I very quickly got fired from my first job because the restaurant had a “sidewalk element” to it and one day, while I was fetching drinks, a payment got lifted off one of my tables by a delightful passerby. No, not my fault. Yes, that manager hated me.
My next job, soon after acquired, was in the financial district. It was hoppin’ for lunch but relatively dead at dinner. I preferred the slower paced evening meal and the opportunity to bond with my customers, so soon I was unofficial head waiter of that shift.
One night, as I was weaving through my station making small talk and delivering drink refills, I had a customer say to me quite out of the blue—“You know, I have never seen a waitress who is quite so attentive to service. But you do realize you are doing everything the hard way, don’t you?”Actually, I didn’t. I was doing what felt logical to me. I was doing what felt “right”.
But as he described my movements as an observer, I got to see his perspective. I was certainly not taking the shortest distance between two points (that would be lazy). I was also adding extra (translation: anal) steps to nearly all of my duties (hypervigilance is a definitive character trait of mine).I was not at all insulted by this man’s observations; truthfully, I felt a bit prideful. Look at me, I thought, going the unnecessary extra mile to make sure a room full of strangers get their needs met and then some! Yes, I know…because we are all adults, we can see where this is going.
But I was a very young woman, blissfully unaware of how the “extra” mile quickly becomes the “expected” mile both in the workplace and in personal relationships. Also blissfully unaware that while your “extra” effort may make you the “go to” gal in a lot of situations, it doesn’t necessarily translate into “extra” pay, “extra” appreciation, or “extra” love. Almost never, actually, in my experience.Thus began my long and storied career of “reinventing the wheel”, because the easy thing to do and the right thing to do are almost never the same…right, 1 billion inspirational memes???
It can’t be any good if it’s easy, right? It’s only worth having if you fought for it tooth and nail, right? Right?????Yes, we are all adults and can see where this is going. But I was a very young woman and hypervigilant by nature and something of a perfectionist and maybe a tiny bit of a martyr and…well, we can see where this is going.
So because we live in an excruciatingly cooperative universe, my belief that what was “easy” and what was “right” were not the same thing began to reflect in my life in every way possible. Soon, virtually nothing was “coming easy” to me—backbreaking effort was required to accomplish things most people could do practically in their sleep…naively, I was baffled. Why was I working so hard for so little?Getting pregnant was a struggle (IVF). Childbirth was a struggle (36 hours of back labor). Parenting was a struggle, as my son faced some unique and, at the time, mysterious developmental issues.
Those first four years of my son’s life, in addition to dragging him to virtually every kind of doctor on the planet, also included dealing with the death of both of his grandfathers, two job losses for my husband and two moves. Emotionally and spiritually I was crawling across the desert in search of water, all while attending to the needs of everyone around me while my own consistently fell by the wayside. And as my expectations for my performance continued to grow, what I expected from others was proportionately diminished; better to do it myself then ask for help and risk being a burden, or being let down.As years went on I heard myself being described thusly: “The most low-maintenance person I know”; “A self-sustaining ecosystem”; “Ferocious”; and most tellingly: “It must suck to be you”. I was not at all insulted by these observations; truthfully, I felt a bit prideful. But about two years ago, as I stood there pridefully with all my fingers already stuck in all the various leaky dams in my life, the universe “cooperated” once more and the proverbial sh*t hit the proverbial fan.
I graduated from crawling across the desert to making this same trip in a gluey quicksand, and I quickly came to realize that the more I struggled and efforted, the deeper I sunk; the quicksand was swallowing me whole. Panic became how I woke up in the morning and how I laid down at night. I felt trapped and doomed, but like Dorothy in the witch’s castle watching the red sand run through the hourglass, for the first time in my life all I could think to do was stand there and cry and pray someone would save me.So there I was, feeling alone and weak and helpless and pitiable (translation: surrendered), and the universe once more cooperated with my idea of myself and (drumroll, please)…SAVED ME. A solution to one of my biggest problems (two of them, actually) dropped out of the sky like I was one of those women on Sex in the City. It was like Hollywood magic; it came EASY.
EASY! So that means it can’t be right, right? At first my anxiety, in spite of the miraculous intervention, did not abate, because EASY can’t be GOOD.And then I started thinking about the things in life that DO come easy…like falling in love, which, when it happens, is as unavoidable as falling when you go over a cliff. Or loving your child…the most inevitable and powerful love in the universe. Or…being good at what you are good at, which is different for everybody but inevitable as well.
It’s easy to laugh. It’s easy to do the things we enjoy; it’s easy to watch a sunset, give someone a hug, go for a walk. Easy people are delightful, easy days are restorative; easy is where we can REST.Easy is what gives us the down time to face what is difficult, because difficult is also inevitable. Easy is a critical piece of the yin and yang of life and we should welcome easy when it comes and trust that the very easiness of it is a sign that it was meant for us. To paraphrase Rumi, the answers we seek that come easily were seeking us as well.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I won’t go giving up difficult cold turkey because difficult, in addition to being inevitable, has also brought me many beautiful gifts, too. Also, I’m not meant to be anyone but myself and sometimes I need to do it “the hard way” in order to really hear the lesson. But I will also remember, as Ringo Starr sang, “peace is how we make it”.I will remember that while it’s not all going to be easy, it doesn’t always need to be difficult. I will remember that I don’t always have to be easy to be lovable. I will remember that peace is possible always when you accept yourself exactly where you are, whether it is an easy or very difficult place.