I Didn’t Think It Would Be like This

Millennial Mom, arms crossed, frowning as she watches sunset.
I Didn’t Think It Would Be like This, 2019, oil on canvas, 61 x 121.9 cm, 24 x 48 in

Here we visit those infamous partners in sorrow – expectation, and resistance.  We expect life to turn out a certain way.  In annoyance and complaint, we resist what actually happens.  This painting is of the DARKNESS chapter of Millennial Mom’s tale.


And this is the noble truth of the arising of sorrow. It arises from craving…

The Pali Canon

If only ____, life would be better.  Many of us seek happiness in achievement and lifestyle, in living well.  We are certain the answers lie in the right relationship;  in financial security or status;  in the comfort of luxury;  in the experience of travel or entertainment;  in the abundance of possessions;  in the power of position.  As we search outside ourselves, we may find brief satisfaction, but these things cannot satisfy our deepest needs.  Eventually we return to ourselves.

In our misguided attempt to satisfy this nameless longing with the pursuit of pleasure and comfort, we fail to face the uncomfortable emotions that are the gateway to what we really want — inner peace.  Our lives may appear perfect, but that something missing remains.

People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events.

T.S. Eliot


When life doesn’t go the way we want, we often feel resistance.  To what other people do, think, or feel.  To whom we think we are.  To outcomes — how it turned out.  To things not going the way we think they should.  To the weather.  To the customer service.  To that turn in our health.  To aging.  To fate.   To all those things we cannot control.

Resistance is futile.

— The Borg, Star Trek: The Next Generation

When things don’t go our way, we try to control the discomfort, to turn the pain dial of life down.  We try to run from the unease, change it, fix it, fight it, RESIST it.  We try all kinds of distractions to numb our feelings – to excess we pursue perfection, we shop, we eat, we drink, we work, we gamble, we exercise, we watch screens, we pursue sex, we people-please, we blame, we pity ourselves.  We may not even be aware of our deeply-ingrained belief that somehow our resistance, our refusal to accept what is, will grant us the control to change things, will remove our distress.  But this is wasted energy.  The human experience includes the full spectrum of both joy and pain.  There is no such thing as a pain-free life.

Whatever we resist, persists.

— Carl Jung


Eventually we realize what we really want is peace with ourselves, the only true balm for that “something missing”, that emotional and spiritual emptiness.  We discover our worth as a human being is not what we have or experience or achieve.  It comes from a deep connection with whom we really are and what we contribute to life, from our usefulness to ourselves and others.


Is it wrong to have goals?  Of course not.  It is in the fixation of desire, the unwillingness to accept outcomes and go forward from there, that we go wrong.  True serenity is found, not in getting what we want, but in wanting what we’ve got, and that includes our challenges.  Letting go of expectations allows us the freedom to live in the present moment.  We cannot control whether or not we meet discomfort.  But we CAN control our willingness to be present with whatever arises.  Our surrender.  This means feeling all the feelings, and sometimes, the discomfort.

Complaining, wishing things were different, is useless, a distraction from facing our feelings, and a destroyer of self-reliance.

We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.

— Aesop

It is in things not going our way, that the gateway to growth opens.  The more willing we are to experience the pain of unease, the more available we are to the fullness of life, its possibilities and abundance.  And from this point of open-hearted being-in-the-present, we may move forward, taking positive, intentional, loving action.

So we let go.  Let it be.  Go with the flow.  Relax.  We open up to the wonders waiting – perhaps not what we want, but what we need.

We accept whatever is happening.  Regroup.  Seek guidance from the quiet within.  Choose positive action, asking “If I wish things were better, what can I do about it?”

It is better to light a candle, than curse the darkness.

— Chinese proverb

Then, again.  We let go…

And repeat.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

– Joseph Campbell

One Comment

  1. Carol Pippy

    I love the way you put your thoughts into words. It probably takes a long time but it’s a gift and you do it so well.


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