Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gains & Losses

In order to gain anything, you have to lose something.

How many of us make the mistake of always trying to have our cake and eat it too?

I recently read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (which I HIGHLY recommend because she is so wise and knowledgeable and experienced and her writing is beautiful and insightful and gorgeous). She's also the author of Wild, which was made into a movie and is an equally brilliant book.

Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of responses she crafted for an advice column, Dear Sugar. In one of her responses to a reader's letter she wrote something along the lines of "either choice you make will contain some loss"- and that struck so many chords in me.

A lot of decisions are easy to make. Do I want to eat breakfast or not? Well, I'm hungry, so, yes. Also, I like pancakes. Do I want to go for a run today? Well, I'm tired, so not really, but I know it will make me more energized and healthier, so I'll do it anyway.

Others are obviously harder. Do I spend this extra money on a vacation or save it for the future? Should I use my day off to get ahead at work or should I allow myself to truly relax? Which company should I invest in? Should I let my kid have a cookie even though it's got sugar in it because he did a great job at school today?

The fact is that everything has a cost, whether it be time or money or the simple fact that because you are doing one thing you can no longer do the other. This might seem obvious to you, but how often do you still try to do everything, be everything, have everything- even though on some level you know you can't?

In life, we make these little decisions every day. The easy ones, the hard ones, decisions that come with laughter and delight or with fear and tears.

And then there are those decisions that we have to make that tug at the stitches of our souls because it is so, so hard to come to a final conclusion, even if we know what the right thing to do is, because it means we lose something that is still equally important to us.

Stay in a school you hate to get the degree or drop out, lose the degree and safety net but risk true happiness?

Receive painful and potentially useless cancer treatment or skip it and live the rest of your days as best you can?

Stay in a relationship with someone you love deeply but who doesn't want to live the same way you do, or leave them so you can pursue your soul's calling?

The hardest decisions are the ones where you must make that agonizing choice that forces you to give up something you truly love and care about, whether that be a person, place, or passion. It's amazing and glorious when in life you are able to make many things work in sync with each other, but as we all know things here on Earth aren't perfect and oftentimes we don't have that luxury.

These choices make you stronger. The fact of your being called to make a decision forces you to look into yourself, to get to know yourself. What do you really want? What matters most to you? What do you value- friends and family, travel, nature, solitude, good food, good conversation, accolades...?

What do you want from this life?

When you know yourself well enough, the hard decisions will become easier. Not without a degree of sadness, a sense of loss that you will always carry somewhere inside of you, but you'll know you have made the right choice.

Really. Get to know yourself.

In life, we must let things go and move on. We cannot have everything. We cannot be or do or say or know everything. If you want to make smart choices, work to learn who you are and what you want out of life. Know what you're giving up when you say yes to that cross-country move with your lover to a town you don't find inspiring. Is it really worth it?

When you get that job overseas, say goodbye to your friends and family and the city you grew up in, acknowledge the loss, but know your thirst for adventure is being sated and the trade-off is worth it.

When you are injured and finally told you cannot return to the sport you'd had such high hopes for, be grateful for the hospital recovery time that ignited a long-forgotten passion for film and screenplays. Move on to your next life.

When you meet the partner of your dreams and decide to start a family, do so with the knowledge that your life will no longer be entirely your own, but be happy that you now get to live with and for those you love most.

Even when you've made your choice, the loss will remain with you always- but you'll have made the right decision. No matter how difficult it feels in the beginning, you will survive. You will have made the right decision.


I hear you. What about the times when you don't know, when you can't know? When there are too many variables, too many things unforeseen?

It happens. After making a huge decision, you might not know if it's right, for years and years. You might carry the loss of the alternative with you for ages and though you're living your dream always wonder if it was right.

Often, we don't know.
But we cannot remain in stasis.
We have to make choices.

In the end, it all comes back to knowing yourself.
To giving yourself the best possible chances; creating the best possible circumstances to empower you to make the right choice.

In some cases there is no right and no wrong and just a series of choices that lead us on different paths, each feeding different desires in our souls.

In the end, it comes down to a few simple rules.

Know yourself. Make an effort every day to learn who you really are.

Make hard choices. Any choice is better than none, and you can always change your life again.

Move forward with your single, beautiful life.

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