The thought crossed my mind last night as I was reading a friend's blog post, "Why try? Why not settle for 'good enough? Why do I get so frustrated when I see people I care about decide to give up their search for the best in what matters (or what I think should matter)?" We all settle for some things, continue to strive for others, but what is it in our minds and hearts that allows us to decide which is which? And why do other people's choices matter so much to me? Where do I "give up" and where do I refuse? Why?
For me, I "give up" on exercise because I'm afraid of spending my whole life trying and failing to be healthy, be a certain size, and be pain-free. I feel like I've set my goals astronomically high and that may just be what prevents me from attaining them, albeit in a step-wise fashion. Maybe if I set a goal to do a certain set of exercises each week, add on to that as the weeks pass, I'll be more likely to complete that goal and find the other goals (weight loss, pain reduction, etc) fall into line automatically. For me, exercise is an easy area to give up in, it's not always enjoyable, the results are not immediate, it's more of a long-term endeavor. Wouldn't it just be okay to say "this is where I'm going to drop the ball so I don't drop it in more important areas of my life"? These days, a lot of articles talk about how women spread themselves so thin, trying to be everything to everyone and to meet their own expectations. I'm sure this applies to men, too, but I can't speak from experience there. What I do know is, something's gotta give. So maybe the way to become "active" is to give up my ideas of what I have to be/do/look like in order for that label to apply to me? Maybe I can get around "giving up" by not setting such lofty goals for myself? Maybe I can get away with doing the same for housework?
One area I refuse to settle in is romance. As I entered my 30s, doubts began to creep in about whether settling wasn't such a bad idea, whether I would be able to find somone who met my lofty ideals, and whether I was even capable of achieving the type of personal relationship with the partner of my dreams. My biological clock felt like it was speeding up. Tick-tock-tick-tock.chil-dren-ba-bies-tick-tock.. I began worrying when the alarm would ring, telling me my time was up and I'd better resign myself to dying alone. But underneath that incessant beating, there has come a relaxation. A softening of the absolutes of my 20s when I would never date someone who...never fall in love with...never enjoy... While my preferences and morals remain the same, I've opened my eyes to see a wider range of potential partners who fit into them. I still refuse to settle for someone who doesn't love me unconditionally (or vice versa), someone who doesn't love themselves, or someone who is more concened about their personal profit than the future of the planet. I've learned that those who "need saving" need to do it themselves. Fortunately, the more people I meet, the more I find to like about them and the more forgiving of other people's faults I become (and my own as well).
What hurts my heart is when I see people I love actively settling for something less than what would bring them happiness. I'm not just talking about people doing something other than what I would do myself; I hope I'm more mature than that. I mean people who have confided in me that they're settling for the least terrible option without even exploring all their possibilities. I am a creature of possibility. If I'd settled for the least painful option, I'd probably have been married three times over, stayed in a job that paid the bills but killed my soul, or have given up altogether. Why does it bother me when other people choose to take the path of settling, knowing that they want something more? Maybe they find other rewards in settling, reasons why they choose what they do.
I, like many other people, have seen friends die young with their potential untapped. I've seen children die who never had a chance at the kinds of opportunites taken for granted or fearfully shied away from. A large part of my frustration, and a large part of my struggle to help other people achieve their dreams and to realiza my own, comes from grief and anger that the ones I lost never got a chance. I would say it's anger at opportunities for happiness squandered in the face of people who never got to have that opportunity. It's what keeps me moving forward and what makes me want to carry (or drag) others forward as well. I know it's their choice. I know it's their decision. My argument would be "you're only given an unknown amount of time in this form on this planet. Why wouldn't you grab life with both hands?"
So, I guess, I need to grow up, learn to let other people make their own choices and leave them be about the decisions they make. I need to stop taking such a personal interest in whether someone else has joy or is just settling for less pain. I'm working on that and I hope you'll bear with me as I learn that other people's pain is not my pain, that decisions painfully made are never without their own rewards, and that 17 minutes of a 30 minute yoga video is not "settling" but progress.