There are two basic facts about life that many people either were never taught or they try to say do not apply to themselves: Life isn’t easy and life isn’t fair. These two concepts are true for everyone, no matter your financial status, your ethnic background, your sexual orientation, or your religious affiliation. Yet, we expend a lot of energy fighting against these unavoidable realities. I shall endeavor in this piece to explain these two facts in a way that makes sense, and the benefits of learning to live with them instead of trying to fight against them, a battle that simply cannot be won.
LIFE ISN’T EASY
No matter who you are, life isn’t easy. From our first breath, we struggle to get our needs met. We must cry and coo to get our parents to give us our most basic necessities and we learn very early that we will not always get what we want, no matter how badly we act out. The despair we feel when we realize this truth is only compounded if the people we should be able to count on for our needs are abusive or neglectful. We grow up feeling rejected and unworthy of even taking up space in the world. Somehow that angst leads to us growing into adults who feel that the world owes us a living, so we set out to force it to pay us and we withdrawal into our own inner worlds. The result is that no matter which direction we go, we end up hiding from any hope of happiness choosing instead to keep our misery going.
When I entered therapy almost 28 years ago, I felt extreme anger at the harshness of the life I had been dealt. It was hell going to therapy every week and facing head-on the facts of what had been my childhood, and I was furious about it. I felt that had my family of origin been “normal” I wouldn’t have been having to fight so hard to recover. I spent many hours in my therapist’s office weeping and moaning about how hard life was and how I had been cheated. One day my therapist looked at me and said words that have made a huge change in how I see the world.
“Shirley, life isn’t easy for anyone. Granted, most people do not have to live with the amount of stuff you survived, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. No one, and I mean no one, has it easy in life. That is an inevitable fact we all must live with.”
At first, I was angry at her. I felt like I deserved to be pissed and that life should be easy for me after all I had been through. After a time, after I had mulled those words over and over in my mind, I began to understand. I had been spending so much time feeling like I was owed something from the world that I had forgotten to live. Life, I have begun to understand, is beautiful BECAUSE it isn’t easy.
LIFE ISN’T FAIR
This concept is one that takes some choking to get down.
Here again, we face something that most humans just don’t want to understand, let alone accept. The inevitable truth that life isn’t fair for anyone, and that we must accept the things we cannot change. It grates against all our human need to control every aspect of our existence.
There are three areas of our lives that are totally out of our control.
- We cannot control other people.
- We cannot change the past.
- We all will die someday.
Like my brother stated earlier today when describing his frustration with his life, “There is a little kid inside me who wants to stomp and scream!” I think we can all relate to his statement. Inside of us all is a part who is angry as hell because we can’t control the three things listed above, especially our inability to change other people.
I spent a lot of energy on these thoughts, ranting and raging because, “Dammit, why should I have to pay for the actions of my abusers? Why do I have to pay a therapist and live through this hell because of what they did? I robbed of a normal childhood, and the joy of living happily ever after!!!!”
Here again I got stuck for a while.
After I had been in recovery for around 24 years, I had come to believe I was doing very well and had accepted life on life’s terms. Then tragedy struck, not once, but twice. My little nephew Jimmy was stillborn and only a few months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo two disfiguring surgeries. I became betrayed and angry at life. I felt like I had paid my dues and that it was time that I enjoyed some good times, and I couldn’t reconcile the crap that I was having to face. To make matters even worse, my best friend of 27 years died the following spring. I had come so far, surviving not only my horrific childhood, but also living through the dangerous pitfalls of therapy, and now this?
Again, it was my therapist who helped me to learn another very important lesson. After listening to me bellyache for the two-hundredth time about how unfair it all was to me, she sat back and after making sure she had my full attention spoke more words of wisdom.
“Shirley, people are born and people die. People get sick and they get well. People come into our lives, and they depart. Did you think you were alone in these truths? No Shirley. Life isn’t fair. It is messy and full of hardships, and you know what else? You will someday die, just like everyone else, including myself. To allow yourself to fall victim to becoming bitter because you are just like the rest of us is to allow yourself to be cheated.”
After digesting her words, I soon realized she was correct. I had been seeing life as a child sees it, as either being good or bad, when in reality, it is neither. Life is life, no more, no less. We can either get busy enjoying it and stop trying to force it to be what it is not, or we can get busy allowing our preconceived notions of what it SHOULD BE destroy us.
NOPE, LIFE ISN’T EASY, AND LIFE ISN’T FAIR.
We set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t accept these two premises. We waste valuable time we could be spending enjoying the things in life that make living worthwhile. I’ve discovered that I am my own worst enemy in this. There is no one abusing or neglecting me today, the only person who harms me now is myself.
I have decided to let go, as much as is humanly possible, of the notion that the world owes me anything and that life should be fair and easy. The frustration that I have been experiencing all my life has dropped a substantial amount since I’ve been working on these concepts. I try to not expect people or life to treat me the way I want to be treated and in this way that little child in me gets to take a rest from having her temper tantrum whenever I hit a snag.
Life is busy, hazardous, hard, beautiful and only is issued to each of us once. Why squander it bemoaning what we don’t have? Why not enjoy every moment as though it were our last? Yes, hard times will come, but we can gain some measure of comfort in knowing that this is the same fate of all of mankind.
I have decided to live. How about you?
“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” Grandma Moses