Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be…
I think that, all the time, about little things and big. And then I catch myself.
“Supposed to be?” According to whom? And why?
Trusting in the natural flow of things, that things are what they are because that is the only way they can be, is a lifetime practice, and I need to remind myself and my family of this all the time.
Sometimes I feel alone in the struggle, like I’m the only one for whom things don’t seem to be going “right.” And then I get outside of my own muddled mind and speak to another human. (Any human will do, since we’re all in this thing together.) Just the slightest scratch at that seemingly strong coat of armor, and I can usually find the vulnerable spots.
I don’t disarm people on purpose. It comes to me naturally — and can be a serious liability. I don’t mean to say the exact thing that exposes a stranger’s greatest weakness and worry. But there it is. Turns out it isn’t at all hard to relate over life’s many challenges and disappointments.
The thing is, I’m really tired of the sad-sack story. Cry me a river. Get over it! Look around! The world is beautiful and you’re lucky!
And, I know. It seems to some of you that I don’t have a leg to stand on, that it is easy for me to say given that I have a lot. But I have to put my hand up to shush you. Not just because my son has read your comments and gotten upset on my behalf at how rude people can be. But also because that’s bull.
It is so, so easy to point at why other people should be content in life. But, believe me, plenty of people with plenty of resources are some of the most miserable sots. A friend who grew up in a war zone used to just shake his head in shock as we sat in a Park Slope café, amazed at the lack of perspective people had about their lives.
But what I said to him, and what I say to myself, and to my kids, is that everyone has their crap. And it is very hard to know what you don’t know, or to put things in context, as much as we are supposed to try. There it is again, supposed to.
No matter our circumstances, rich or poor, black or white, Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever your belief system, it doesn’t serve us to spend our time thinking how things are supposed to be different when what we really need to start with is how things are. I had a Chinese food fortune up on my fridge for a long time that said, “How do you think you’ll be happy with more, if you’re not happy with what you have?” It makes some strange sense, although it is often hard to think about things that way. We need help.
On my recent trip to California to visit my sister and her husband, I met some really inspirational people, some folks who have set up shop to pass along some beautiful cultural rituals that help build personal and communal harmony. One gentleman, in the small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Farmington, Calif., population 206, works in his back studio with his one good arm to create beautiful Native American instruments, including animal-skin drums and shakers, as well as jewelry, wall hangings, and other spiritual art. He goes to schools and pow-wows with his incredible can-do attitude and his beautiful simple rhythms, which he demonstrated for our small group alongside his lovely assistant.
In Half-Moon Bay, a beautiful beach town with a castle-like Ritz Carlton on the top of the cliff and an RV Park in the shadows of it below, a lovely man from Nepal gave us a demo of various drums that he sold amidst the incense, jewels, and books intended to bring spiritual calm and a sense of peace. He gave me and my sister beautiful intricately beaded pens for free for our enthusiasm (and our other purchases).
I believe in these rituals of peace and calm, this music and mental clarity that can clear away all the “supposed-tos” in favor of a belief in a harmony that each one of us has a hand in with our attitudes. Things are as they are, as they’re supposed to be, good or bad.
It is how we react to them that matters most.