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You can't always get what you want

Weed? or flower? I guess it depends on who is doing the looking and what they're expecting out of that space.

You can't always get what you want.

Mick Jagger was bellowing this song around the beginning of my life, and I think it makes a pretty decent life theme song.

I don't recall when it was exactly that I figured out that the song had an application to my life. In other words, I am not really sure when I figured out that the rules of life weren't applied fairly. Was it because I had something someone else didn't? Or was it because someone else had something I didn't? Because I was a young child, I figure it had to be something that basic.

Maybe, as a child, I experienced too many large and powerful things that were completely out of my control. Back then, adults didn't care what kids thought or wanted, at least not on the whole, at least not like now. Back then, adults assumed that kids were resilient. They assumed kids didn't notice. They figured kids would be happy when adults were happy

That's not quite the truth.

Kids don't really care if adults are happy. Kids care that life is stable. They want the life they know. I don't recall ever giving a penny whistle whether my parents were happy. It didn't occur to me to wonder whether adults were happy. They could go anywhere and do anything. They had cars and money. What more could you want?

In fact, I'm not sure that I ever believed that happy was an intended state of being. I suspected it was a treat you got every now and again, such as ice cream from the singing truck or penny candy from the corner store, with occasional infusions of pure joy, such as getting to go to the circus.

You can't always get what you want

After my parents divorced, the years that followed were either very trying years or my glory days, depending upon which story I tell or the tone I adopt. I am very good at shifting perspective. I think people who live lives like mine always are, whether it is for ourselves or others.

The truth is that either version is true.

Those are the years that taught me to use my words.

At some point, it occurred to me that life challenges were inequitably distributed. At some point, it seemed as if I might at times have a few more, a little above average, if you will. I'm not sure if I noticed this myself or if it was pointed out to me. I hated equally the people who pointed it out and the people who belittled this feeling.

Nothing annoys me half so much as those who think how their lives work can or should be applied to others (including, especially, when I engage in this myself)---except, maybe, those who think because they've heard worse, your story has little to no merit.

But if you try sometimes you might find...You get what you need

Then we decided to have children.

That was the moment above all others when I realized---if I hadn't grasped it yet---that life doesn't always go according to your plan.

If it does, that's fantastic. Enjoy it. Lap it up.

But do not take credit for it. In my humble opinion.

This doesn't mean I think that we shouldn't note and feel good about working hard and graduating college with honors, or putting forth effort and getting a job, or realize that because we put in effort we accomplished something, and yes, that's something we did.

It's when people take credit for things that are beyond their control. It makes me smile indulgently, or sometimes it makes me clench my lips. As people who fancy themselves older and more experienced often do, I figure that someday, people who think that way are going to find out that the world is not in the palm of their hand, but as a caring person, I hope that day never really comes.

I often run across magical thinking like this. The people who engage in it are happy to share their philosophies with you, about how everything is within your grasp if only you go about life in the right way. They are happy to tell you how it worked for them, and what you ought to be doing.

If you try to share "eh, doesn't always go the way you want, you know, you can't always get what you want, and maybe there's a reason for that, maybe we aren't always wanting what we need..." then they will tell you that a divided heart is your greatest obstacle. In short, they will make it your fault, whatever it is that isn't going the way you'd hoped. You haven't been wishing right, like on the wrong star or a spell with the incorrect words.

So you learn to bite your tongue, most of the time, and appreciate that they found something that works for them, and understand that the converted are always the most zealous.

I wish I had a dime for every time someone told me that pregnancy was within my control. My kids would have a paid for Ivy League education. "Just relax and visualize it and it will come to you."

That's new age thinking I'd let go of a while back. Although it considers itself Eastern or Asian or rooted in something foreign and therefore good, it's actually so very American: a democratic application of fate---everyone has equal opportunity to get the brass ring.

I count myself a realist, and I believe that life has some sort of balance. It's not per se a price you have to pay, but I do believe that life asks something of you.

My life has asked me to understand that I am not necessarily the maker of the picture on the puzzle box that is my experience here on earth. It has taken nearly forty years, but I have slowly come to realize that when things aren't working, I am probably trying to manhandle the wrong piece into the open spot. I have learned that I need to step back, pause, ponder, look, and see if a different piece is a better fit.

There is a time that I must be the driver, and other times I have to let _________ take the wheel.

There have been too many moments that seemed too predestined, too coincidental, too ordained, too masterplanned. It all seems to be leading somewhere. This isn't a permission slip to sit back and let my life run on without my direct involvement, though. I have to be active. That may mean I get lost at times, hang on to the wheel too long at other times, or I may on occasion sit back and doze off in the passenger seat.

I don't know that this means I believe in fate. I don't think free will and destiny need to be mutually exclusive. I don't know that I believe everything happens for a reason.

I do think it can seem that way sometimes.

But I don't think you can make that a principle; it's more of an anecdote.

When things go your way, you probably were asking for a miracle, but just because it came doesn't mean that asking made it happen---will always make it happen.

I consider that magical thinking, and as much as my superstitious self might engage in it, I rarely let myself take credit or blame. Taking credit requires presenting a picture of worthiness, and I don't like to ponder the flip side of that, much less the exceptions or corollaries to it.

I do know that it makes sense to go ahead and try, do your best, hope, work for it, and enjoy what comes along as you want.

When you hit this place, it's a balance. It's a peace. It's a contentment, with little forays into happy.

It's pretty good.

Entitlement, now, is another discussion altogether.

What do you think about fate?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Anonymous said…
Wouldn't you know that I ended up getting sick?

I'll have to come back a little later when I'm feeling coherent. But thanks for humouring me. :)
Bon said…
loved this, Julie. i too struggle when people take credit for something utterly uncontrollable, because they were "just meant to have it"...especially if the "it" is children, and particularly one or the other specific gender. it makes me want to slap them til they hurt. very badly. or better, it makes me want life to slap them til they hurt. and learn. and shut up.

i know, it's not very nice. i don't do it. i can't seem to make life do it, either. but i tend to wish it, then slink away, ashamed.

great post.
thailandchani said…
There's a lot of wisdom in this post. I can't disagree with a single thing you said. :)
Sukhaloka said…
I couldn't even finish reading this post before this comment bubbled up in my head and I HAVE to clear my head before I keep reading :).

Just as I started reading your post - on a day which I started by reading this, I was wondering whether today was just a wonderful day for revelations and introspections, or whether I was reading things differently and the messages were coming in because I was READING into them. In other words, is it today's fate or is it me?

I guess it's a bit of both. Being a part of the flow, yet making a difference within it.
we_be_toys said…
I really enjoyed this piece! I wanted to write a post for this topic, but it wasn't coming out right.

I do think we each of us have some geas or fate laid upon us; not in a mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-religious way, but in terms of our gifts, our talents, and how we can use those to enrich both our own life, as well as the lives around us. I have come to appreciate the almost dowsing quality of serendipity and the surprising places it leads you to. Sometimes following that impulse leads us to the very place we were intended to be.

I think we all have a fate, but we don't always arrive there, having missed the signs pointing the way.

Great topic - I just wished I had been able to get my ducks together to join in!
Robert said…
I don't tend to think of life as "fated" but (as my blog post explains) I don't completely believe in coincidence, either. I've certainly seen too many things come into place at the right (or wrong) time to ignore the greater power in play. I agree, though, that free will and destiny are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes I refer to "karma" or "juju" when I'm thinking of how good things come back to those who do good and bad things come back to those who do bad, but generally I think good and bad things come to everyone. It's how we handle the good and the bad that define us, and whether or not we recognize the guiding force that can truly help us reach greater heights.
Chickenbells said…
This was a great post...if I could count the times I looked back on my life and realized that I may not have gotten what I wanted, but what I needed...or even something better than what I asked for...well, I'd probably run out of numbers. As far as visualizing things coming true...well, I just had a discussion with a good friend about money...and she said, "Oh I can just SEE that coming to you...but you have to be open and really want it" We then had a little discussion about how that's a lovely idea and all...but if she figured it out first (how "all that" worked) let me in on it...for now, I'm going it just put my visualization in the trust that I am in exactly the right place for me...and know that it's OK to be here.
Melissa said…
I like what Suki said: being part of the flow, but making a difference in it. Totally jives with my thoughts. :)
Liv said…
i think that when we're lucky, we get a pretty decent combo of what we want and what we need. and sometimes we don't know that we got what we wanted until later.
Lesley said…
I haven't read the comments, just your post.

and i watched in her shoes the other day. i guess you have seen and read like me (because i read it at your house). but, i know in reading this, i just don't make sense without you. the keeper of my heart.

SciFi Dad said…
That's new age thinking I'd let go of a while back. Although it considers itself Eastern or Asian or rooted in something foreign and therefore good, it's actually so very American: a democratic application of fate---everyone has equal opportunity to get the brass ring.

A brilliant observation. That has never occurred to me before.
flutter said…
You control your fate. fate is not what happens to you, but how you choose to react.
Christine said…
magical thinking? i do it way more than i like to admit. but once you're burned in life you tend to put your hope anywhere you can, i guess.

sorry i've been so behind on all your posts, hon. it is amazing how hard it is to catch up after only a few days away!
Gwen said…
I feel pretty much exactly the same way as you do, except for the part about letting _____________ take the wheel. I really wanted to do something for this Hump Day, but then that pesky life thing got in the way. Maybe I'll throw something together today; I know you won't mind. ;)
I don't believe in fate. But I believe in doing the best you can with what's thrown your way. And sometimes that's enough.

Lovely, thoughtful post, Julie.

Kat said…
What an fabulous post. I like what Heidi said above. I do believe in fate, to a certain extent, but you can't just sit back and expect fate to handle everything either. Hmmm.
Great post!
Kyla said…
Flavia's comment might be the sweetest comment I've ever read. Ever.
Anonymous said…
I think deciding between what you need and what you want is one of the most important aspects of growing up. No fooling.
Great post Julie. I love the way you dive into an issue and fully explore it with us.

I'm pretty good at writing about poop ;-)
Oh Julie, I wish I would have thought more about this topic to have contributed. Maybe in the future, if fate allows...I must come back and finish reading what you've written but the day calls me into it's folds for now...Unfortunatly, like Jeff above, I can wax on forever about poop. (Such a funny word.)
Aliki2006 said…
I don't believe in fate per se, but I do believe that our energy can have the power to create change around us--in wonderful and not-so wonderful ways. I guess how we react to what life throws us, how we take it and spin it and throw it back out again can then have a "ripple" effect that echoes out for some time, drawing people in, repelling people, perhaps having effects we don't even realize.

Maybe I'm sounding too hokey, but I do believe it.
Anonymous said…
It's ironic that you wrote this on the same day that I posted about how much I HATE hearing the phrase "Everything happens for a reason."

And even though I do hate that phrase, your post forces me to consider that some of my own vitriol has more to do with the memories of being a pregnant sorority girl who everyone forgot was also an honor student. Because at the time, maintaining those honors was my own brass ring.

At any rate, what I think was more shocking to those people was that I was actually OK with the turn my life had taken. I find that the people who say everything happens for a reason usually spend too much time SEARCHING for that reason.

I do believe in fate. But I don't believe in trying to understand it. Not only is it fruitless, but in my opinion, it takes all the fun out of it!
Angela said…
Sorry for being so late in commenting. That's what happens when you use Blogger in Draft to publish your post on Monday night and then get totally swamped in work for the rest of the week. I totally agree with the Rolling Stones song and perhaps because we are close in age and remember hearing all the time as children. I agree that not all things are in your control. And I agree that not everything goes according to fate. And I agree that this is a beautifully written post!
Florinda said…
My thoughts on this topic are up today...two weeks late, but at least it's a Wednesday! That's probably going to be my participation pattern when I do this, to be honest.

Anyway, I really liked your post, and found it both thoughtful and inspiring.

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