For the most part, we live our lives in a shared reality. Most of us agree upon most aspects of what is “real” in our world – concrete things like buildings and chairs, but also rules, expectations, consequences, general morality.
But beyond that, there is our personal reality (and then even our family’s reality, our community’s reality, etc). These more specific realities are colored by our experiences, knowledge, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, expectations, needs, and perspectives. Perspective is really powerful because ultimately perspective is reality. We perceive something to be good, so to us, it is good. We perceive something to be bad, so to us, it is bad. Often, things are a mix of good and bad in the big picture, but to our reality, if it weighs heavily towards one end of the scale, then that is how we judge it – based on how it affects us, where we are. Obviously, we don’t all agree on all these points. We don’t all have the same perspectives. We just can’t. And without a lot of conscientious work on understanding the perspectives of others outside of our line of sight, it’s really hard to even keep in mind that what is real to us, isn’t real in the same way to others. We don’t have the same experiences or the same internal workings to process our experiences. Reality is actually really tricky.
But still, there is an accepted social or cultural reality for even most of these messy, complicated, gray areas of life. Advice and judgement are dispensed based upon this accepted reality – the general right and wrong of it. The current ideal, the current “should”.
And we drive ourselves crazy trying to apply advice and expectations to our lives when they don’t really apply to our current reality. One size doesn’t really fit all, but we try so hard sometimes, don’t we? And in doing so, we forfeit a lot of personal power in our lives (and we often forget to even really look for the divine power in our lives). And sometimes, we even try to pretend that some other reality, a prettier one, a (perceived) better one, is ours and try to work from that head-space. Rarely in doing this do we consider that all realities are messy and complicated and riddled with problems that can rob someone of peace, joy, security, freedom.
And even if it’s not some otherwise identified reality we are focused on, it may be the ideal one we have in our own head. And so, we look down on our life from the place in our head and hearts where our own ideals, hopes, and expectations are instead of looking up from our realities towards our ideals, hopes, and expectations.
I believe that difference in perspective accounts for a lot of unnecessary strain, struggle, and discontent in our lives and relationships (and in our faith lives). And I believe it distracts us and weakens our ability to actually work towards our goals.
Because our true realities rarely already match up with our ideal realities, we find ourselves falling into patterns that are out of line with our ideals and beliefs, but because of our current reality, they are how we function, they make the most practical sense for us. There’s a frustrating disconnect. We want it to be different, we think it should or could be different, but it isn’t. We can spend our energy being upset about that, or we can spend our energy working from that place towards the place we hope to go. Too often, we are not working from where we are. We are in our heads, in our expectations, and we miss the opportunity to appreciate what we have and to grow it into something that more closely matches our hopes and dreams.
The freedom of accepting your reality is the freedom to be grateful for what you have. It is the freedom to dream and hope and plan and grow. It is the freedom to define your own life, on your own terms. It is the freedom to work with what you actually have, right in front of you, and to see it is beautiful and to work it into something even more beautiful. It is the freedom to share that with others. It is the freedom of claiming your own messy, strange, broken, lovely reality and taking ownership of it. It is the freedom of defining your reality instead of letting someone else define it for you and in that defining, you settle into your own skin, your own story, and you are free to become something that encompasses all of that. It is the freedom to make peace with your story and all the characters and plot twists. It is the freedom to enjoy your story, all of it, even the really hard parts, even the unknown future. It is the freedom to be brave, to have courage, to be strong, to be kind, to be real, to let go, and to never give up on the thing that is your thing. It is the freedom to be alive and present in your own life, as it is right now.
There’s not anything wrong with generalized advice or tips. There’s nothing wrong with shared realities and expectations. There’s also no escaping them. There are a lot of ways to navigate them though and I believe one of the healthiest ways is by identifying and accepting your own reality and filtering all of it through that.
Meet yourself where you are. Where you actually are. What are you really working with here? Be honest with yourself. What have you really experienced? What do you really deal with on a day to day basis? What are your real strengths and your real struggles? What are your real resources? What are you really hoping for here? What really are your dreams? (They can’t even try to come true if you don’t have them). What can you really do to take steps towards those dreams? What do you really want and what do you really need? Leave the shoulds out of this conversation you have with yourself. Leave everybody else out of this conversation you have with yourself. Not because no one else matters, but because you have to actively inhabit your life before anyone else can join you or before you can truly join them. Be present in your actual life and then you can be present in the lives of others as well, not just someone passing through, not someone just standing against the wall. Time is passing all day every day and not to scare you, but we only get to do this once. There’s plenty of room for error (because with error come experience, growth, more pages to add to your story), but there’s not a lot of time to waste on not even trying.
Don’t look down on your life with disappointment, resentment, and despair because your reality doesn’t match up with your ideals, instead, look up from your life with gratitude, joy, and hope and see all that you have, and believe in all that can grow from that.
Perspective is reality, after all. And you are free to have the one you really want.