by Gwen Randall-Young
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
– Joseph CampbellSometimes, it seems to me that unhappiness or dissatisfaction with life is the gap between what we have and what we wish we had.
Our culture emphasizes setting goals and striving for what we want. The marketplace is driven by the push for more and better. Fashions change so we must buy new clothes every season. Every year, there is a new smartphone so we must upgrade even though last year’s works perfectly well.
My mother grew up during the depression and her motto was “reuse and recycle” long before the critical mass of consciousness made it a way of life. Those who have lived with scarcity see value in even the most insignificant things.
My grandmother, whose parents brought her here from Ukraine when she was but 13, had a mantra I heard over and over: “The most important things to have are your health and your education.” In her mind, if you had those, you could take care of yourself and be happy.
Somewhere along the way, life for many ceased being about what we needed in order to survive. Gradually, it seems that what once were “wants” are now needs in our culture.
Not everyone can have all their wants fulfilled. For those whose life is spent striving to fulfill those wants and to achieve the life they have pictured in their minds, there is a belief that when they achieve all of that they will be happy.
The problem with this is that there will always be more things to want. And things change. The perfect partner turns out to be something else altogether. Even a good person can leave the relationship or die. Job layoffs can drastically change one’s financial situation.
Life is too tenuous for us to rest our sense of peace or contentment on external circumstances. We must create that within ourselves. We do this by being mindful of what is in our life, rather than what is missing. We also do this by not expecting that our lives will be perfect. We accept that yes, there will be pain and loss. It happens for everyone.
There can be a shift from a focus on “What do I need?” to “How can I be a positive force in all of the lives I touch, if only briefly?” Our own pain, struggles and disappointments can make us more compassionate towards others.
When our lives do not go as planned, that does not have to be a source of sadness. It means the illusion we formed in our minds was not real and there is another path for us. It’s like we lost the script we had written for our lives and now we must ad lib.
Ad libbing can be both challenging and fun. It allows us to be spontaneous, in the moment, and able to respond to what is right in front of us, rather than to some idea in our mind. We become more authentic. If there is no script, we can make it up as we go along.
We can release attachments and respond to change, rather than resisting it. This relieves us of much self-created suffering. Our lives become lighter and we feel more freedom.
We can choose for a moment, or a lifetime, to let go of the struggle and embrace the joy.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.