So I was talking to a young woman the other day and she said, “I have figured out 50% of life is fabulous and the other 50% is not. If something happens that I am unhappy about, I just tell myself, ‘This is part of the 50% that is not fabulous.'” Talk about equanimity!
Because life is full of uncertainty, and because we cannot control everything, we have experiences we don’t want, feelings we don’t like, and frustrations we can’t avoid. Kind of comes with the territory. The unhappiness is complicated by our expectation that we should not ever have to be unhappy, or angry, or grief-stricken. We believe that unwanted emotions can be avoided or eliminated or deadened. We believe they shouldn’t happen if we are doing things right.
The problem is, every person comes with the full smorgasbord of emotions: seeking, joy/playfulness, fear, panic/grief, anger, care, and lust. Our emotions put us in motion: they move us to grow, chase, build, change, reflect, and restore ourselves. Most of all, our feelings are information. They reveal what is meaningful to us and how we view the world. They are not infallible truths, but identification tags that we place on our experience: “This is good.” or “This is fun.” or “This is bad.” or “This is painful.” They reveal our distortions and they reveal what matters to us.
And the great joy of growing throughout a lifetime is the ways we can refine and correct our perceptions of the world. We can take the stories we have been told and learn what parts of those stores are accurate or helpful and what parts are open to negotiation and editing. We learn this by bumping up against other people’s stories. So even though we feel resonant with people who agree with us, we learn and grow from people who are different from us.
We have strong feelings about our own views. They feel personal and true. That is because we learned those stories from those people who took care of us early in our lives and taught us how to survive in the world. Our world view feels tied up in our own survival. So it is hard to let go of any pieces of it. Hard to step back and try to see what is accurate and what might need editing. We can only do that re-evaluating in relationships because we are encased within the perspective we have.
It takes courage to have an open mind. It takes courage to let go of beliefs we have held for a long time. It takes courage to continue to grow and change even when we have gotten pretty good at managing our lives as they are. It is our unwanted emotions that push us out of our comfort zones and force us to pay attention. It is the not fabulous 50% that pushes us to learn.