Do you know any octogenarians? One of my closest friends is 80, he’s been a private client for eleven years. If you spoke with him you would not feel like he’s in the midst of his “ending” and he’d tell you off if you suggested such a thing. Most days when I leave he says, “Don’t let the bastards get you down,” mostly because he knows I’m going to shake my head and laugh and also because, much to his chagrin, he knows I don’t believe in bastards. I just think some people are having a really tough time with life. He can’t stand the expressions, “No worries,” or “It’s all good,” either. He’s funny and brilliant and one of the most alive people I know. He used to sing totally off-color Irish lullabies to my kids when they were babies. As they’ve gotten older, he sings the songs with the real words not the “sailor” versions. But anyway, I used to think like that. That at eighty, I’d have it all figured out. My story would be long done by then, I’d just be living it out. Now I realize there is no ending, happy or otherwise, not until your final exhale. Until then, it’s all the story. Parts of the story are going to be stunningly painful. Other parts are going to be so amazing they’ll expand your heart and you’ll feel like it’s going to burst right out of your body and there’ll be every shade of everything else in between. The real question isn’t whether you’re going to find that happy ending. The actual question is whether you’re going to be happy as you move through the unfolding story of your life, day to day.
I grew up on the same fairy-tales you did and I’ve seen the same romantic comedies. For a good long while, I bought into all that. I thought if I was somehow perfect and I did everything the way I was supposed to, straight A’s, thin enough, pretty enough, someone would come along and “save me” and I’d live happily ever after. Or something like that. And then this way older man came along, and that wasn’t a happy ending. And the Mirror Guy showed up and that wasn’t happy, either. I’d graduated from a great school and starved myself through twelve years of ballet and there I was with my diploma and my thinness and these relationships that broke my heart and there didn’t seem to be potential for that happy ending on the horizon. I started to get an inkling that it isn’t on the horizon, it isn’t going to happen one day in the future when things calm down or you meet someone or you make X amount of dollars, but I didn’t know that then, not for sure. I’d see families walking down the street and wonder, “How did they do that?” You know, because I was about twenty when I thought this way and had no actual idea of what it would take to make a relationship work. Or a life. I think lots of people reach adulthood without a clue. Without knowing themselves.
It wasn’t until I found yoga and seated meditation that I started to understand happiness was an inner journey and a process of discovery. A willingness to open to reality as it is and to do the work to heal what needs to be healed. To let go of the grip and the false notion of control. If I do everything “right” then I’ll be happy. If I’m a good person things will go my way. The “right” we’re sold is a big fat lie. The real right is what’s right for you. What’s true for you, and no prince or princess is going to show up and tell you. There isn’t going to be this magical kiss on the lips that makes your life fall into place. There isn’t going to be a big enough house or fast enough car. There isn’t going to be a job that solves it, although it goes a long way when you find something to do with your time and your energy that’s fulfilling to you. There’s just you. Looking at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day as you brush your teeth. You either look at yourself with kindness or contempt. The fairy-tales should really be about that. The fire-breathing dragons are inside us and they have nasty little voices that say, “Not good enough.” Those are the ones you face, and you slay them. You take what is real and true for you and you split them down the middle with it. Eventually they leave you alone, or you’re just too full of love to house them anymore or they’re mostly sleeping, but when they wake up once in awhile you don’t have to waste a lot of energy slaying them again, you just give them a look and they cower and go back to sleep because they don’t own you anymore. Something like that. The most essential part of your story is going to happen inside yourself and then there will be external factors and the way you respond to them. Those external factors play a significant role in your story as well, because it’s not a level playing field and sometimes the most devastating things happen to the most incredibly loving people.
I see so many people still searching for that brass ring or that “right” person to complete them. I have an inbox stuffed with emails from people trying to figure out what’s wrong with them, what they’re doing or not doing that’s causing the unhappy result they’re getting with their lives. Why they aren’t getting the breaks even though they’re doing everything “right”. This happens with people on the spiritual path, too. I’m doing my yoga. It’s been ten years. When am I going to be happy? Well, how are you doing your yoga? Are you breathing and focusing and practicing with compassion for yourself? Are you feeding a loving, kind voice? Are you listening deeply and responding honestly? Are you curious about your experience or attached to the outcome? Are you tuning in or zoning out? Because showing up on your mat consistently is great, but it’s not the whole story. Some people show up six days a week, but beat the crap out of themselves or get attached to the poses, or feel good on days when they’re full of energy and feeling open, and bad on days when it’s a struggle.
Happiness is not a destination, it’s a process. It’s an ever-unfolding choice you make. It’s equanimity in the face of life’s ups and downs. A knowingness that this is how it is now, not how it’s always going to be because everything is always in a state of flux. Sometimes you allow yourself to just be heartbroken, to suffer and grieve or to be enraged, and shake your fists at the sky, or dig your hands into the dirt of why. You embrace it all, and as much as possible, you open to the wonder of it all. There’s beauty in everything, even the most devastating losses. The fact that you’ve ever loved so much to grieve so deeply has some beauty in it. Loneliness has some beauty in it; the fact that your tender heart longs to be seen and understood is beautiful. It’s real. Love requires your bravery and your vulnerability and that’s gorgeous. The pain opens us. Generally the deepest growth springs out of the sharpest pain, and wisdom is gained through suffering. Is it human to sometimes wish for less pain, less growth, less suffering and less wisdom? Of course, but we don’t get to choose what happens, we only get to choose how we respond. The more you’re able to surrender to what is and honor the truth in your heart, the more you’ll be able to relax into the unknown of the thing and there’s a lot of peace in that. Wishing you a truthful, inspiring, exciting story, and sending you a lot of love.
So grateful to be traveling with all of you,