A week or so ago, on the Diane Rehm show, Barbara Bradley Hagerty talked about her new book, Fingerprints of God. It was a fascinating interview, but one point stuck out for me – and it wasn’t the focus of her book or the interview. They began talking about prayer and its power and the fact that many people believe so hardily and heartily in the power of prayer that if they go to church and pray their hearts out – and then get sick (as in terminally or chronically very sick) – they are left with a feeling that they didn’t pray hard enough. Because there understanding is that if they were doing it right, they would be okay. They take it on as their own fault.
How often do events happen that we, humans, take responsibility for, bear the burden for – when in fact it might not be ours at all?
There is a sweet philosophy floating around these days. It says that if you think positively and reach for good thoughts, Good will come to you. There’s a dangerous promise there, though, because we are left with the responsibility of thinking good enough thoughts. So, what happens when we think ‘good’ and get ‘shit’? Did we do it wrong? I mean, who else could possibly be to blame? What if we just can’t think purely positively? We didn’t do it right, we didn’t do it enough. It’s our fault that we didn’t get what we wanted.
This used to be me. In fact, I started writing this post – from the sentence above this and up – last week and I was living every word of it. I was struggling and blaming myself about a lot of things…particularly the writing of my book which wasn’t going so well, compounded by the fact that the big-time, big-house editor had a chunk of it and was remaining silent.
And then I had this epiphany. A real one, if you can believe it. I was talking to this incredible woman (whole other long story) and I told her that I thought I was addicted to pain and suffering. I believed that I was gifted (no kidding) with the tortured artist’s gene of despair and angst.
She said, “I’ve never met anyone who’s addicted to pain and suffering. You aren’t really.”
“Oh,” but I said, “I really am. Even when things are going really well, I freak myself out and get all upset…” and then it started to hit me “…and I tell the people close to me…” holy crap, really? “…so that they’ll make me feel better…” wah huh? “…Oh my god. I. Want. To. Feel. Good. I like it. It’s been my M.O. all along.”
Life as I thought I knew it has ended. Officially. Armed with this knowledge, I’m incapable of making myself miserable.
I have proof:
Two days ago, I got an email from said big-time, big-house, Editor…she doesn’t like or want my book.
I cried, I was sad. I’m still human, after all…I think. I shared the news with some key friends & colleagues who were stunning in their responses. But I never even went near the pit of despair that would’ve typically beckoned me inside: I worried too much, I wasn’t inspired enough, I let negativity creep in…and that’s why this tragedy happened. I did it wrong. I deserve the shit, every splatter.
Um, yeah. Of course, you did it wrong, you doofus. But not the wanting it or positivity or ‘prayer’ – it just wasn’t right. The book will be better if I do this (more on that later too) – it’ll be more me. And maybe she isn’t my Editor. And…and…and…. Alas, this is a growth process, this writing thing, and it’s meant to be savored and explored. It’s delightful.
I woke up yesterday excited, inspired…I read the Editor’s email again and opportunity was all I could se for miles and miles. I owned my part, made decisions, felt good.
Today? Even better…woke up at 4am…had to start writing.
Why am I telling you this? At least one of you will find it inspirational to know that change – magnificent, profound change – is possible. And that it isn’t our fault when things don’t go as we’d hoped. We really do the best that we can. Sometimes, we feel good, sometimes we feel bad…sometimes it doesn’t matter.
I’m not down and I’m not out. It’s a flipping miracle.
Image courtesy of Jon Hanson
Join the discussion 9 Comments
I have never been one to follow the conventional idea of “right”. While I do plan things, life happens. Challenges are what life is all about. The important thing is how you approach those challenges. I’ve always been a fighter and sometimes I have taken quite a beating just to prove a point (think Tyler Durden). But my point is that I refuse to give up or give in, I will instead adapt and adjust to accomplish what needs to be done. Good for you. Eff all of the naysayers and blaze your own path. Just be sure to keep your head up and see what’s ahead…
There’s one tricky thing here, that notion of “good” and “bad”. I remember wanting a particular job so badly I could taste it. The interview went well. I had a friend who was well respected who worked there and recommended me. Something happened and I didn’t get it. I think they hired from within. A couple of months later, the company experienced a few setbacks and many of the people I would have been working for were all let go. If I’d gotten that job I would have been unemployed in short order. So “bad” ended up being “good”. As I always say, “you’re in the middle of the story”.
count me in ~ I’m inspired!!!
well done, well blogged!
Julie–we’re twins (I’ve already said this?) in our emotional personalities. I, too, get caught up on the end result and it sometimes prevents me from enjoying the journey. The journey is full of ups and downs–mountains and desserts and shark infested waters … alligators. Snakes. Sometimes these obstacles seem so large and we feel so small that we almost give up.
But we can’t. Because what would we do? Turn around? I agree that the prayer and manifesting can get you into trouble, especially if you are praying and manifesting about a destination. I think it’s better to pray for the toolbox: what you need to keep going. Right now I’m manifesting compassion. Sometimes it’s courage. Sometimes strength. Sometimes forgiveness. Those are the things that carry us through when the going gets tough.
Loved your post. Just what I needed to read today!
Oh, man. You all make me so happy. Thanks for being here, reading…talking back. Heart = Full.
Vinita Hampton Wright calls this kind of thinking about prayer getting us “stuff” the “Health & Wealth Gospel,” and it drives me NUTS. :)
Prayer, really, is about putting ourselves in line with love or God or the universe or whatever you want to call it. It’s about getting to our own core. Never about “asking.”
And this current line of thinking about positive thoughts, yes, I agree, is downright dangerous, besides being simplistic.
Thoughts are important. Beat yourself up and you most likely won’t take positive action, for example.
But people are so unwilling to do the hard work of really knowing themselves before they try to dive into this — like they want the blue ribbon but they don’t want to run the race.
This all leads to hating our “negative emotions.” YOU were allowed to feel badly about rejection and it was good that you let yourself feel this. Otherwise, I would wonder if you were fully human, you know?
This new avoidance of negative emotions is just the same old Puritan Repression in new clothes.
Julie- Let’s look at this the correct way: That Editor wasn’t meant to have the privilege of editing your book – her bad Karma. She wasn’t the right Editor for you. The right one, the great one, the perfect one for you will show up when you are ready for her/him.
Julie – I’ve been in that negative spiral too – it was hard to get out of until that ‘lightbulb’ moment when I suddenly understood that I can’t possibly always be the one who is wrong/bad/screwed up. I have a sign in my house that helps me realise “Change of all kinds takes Courage”. Once I changed how I reacted to things/people I found a whole new world of opportunity – it’s amazing to take that power back – congratulations on finding it.
Sometimes bad news is good, it just takes you some time to realize that. What I mean is out of every bad experience, we grow and change and develop and LEARN. No matter how positive you might be, there is no way to avoid bad stuff happening, both on a grand scale and small day to day disappointments. Several song lyrics cover this well:
* You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
-Stones, You can’t always get what you want
*Five to one, baby
One in five
No one here gets out alive, now
You get yours, baby
Ill get mine
Gonna make it, baby
If we try
-Doors Five to One
And I’ve had to live with some hard promises
I’ve crawled through the briars
I’m an insider.
-Tom Petty, Hard Promises
To me, it is those moments where you fail that define you. How do you react. Did your positivity carry you through (and I know it does for you Julie even before your epiphany, whether or not you realized it) or does negativity drag you down (and it never does for you for long).
You might have just realized it, but those of us who know you knew it along. You just happened to figure it out. :-)