Do you want a crystal ball?
Damn, I wish I had a crystal ball! Sometimes I think my mind is one. I’ll run a thousand scenarios ’til I think I’ve nailed it, ’til I think I’ve become the “all knowing” genie. And somehow I’m still gobsmacked when I’m wrong!
It’s not so much a deep seated craving to know or envision where I am going, but rather a yearning to know if I will create good feelings for myself or others. If I provide this or forfeit that, will they feel good and will I be justified? Will I have the impact I'm hoping for and create the desired experience; or will I be wasting my time and energy on a hopeless endeavor?
Earlier this week I was with my eleven year old daughter visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It had been a challenge to simply get her there. She was tired, hungry, and grumpy; she wanted to be at the house relaxing. I convinced her to get out of the car by telling her we only had to stay for thirty minutes and if she wasn’t interested in anything at that point, then we could leave.
We got into the museum and started with the gift shop. She bought a bracelet and then I NEEDED a coffee! So we went to the cafe, got my coffee and a chocolate Frappuccino for her. We were sitting, having our drinks, when she put her head down on her arm and started crying.
I asked her what was wrong. Through her tears, she said, “We’re not halfway through our trip and I’ve already spent half of my money!” Oh boy, I thought to myself. We should have just stayed home.
I was exhausted too, why had I thought bringing her to the museum was a good idea. I’d remembered loving this museum as a kid. I thought she would love it too once she saw the cool exhibits and was distracted.
We’d now done two of her favorite things, shopping and a chocolate frappe, and she was still miserable. And worried about her money too. “I understand sweetheart. Learning to manage money is a life skill and it can be difficult. That’s why I’m helping you to learn it now.” I said.
There was more crying and discussion about which things she might be able to return. Then she started crying because she wanted a long time to drink her frappe, she didn’t want to hurry.
Eventually, an hour after arriving, we actually made it into the exhibits. She had a mini panic attack in the severe weather exhibit (which had been one of my favorites) because it was too loud. I had to bring her to a quiet corner and hug her until she could breath easily again.
But we continued on. I thought there had to be at least one thing in the museum that would grab her interest. We wandered from exhibit to exhibit for two hours before I finally gave up hope and we drove back to the house we were staying at.
After dinner she came into the bedroom where I was lying in bed typing. “Mom, do you want to watch a movie with me on the computer?” She said. I was delighted that she’d offered the invitation. She’s getting to that age where texting with her friends and watching YouTube alone is more the norm.
“That’d be great!” I said. She snuggled into the bed beside me with the laptop and started playing the movie she'd picked; I promptly fell asleep.
As I’m often heard saying, “C’est la vie.” This is how life works. I could have made a fuss about how our day had gone. I could have gotten mad at her. I could have coerced her onto my agenda. It certainly hadn't been my idea of a good time!
But I can’t force a feeling into someone. I can’t make her interested in something; I can’t inject happy juice. Sometimes I’d settle for not miserable juice!
And it’s true for everyone else too. When I wake from the illusion and see through the smoke, it’s clear I can never guess how another will feel. I might have a feather touch of an idea about what swims in them, but I will never truly know. And I will never be able to force my ideas, desires, feelings, or life blood into them.
So why would I ever think I could? Why would I give myself a responsibility I can’t deliver on? Why would I give up my quiet, authentic self for a mission that I am one hundred percent guaranteed to fail at?
It took me a long time to realize that I am not responsible for, nor can I predict, other people’s internal state. I can’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent sacrificing myself trying to make things hunky-dory for someone else.
It may sound cruel and unusual to take my hands off the steering wheel. But you know, there’s a bit of magic that bubbles up when we get the hell out of the way and let the waters run free. Because each person is their own lighthouse and can illuminate the way. My friends, my children, my spouse, they are tough diamonds, not fragile heirloom ornaments; except for me seeing them otherwise.
More important than trying to control everything and shove feelings into people, is to simply see their resilience, their wisdom, their essence, and to get curious about how the world looks from their fishbowl. Not so I can rearrange the decorations, or make theirs more like mine, but so I can connect at a whole new level. I can have the intimacy that we’re all longing for.
Letting go in this way means being open to being hurt. Letting go can be scary. Letting go is the ultimate in surrender; but letting go is also freedom. Letting go means there’s less to manage. Letting go allows the beauty of life to unfold. Letting go allows me to open my arms wide while saying “Hell yeah!” to the unknown.