More than twenty years ago I heard a new take on the old adage, “You can’t teach a pig to fly.” The farmer expanded the saying with, “First off; the pig is never going to fly. Second, after a while you just irritate the pig.” I would add two more to that list, some pigs don’t want to fly and finally, eventually the teacher gets fed up with trying to teach the pig to fly.
After years of trying to help a loved one to have a more healthy fulfilling life I have finally realized that they really have no desire to be happy. I have also come to the conclusion that I am sick of trying. It is better for my sanity to just acknowledge they have a set of values that does not include the things that I value such as love, family or happiness.
I understand that we all come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences. Sometimes these experiences make us shy, or angry, or cheap, or fearful, or selfish. Sometimes those experiences make us kind, generous, prompt, or funny. I realize that these traits become ingrained and are exceptionally hard to change and that familiarity with a set of values or habits, be they normal or unconventional, is comforting.
We don’t go to where we are happy; we go to where we are comfortable. That is sad but true and worth repeating. We don’t go to where we are happy; we go to where we are comfortable.
Despite the baggage of our respective pasts that we all carry, I also believe that from time to time we happen upon opportunities where we can grow beyond those issues that have limited us in the past. To be sure, those choices are difficult as they require us to reverse years of an existing behavior. I also believe that when those chances come, people recognize them for what they are and can either decide to move forward, or with more awareness of the situation than they care to acknowledge, not move forward, but retreat to the façade they have built in order to justify their behavior.
We have all felt rejection and insecurity at one time or another. We have all been betrayed and had our feelings hurt by people we should have been able to trust. Many have been the victim of horrific events. We find a way to adapt move forward. Sadly the ways we adapt often hurt us later in life. It alters our perspective, our values and our behavior.
At some point, however, we have choices. We can no longer blame our behavior on events that happened decades ago. The obese adult can claim he overeats because his mother didn’t feed him breakfast when he was in kindergarten, but eventually the choice to overeat is his and his alone. Circumstances may have started it, but we choose if it continues or if it stops.
It all boils down to this; eventually, we get to choose. We are in charge. By the way, if you want to skip reading East of Eden and want the whole book boiled down into one sentence here it is; we get to choose.
What do you do when a loved one chooses to continue to embrace values that are diametrically opposed to everything that brings happiness and everything that you believe in?
Yeah, I don’t know either.