The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

No Excuses

It isn’t what we do once in a while that shapes your destiny.  It is what you do…or don’t do…continuously.   Every day.  Day after day.  When no one’s looking.    See someone successful in any career?  You’re seeing countless decisions and actions made in private that impacted his public life.   See someone with a loving relationship that lasted long enough to raise children (whether they have kids or not)?    Someone who was honest enough to know what they wanted and needed in a mate and fight for it, sacrifice for it, dance with the chaos of human emotions every day.  See someone with a strong healthy body?  You’re seeing someone who had permission to be healthy, and made daily decisions about how to move, eat, and rest to support their physical values.

Everyone has excuses and reasons they could accept to be sick, or broke, or lonely (alone is a different thing), or whatever.   Never met a human being who didn’t have contrary voices in their head, conflicting values given by family or society, failures and foibles by the bunch.  In fact, the most successful people fail more often.  They just interpret that failure as feedback.

In writing, one of Tananarive’s teachers said “a real writer papers his walls with rejection slips.”  The failure says: “this story was rejected, it must not be good.   I’m not good.” 

In relationships, the truth is that hearts break but heal and grow stronger—if you learn. The failure says: “there are no good men/women out there.” Or “all the good men/women are taken.”   Or “I’m not worthy of love.”

In the physical realm, it’s “fat runs in my family.  Diets have failed before.  My body disobeys the laws of physics.    I’m not strong enough, fast enough” or whatever.  The winner says “I have these challenges and advantages.  If anyone in my situation has ever earned that black belt/lost that weight/gained that muscle in a healthful way…I can learn what they did, do it, and get the same result.

It took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt (the average is about five), because I was dealing with so much childhood trauma, so much fear, so much pain, such a negative, weak self-image.  But I kept picking myself up, kept going back, because I knew if I didn’t I would never be whole—I would be “papering over” damage from my past, and would spend the rest of my life hoping people wouldn’t notice.

In every arena, there will be people who tell you no, you can’t. Will try to convince you that you actually NEED to be imbalanced, lonely, poor.  That a spiritual person ignores his body.   That misery is the path to growth.

But if anyone has ever embraced her path with joy and accomplished what is in your heart to have, be, or do…so can you.  If anyone has ever healed the same wounds you carry…so can you.  If anyone has ever overcome your  ethnic, gender, social, or financial obstacles…so can you.

But if you surround yourself with people who believe it is impossible, that genetics are destiny, that race is determinative, that it takes money to make money, that love is a myth…you are in trouble.

You can kill your dreams with standards that are too HIGH as well as those that are too low.  Both are designed unconsciously to create the same situation: lack of change.  Maintaining your self image.   Examples:

1) I recently spoke to a famous actor who has never been married.   His definition of an acceptable wife was someone who saw everything as he did, felt about everything the way he does, thinks the same things when she sees the same sunsets, is turned on or off on the same schedule.  He will never find it.  He couldn’t even have a relationship with HIMSELF, because two twins, identical in every way when they leave the womb (and no, they wouldn’t really be identical even then) will have different experiences during life, and therefore must develop differently.  There is just no way.   His actual programming is not to find love, but to avoid pain of disappointment.   It is an utterly childish view of relationships, one that hearkens back to some mythological point when someone understood our every need without being told.   In other words, Mommy fantasies.

2) “It takes money to make money” is a common belief…among poor people.    It ignores the fact that money is just an abstraction of perceived worth of goods and services.    It also ignores all of the people   who manage to build something…starting with no money.   Countless people have leveraged their energy, intelligence, commitment, bonding capacity, perception, and personal likeability into jobs and careers.    “There aren’t any jobs out there.”  In the worst economy in America’s history, the general unemployment rate was 23.6% (1932).  That means that one in four people was out of work.  Horrible statistics.  Terrible statistics.   But will you look at that from the other perspective?  THREE OUT OF FOUR PEOPLE WERE EMPLOYED.  That means that you don’t have to be extraordinary at all, in the very worst economy.  You have to be better than the bottom 25%, AND BE ABLE TO PROVE IT.    You have to be able to demonstrate that you can make more money for a prospective employer than the bottom 25%.  If you’ve chosen a career that is far from the money stream you may be in trouble—but you chose that.  That was your decision.  But in that case, it is still a matter of demonstrating value, in a way that the decision makers in your field accept.   My brother in law Patric Young has a great, fabulous attitude: “if there are two jobs left in the world, I’m getting one of them.”  You can’t beat, can’t stop someone with an attitude like that.   You can kill them, but you can’t keep them down.  Statistics have nothing to do with individual success.

3) In relationships, people take all kinds of courses in how to “pick up girls” and how to “find men.”  Most of this stuff boils down to projecting the body language and attitudes of a healthy mammal.   It is so sick and sad to watch men who are living in Mommy’s basement wondering why women aren’t attracted to them.  Women who have been married six times and consider this evidence that “men are crap.” (And the woman who actually said this to me was a therapist!  This is where my “most optometrists wear glasses” theory comes from, btw).  My comment to her?   “There is only one thing in common in all your relationships: you were there.”   You can attract and hold your own level of energy and integration.  Attracted to people who aren’t attracted to you?   Either you need to raise that energy and/or integration, or you need to love and accept yourself more so that you can see the beauty in people who AREN’T at that different level.  

I have no idea what the percentages are, but I’m sure that the percentage of people who never marry and wished to, over the course of their lives, is less than 20%.    If you start with self-love, you are able to look at your flaws without thinking they are indicative of your basic nature, and work to improve yourself.  Want someone powerful or beautiful?   Match their energy, speaking the same language that they understand.   Don’t expect them to change THEIR language.  Find someone of your tribe.  Screaming for others to love us, accept us, reward us just speaks to our insecurity and fear that we are unworthy…Remember the quote from “Broadcast News”:   ”Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If "needy" were a turn-on?” 

No.  It would be a nightmare world.  A world in which people deliberately sought failure, dysfunction, sickness, and ignorance, insanity and imbalance.  I might be able to write a savagely cynical short story set in that world, but a novel?  No.  And LIVE in it? Hell, no.  Want my CHILDREN to live in that world?  You don’t want to hear my answer to that.  Trust me.

So…grow up.  Be in the world as it is, rather than the fantasy you had of it when your mommy and daddy loved you even if you were drooling, unable to walk or talk, and babbled nonsense.    If you want adult privileges like freedom, money, sex and the respect of adults…be an adult.  Take responsibility for your life, your dreams, your actions.  Even…ESPECIALLY… when no one is watching.

Otherwise the REAL children of the world…as well as the childhood dreams you nurture in your heart…are in terrible, terrible trouble indeed.



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