I saw the phrase in an acquaintance’s email signature and it stuck in my mind. Part of a piece of advice on how to succeed, but initially I wondered how you could without fixating on a certain result. I’m an obsessive person by nature (ask anyone how I feel about Kurt Cobain or Arcade Fire’s Reflektor) and I’ve used total, fervent devotion to a specific outcome as a motivator for as long as I can remember. Quite honestly, the most intense of my infatuations always involved males. I wish I could say that I was passionate about a subject of study, or an activity, hobby or cause, and that I went full-bore on it (or wait, maybe that’s what Candid Uprising is about). But this whole project is founded on honesty, and I sense you’re beginning to see through me, anyway. Attaching to the outcome, while it’s manically motivated me, hasn’t brought me success or lasting fulfillment, usually because any given result doesn’t conform to my rigid expectations, rendering it a disappointment. Ugh. I needed this advice.
It may be another way of saying perfection is the enemy of the good, another phrase it took me great lengths of time to fully grasp. Essentially, if we can’t be flexible enough to accept life on its unpredictable terms and maneuver from there, we’re kind of doomed to a life of unhappiness. At least that’s how I felt. I wanted so much for things to appear in such a specific form or format, I didn’t experience them because I often dismissed them, when they didn’t appear as expected.
My most coveted goal in high school, more important than anything else (to all but total exclusion of other activities and interests), was to fall in love. You have to remember, I was cloistered in Catholic school for three years–middle school–when dating and hooking up are supposed to begin (right?). I was DTF, down to fall…among other things. And it couldn’t be any guy. It had to be the guy I selected as the best looking, most attractive, most aloof and out-of-reach. I would know him when I saw him, and when I saw him I would become obsessed, and then my mind would play out endless, glorious scenarios of adolescent porn.
I would ask him out. He would invariably say no. Either he already had a girlfriend, or he was several grades older, or he would panic at my forthcoming nature and avoid me. It never worked out. I never had a boyfriend for longer than two months, and there were only a few of those. Total. In my life. My expectations for the outcome at best obscured what was in front of me; at worst, they ruined it. It may be that there were other interested guys out there, but I didn’t notice. I was steamrolling my way to my exact specifications, and not once did it last, or work. Reality was a letdown.
Attaching myself to outcomes meant I missed out on the moment, where the information happens. What I mean is that we can only absorb so much from reconstructing the past, or projecting into the future, and that limits the best of our decision-making. When we’re in the moment, absorbing what’s happening around us, instead of miles ahead in some carefully-constructed wonder-future, we’re more open to the good. When the good exists mostly in our heads, and we’re controlling how it is going to look, feel and unfold, we’re not going to recognize it when it arrives, because it likely won’t look as we’ve planned.
Easier said than done. I’m working on detaching from the outcome without lowering my expectations. It’s a tricky balance, because I’m not quite sure how to let go and be open to the future. I need to feel a sense of control, or I worry I’ll devolve into a lazy mess. It’s happened before. But I won’t attach to that, I’ll just keep an eye toward the future while using the other, and both hands to find the good.
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