August 17, 2013

Keep Your Feet in the Sand & Your Head in the Clouds: Why Giving Up Brings Joy into Our Lives.

(Flickr: Florida Memory State Library and Archives)

When I was a kid, I was always being told to ‘never give up.’

There it was, plastered on the walls of my elementary school and in the subconscious minds of a generation.

‘Quitters never prosper!’

So, I joined as many extra-curricular activities as I could. I pursued them doggedly, even if I couldn’t stand them. Competitive tiddlywinks? Sign me up! The Scientific Mold And Spore-Growing Club? Don’t mind if I do!

I was hoping to, in some way, prove myself. Or maybe improve myself. At the very least, I could put them on my college application.

On a certain level, ‘never giving up’ makes good sense.

One should never give up on oneself.

Or on the inherent goodness of humanity.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, though, things just don’t work out.

We’ve all experienced this in the adult world. You get fired. He or she breaks up with you. You or somebody close to you experiences a serious illness.

Through the shattered glass of expectation, we ponder a new reality.

Maybe the universe has another plan. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. Who the hell knows?

American culture has born and bred a bunch of strivers. We have an egoic attachment to work insomuch as it delivers the intended results: money, success, connections or stuff. This is an egoic salve against pain and disappointment. When ‘working hard’ doesn’t yield the intended results, we feel angry or anxious, perhaps neurotic or disconnected. We feel guilty or resentful.

What if every amount of ‘never giving up’ and ‘working hard’ fails to yield a job that will pay the bills or everlasting love or sustained weight loss or whatever our intended goals may be?

This is thorny stuff.

Giving up is sometimes the most graceful solution.

I’m not we spend the rest of our lives sitting on the couch, in our underwear, eating pizza and watching re-runs until the electricity eventually gets shut off. (Remember the Portlandia Battlestar Galactica episode?)

‘Giving up’ isn’t always giving up.

Giving up is giving ourselves the freedom to change course. Giving up is releasing attachment to specific outcomes.

Giving up is also hella scary.

1) People:

How can we be the most loving towards fully-functioning friends and family (adults) and who are really getting our goat?

Give up on them!

This doesn’t mean we don’t love or care about them. To the contrary, pulling back is perhaps, the most supreme act of love possible in our universe. Resist the urge to have to be ‘right.’

If you love something, let it go. Pull back your energy. Yep, that’s right. Don’t call your girlfriend for the 15th time today. Don’t goad your roommate to do the dishes. Stop ‘striving’ in relationships. (It sounds a lot like controlling.)

2) Location, Location, Location:

I lived in New York City for several years during graduate school. During this time, I fell in love with the city. The energy. The culture. Interesting people. Great thrift stores. Falafel sandwiches anytime of the day or night. An unending parade of classes and speakers and presentations.

I was unable to find a job in my field after graduation. “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!” I kept thinking. (Thanks, Sinatra.) I kept pushing. Ego was the grand marshal at my parade, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time. I was simply doing what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing, right?

Eventually, however, reality would come crashing down. Rents were exorbitant. Jobs were scarce. Friends were constantly, exhaustedly busy all of the time and I was beginning to feel disconnected. Rats were everywhere. Somebody had taken to vomiting on my stoop at 3AM.

I remember the day I moved out for good. I got on the train with a Manhattan-sized lump in my stomach. I was certain I had failed.

I had not.

I had, as time would reveal, given up for the best.

Is your zip code not working out for you? Give up. There is life outside Verona walls. A change may do you good. The world is full of beautiful places.

3) Work:

So you’ve gone to school for what seems to have been ten thousand years? Now you’re ready to graduate, only to discover there are no more jobs in your field? Been downsized with almost no warning? Struggling just to get by? Just can’t take life in the cube? Feeling corporate-culture claustrophobic?

So what?

Give up on what you think you ‘should’ be professionally—where you ‘should’ be at this age or that age or this time or that time. Don’t burn your bridges financially, of course.

Phase out slowly and allow yourself to build new ones.

4) Appearance:

You know all those ads for clothes and jewelry and make-up in magazines? People are trying to sell you things. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get enough rest. Fill your life with meaningful activities and authentic people. Get outside. Go in for regular check-ups. Have your own style.

Beyond that, give up. Authentic people will love you for who you are.

Sometimes we cannot really make a difference in a situation by pursuing old, tried-and-true methods.

I quote the late, great Albert Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

And William Blake: “He who binds himself to a joy. Does the winged life destroy. He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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