No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
As the title of this piece suggests,“Life can be unfair.” And while being left out of a fun soiree or festive gathering can sting, it certainly doesn’t register high on the emotional Richter Scale of disappointments (as I write with tears in my eyes, remembering the pain of waiting for an invitation that never came to a Limbo/Tupperware party in 1992).
Kidding aside, life indeed doles out its share of blind-side struggles that more than warrant a teeth-gnashing complaint. But let’s be honest, at least in terms of not doing what we want, or doing more of what we like, we often place blame on less arbitrary villains, on specific situations and circumstances, be it not having enough free time, enough money, enough energy, or some other factor keeping us from engaging in activities and following pursuits that bring us pleasure and purpose.
Maybe, however, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Jason Kurtz, a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City, author of the memoir Follow The Joy, and an award-winning playwright, opines on what might really be at play behind our frustration at remaining on the proverbial “sidelines.”
“What keeps people from following through on their achievable desires? One possible reason is that they have a treasured idea of what would happen if they, say, went back to school, or took dancing lessons, and they are afraid that reality would not live up to their idea. Perhaps they always felt they had the talent to be a good dancer, but never tried. If they did take the lessons, they might discover that they are not as good as they had hoped (or perhaps lack any talent altogether). Similarly, if they dream of going back to school, what happens if they lack the aptitude, or if it’s very difficult? Often there is a fear that reality might not live up to their hopes or dreams.
The antidote is to face both the hope and fear. Explore how much of the hope is realistic and what parts might be fantasy. Explore what happens if you’re not a brilliant dancer.
Can you still enjoy it? Will it be worth it if it falls somewhat short of the dream? The goal is to be able to enjoy it in a realistic way. You can hope for the best, but you should be able to get something out of it/enjoy it even if the most exciting outcome does not happen.”
Especially the importance of distinguishing between what is realistic and what is fantasy. It’s one thing to want to take cooking classes so you can impress your friends with a sumptuous meal, another so you can beat Bobby Flay on national television. The important thing is to pick your spots wisely, to take time to identify what really makes you happy, what will enhance your life and bring you greater fulfillment, and then commit to doing everything you can to make it happen.
If you do that, I promise you will win no matter the outcome.
As for me, I’m going to take my own advice and buy a Limbo stick and some Tupperware and start working on a guest list for my own party. Please be on the lookout for the invitation.