I once heard it described as "jumping out of the window of the tower you just spent 40 years building."
It is not uncommon for people to wake up one day and notice they are living a life that isn't them. (I also don't think it is that uncommon for that spark to be created by a glimpse of something or someone who looks closer to what they want their life to be like.) They start to believe it is possible and suddenly would give anything to have it. Yet while pulling the rip cord is expedient, it leaves collateral damage not only for those left behind but also for the one leaving.
In our culture, it would seem that the only two models we have are: 1) run away and find yourself (the movie route) or 2) suck it up and do what you are supposed to do (the taught route).
I want to put a third idea on the table. One I know is possible because I've lived it.
We learn very young how to be someone we aren't. Someone makes fun of our shoes (that we secretly love) and we make a face and reply...Yeah, these shoes are stupid. My mom made me wear them. That starts a pattern of alteration. We sacrifice discovering who we really are in order to gain acceptance.
Once we start building a career or get married, we continue these patterns (albeit a little more sophisticated) becoming a version of ourselves rather than our true selves. We know what behaviors make things run smoothly.
The pressures aren't just external, they are internal too. Something inside of us rejects ourselves so we try to create something more acceptable. And while we will often look at those around us to place blame, the reality is that they are running their own scenarios too. Trying to do and be the things that make them more acceptable to themselves and others. It's an insidious cycle.
So, what do you do if you wake up one day and start to see the gap?
I want to propose that your life is what you have made it. Not your circumstances. Not your spouse/parents. Not the pressures of work, family, home...
- You are the one who hasn't taken the time to be relentless in pursuing the truth of who you really are.
- You are the one who hasn't done the internal work necessary to release anger, bitterness, envy, pride, fear...all the things that the ego uses to create some fake version of ourselves.
- You are the one who has settled for the work arounds instead of being honest about how you feel and what you want.
- You are the one who would rather defend the story of how you are right rather than let those accounts go.
We all have stories we tell ourselves about our circumstances. It takes true guts to challenge those stories. To have the willingness to sit with that discomfort rather than trying to distract ourselves with any number of pacifiers or jumping to pull the rip cord.
We often get angry with God because He doesn't pull the rip cord for us. But what if we are in exactly the situation we are in because there is something He needs us to see? What if we don't only need to be honest with ourselves, but also with Him? Instead of asking "why would God do this to me?" what if we started asking "why would a God who loves me lead me to this place?" Pain isn't about punishment. It is about revelation. Our bodies hurt to reveal that there is a problem. I would suggest that our souls hurt for the exact same reason.
So, if the options we know are 1) pull the rip cord or 2) suck it up and deal, what if the third path is
honesty and vulnerability?
We live most of our lives in an emotional bullet proof vest honed through years of making fun of our own shoes. They are heavy, they obscure and we long to escape them. It takes courage to take them off and be honest about who we are.
We live in a world where we've been taught to see ourselves as "good/right" and others as "bad/wrong." We spend a lot of energy defending those titles. Vulnerability releases them. We own our shoes. We say boldly that we like them, and rejection comes or doesn't come but it doesn't change the core of who we are. Will we look weak, stupid, wrong, uncool...? Maybe. But I've found in my own life that vulnerability encourages vulnerability. We start relating on a heart level rather than a position level.
Not every marriage or career survives this process, but I think the tragedy is that most don't engage it. They settle for rip cords or sucking it up. We have better options.