All of which are good things for the most part, and we should have goals and dreams because that’s how we progress. The problems start when we get so fixed on a particular outcome, and so bound and determined to Make It Happen, that we lose sight of whether it’s really the right thing.
This applies to everything from writing to cooking to training animals to getting through life in general. We want things, and we want to make them happen, and we do everything we can to push in that direction, even after it’s become apparent that it’s not a good or right or reasonable direction. That character will do X in that scene, regardless of whether X is actually what that character as portrayed in the rest of the story would do, because that’s what the plot needs and that’s That. My puppy will do Y right now whether he’s ready or not, and whether it makes sense to him or not, and when he quite reasonably doesn’t, not only am I flummoxed, I may find myself blaming him for what I did wrong.
This applies to bigger things, too. With horses, I’ve had a dream for years and years, of training a horse to Grand Prix dressage. I had a trainer who supported me and found me a horse he thought might do it–and then the trainer was gone and I was 2500 miles away and life piled up in this way and that way, and the horse had injuries, and things didn’t happen. So I tried again with another horse, and the same thing happened. Bad luck, poor decisions, wrong choices of trainers–I clung to that cherished outcome, but it Just Wouldn’t Happen.
I’m stubborn. I’m also a bit OCD. It takes me a long time to stop beating against a wall and start thinking past “I Want This And I Will Get This No Matter What.”
Now let me say again, this isn’t about perseverance, or about overcoming obstacles in order to finally find success. I’m talking about clinging to ideas or plot points or life choices or for that matter horse trainers long after it should be clear that those aren’t the right ones for the story or the animal or me. I’m also talking about looking past that cherished outcome to what’s really here, and what’s really happening, and who (or what) I really am. Or my animal is. Or my story is.
That’s when the story turns out to be about someone other than the person I thought was the protagonist, and the animal wants to do something else besides what I thought he wanted (or I wanted), and I finally get a smack from the clue bat and realize what I’m actually doing here.
It’s hard to let go. To stop judging myself, or my animal, or my book, by the standards of the original outcome, and to see it in its new context. To rewrite the story from the viewpoint it really needs. To train the animal the way that works best for that animal. To stop thinking of myself as “future high-level dressage rider” and see what I am, which is proprietor of Camp Lipizzan, aka Rescue Central, aka Difficult (but Happy) Horses R Us.
We went in being all about me–what I wanted. And somehow that turned into being all about the horses, what they want and what they feel is best for them.
Now here’s the thing. A yoga thing, a Zen thing. When we stop getting all wound up in Wanting Things, and relax and let go and remember to breathe, not only do we stop being unhappy about not getting what we wanted. Sometimes, we end up getting it after all (the way people who give up on having their own child will adopt–and suddenly they’re pregnant). And sometimes what we end up with makes us just as happy–if not happier.
I’m working on it. It’s hard not to keep Wanting. I have to relax. And remember to breathe. Breathing is important. Not just for basic survival, but for general ability to function.
If I do that, and don’t get hung up on Wanting that, too, I can hope, or even expect, that what comes along will be a right thing. It will be interesting at least. And educational. It might even make me happy–because my story is happy, or my animal is happy. Then it’s about me after all, but not in any of the ways I expected.