Splat! That poetry writing class I had wanted to teach didn’t make. For those of you who don’t teach, not making means not enough people enrolled to make the class worthwhile for the location or for me. For an instructor, it’s a blow–to income, to pride, to the schedule. You sure don’t talk about it on Facebook. A class not making is embarrassing, feel-bad territory, and (in my case) filled with self-shaming.
And it’s time to put the brakes on that. Social media encourages us to all be brave and positive, at least publicly, or to hide when something doesn’t work. Sadly, that’s simply not a realistic way to post yourself through life. Bad stuff happens. Life is not all joy and cheer, sometimes it’s bitter and mean.
Here’s some of the lies we tell ourselves when things go wrong, and some better questions to ask.
Lie 1: “Everything happens for a reason.” Well, that takes responsibility, planning, and decision-making off the table, doesn’t it? It clears me of all blame, lifts me up, and then . . . drops me like a brick. Which, of course, also happened for a reason.
If the universe manages your life and you just accept things because, well, there is some “reason” that is mysteriously hidden from you, you may wait for a long time (like forever) to understand, plan, and react.
Better question to ask: Why did this happen? What could I have done differently? What would I have liked to happen instead? How else can I have made that happen?
If you don’t know why or how something happened, you can’t change it, fix it, or deal with it. And sometimes your plans just don’t work out. That, also, is part of life.
Lie 2: “Those people are not your tribe.” There is a prevalent belief that if you find your tribe, your life will suddenly be filled with people who love you, support you, and unconditionally agree with your ideas and sign up for your courses. Well, no. That’s not how it works. If there are more than three people in your tribe, not everyone will love you equally.
If there are five people in your tribe, one of them will dislike you. You will still survive.
Better question to ask: “I’ll check in with my tribe and see if they can help me brainstorm.” You may do better, in fact, with people doubting you and having a discussion than with everyone agreeing with you.
Tribes are not dogs, who live to give humans unconditional love. Tribes are people you have gathered around you–people with free will, different likes and dislikes, religions, tastes, and ideas. You won’t be a perfect match for every tribe member, all the time.
Lie #3: Be positive! Think positive! Live positive! I’m positive those are all bad ideas to apply all the time. Yes, sometimes it’s good to slap yourself out of a funk, but your emotions are valid and yours. You get to be angry, sad, vengeful, bitter, down, and squinty-eyed.
Better question to ask: “What am I feeling right now?” Your emotions are there to tell you how you feel right now. Not to suppress, bury, and ignore. The more you push them down, the harder those emotions struggle to rise up. Feel your emotions. Write about them. Dance it out. Sing loud. Do not yell at others. A good friend might listen to you vent. Occasionally. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to deal with your emotions. Not easy, but oh, so worth while.
Without angry, vengeful, bitter, you cannot have happy, compassionate, and satisfied. Your shadow self is an important part of the whole, and cutting it out means abandoning the other side. You never feel sad? You can’t feel happy. Emotions live in balance with their other halves. You need both. And you need to learn to manage the volume button for each.
Disappointment is a part of every life. How fast we bounce back determines how fast we recover and move on.
—Quinn McDonald would have been happier teaching the class. Having the opportunity to make it better is a gift.