The following article was written by Dori Abbott, one of our Woman Within Eastern USA members.
From the dawn of civilization philosophers, poets, dreamers and lovers have asked the same questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? And where will I go after this life? The answers to these questions form our basic worldview. Even if we have never asked these questions ourselves out loud, our worldview has been shaped by those who came before us. It behooves us therefore to exam where we got our notions, sometimes; and to challenge those notions that no longer serve us.
One notion we should challenge is an idea that came out of the 18th Century Enlightenment; that is that freedom and happiness means having the most choices we can in life. Yep, that wasn’t an original American idea; though it is one of the unspoken foundations of our American experience. After all, isn’t that what they meant by “pursuit of happiness?” Yes, and it doesn’t serve us anymore. Why? Because real life and passion comes from engaging the difficulties of life—not choosing to avoid them by escaping through another “choice.”
How many of us have left relationships when they got difficult; only to jump into the next relationship carrying all the baggage we carried into the first one; and then some? How many of us have jumped from house to house, or job to job, career to career; only to find out we still weren’t happy? How many of us have “jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire?” Probably most of us have done this more than once. Why do we do this? Because we are under the influence of that worldview that says, choice equals freedom and happiness.
Now granted, I for one would not like to have only one color to choose from, or only one style, or only one type of food to eat; but that’s not what we’re talking about. We are talking about our basic human craving for a challenge. The warrior in each of us that wants to engage in meaningful and worthy conflict—something that matters and gets us up in the morning! We are surrounded with these obstacles every day, but often we try to avoid them with easy living—instant everything, painless everything, and relationships that don’t have any conflict or friction. We don’t realize that like the heroine in the Wizard of Oz, we already have everything we need to make us fulfilled and happy: to wit, our everyday struggles!
Yeah, but that is boring. I don’t want to manage my meager finances, chronic illness, my partner who is a recovering alcoholic, my rapidly aging body, or my adult kids who still need me more than I desire to be needed. I would rather go deep sea diving at the barrier reef and worry about a barracuda attack, or jump out of an airplane and worry that my chute won’t open; anything but deal with the uncomfortable conflict and struggle that comes with managing my already existent, difficult, and amazingly wonderful life.
Much of what makes our lives and the world around us interesting is eliminated by our belief (and subsequent actions) that freedom equals the maximum number of choices. So as not to offend any other American’s right to choice, we have to make everything bland, meaningless, inoffensive, and without conflict. So next time you want a different house that provides you the “luxury” of not hearing what happens down the hall, much less down the block; or you want a different car that provides you the “luxury” of not actually experiencing the road you travel on; or you want a different group of friends who don’t disagree on politics and religion, or you want anything that offers luxury but in reality takes away the core grappling with reality that makes life real, rich, and royal, remember this:
Conflict is the heart of every good story. Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Good vs. Evil, Truth vs. Hypocrisy—without these overarching themes of conflict, we would have no story to tell. And truth be told, without the mundane conflicts of our everyday lives, we lose the joy and passion of being the heroines of our own stories.