Do you remember being a child at the holidays? There was that one toy you opened on Christmas morning (or on one of the nights of Hanukkah) that your parents tried to warn you Santa might not bring but he somehow managed to bring anyway (because he’s Santa!) and you were overjoyed… until you realized that it was not all it cracked up to be and you were so utterly disappointed that you didn’t stick with asking him for that other thing you wanted instead.
As adults I think we often mentally place ourselves above children in believing we have grown beyond where they are in every way, and to some extent that is true. Physically we are beyond them, we are more equipped to handle emotional and physical trauma healthily, we are able to have relationships whose strength comes from beyond shared interests and sometimes despite having none, and we have our lifetime’s worth of experiences to draw from when issues arise in our personal and professional lives. Yet these truths haven’t begun to outshine the selfishness and self-serving behaviors of many adults, let alone the tantrums, impulsiveness, bullying, laziness, manipulation, and general self-centeredness that is so very present in so many adults I know, among other distasteful qualities. Hardly the behavior of mature adults, yet there they are!
Think about it:
How often have you listened to words coming out of your mouth only to realize how whiney and childish they sound?
How frequently have you tried to push the adulting parts of life and your relationship to your partner so you can do the fun things instead, whether it’s trying to be the fun parent and the good cop, trying to avoid dealing with bills, or trying to avoid the dreaded chores? Have you ever made yourself the
How many times have you worked to get something you were certain you wanted only to be utterly disappointed and dissatisfied later when you did get your hands on it, regretting the time and energy you wasted because it wasn’t what you expected, it took more work than you wanted to expend, or you realized you had chosen poorly and were now stuck with that choice?
A person you really believed you wanted to be with, the promotion or job you were certain you wanted and were excited about, that new car, the motorcycle, the boat, some item of clothing or accessory, the dessert you knew would make everything better but only made you feel fat and guilty instead, the new phone or gadget, that house you were sure was perfection, that trip.
As adults I think we often conveniently forget how flawed we still are and so we make excuses for the behaviors we discourage and don’t tolerate from children when we ourselves exhibit them or when those we are in relationships with exhibit them. As bad as the excuses are, and as childish, what adults do is worse than just making excuses:
At times we actively strive to obtain things and control people that we view as status symbols or that we think will make us happy, ignoring the same wisdom we share with our youth, bypassing logic and patterns of toxic behavior, and forgetting what things are truly valuable in life.
If some tweenager came to you telling of the unending love they have for the person who just dumped them and saying they’ll never love again, we know exactly what you would tell them: someday the right someone will come along and you’ll fall in love and blah blah blah. Yet is that “someday the right one” advice we actively heed ourselves?
In life I think it is easy to look at your circumstances and to feel ready and desirous for a change because you feel the effort it would take to fix or maintain what you have is not equal to the value placed upon it, whether it is feeling ready for a new career path or position, a new home, a new beginning, a new relationship, a new season (such as retirement), or a new perspective. Sometimes that desire for change is truly positive and necessary: your relationship is abusive, your car is breaking down, your workplace is toxic and you are undervalued and underpaid, or you have had some revelation about what you really want in life that boils down to needing to make changes for the better. Sometimes, however, they’re based on those feelings and behaviors that some how we have clung to since childhood, whether they are childish or simply naive. Whatever the case, we yearn for the changes that we believe will make us happy and we sometimes strive to force those changes to take place. Meanwhile, changes that come unexpectedly are sometimes viewed as negative experiences.
I would challenge that way of thinking just as I would challenge the thinking that says we should practice striving.
I’m not saying we should not seek growth opportunities and that we shouldn’t strive to be our best selves daily. These are essential qualities of successful people, as are goal setting, hard work, and perseverance.
What I am saying, though, is that when we try to control everything, make everything happen the way we want it and in the time we want it, or to hold onto what is dead, dying, or toxic, then we are not only spending all our time striving and spinning our wheels instead of enjoying life but also closing ourselves off from the magical possibilities of other opportunities coming into our lives.
In striving, we may find a margin of success…
…But if we continue on our paths walking in faith knowing that everything we want isn’t necessarily what we need or may not be what we need right now, we open ourselves up to the possibility of good things beyond our imagination coming into our lives just when we need them, doors to opportunities we never would have been brave enough to consider or hope for opening in front of us, and relationships with people we otherwise would have missed out on in our striving and controlling.
I think often people forget that patience, too, is an action.
Originally published on 14 December 2017.