“To be fearless no matter what happens-that is the root of true happiness. To move forward resolutely regardless of what lies in store-that is the spirit of, the resolve that leads to human victory. But if we allow ourselves to be disturbed by petty criticism and slander, or we fear pressure and persecution, we will never advance or create anything of lasting value. ” Daisaku Ikeda
Recently, someone asked me what keeps me stuck.
I was asked what keeps me from really living. After some thought , I realized it was three very powerful and simple entities. Disappointment, confusing love with care and not feeling worthy to dream and imagine my life. Six years ago I wrote a play,”Knucklebone”, that dealt with how I learned to handle and negotiate my life when things failed to go my way.
During the course of creating this work, I realized that I had my share of disappointment and upset and had chosen to not let these things stop me.
In some fashion, I figured out ways to acknowledge the hurt and pain and then move beyond it. Maybe this was a gift. Something I was born with that would allow me to survive incredible bouts of disappointment. After sharing this work with others and listening to their tales of “woe”, I learned something vey important. I was not that different from other people. In fact, hurt and anger over things not working out were very common occurences.
Most people at some point or another have had to deal with planning on one outcome and then adjusting to another when it takes place.
So back to the original point, what keeps me stuck ? I typically go for the things that I want in life. There have been times that I now look back on and know : I didn’t go for it. These are not seen as failures or looming regrets. Instead, they are viewed as times when I didn’t truly “live”. I opted to allow past disappointments to determine present reality but also decided what action I would or would not take regarding my dreams and desires.
At seventeen, I wanted to move to NYC and go to Columbia.
With great grades, stellar references and a ton of extra curricular activities on my record, there was absolutely no reason to not apply and expect a quick admission. My mothers’ unrelenting retort : “whose gonna pay for that ?” effectively shut me down and my capacity to have a life in NYC . Realistically, we could have determined that I could attend this institution and then plotted and schemed like banshees to make it happen.
It never happened. I was sorely disappointed and still carry that one regret some twenty five years later.
The problem is not that I didn’t go to Columbia or finish at the fine prep school where I started my high school career. In fact, it was not even the many failed romantic relationships that I managed to pick up along the way . The core issue is how I dealt wtih them both in real time, as in the present ,and how I chose to handle them emotionally. Did I allow these desires for greatness (which never occured) to slow me down, make me feel : who gives a shit ? “I didn’t want that all that much anyway”.
How about that last statement ? Not allowing ourselves to “want” keeps us from being disappointed.
If I never really want anything then I don’t have to seriously try and risk things not working out. I get to be safe. When I speak of want, I am not referring to a state of greed and a serious case of the “gimmies”. We are not petulant children cajoling our parents into giving us what we want- when we want it .
Instead, a healthy set of wants is good.
Disappointment can either put us into a state of bone-crushing want or unmitigated entitlement.
Neither of these states allow me to move forward in a healthy or consistent manner. The better way to handle disappointment is to realize that it is an integral part of life . It is going to happen and if you want to be successful and dream and do big things you had bloody well better learn to manage it.
When I moved to NYC after years of longing to be there , I was shocked to find out many things.
I could not afford to live in the Village. There were not droves of people waiting to hear me sing nor offer me prime spots in nightclubs and jukejoints. I would not become a great important writer simply by only writing when the muse dared to visit my psyche.
So what was I to do ? Quit ? Move back to Detroit ? Beg for my old job at the phone company ?
Since none of these ideas were an option, I had a serious desicion to make. Let disappointment define me and psychologically crumble or decide what I would do next given the reality of the situation and current set of circumstances. I defeated the somewhat crippling and menacing monster that is disappointment not by giving up what I wanted but deciding what experience I was looking to get and then making that the focus.
At six, my request for a dolphin was crushed and unrealized.
I couldn’t have a dolphin (apparently there was not enough room in our back yard). This didn’t keep me form studying about these magnificent creatures. I couldn’ t afford a Village Apartment but Harlem was cheap, convenient and welcoming. I wouldn’t bring down the house in small smoke -filled clubs but I could find a great voice teacher and audition for musicals and theater.