A fellow writer and pen-pal asked me for some dating advice today. Ok, so maybe she wasn’t asking for advice, it was more like cluing me in on the issue and a discussion ensued.
She’s been dating and has come to feel a bit frustrated with her end of story. “I’ve been f*cking it up,” she said. If she only knew how often I feel this way. The funny thing? I had discussed something like this with M last night and I relived each point as my pen pal went on to give me a list of things that she felt were getting in the way of her success. She said she didn’t like playing the game, which usually ended up turning people off. She explained that she usually spoke her mind and that some people didn’t like that. God, it all sounded so familiar. What was going on?
I don’t know why, but some of us tend to worry more about the other person’s image of us rather actually being ourselves. Do they like me? Do they love me? Did I blow them away? Do they want to see me again? Yes, these are normal thoughts to have when you find someone interesting; however, it’s not where your head should be at.
Do they like me? should be Do I like them?
Did I blow them away? should be Did they blow me away?
Do they want to see me again? should be Do I want to see them again?
This applies to all interactions: dates, interviews, meet-ups, etc. It will take us about 2 seconds to answer each of these questions. Then, the fun is over. It’s true, we can’t analyze for hours on our own responses and we won’t get ego fixes, but those are only answers that we can trust (and come up with ourselves). Sitting down to figure out someone else’s answers is pointless. We can only focus on our own stuff. I know, it’s boring, but trust me in the long run they are the only answers that matter. As we begin to reposition the questions, we will see it.
So, what is going on? Well, here’s what I think:
The first is control of the story. As a writer, I reminded her that we get to select everything from format, character names, up to the font that’s used in a story, but we don’t have to be writers to want to control the story. The urge to control that comes is natural, but it’s something we have to learn to let go of.
When I got home from my run last night, M was up and we started chatting about how much progress I had made in the last year; how there was a lesson offered in each of the disappointments that the year hand-picked for me. I realize now that I was trying to control things for a reason. I had a plan in my head and the plan guaranteed a fix that I needed.
If you are trying to control the situation it is because you’re scared of one of the outcomes that you anticipate can unfold; what is it?
This is the most important question, yet the one we never ask. We act, we beat ourselves up about the behavior being frantic and gutsy, we hate the reaction, but we really ever think of the origin of our intentions. Yes, we’re scared. When we’re looking to control a situation, we are scared. Find out why. If not, we’re running around with blindfolds and our fears are taking us out for a drive. We may not even understand half of the things we are doing because they are a result of some unknown intention.
As expected, my pen pal responded with a list of fears that were driving her crazy. She said she was scared of getting hurt, scared of not being accepted, and finally scared of settling. These are fears that we all have to address. This is extra important when we make the decision to be ourselves. We need to realize that the only thing we can decide is whether we want to be ourselves or not. The way the world views it or reacts to it is none of our business, despite what we think. We cannot control what people think of us. We will immediately stop being who we are if we do. I think that is the key to letting go. The minute we worry what someone else thinks about us or what the world thinks of our amazing idea, we stop being free. We infect the process with ego and expectation. Funny thing is that the expectation isn’t theirs or ours. It’s an expectation that we think the world has of us, basically it’s bullsh*t and we not only make it, but we buy it.
There is a healthy light to not caring, it’s called being free.
What I discussed with M is that I, too, had experienced something like this a few months ago. Things were not working out the way that I wanted and despite my efforts nothing was fit the way I had expected it to. Not the writing, not the dating, nothing. I was disappointed over and over again and you know what happened? I got to a point that I had to accept that my efforts were pointless. I had no idea how to play the game, so I gave up only to discover there is no game. The huge surprise was there was no want either. I was after a lot of things I didn’t want and wasn’t ready for. I was acting out of fear, trying to avoid pain.
The game of the ego has no rules and no winners. It just is what it is and the longer you try to control, the smaller the box you live in will be.
We are not the writers here. Life is. We are the main characters. There is no way for us to fast-forward to the next scene or chapter. We need to calm down and just act out each scene.
The second is liking ourselves. Listen, being comfortable with who we are takes time, but we have to start by forgetting about everyone else. This mission is for us alone. The minute we start considering external factors, we’re screwed (sorry, Mom).
What I discussed with M was that I wasn’t being myself. I was being of version of myself that I wanted the world to buy and I thank everything that is holy that the world didn’t take it. I wasn’t myself, I was broken, I was confused, and I wanted to be accepted. Had someone “saved” me, it would have completely ruined everything.
To my amazement, I found something I wrote earlier this year on The Case of the Super Single that fits perfectly:
After all, that is probably why the universe conspired to get you here. To this place. At this moment.
I don’t know what you are going through; whether it’s looking for a job, a passion, a love, etc. I know less of what you are trying to control, the fears you are avoiding, and the maneuvers you are making to get your way, but I can tell you this: it won’t work. The universe conspired to put you in a place that was uncomfortable because it knew that if you took on the challenge, you’d be happier for figuring it out. Some of us don’t take the challenge and wait around for the inevitable to come. Because let’s face it, eventually things fall on our lap, whether we do the work or not. That is settling.
Settling doesn’t happen when we’re trying. We can’t be working hard and settling. Trust me. The spirit and courage that comes from working hard does not mesh well with settling. When we strive to be free, the heart is on fire and the brain is soaring, settling doesn’t happen.
Honestly, I’m happy that my pen pal found herself in an awkward situation. It’s when we start to become annoyed by our own behavior that we start to open up to change.
“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” A. Lincoln
Sometimes, giving up and letting go are the same thing. It’s not giving up on ourselves, it’s giving up on the control and expectation that is so toxic to our growth. Our only fight should be the one to be free, to be happy. We don’t need to worry about how the rest will play out; we’re only required to provide our character’s emotions, not everybody’s on the stage. Think about that today. In a show, is the main character expected to think for everyone else?
No. What would happen if the main character of every sitcom suddenly started to take charge of the emotions of everyone around him? The first thing that would happen would be the loss of the main character. The essence (natural reactions, wants, feelings, etc.) of the character would be compromised. So, stop. Play your role, let the rest of the cast do their work. We need to stop being ridiculous, the show will work itself out; let the rest of the cast be. Besides, by doing our own roles correctly, we allow others to live out theirs.
There is a pile of content inside of us. There is not enough time and life to dig through someone else’s. We need to focus on our own work and we need to do it well.