In defense of not quitting.

Not gonna lie. 

Sometimes, despite all the good things I do for myself, I feel like quitting. Giving up. Throwing in the towel. I don't want to write, think or even feed myself. Sleep becomes a respite that ends too quickly if I'm lucky enough to sleep through the night.

I just want to run away. 

Far, far away.

I want to quit because human beings just can't seem to get along with each other. They can't seem to overcome their fear and egos to the point that they can actually love and respect other. And I can't seem to say or do anything to make it stop.

Ignorant people who are in pain hurt people with acts of discrimination and aggression.

Well-educated people who are in pain hurt people with their reactive judgment, arrogance, and impatience.

And neither side thinks they are in the wrong. And the cycle continues over and over.

Through years of reading, practice, and training, many many years, I think I understand the solution but then I can't seem to figure out a way to share ways to do that to inspire people on a regular basis. I see people who've been through far less than me in their lives writing and publishing best-selling books spouting the most BASIC advice.

I feel like I'm shouting all these ideas of self-acceptance to promote peace and compassion into the wind. People claim to want relief from fundamental suffering but they don't actually seem to want to listen and then do it. They want to complain and blame and find the magic pill (which often looks and sounds like changing other people).

I should just write about Pokemon, I think to myself.

And it makes me want to quit. 

And I realize that's the underlying problem for so many people. That desire to quit. That restlessness, that urge to escape. That urge that sounds like, "I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE! GET ME OUTTA HERE!" 

As humans, we crave this, ongoingly. It's fundamental to who we are and how we're built. We crave the feeling of permanent relief. We want our lives to feel comfortable and good for more than a microsecond. And we get very particular about how that would happen.

The outside or inside room temperature would be just so.

We'd have certain foods in plentiful amounts at all times.

Certain colors would be on the wall.

Furniture that looked a certain way would fill our ideal dwellings.

We'd have a good hair day. Every day. 

People wouldn't hurt or kill people. 

Our bodies would magically be toned and free of extra fat in all the right places. 

People wouldn't starve. Or at the very least, everyone would be vegan. Or Paleo. 

Everyone would do yoga. Or Crossfit. Or barre. Or sit and do nothing.

All people would speak and dress and think and act certain ways, as we see to be ideal, all the time.


And when you zoom out, you realize how utterly ridiculous this is. Because I'm sure you have certain answers to those things I just wrote, right? Yeah, I do too. And what are the chances that ours would line up? OK, maybe we have some things in common. Now consider the chances of my ideal scenarios and someone living in...oh, a remote village in Tibet. My friend is from Tibet and his parents would likely NOT share my ideal choices. Or even my friends here in Boston. Their daily choices and my daily choices are rarely similar.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

So much of wanting to quit comes from thinking this fundamental thought: "if everyone would just DO what I see as the solution here, we'd be fine."

We think this thought, in whatever way we think it, and then people do not conform to our wishes or seem to not even be LISTENING TO US and we want to quit. We want to give up. We want to run away. Or maybe we want to SMASH something! 

What's the something you want to run away from? What's the thing you want to smash?

Your expectations. Your attachments. 

Our fixed view of what permanent relief would look and feel like for everyone, including us.

And the reality is, there is no permament relief for any of us. And it certainly wouldn't come about from our one way of thinking it would happen. 

And that's a terrifying thought. It actually means we have no control. Over anything or anyone.

And for many of us, it's too terrifying to think that we actually have no control over anything or anyone. So we gather people around us who think like us to comfort us. We hang out with people who have pretty similiar opinions about how things would work better for everyone and we talk about those ways and we shout those ways really loud and we line them up and say, "HEY! If you all did it like THIS, we would be fine. Stop thinking YOUR way is right and listen to us!"

And everyone's doing that. And it's really loud. And no one can hear each other, if they even tried.

But no one's trying because everyone's attached to their way and annoyed at everyone else and on the verge of quitting. 

And I know the feeling. Mostly because I know the opposite of quitting. In fact, I OVERENDURE so much, quitting has become something I'm learning how to do. It's funny or sad or both, but it's afforded me the opportunity to learn how it feels to sit and stay. 

So, in defense of not quitting, I stop and listen. I've learned how to listen to that fundamental urge inside me that wants to quit and I pay attention to why it's there. And what it says. It's often heard to hear because everyone else and their opinions are so loud. And my inner critic is USUALLY ON LOUDSPEAKER SHOUTING IN CAPS. So I try harder. And when I can hear what that urge to quit says, I pay attention to how it feels. It isn't pleasant to tune in that deeply, but I've gotten better at it from years of being a Buddhist. I've learned to sit through numb legs during meditation so I can sit through total abandonment and terror in my real life. Like when my mother didn't speak to me for years. Like when my former partner said, "I don't love you and I never did." Like when I look in the mirror and see scars that remind me of a body I dwelled in for 34 years. Like when I think about being a speck on a tiny planet in a galaxy with a huge black hole in its center.

Sitting there in that space feels like powerlessness and fear. It feels like frustration and sadness. It feels like loneliness and regret and concern and panic and isolation. It feels like a caving in, and then a grasping and a gasp for air and a drowning and then I realize I haven't even moved. I'm still sitting where I was sitting in my chair.

And I want to quit that feeling--all those horrible feelings that are the opposite of good, pleasant, permanent relief. I want to quit sitting there and feeling it. But quitting now only puts it off for later because it comes back.

It always comes back.

But the more I sit with it, despite the horribleness of those feelings, the less it hurts. And the less it lasts because I'm forming a new muscle around it. The muscle of quitting, of running, of shouting, of reacting, of disappearing by buying new shoes or ice cream or watching tv or playing video games or smoking or judging or gossiping or blaming or avoiding or hiding--it's so strong it almost overtakes me. The muscle of sitting is still underdeveloped. It's so small and so weak it's tempting to just quit and let the stronger muscle that is reinforced by the strong muscle of quitting in so many other people to take over.

I can quit. Many people quit. They have so many exits that look and feel and sound like good solutions---but are just temporary alternatives, carefully disguised as permanent relief.

And as long as I'm attached to those solutions, my version or their version of how things should be to provide permanent relief to 7 billion (very different) people, the pain always comes back. And I'll always want to quit.

So I sit with that underlying need to control. 

I sit with that restlessness.

I sit with those feelings of fear, pain, and isolation.

I sit with those feelings and I feel them as others feel them. I feel their need to quit. I feel their need to run away from these feelings that always come back.

I understand they will always come back.

And I sit with that. And I don't quit.