Last week, I published a post called Whose Life is it Anyway. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest you read that first as this post will mean much more to you.
One comment that came in on that post said, “it seems to me that if your marriage, your job, and your religion weren’t making you happy, MAYBE the common denominator is YOU! Maybe there is still something resonating in YOU to make YOU unhappy with everything else. It’s a bit scary that you are encouraging others to make the same choices you did. I do think you are a great writer, but I’m not sure you are qualified to be an expert on life.”
To this reader, I would simply say, “of course I’m the common denominator.”
There are the obvious common denominators. I accepted a job that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy very much. I chose to marry the woman I did. And it was I who was still trying to follow a religion long after I had stopped believing in it.
But let’s forget about those surface truths for a moment.
There are the less obvious common denominators that were also all “me” which are much more important.
Over the course of my career, I fell in love with money. I fell in love with things. I fell in love with occupational accomplishment. I grew to enjoy traveling on business and being away from my wife. I grew to believe that my income and my possessions somehow made me a better human being than others.
Over the course of my life, I came to believe that looks were more important than the heart when it came to women. I believed that anybody who loved me needed to do so without expecting anything in return. I didn’t think making my body attractive to my mate was important. I made and laughed about many degrading jokes about women. I was unwilling to give in the way I needed to for any relationship to ever work.
And, since I was a teenager, I was as much of the problem in religion as anyone else. I made snide remarks when somebody did something that I didn’t approve of. I put pressure on fellow church members to never mess up. I had my sins that I loved and which I kept hidden. I declared that I believed things that I didn’t really believe just so that I could impress others or be accepted by others.
Now, I wonder…
If I had written the post in such a way that I didn’t mention the ultimate decisions to leave or start over, but instead focused only on the common denominators, how would it have gone down?
Had I repeated those exact paragraphs above (about the less obvious common denominators) and asked you all what I should do, what would your answers for me have been? If you didn’t know that I was miserable at work, in my marriage, or in my religion, but only knew what I wrote in those three paragraphs, I’m serious… What would you tell me to do?
Read them again because this is really important in regards to the discussion.
Call me crazy, but I’m guessing you’d tell me that those things are no way for anyone to live. You’d tell me it was obvious why I was struggling. You’d tell me to do what I needed to do to fix them. You’d encourage me to rip my life apart until I was shed of those demons. Those unhealthy ways of thinking and living.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m betting you’d probably tell me that I would never find true happiness until those things were all a part of my past.
Now, zoom out.
And what if the only three things I told you were what I shared in that first paragraph. Here they are again.
I accepted a job that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy very much. I chose to marry the woman I did. And it was I who was still trying to follow a religion long after I had stopped believing in it.
Are you starting to see a little bit of the problem we all face every single day?
We live in a world where people judge others on the surface denominators. People tell each other what they should be doing and shouldn’t be doing based purely on those surface visuals. People think that everything is so right and wrong because they see only those definable and extrinsic parts of the lives of others.
People are almost always incapable of seeing what lies beneath. They’re almost always incapable of seeing what causes such things. They’re almost always incapable of seeing how anybody really got to where they are.
And it isn’t just the world.
We ourselves are almost always only capable of seeing and not seeing the same things in ourselves.
When I got to the point in my life where I couldn’t hold anything together anymore, and I couldn’t figure out why, do you honestly think I had any idea that those sub-surface denominators existed or were problems? Do you think I had any clue where to even look for the problems?
In case you’re not sure, the answer is no. I had no clue and I was doing nothing that would ever lead me to figure it all out.
And my answer was always… more. More money. More gifts for my wife. More time on the road. More pressure on others. More. More. More. More. More. More. More.
And everything in my life kept falling apart.
And that’s why, even when I’d pick up the pieces again, and again, and again, it would always fall back apart. It wouldn’t stay together. Because, you see, I would always put the pieces back exactly as they were before, certain that this time it just needed a little more glue or a little more this or a little more that.