My youngest has a hate – hate relationship with the laws of physics. He has since he was a toddler, trying with great effort to do things that are impossible and getting terribly frustrated when the impossible doesn’t work out. Like the times he has tried diligently to stack spheres, attempted to attach opposite poles of magnets and endeavored to put objects larger than possible into tiny spaces. I explain that it just won’t work no matter how hard he tries, and each time he replies, “But I want it to work.”
The trouble is we grown ups are not so different. There are a great many things we want to work… in the worst possible way.
I read somewhere where a wise person with an agent and a book deal had written: “The source of all human unhappiness is wanting things to be not as they are.”
I don’t want my children to experience pain. They do.
I don’t want my son to have to struggle in school. He does.
I don’t want people in my life whom I love to die. They have and they will.
I wish some events in my life never happened. They did.
I wish people behaved and thought differently. They don’t.
In ways large and small, we struggle against reality in vain.
What to do?
Learning to accept what is, is some seriously tough work. For some, understanding what we have control over and what we do not takes a lifetime of learning. Letting go of trying to control those parts we can’t, often takes just as long. I’ve heard our minister, Richard Wing, speak enough now that some of his more popular and useful phrases are coming round again, like: “We have an up to us privilege of choosing not what happens to us in this life but how we react to it.” Or from Gordon Livingston in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: “… by placing responsibility outside ourselves we miss out on the healing knowledge that what happens to us is not nearly as important as the attitude we adopt in response to it.” *
Happiness often eludes us, not because it is impossible, but because we have built so many barriers to it. By not being able to accept what is. By trying to stack spheres.
Livingston continues: “Coming to terms with [what is] is inevitably a process of forgiveness, of letting go, the simplest and most difficult of all human endeavors. It is simultaneously an act of will and of surrender. And it often seems impossible until the moment you do it.” *
Copyright © 2012. Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
*Livingston, Gordon. Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Marlowe & Company. 2004.