Any time you can change your perspective from, “Why is this happening to me?”, to simply, “This is happening”, you do yourself a great favor.
Every so often, I tell the story of the frog and the scorpion. If you’ve never heard it, it goes something like this:
Once, there was a frog on the side of a river, and a scorpion called out to her, asking for a ride to the other side. The frog, being a smart frog, declined. She said, “If I give you a ride, you’ll sting me, and I’ll die.” The scorpion, being a scorpion, said, “If I sting you, we’ll both drown, because I can’t swim.” This made sense to the frog, so she agreed to give the scorpion a lift. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. With her dying breath she said, “Why have you done this to us?!” And the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion.”
Whenever I find myself taking something personally, I think of this story, and it always makes me feel better. Most people are not setting out to hurt you, or me. Most people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. Also, there is no boogeyman, there is no plot against you, so if you feel the “universe” is out to get you, or “you never get any breaks”, those are ideas you’ll want to ditch as soon as possible. One definition of stress is being in one place, while wanting to be in another. This state causes dis-ease. It happens anytime we try to argue with the reality of a situation. It happens anytime we compare our situation, life, relationship, or handstand to someone else’s. It happens when we numb, run or deny. These are all forms of being in one place, wanting to be somewhere else.
Accepting things as they are does not mean we have to like them or agree with them. You may have noticed there are things that happen in life whether you agree with them or you don’t. “Should” is one of the more dangerous words in the English language. Anytime I catch myself thinking or saying that word, I put the brakes on and check myself. There are only a few places where you don’t have to worry about your should. Here’s one: Everyone should floss. Here’s another: People should pick up after their dogs. Last one: If you have children, you should teach them about being kind and compassionate by being those things yourself, because that’s the important stuff in life, and because we could use more kind and compassionate people in the world. After that, I’m stumped.
A couple of months ago, I was teaching and a regular student of mine grabbed a bolster and put it at the front of her mat while we were practicing an arm balance. She has a (rational) fear of falling on her face, and her fear was stopping her from attempting the pose at all, so I’d gotten her a bolster one day, and presto, feet off the floor, huge smiles for both of us. When you work with your fear, when you acknowledge the truth of what you’re feeling and figure out what you need to be at ease so you can move forward, it’s amazing what happens. But I digress. The guy next to her, who has plenty of stuff to work on just managing his own practice, state of being, journey, and so on, turned to her and loudly said, “You can’t do a headstand on a bolster!” I told him she wasn’t attempting a headstand and he should stay on his own mat. (There’s another acceptable “should” for you).
People do this all the time. They get caught up in what other people are doing or not doing, or they tell stories about what’s happening, or they get entangled with someone else’s experience, needs, wants, or drama. Anytime you get swept away in someone else’s adventure, you’ve exited your own. You probably have plenty to manage keeping your side of the street clean, anyway. You can’t control what other people do or want or say or need or feel, nor is it your job to try. You manage your own situation, your own response to what you’re being given, to what you’re experiencing from moment to moment, and that is plenty.
There are a lot of things in life that shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t up and leave one another with no explanation and no communication, but it happens all the time and maybe it’s happened to you. Is that fair? Is that right? Did you deserve that? Does anyone? No, no, no, no, but so what? These things happen and this is the stuff of life sometimes. What is the point in getting caught up with the unfairness of it? Things happen and some of them break your heart wide open, and you get to decide, once you’ve grieved, raged, cried until you thought there couldn’t be a tear left inside you, how you are going to rise up like a phoenix from the ashes. That is what you get to do. You get to offer up your gorgeous heart again and again. If you have the insight of knowing what it is like to not want to go on, you get to offer a hand to other people when they face those same dark nights, and there is beauty in that. You get to know what it means to love fully and deeply, with everything you have, and there’s incredible beauty in that; some people will live to one hundred and never feel that.
Understand that sometimes hope will make you sick. I know that might sound strange; we’re always taught to hold onto hope. The thing is, hope can be seductive and delusional, and if you hope too much it can cloud your vision. You might hope with your whole heart for someone to love you, and maybe they say they do, but if they don’t show that, your hope is a poison. You might hope that someone makes a shift, but if your hope is making it impossible for you to move on, it’s a poison. Life can be so sweet when we stop kidding ourselves, when we stop clinging to some picture we have of how things should be. Most of our pictures come from things we’ve been fed culturally from the time we could reason…”And they lived happily ever after”…oh, yeah? Did they have a great therapist? Did they struggle to pay the mortgage? Did they have fertility issues, problems with in-laws, confusion about how to balance work and romance? The pictures we’ve been sold are so surface-level. Life is messy and complex, and so are people. The truth is better than any fiction, even if it breaks your heart because it’s real, and that is what we are here to be. Sending you so much love, Ally Hamilton