My last post was about living in fantasy land, and how dating and affairs are really a form of escapism. They aren’t real love, and they aren’t even real life.
And I think sometimes problems can occur when people get confused about what “real life” actually is.
When people have online profiles (like facebook), they only present the things they want you to see. It’s usually a “sanitized” version of their life. They show the good parts, the celebrations, the parties, the trips. If you looked only at peoples profiles, you would think they all had the perfect life, where everything was happy all the time and there were never any problems.
But that’s not what life really looks like. Real life isn’t just the image of ourselves we portray. It’s not the like the movies, and it’s not about escapism.
Real life can be messy. It has highs and lows, and it requires us to face challenges and overcome them.
Looking for Fun
In the comments section of my last post, commenter wordsaremylife wrote (about her husband leaving):
my father summed it up perfectly, “He wants to be a college kid again. Fun without responsibility.”
This is a common thread in almost every story of a failed marriage or an affair. Someone eventually seems to come to the conclusion that a marriage is just too much like work, and for some reason they believe it should be different.
They seem to think:
- Life should be easy.
- Love should be easy.
So many people seem to want life to come with an easy button, and when they find it doesn’t because things have gotten difficult?
They walk out, and go in search of something simpler.
In search of fun, without responsibility.
Because it’s easier to walk out than to work on improving what you already have.
Thing is, often what they are walking out on is simply “real life”, and they are leaving it in pursuit of something that doesn’t actually exist.
I’ll be the first to admit that people often get so caught up in the “responsibility” side of life that they forget to have fun. And when you ARE caught up in responsibility, it can be overwhelming.
But quitting is not the answer. Escaping is not the answer.
Here’s a few important things that often get overlooked:
- Life isn’t always easy.
- Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect it to.
- Life doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time.
- Life is not all about you!!!
- Responsibility isn’t a bad thing.
Not only is responsibility not a bad thing, I actually think it’s a great thing. Being able to be responsible, and take responsibility for things means you are taking ownership of your own life. And what could be better than that?
Responsibility means you aren’t a victim.
Things happen in life, sometimes good and sometimes bad. And usually we have no control over those things.
But we ALWAYS have control over ourselves, and how we react. How we respond.
That is something that is always up to us.
We choose what situations we put ourselves into, and we choose how to respond to those situations.
Putting in Effort
If you’re an adult (legally, if not mentally) you have bills. So I’m pretty sure you have a job too.
I’ve had a number of jobs over the years, and in all the time I’ve held a job I have yet to find one that doesn’t expect anything of me.
I’ve yet to see a job description that says something like “We will pay you a fantastic salary to do things the way YOU want. You can come and go as you please, with no real duties and no expectations on you.”
*Maybe* jobs like that exist. I kind of doubt it though. If they do, I’ll guess there aren’t very many of them and they’re probably in high demand.
No, generally the jobs that pay more also have higher expectations and responsibilities. That’s kind of the way it works.
With most things in life, if you want to get more out of something you need to be willing to put more in.
Putting in effort in everything in life is key to maximizing what you get out of it.
This is why I can’t understand the mentality of people who are looking for the easy road in life. People who are looking for fun without responsibility. And people who just quit and walk away when things get hard.
If everything is supposed to be easy, where is the sense of accomplishment? Where is the sense of ownership in having built something that matters?
I’m not saying people should NEVER quit. Because there comes a point in time where you have to accept that things aren’t working, and you have to be willing to go in a different direction.
But I am saying there’s a HUGE different between putting everything you have into something, and being able to accept when it doesn’t work, vs quitting when things get hard or when things make you uncomfortable.
The Color Red
Years ago I took some philosophy classes in university. University was a long time ago, so I don’t remember much; but periodically bits of Philosophy classes pop up in my head.
One of my classes was Epistemology (the study of knowledge), and in it I remember my prof presenting a hypothetical world where everything was red.
Paraphrasing here, he asked us:
“in a world where everything was red, would you be able to see the color red? Would you even be able to conceive of it?”
That’s always stuck with me, and I think it’s especially relevant here.
Life isn’t always easy, and not only is that alright – it’s also NECESSARY.
We need to experience good AND bad, pleasure AND pain. It’s the opposite side of the spectrum that allows us to appreciate the differences in life.
When people are looking for the “easy road”, they are trying to avoid the parts of life that make them uncomfortable. Fun, without the responsibility. Which is similar to pleasure, without the pain. Or love, without the sacrifice.
But that’s not the way life works.
One of the more formative books I’ve read in recent years is Brene Browns “The Gifts of Imperfection”. And beyond the discussion of trying to live an authentic life, one of the most important moments in it is when she talks about numbing behaviors.
We all have issues, and we all have pain to deal with in our lives. But if you’re looking for the easy road, it’s because you want to avoid that pain. So people turn to different things in order to numb the pain. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex (affairs can be big ones), there are a number of numbing behaviors people will use.
But all of these are just escapes, and they don’t deal with the actual problems. Because as Brene Brown says, we cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also number the positive emotions.
Fun without responsibility, pleasure without pain? These aren’t sustainable. They are short term “fixes” that do more harm than good.
The Keys To “Real Life”
Real life is complicated, and messy. In real life we can’t selectively choose what we want to deal with and what we want to avoid.
But this also makes real life wonderful.
Earlier I mentioned that it’s the opposite side of the spectrum that allows us to appreciate the differences in life.
The key word there is APPRECIATE.
In real life, we need to be able to appreciate what we have, and not just look at what we are missing. In fact, practicing active appreciation is probably one of the most important things you can ever learn to do.
People who can’t appreciate what they have tend to be chronically unhappy, while people who practice active appreciation tend to be happy, or at least content in life.
Active appreciation means living in the moment. And when I say that I don’t mean being a selfish hedonistic a$$hole. It means looking around you at what is REALLY important.
I guess that means different things to different people, but to me that means family and friends. It means trying to do the right things and live with integrity. It means facing issues instead of avoiding them. It means BUILDING something instead of just using something. And it means trying to appreciate what I DO have in my life instead of focusing on what is missing.
That doesn’t mean things are always good or I’ll get what I want. And that doesn’t mean I’m always going to be happy. But it means I can always put forth effort, and influence my situation in a positive way.