Do or do not. There is no try ~ Master Yoda
Last week, I ran into an old colleague who has fallen upon some tough times. Everything he knew to be his life had faded away and had been “lost”. He looked at me and said, “I had the perfect life, I had everything. And now I’m being forced to live life on life’s terms.”
We chatted briefly, while I held my iPhone in my hand attempting to triangulate the location of a much needed Car2Go to drive myself back to work. In this brief conversation, it became clear that his interpretation of having the “perfect life” meant a house, a wife, a child and things to play with, drive and money to buy more things. It didn’t matter how authentic those things were. Outwardly, he was successful and had an enviable life. He repeated the term, “living life on life’s terms.”
I rolled his comments around in my head while I gave up on finding the Car2Go and walked to the subway station. All the way back to the office, I considered this conversation and what it meant. Upon arriving back at work, I went directly to my computer and fired up Google, I didn’t even stop to take off my coat. The term “life on life’s terms” is heavily used in recovery. It’s about acceptance of one’s life circumstances. Accepting life for what it is, not for what I wish or hope or so badly want it to be, is central to being present in the moment. However, my interpretation of the phrase, in its context, implies a victim mentality, a helplessness or lack of accountability. It implies I have no control over my life. I may not have control over the outcome, but I have control over every decision and choice I make. Every experience I’ve had and will have is a result of those decisions and choices. In the world of dating psychology, a victim approach is seeking to be saved. Problems are created so that they can be saved. And there are enough savers out there willing to do just that. This whole concept comes from attachment theory and more importantly, creates codependent and unhealthy relationships. Not surprisingly victims and savers tend to find each other and proceed to create drama, a rollercoaster of ups and downs. It never ends well. I only speak from experience. And there are still times when I feel like stirring up “a crisis” to garner attention. Once I know something, I can’t unknow it, and I’ve been able to identify and recognize when I’m slipping into the behaviours or mindset of either role, victim or rescuer. The desire to adopt these roles is a result of my needs not being met…perceived, believed or actual. Both roles are bullshit.
We do have choices. I make choices and decisions daily. Not doing something, not addressing something, or not responding to someone is a decision. But accepting life as it is, and knowing that it is a result of those choices and decision is powerful. Part of my acceptance is believing that where I am right now is where I’m meant to be, doing the things I’m meant to do, with the people I’m meant to do them with. It’s living in the moment. Accepting that the decisions and choices I’ve made have led me here, but I have no control over the outcome.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying desperately to accomplish all of the things that I’ve been sold that I should want ever since I was a young girl. All the things that were modeled to me by my parental role models, by TV, by books, by toys, by cartoons and fairy tales. I’ve spent time being ambitious, being fiercely independent, trying to achieve a “strong” body; all while looking for Prince Charming, my Knight in shining armour, my soulmate, the one who’s going to “complete me”. The One has consistently eluded me. But I have continued to try. I have tried to make the Clearly Not the One, The One. This has never turned out well. It has taken me many years to realize that this is not one size fits all. And in my experience, one size fits all generally ends up as one size fits no one.
Although I wanted to rebel and dismiss the idea as archaic and contrived, which I still believe The One is, I couldn’t, can’t and won’t argue with the notion that having a partner in my life is desirable. But meeting, developing and maintaining a healthy relationship has eluded me. I’ve had glimmers. I’ve achieved parts. In the end, they have not resulted in happiness, but instead in feeling annoyed, angry, anxious, unsettled and incredibly uncomfortable. Yet, why was I still trying to make it work? I can tell you why, because I had no idea of what my needs were, my emotional needs, how to articulate them and how to have, not only the courage, but the tools to ensure they were met. As Mark Manson states in his Guide to Relationships download, “most people who are unaware of their emotional needs will try to make any and every person they’re with fit into their specific mold of what they want and need in a relationship.”
In my quest to fulfill these life goals, I spent more time and energy trying to control outcomes and make things fit into my idea of what life should be. And trying to make Clearly Not The One, into Mr. Right. In an attempt to have someone. I spent time feeling like a fish swimming upstream trying to figure it all out. I kept trying to force an outcome. And modeled behaviours I’d been shown. In the words of the late and great Tragically Hip, “we hung out together every single moment, ‘cause that’s what we thought married people do, complete with the grip of artificial chaos and believing in the country of me and you.”
Letting go of how I think life should be and accepting life for how it is, is a big step to being present but also acknowledging what it is I have control over. Every choice and decision or non-decision is within my control and is only within my control. No victims or savers. But I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control others’ actions or reactions any more then they can control mine. And I can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Being aware of my needs, acknowledging them and evaluating whether they are being met, absent any attempt to control, in all of my relationships will put a stop to my screaming gut and allow healthy relationships into my life.
Awesome. Now how the fuck do I do that?