Yesterday, Angela and I went ice skating. Being poor and from the South, I never learned to ice skate as a kid, and this was something like the third time I’ve been. Needless to say, I looked like a very large, uncoordinated oaf sliding on marbles. After we had been skating for about an hour, she noticed that I had worked up a nice sweat, like I had been running for an hour. Because I had been running for an hour.
She said, “You’re making it way harder than it needs to be; stop fighting it.” And it dawned on me – that’s what we do in life, generally: We fight things we shouldn’t and it makes our life harder.
7 Things We Fight That Make Life Harder
1. Love: Some of us are lucky enough to meet people that we’re really compatible with and who make us happy. Unfortunately, some of us aren’t able to let ourselves love those people, and we instead push them away. We’re afraid to commit ourselves to that one person, afraid that they’ll reject us, worried that there may be somebody better out there, afraid that the timing isn’t right… in short, we come up with a long list of reasons to fight the natural inclination to love and be loved. And life is harder without someone to snuggle up to at the end of the day.
2. Making new friends: Similar to the first. Again, we come up with a long list of reasons: they’re co-workers, he’s too hot, they’re artsy, she eats at Taco Bell, he wears Birkenstocks with socks… all belying the fact that we enjoy their company and we feel better around them.
3. Waking Up: The alarm clock goes off. We slap the snooze button. It goes off again. We slap the snooze button. Rinse and repeat, until we’re just on time to be running really behind. Most of us know, as we’re assaulting our electronic timepieces, that we’ll be happier if we get up, but we still use the alarm clock as a dummy to practice our whack-a-mole. And we spend the rest of the day running behind. (Need help with this one?: consider reading this.)
4. Working: Ever dread going to work only to figure out that once you’re there, it’s not as bad as you made it? That’s almost every day for me. Honestly, I have all different types of work that I do, but I sometimes dread doing the work that I actually enjoy. Life would be a whole lot easier if we just sat down and did our daily tasks. It’s really as simple as this:
- If you’re a writer, write. (Ever heard of bricklayers’ block?)
- If you’re a musician, play.
- If you’re a songwriter, write songs.
- If you’re a coder, code.
- If you’re a blogger, blog.
- If you’re a philosopher, flip burgers.
Why do so many of us “smart people” ride the short bus on this one?
5. Creativity: Somewhere between puberty and adulthood we “forget” how to be creative (I blame junior high). We become pragmatic and start to think that all ideas have to produce something. We fear that our ideas will be stupid. We worry what others will think about our ideas. Again, we come up with a whole list of ways to stifle ourselves and deny part of our nature. For a more extended discussion of this, check this out. The irony here is that we fight being creative only to complain about not being creative.
6. Anger: Angela is really prone to this one. I’ll do something stupid or inconsiderate (usually repeatedly and without me being aware of it) and said stupidity will get her angry with me. But, after she’s already angry with me, she’ll make herself stay mad at me, despite the fact that we’ve already talked about it and I’ve already both apologized profusely and massaged her feet. Part of her really wants to not be mad, and the other part wants to stay mad so that I don’t get off so easy. After a while, she realizes that she’s fighting much harder to stay mad at me rather than just letting it go.
Usually, the energy that we spend staying angry with people is wasted. Sometimes we have legitimate reasons to stay angry with people, but most of the time we fight letting it go, even though we’d be happier by doing so.
7. Family: In my experience, fighting with family gets you nowhere and generally makes life harder. I’m not talking about kids fighting over the TV; rather, I’m talking about adults that continually spat with their sibs and parents. The bottomline on this one is this: you’re either going to spend time with them or you’re not. If you decide you’re going to spend time with them, then, at a certain point, it’s best just to let it go, since it’s not likely that you’ll get anywhere and you’ll still be sitting there at Thanksgiving passing rolls to them. If you’re not going to spend time with them, then it’s best not to argue with them about it, since there’s really no point.
There’s a weird paradox here: we don’t really fight with and try to change our friends because we recognize that they’re their own persons and you can’t change people after a certain age. Yet we somehow think that we can change family members, even though they’re their own persons and you can’t change people after a certain age.
If you’re fighting with family, ask yourself whether you’re going to be sitting at the dinner table with them during the holidays one way or the other. If you are, then best to stop fighting about it and move on. If you’re not, then it’s best to stop fighting about it and move on. Yes, I recognize that I repeated myself at least twice on that one, but people get stuck on this one and make their lives way harder than they need to be.
If you’ve got the type of family that never fights about stuff, then (a) are you all being honest with each other?, and (b) can I come over during the holidays?
My ice skating experience would have been far less exhausting, and probably more enjoyable, had I stopped fighting the ice and actually skated, rather than ice running. And life is much easier, and more enjoyable, if we stop fighting the things we shouldn’t.