The Things We Want, The Lessons We Need
The Things We Want, The Lessons We Need
June 21, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
Sometimes the things we crave desperately are the things we will regret endlessly –
W. Wayne Wilson
When it comes to wants, like the little dog in the picture, our eyes tend to be much bigger than our bellies. Few of us are modest enough to ask life to only give us the 250 square foot studio apartment of our dreams along with whoever life thinks is good for us to share it with. Not so. We want mansions, cars, Swiss bank accounts, and knights in shining armors or comely princesses to share our lofty lifestyles with. For whatever reasons, we want these things because we believe we deserve them. As you will see in this article, however, life sometimes has ulterior motives. Hence, it might give us the things we want to teach us the lessons we need.
I have shared in a previous article that, in life, we don’t get what we deserve – we get what we negotiate. All our wants are negotiable. With limited exceptions, however, most of our negotiations are clandestine - we execute them quietly in our heads or via softly spoken prayers. Consequently, we typically do not overtly negotiate with our bosses, spouses, friends, vendors, or even cops who are about to write us tickets. Instead, we tend to cross our fingers and hope that our counterparties will treat us fairly and simply give us what we deserve. When they don’t give us what we think we deserve, we plead with the universe to negotiate on our behalf or to simply strong-arm our counterparties into giving us the things we want.
Irrespective of how overtly or covertly we negotiate, the more salient issue is that sometimes there are things that we want so desperately that we lose sight of the bigger picture and wind up winning the negotiation battle but losing the fulfillment war. As a result, like the little dog in the picture, we get what we want but bite off more than we can chew and wind up getting indigestion. When we want things for the wrong reasons, life tends to give us those things, not to validate the legitimacy of our requests, but to teach us a required lesson. When that occurs, winning the negotiation winds up not hitting the emotional sweet spot that we anticipated.
For example, we might think that we deserve the house of our dreams so we spend five years hounding life to give it to us because we just know that it will make our lives complete. Besides, we think that the $1,500 a month that we are paying in rent will deliver more mileage as a mortgage. One day, Jupiter magically aligns with Mars and BAM! There’s our dream house – lake front, cul-de-sac, perfectly coiffed lawn, endless acreage of land and all. However, it only takes a few months after we move in before a termite infestation, boiler problems, a leaky roof, a $700 gas bill right on top of a $1,000 landscaping bill, and noisy neighbors, who are raising pigs in their backyard, make us realize that the house thing was not all that it was cracked up to be - and now we are so over it.
When we first got the house we might have thought, “Wow, God really does answer prayers! He loves me. He really, really loves me.” Maybe so. But we are talking about God here. I doubt this powerful, omniscient being was just sitting up there nodding His head in agreement with us that giving us that dream house really represented the best and highest use of our time and energies and that decorating it was the grand fulfillment of our ultimate purpose in life. I do believe that life has a sense of humor and, no doubt, it probably threw us a bone – one, to get us to shut up; and two, to let us realize how misaligned our mindsets were.
Remember, the things that we desperately want, that we get, are typically to teach us a lesson that we need. Hence, the gift of our dream house was not merely for our enjoyment but to also teach us a lesson that, just because we can afford $1,500 in rent, it does not mean that we can afford our dream house since unforeseen things happen and they cost a pretty penny to fix. In the end, life will let the objects of our desires turn around and burn us like fire when we fail to heed important lessons. Maybe we made the same mistake a couple years earlier when we bought a car that we could not afford, or took a vacation that we could not afford, or ate out more than we could afford. Buying the house that we could not afford was the final straw that made life use our biggest want to teach us our biggest lesson. So life gave us the dream house, and the termites, to wake us up and to teach us to focus on what is important in our lives. With our focus now shifted from the house, we are ready and open to fulfill our real purpose in life.
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason - typically not for the reasons we want or think. I also believe that life is about aligning with people, places and things to fulfill a particular purpose. Thus, for every place where life puts us, there is at least one person we need to align with in order to accomplish at least one thing. The place, the person and the thing will collectively grant us missing pieces of the puzzle we are here to solve. When life prevents us for being in a particular place, it is most likely because there is no mission for us to accomplish in that place. So, to continue with the house example, even in that termite infested dream house, turned nightmare castle, there is a purpose. In addition to the Finance 101 lesson we needed to learn, perhaps the wife of the guy who is running the pig farm in his backyard is a nurse who will one day give us CPR to save our lives as we are choking on a piece of steak at one of our backyard barbeques - who knows these things. The point is to never undermine the reasons for which we are put in a particular place.
I remember over fourteen years ago, when living in New York became a challenge, I moved into a townhouse far, far way into the depths of New Jersey. I was very excited because I had prayed that I would be able to get into that particular community. The townhouses rarely came up for rental and the one I got was close to the community center as well as the pool and it had a terrific lake running in the back yard. So it felt like a miracle to me. Apart from saving money, my goal was to disappear and remain out of sight so that I could reconnect with myself. Living directly next door to me, was a hippie-like, chain-smoking couple, who was on the Atkins diet. The husband was a bit grumpy but the wife seemed nice. I believe it was the very next day after I moved there that the husband approached me and said, “Hi”. The next thing I knew, I was in their house eating slabs of bacon and links of hot dogs, while drinking and having the time of my life. It turned out that his wife was an avid reader who also played the piano – two things that I was very interested in. Most importantly, though, was the fact that two of the books, that have had a profound impact on my life, were recommended by his wife. One of the books was Victor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search For Meaning”, which taught me about courage and to never complain, even in the face of adversity. My life instantly changed after I read the book and I stopped complaining. The other book was “The Five Love Languages”, by Gary Chapman, which taught me about love and compromise. Those books were exactly the two puzzle pieces that I needed at that point in my life. I am so happy that I went with the flow, when I was invited into this couple’s home, rather than blocking it and being, as I had intended to be, an invisible neighbor.
The wife has since passed away but I am still humbled by the impact she has had on my life. Her husband, the crabby one, was like my surrogate dad. In fact, I call him dad. During the time that I lived there, the task we had to accomplish together was to heal ourselves. I did not realize when I first moved there that there was going to be that much group therapy. Between the three of us, we had issues like tissues that we needed to resolve – and that we did. I will repeat again, for emphasis, that everywhere that life places us there is at least one person we need to align with in order to accomplish at least one thing. There is the thing we want from that place but life will give us the lesson we need in that place. Sometimes in life, when we feel empty and bored, it could mean that we are not connecting to the right people and we are not fulfilling the right missions.
My challenge for you today, is for you to be careful about what you are asking for and to not be blinded by what you want to the point where you miss out on learning the lessons you need. Whether you are craving for love, money, or a better job, please understand that those things may very well come into your life; however, whenever they do, it will be the beginning of a new lesson, not just the fulfillment of a desire. Always ask yourself, “Why am I in this place? Who am I supposed to meet? What are we supposed to accomplish together? These questions will help to deepen your experience in that place because they will keep your mind open to meeting the person who life will let you stumble into when you least expect it. Enjoy your day.