Jake sat down on the couch next to Sally, took her hand in his and said, “We need to talk.” Looking panicked Sally shot back, “No we don’t” and jumped up to leave. Jake quickly grabbed her wrist and pulled her back onto the couch. “Yes we do,” he countered, “You never want to talk about it and we can’t go forward unless we do.” Wrenching her wrist out of Jake’s grasp Sally shot up off of the couch and bolted for the front door. “Sally,” Jake shouted, “NO!” and gave chase. One behind the other they pounded down 3 flights of stairs with Jake yelling for her to “Come back!” until they finally burst through the front doors of the building. “STOP!!!” Jake tried again, but electrified by panic Sally ran out into the road and was hit by a Honda; she catapulted ten feet up into the air and slammed down onto the road ten feet behind the now-stopped car. She lived, although she wishes she hadn’t since she is now a quadriplegic, the course of the rest of her life having been determined by her desire to run away.
Our emotions influence how we live out our life. In grappling with past events it can sometimes be that it’s not so much the memories that are the problem as it is the resurfacing of the feelings connected to those memories. It is rare that someone reaches the present without having taken some wrong roads on the way or having made some disappointing decisions. Napoleon is purported to have said, “In victory you deserve champagne; in defeat… you need it.” What we do to get us through the moment has more importance than might be obvious at first glance in that some short-term solutions can, ultimately, prove to have been short-sighted: “I’ll eat that whole pint of ice cream and it will make me feel better.” “I’ll take this drug to make me feel better, just for now.” “Even though the house is bulging with items from past shopping sprees I’ll go shopping at the Thrift Store (after all, it’s a ‘thrift’ store so how much could it cost me?) because the thrill of the hunt ‘feels’ almost as exciting as the joy of finding the treasure!”
To the extent that we do not have a vision for our life our feelings influence our decision-making. A vision for our life is composed of the question, “Where do I want to end up?” If my answer is that I don’t know, then that is the place to start the investigation. The problem, however, can be that even the realization that I have no idea where I want to go in my life can bring forth unpleasant feelings from which I want to escape, want to ignore or want to otherwise avoid. The truth of the matter is that whatever I run from then becomes my pursuer; in other words, I need to stop, turn around, and face what makes me uncomfortable. In a way, I need to get to know my pain. One of the complicating factors in this is that today’s culture says that we should never “feel” uncomfortable, that the presence of discomfort indicates that something is wrong, and that if we are uncomfortable we should take something for that discomfort: take a drug, take a drink, end a relationship… RUN! The fact is that our culture is wrong! Avoidance solves nothing! If we allow it, avoidance will make decisions for us which we will later come to regret.
In recent months I witnessed someone aged and in extreme emotional pain who wailed, “I never thought that my life would end like this!” Where we end up is at least partially a result of the decisions we make on the journey. Do you like where you’re heading?