Some time back, Medium contributor @AnnLitts wrote a piece on the ongoing, lifetime battle with her last ten pounds (https://medium.com/@annlitts/ten-pounds-f02d047764a)
I was reminded of the brutal press coverage of singer Janet Jackson’s perpetual weight battle. At one point they were shaming her about her ten pounds, then it was 70. We always got big brag coverage when the bulge took a vacation. Then she was in hiding again, wearing huge coats and loose track suits.
Being in the public eye, and let’s just not even begin to address that family’s addiction to plastic surgery, Janet’s very public weight battles- as are those of all famous stars like Oprah- are a lesson in just how damned hard it is to be perfect.
In other words, nobody is.
The idea that by losing that last ten pounds will somehow make things all better, that by slimming down that extra inch or two we will get the perfect partner, or be happier…well, look, that wasn’t what Ann said at all. However it is what a great many of us think.
This kind of fantasy thinking, of which I have been guilty far too often in my own life, implies if I could just…then I would have….
My mother believed in that kind of thinking. All her life she hated the bump on her patritican nose, She had a facelift when she was in her seventies. After the initial euphoria wore off, it made no difference. After a while, she even forgot she’d had a facelift in the first place, and for what.
The other night a friend and I were sitting at dinner. I have a lovely collection of Tarot cards, and I am a capable reader. He poked at them with mild interest, then said he simply wanted the right combination of numbers to win the lottery. His brother did, down in Florida. To an extent, there is a fantasy that someone that close to him is lucky. He knows better. But the superstition is there.
However winning the lottery won’t make him a more affectionate man (a fact that his girlfriend has a great deal of trouble with, but that’s another story). It won’t make him happy. My friend is a workaholic by nature, and having more money won’t change him. It will simply remove one set of obstacles, which he will promptly replace with others. It’s who he is. He seems to need to have reasons why he can’t take a drive in the mountains, take a vacation, do this or that or the other with someone, anyone. Right now it’s because he’s learning code so that he can get work. There is ALWAYS a set of reasons why he’s not available for his girlfriend. It will never end until he understands the cost. By the time he realizes that, and he may never, it could well be far too late. But that’s his nature.
Any woman who loves this man is going to have to make a hard decision as to whether it’s worth it to wait for the perpetually out there “someday.” The current girlfriend has been around eleven years. That’s a long time to hang out for anyone. But we do that. Hope is not a friend here. Hope kills happiness, because it robs you and me of the present moment.
My friend and his erstwhile girlfriend have some kind of karmic connection that draws them together but frustrates them both. One hangs on for one version of “if only,” the story that says this guy is going to suddenly change and find time with her valuable. The other hangs on for his version of “if only,” as though getting the perfect job or winning the lottery will fundamentally change his nature. Both live in la-la land.
As do a great many of us who are hoping for the perfect man or woman suddenly show up gift-wrapped at our doorstep.
Just as believing the “if onlys” makes us wishful thinkers and in truth, simply avoiding dealing with the reality of who we really are and how we really show up each and every day, the ten pounds of fat or the ten thousand in debt or the ten relatives that show up every Thanksgiving to ruin the holidays are what we’ve invited into our lives. Just as this one woman invited eleven years of a remote, unavailable and un-affectionate man into hers. Just as this man has invited a constant set of work demands into his, providing umpteen excuses year after year for why he can’t go to a movie or take a drive.
I have a very similar history. We can “if only” ourselves to death or we can embrace what is, and deal with that. The reality may be painful, but it saves us from wandering half drunk around Disney World waiting for Tinkerbell to take care of business for us.
This doesn’t make us bad or wrong. However I would posit that because we draw these things to us, they have lessons to teach us about our perception of our value. If only I lose the ten pounds, I’ll be more beautiful. If only I won the lottery, I’d be more available. More affectionate. If only I had Thanksgiving to myself, I’d be happier.
Frankly, bullshit. These are external determinations that are not only patently false but also patently unfair.
What is damaging are the expectations that something fundamental will shift if X happens. That’s not likely, simply because X is outside us. Nothing changes until something shifts inside us. Then we start attracting something else which gives us new work to do. Lessons to learn.
We simply trade the ten pounds of body weight (for example) for ten pounds of heartache, or ten pounds of job frustrations, or ten pounds of….. There is no someday it will all be better if. There is only the clear and perfect now. Right now my two friends are dealing with an interesting and challenging situation. It causes both of them pain. I love them both dearly, and want them to be happy. What are they going to do about it?
Each of them has to make his own decision, to move on or to stick it out. Even if things suddenly shift, then whatever the current if only is will likely be replaced by something else each one longs for.
We are in love with longing, rather than learning to be with what we have and who we are right here, right now.
It’s not the ten pounds. It’s not the lottery money. It’s nothing outside us. It’s work we have to do within. Just as Ann came to peace with her ten pounds, that is the same work each of us has to do in order to draw a new set of circumstances. It’s not about making it all better and easy and wonderful. It is about movement forward. Upward. The next set of circumstances will challenge a different part of our nature. It’s not good, bad or indifferent.
It’s just life.
To illustrate this point, here’s a bit about those so-called “lucky” lottery winners:http://time.com/4176128/powerball-jackpot-lottery-winners/. It’s not their nature to be rich. It’s not their nature to be successful. They blow the funds, end up broke and miserable and worse off and depressed. Money didn’t do a damned thing to change who they were at their core, any more than the lottery changed the brother’s basic nature. He’s still a jerk. He still pays for sex. He’s the same person as before he won the money. Exterior circumstances rarely change our nature. Something shattering, like a death or a huge loss or a divorce can, but only if we work with the lessons contained in those events.
The ten pounds serve Ann. The ten years of isolation served my friend. The weight we all carry serves us. The challenge is look past the obvious. If we are poor or angry or overweight or in debt or whatever those conditions may be, they are there for a reason. Even if external conditions caused a massive improvement, we would re-create those conditions again because it is our nature. Because this is the work we are here to do. Just like the lottery winners.
It’s not about the weight. It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about what we are willing to look at with a cold, hard, clear eye and ask of our inner selves, what is it inside me that creates these conditions? Perhaps my friends will find an answer. In the meantime, the two of them are fine teachers, just as they are. Neither is at fault. They are simply swimming along as best they can, and as such are perfect for one another. For now. Perhaps forever. It’s amazing what people will tolerate in the name of avoiding being alone.
Watching that has been highly instructive for all the if onlys I carry in my own backpack.
There’s work to do here.
And it begins and ends with you and me.