What Happens Next?
What happens next? is the one thought we cannot live without. Our minds are constantly abuzz with this question, and savvy people all over the world cash in by writing and reporting half-finished stories. Like the all-but-forgotten Arabian Nights, television shows and films, alike, have become a series of to be continueds. What happens to the main characters? Do they live happily ever after? Are they divorced within a year? Did they actually die or are they simply wounded just enough to cause us doubt, but not enough to escape the sequel? What is happening with politics, with sports, with celebrity drama? How will it end? What will people say? Do these wives know about their cheating husbands? Do these husbands know about their cheating wives? How much money do these people really make?
The result is binge attention. We spend thousands of seconds, minutes, and hours focused on the lives and stories of others, manipulated by the ever present cliff hangers, clinging to any hope of resolution like a Charlie and The Chocolate factory character wishing, wanting, nearly pleading for one single golden ticket (ie: a resolution to these stories). Part of this drive has to do with a desire to avoid the conflicts or obstacles in our own lives, but our fundamental propensity for curious investigation is equally involved.
If things were not innately difficult enough, we now have more access to celebrities, athletes, politicians, and television shows than we have ever had. For years, we have been clamoring to know the unknowable. These prized figures of sports and entertainment, whose true identity has eluded us for so long. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube all claim to have the answers to our quandaries, and like famished babies, we simply cannot get enough, filling our brains to the brim with scandal, secrets, spoiled endings, and emerging storylines.
An Unexpected U-Turn
Ironically, we find ourselves on an unexpected U-Turn. This adventure outwards leads us inwards with fears that others are judging our lives in similar fashion, restricting the freedom with which we might have otherwise lived. As a result, we spend far too much time wondering whether we need scandal or blandness to add value to our experience. As our work and relationships suffer from inattention, we think about how we might make changes in either domain, finding quizzically that the only answers we seem to possess come from an amalgamation of the stories and people on which we have been binging.
As you can imagine, these inclinations fail us, but perhaps not for the reasons you would guess. You see, work and relationships are about connection – what happens between two people – and mainstream media highlights the individual. Of this you can be sure, not one action you take, no place you travel, nor extraordinary selfie that you craft will somehow transform from individual effort into relational success. Thus, our efforts to mind social media leave us with few answers about how to live a relationally meaningful life.
We need a way out, a parachute if you will, and I have good news. You do not have to change your underlying drives. You simply need to accept them, and decide if they are serving your goals at that very moment. You will have a tough choice between intrigue and happiness, but a wise man once said it is not what you love, but how you love that counts. To truly love yourself, you must love others, and if by extension you love all people, then your mind will shift to the What Happens Next question that is truly important: how to live in a way that gives positive meaning to your life and the lives of the people you love. Most people have this epiphany in life. It just tends to come after near death experiences, trauma, or terminal illness. We can all think of a handful of people, who lived an inspiring life, when time starts running out. There is literally a song about it called, Live Like You Are Dying by Tim McGraw.
Do not wait. Grab your life by the horns, and kiss it right on the mouth. Share with this world that which makes you unique, and also the common struggles and hopes that bind you to all people. Solve this age-old problem with one simple phrase you can say to yourself: I’m sorry to have neglected you, your wishes for yourself and the world need attending, and I am here now to do what I can to address both. Do small things. Big things never really get done, unless you count the number of small things that lead to big things. You decide what happens next for you, and see if even the most minimal effort does not help you feel a little lighter, a little more powerful, and a lot more content.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 263. In The Books.