Here’s a little something I shot from the road about the unexpected insights I’m getting from being unplugged from all of my old structures.
Have you ever noticed the truth in life … that no matter how much we have, it’s not usually enough?
I think back to when I was a junior copywriter in New York in 1980 earning $14,000 a year. Boy that was hard … my parents had to subsidize my rent; I lived on eggs and toast, happy hour hors d’oeuvres and drinks purchased by nice guys. Then I got a new job and a whopping raise to $25,000. Naturally, I thought I was all set. My excited glow lasted for a few weeks until I realized … that wasn’t enough either.
Now I could pay my own rent, and that was about it; I was still on the happy hour feeding train. Some day, I’ll earn six figures – THEN I’ll finally be all set, I thought. And again, I was wrong.
Yes, that day came and went, too, admittedly some years later. Now I could buy my own drinks and snacks, and groceries, and even my own vacations. I could make car payments, retirement account payments, and health club payments. And still … it wasn’t enough. I still had that ‘empty-at the end of the day’ feeling, as I longed for some kind of security I thought I still didn’t have.
That condition of not-enough-ness never went away until recently, after I did a substantial amount of healing. And what I know now is that the resolution of this has had NOTHING whatsoever to do with money, my purchasing power, my future security or the accumulation of more stuff. Instead, it has had everything to do with a quiet deep acceptance of myself.
What I have come to understand is that we believe, often, on some deep level that WE are simply not enough.
I certainly believed I wasn’t enough for most of my adult life. And boy did I burn my way through a lot of Pinot Grigio and high-end chocolate bars.
And this is why any of us are moved to indulge in compulsive behaviors – from hiding chocolate bars to the nightly glasses of wine, from retail therapy to the accumulation of credit cards. This is why we develop secret crushes that burgeon into full-fledged affairs; why we gamble when no one’s looking; why we find ourselves addicted to prescription drugs or worse.
We are looking, sometimes desperately, for relief from ourselves and our own silent, crushing pain. We long for happiness. And on some level we believe we just don’t deserve it. And so it looms out there like that impossible Holy Grail … a peace it seems we will never attain.
Think about it. Somewhere, somehow, there’s a part of you that knows as you’re pouring your second or third glass of Pinot Grigio, that this is a mistake. Ah, but it feels so good.
Your day has sucked. You are tired. Your feet hurt, your mind hurts, and your soul hurts. Perhaps you have spent this exhausting day doing unrewarding work that others demanded you do. Or perhaps, on the other hand, you are attempting to do something you love and you are getting nowhere fast.
One way or another, you are not getting what you want; you are fed up. So why not indulge?
This is your Artificial Happy Fix and it will certainly work for the better part of an hour or two, until something goes horribly wrong around cocktail number three. You will lie in the darkness going to sleep, and your mind will wander back to your currently damaged reality – the one with all the problems in it. And you’ll remember that even that second or third glass of wine was not enough to still you back to silence.
Your heart is hurting, and there really is only one way back to peace. That is through some honest to God healing.
Your heart and your soul require more than the ephemeral joy of the taste of chocolate or that first cold sip of wine. All of these temporary pleasures exist in life to delight us, for certain. And yet, we come at them with all our wounds blazing, and demand for them to prop us up and do far more than they are designed for. And they simply can’t; the Artificial Happy Fix will ultimately let us down.
And I say this as a wounded person myself who not only hid chocolate bars in the place mats, but also racked up $27,000 in credit cards that took years to pay off.
The healing that is required is for us to go back into those wounds, and hang out there for a little while. (Perhaps you think this sounds crazy, but just bear with me for a minute.) If you only knew your wounding experiences from childhood, and the depth of gorgeous information they have stored up to share with you, you’d come to fear them less.
Because think about it – getting to know your wounds sounds like scheduling a root canal on a Saturday night. Who in their right mind would want to do this? But here is the kicker:
You already spend an inordinate about of time in your wounds. In fact, you live just about every minute of your life in them.
The human psyche is wired to hold those early wounding experiences close to the heart, and construct defensive behaviors so they never happen again. And THEN … the psyche pretends that ‘everything is just fine’. Even though we’re now limping through life, instead of joyfully bounding.
(And just for the record, we’re talking about big or small wounding events – being left along too long in the high chair and fearing abandonment, for instance, or being closed into a crib with a lid on it for starters. There are many more to choose from throughout the span of childhood, but the early ones seem to be the most critical.)
Most of us really don’t remember the deep wounding experiences of our childhood. But when certain therapies lead us back to that place, there is the memory – in full living color and as detailed as if it happened yesterday. At which point, we can actually begin to heal that wound by re-experiencing the pain and letting it heal itself.
Nothing can ever heal in our bodies or souls that is bottled up and unexpressed.
And yet, when you let those hurts out to be truly felt and witnessed, they begin to dissolve and break up before your eyes. Now mind you, this isn’t easy work. It can be painful as hell … but what you get on the other side is profound relief – from the subtle monsters in your head that have been leading you away from yourself all these years.
Recovery from your wounds can take a while … or as life speeds up around us, things can happen faster. It all depends on your willingness to dig in. You can keep going for the Artificial Happy Fix for the rest of your life, regardless of the toll it will take over time. Or you can heal what’s truly broken so you don’t even need the Artificial Happy Fix.
Then, when some chocolate or a great glass of wine come along at the right time, you can truly enjoy them, unencumbered by guilt or concern. Instead, you can simply savor them as the delight they were always intended to be.
And as for you, you’ll already be plenty happy indeed.
Recently while on the road I stayed at a very interesting house by the beach owned by an artist and collector.
So why wouldn’t she have a diorama in her freezer, complete with (very cold) rubber polar bears?