character

We can decide to deal or bail.

God. That feeling of wanting to just get the F out…of everything.

Isn’t it strong these days? Or maybe all the time? And now we’re just more conscious of it because it’s being mirrored back to us on social media and we realized, “wow. It’s not just me who isn’t feeling particularly content with Life. It isn’t just me who wants to leave this total bomb of a party.”

Yep.

Life ain’t great, sometimes.

Is it really worse now more than ever?

Does it get harder with age?

Is it really because of the current administration?

I don’t think so. I think it’s just the fundamental human tendency to want to avoid “bad” and experience “good”. I didn’t make it up. I learned it from 1,000s of hours studying and practicing Buddhism and other behavioral change theories. Did you know I had a master’s degree in identity and change? Yup. I do.

So that’s why I don’t think it’s worse than ever. I DO think it isn’t a necessarily FUN time to be alive, but you know what? Lots of people have shitty lives that don’t begin or end with one person being the President of the United States. You know what I mean? Some perspective helps, sometimes.

Life is unpleasant on the regular depending on who you’re talking to and about. For some of us, the unpleasant times come and go because we have enough privilege to cling to. Like Rose in Titanic. For the most part, we have these little pieces of wood that keep us afloat. Some people don’t have that. Some people are Jack.

Many people think more privilege helps make life better. People who have, “X advantage” have it easier and if you had that advantage, your life would work or feel better.

I used to think this, for sure, but then from coaching those people as my clients, I learned that even folks with money and identity privilege access than one could use in a lifetime feel the weight of struggle, grief and insecurity.

I’m not saying it doesn’t make life more comfortable but…well, I AM saying that. I think it’s a fallacy to retire. Privilege gets you access and things—but not comfort or happiness.

Money cannot buy inner peace or happiness if it doesn’t reside inside to begin with and, these days, privilege can often be more of a liability than an advantage.

And so the haves and have-nots share in common that thing that keeps us all going, that struggle to survive and make it through. To make things better. To right wrongs and resolve things and try to get a damn handhold to take a breather. To get “there” (where is that?). Basically, to make happy happen.

Despite our best efforts at this, shit just keeps happening, doesn’t it? ARGH! We try to get all our ducks in a row or be brave and try something exciting and it just doesn’t work. Things don’t go as we hoped or planned. As soon as we move this thing into place, something else slips out. Like whack-a-mole.

Then what do we do? Well, we’re all faced with the ultimate decision of LEFT or RIGHT. Well, standing still counts, too. I shouldn’t forget that. Wu wei is full of wisdom in and of itself (but I’ll write more on that later). For now, I’m just speaking to that moment we all face when we have to choose. No, when we GET to choose.

LEFT or RIGHT. Do I do this? Or that? Do I run or stand and face it?

Do I hold my seat or run for cover and check out. Do I deal or bail.

We all have that choice. We have it hundreds of times each day. Everything in our lives is a choice. And the choices we make determine how our lives go and what happens to us. And how we impact others.

BUT THIS IS HARD TO ACCEPT. So we fight it, often unconsciously, since it causes cognitive dissonance to have to face it. I’m not trying to be condescending (because, trust me, this took me way too long to understand and accept, myself, and I’m always a work in progress) but it forces us to grow up a little. And growing up, adulting as the kids call it, is unpleasant and uncomfortable in so many ways.

So it gets tempting to want to avoid it and check out. To run. To bail. To ditch. Come up with any way you want to say it.

We all want to bail. We ALL WANT to. But whether or not we do determines our character and our quality of life. Because we could bail, sure, but whatever we bail on will still be waiting for us in some way.

Like the lentils. My dad told this story all the time. He loved telling stories so I obviously inherited that gene because it sure wasn’t from growing up with him. My parents divorced when I wasn’t even a year old, but when we did have our court-appointed visits with him, he would tell this story over and over. I practically have it committed to memory, that’s how well oral tradition works!

This bowl of lentils was his dinner one night when he was a boy. His mom served it to him and he wanted no part of it so he sat and didn’t eat it. And his father warned him to eat and still he refused. You probably know where this is going.

My dad went to bed and woke up and sitting on the dining room table sat that same bowl of lentils, now cold and congealed, waiting as his breakfast.

Damn, I can’t remember the end. Sorry! Let’s pretend he had to either eat that nasty shit or go hungry for the day. Either one wouldn’t be a great option.

I remember that story, and so many others, and the amount of times in my life I just felt that feeling of not wanting what was happening in my life to be happening. I wanted to eject pilot seat and disappear. I wanted to run or refuse it. I wanted someone to swoop in and fix it. I wanted someone to come and save me!

For better or for worse, I grew up with no safety net. None. So I learned from an early age that you face the music and take responsibility. Or you can run, but wherever you go, there you are.

But I only learned this after years of bailing in all kinds of different ways. It didn’t feel like it at the time. I thought I was “fixing” things. And maybe sometimes what I did was a solution, in the short or long-term, but sometimes it wasn’t.

And after lots of hours spent reading books and sitting in therapy or Buddhist retreats and personal development trainings (I was on a search, you can tell), I learned that running only prolongs the pain. And sometimes (often) it makes things worse. I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.

Or maybe I am! Maybe this is some insight that you didn’t have before. Or a nice reminder of that wisdom inside you that hangs out and waits for you to remember it when you’re hanging on a moment of depression or anxiety. And you’re wondering why your life is going like this.

Maybe this will help you understand it a bit better. Or see it differently.

And maybe you’ll remember when you’re feeling like crap and want to bail, that everyone feels this way. Everyone comes face to face with the feelings that they just don’t want to feel. And people make all sorts of decisions about what they do, say, eat, drink, watch or THINK to avoid those not-fun feelings.

We all want to feel good and don’t want to feel bad.

But if we can remember we aren’t alone in that, it might help. And if we remember that bowl of lentils, we can decide to swallow what isn’t pleasant in the moment so the consequence, all cold and jelly-like, isn’t sitting waiting for us.