When things don’t work out

Sooner or later, everyone will face not getting what they want. How we respond to this unavoidable moment determines how much peace or agitation we will have in our life. In truth, this is the moment that opens all others. For it is our acceptance of things as they are and not as we would have them that allows us to find our place in the stream of life. Free of our entitlements, we can discover that we are small fish in the stream and go about our business of finding the current.

This deeper chance to shed our willfulness doesn’t preclude our sadness and disappointment that things aren’t going the way we had imagined. But when we stay angry and resentful at how life unfolds beyond our will, we refuse the gifts of being a humble part in the inscrutable whole. When we stay angry and resentful that —and you can fill in the blank— the stock market didn’t reward our conscientious investing or the hurricane destroyed the truck we were going to inherit or the promotion we earned was given to someone else or the person we love so deeply doesn’t care in the same way, we risk getting stuck.

Eventually, we are asked to undo the story we’ve been told about life — or the story we have told ourselves — so we might drop freshly into life. For under all our attempts to script our lives, life itself cannot be scripted. It’s like trying to net the sea. Life will only use our nets up: tangle them, sink them, unravel them, wear them down, embed them in its bottom. Like the sea, the only way to know life is to enter it. How then do we listen below our willfulness?

Mark Nepo,  Not Getting what We Want

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