early on that to have an ambition and to work toward it is how we contribute to the world and move ahead.”

Me: Yep, got that one down pat. 

Book: In and of itself, this is true.  But along the way ….we begin to associate getting what we want with success and not getting what we want with failure. 

Me: Yowza.  Underline that last sentence. You mean I have not failed if things don’t go the way I want them to? 

Book: We begin to see ourselves as little gods who create everything out of nothing and expect that we can will things to happen, that we have some right to control events…Soon we wake with a sense of entitlement: that we have a right to have things go our way. 

Me:  Ouch. The metaphor of “little gods” and use of the word “entitlement” stings AND it wakes me up to how foolish my rational brain can be at times.

Book:  Of course, life has other things to say about all this.  Sooner or later, everyone will face not getting what they want.  How we respond to this unavoidable moment determines how much peace or agitation we will have in our lives.

Me: So true!

Book:  This is the moment that opens all others, for our acceptance of things as they are and not as we would have them allows us to find our place in the stream of life.  Free of our entitlements, we can discover that we are small fish in the stream and go about our business of finding the current. 

Me: Oh yes, finding the current.  This is my theme of “Partnering with Life.”  This goes back to “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

Book:  This deeper chance to shed our willfulness doesn’t preclude our sadness and disappointment that things aren’t going the way we had imagined.  But when we stay angry and resentful at how life unfolds beyond our will, we refuse the gifts of being a humble part in the inscrutable Whole…we risk getting stuck. 

Me: So I can still express disappointment, but I don’t get stuck in emotions that don’t serve me. 

Book: The question waiting beneath all our entitlements and disappointments is: what do we truly need other than to wake and how can we share this treasure? 

Me: This is worth pondering–a question that goes to the root. 

Book:  Strangely, harshly, beautifully, life begins when the story we’ve made up to bridge the unknown falters. Eventually, we are asked to undo the story we’ve been told about life–or the story we have told ourselves–so we might drop freshly into life. 

Me:  Yet again, the importance of knowing the story I’ve told myself, and knowing that I can tell a different story. 

Book:  For under all our attempts to script our lives, life itself cannot be scripted.  

Me:  I know this intellectually, but it’s harder to accept emotionally.  

Book: It’s like trying to net the sea. Life will only use our nets up: tangle them, sink them, unravel them, wear them down, embed them in its bottom.  

Me: This sounds so familiar!  The best laid plans…

Book: Like the sea, the only way to know life is to enter it.  

Me:  Yes, there’s no sense being an armchair traveler!  

Book:  How then do we listen below our willfulness? 

Me:  How indeed. For me, it takes awareness of my mental model, humility to accept that I’m a small part of a larger picture, and compassion for myself.  

I originally wrote this post as part of an email to the Brilliant Conversations Community last spring. I have come back to this email, time and again.  I need the reminder of what life is really like–unscripted, at times a wild ride, waiting for me to acknowledge its true nature and join in, rather than resist.  I hope it serves the same purpose for you!

PS. If this resonates with you, it’s likely you would benefit from joining the Brilliant Conversations Community.  Click here for details.  Our next call is on Monday, Sept 15.

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