“The world ain't straight. You grow up thinking things are a certain way. You think there are rules. You think there's a way that things have to be. You try to live straight. But the world doesn't care about your rules, or what you believe. The world ain't straight, Vivian. Never will be. Our rules, they don't mean a thing. The world just happens to you sometimes, is what I think. And people just gotta keep moving through it, best they can.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls
I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing new book, City of Girls. And the passage above about ‘the world ain’t straight’ shook me. It isn’t and yet, so often we expect it to be. We expect ourselves to be. We expect life to be. We expect others to be.
And these expectations lead to disappointment.
They lead to frustration. To resistance. To a sense of ‘this is not how things should be’.
And yet, as adults, the world doesn’t owe us anything.
Just because we make an effort and try hard doesn’t mean the world owes us the result we want. There is never any guarantee. The world ain’t straight.
This doesn’t mean that we need to just give up and stop trying - we still make an effort, but without the entitled expectation that just because I am putting myself out there, this has to work.
Just because we are good people doesn’t mean difficult things won’t happen to us all at some point. Simply being human means that we WILL face loss and hardship and heartbreak - guaranteed.
Just because we have done everything ‘right’ (whatever that means) doesn’t mean that things won’t go very wrong and out of our control at some point.
It is the cost of entry into this human life.
And perhaps instead of expecting the world to be ‘straight’, we can learn to open up to a non-straight world:
Accepting that some people will like us and others won’t and that neither defines our worthiness as people nor have so much to do with us anyway.
That instead of trying so hard to be nice and doing the ‘right thing’, we can choose to do what really matters to us, even when this is means being tough or making difficult choices.
That everything always changes. Nothing lasts forever, both pleasure and pain - and that the less we resist this, the more flowing life feels.
That there is gain and loss whatever path we choose. In every path or choice we say yes to, we are also saying no to something else and that this is inevitable.
And that no choice is really ever final anyway - if it doesn’t work out we can always make another choice.
And perhaps moving through a non-straight world can look like:
Changing the things we CAN change: Our choices, actions and reactions.
Letting go of what we cannot fully control: Whether or not something we are doing works out, needing to please other people or make them happy, other people’s actions or choices, bigger things like politics, corporate policy, traffic or the weather.
And through it all, in this twisted, non-straight world, to keep moving towards what truly matters to us - our values - in both big and small ways - to strive to live a meaningful life despite the twists and turns.
Life is a choice. The choice here is not about whether or not to have pain. it is whether or not to live a valued, meaningful life. - Steven Hayes