Stop asking the Universe for things. It doesn’t care about you.
The perspective of Ms Holly Mitchell 34 Years Old.
Flat 6 / Paradisum Flats – A block of somewhat renovated 1940’s flats; somewhere in Sydney
You’re finally home, after sitting in filthy traffic for 70 minutes due to a road upgrade you’d feebly protested against. You spent the entire journey seething with resentment because the idea you expressed in March, which was summarily dismissed, was regurgitated by Mark from Marketing, and greeted with table thumping enthusiasm.
You dump your keys on the hall table and come face-to-face with your partner’s Deepak Chopra poster.
“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.”
You’re experiencing difficulty finding something to be grateful for. You’re grumpy, tired, want a drink, and someone finished the bottle of wine from last night. You’ve spent a good five minutes rifling through the pantry looking for the ancient bottle of sherry and railing about the finished wine, before you remember it was you who finished it. This shouldn’t have been a difficult conclusion to come to.
You live alone.
So you’re standing in front of the fridge with your handbag still over your shoulder scrounging for food. You’ve found an old rind of cheddar and some 5 day old rocket. You contemplate making a Salad Nicoise but realise you’re missing tomatoes, tuna, eggs, olives and anchovies.
You open a can of chickpeas. You’re pretty sure they’re a superfood. You can have them with the sliver of cheddar. You return from the bedroom where you’ve divested yourself of your handbag, to find the cat on the counter insouciantly eating the rind.
It’s not even your cat.
It’s your ex-partners cat which he took when he left, but in some feat of cat echolocation and endurance has returned to you. You can’t return the cat because this would require making a phone call to your ex in which you suspect, despite your best efforts, you’ll come across more Pauline Hanson than Helen Mirren.
Still the temptation to hear his voice is mighty.
You open FB to distract yourself. The inspirational words of Eckhart Tolle splayed over an unlikely sunlit field of lavender, stating that,… what you resist in your partner is actually a reflection of yourself.
Resistance is out. Acceptance is in.
Your partner has left, but the cat is here. Must you accept the cat? Does that make the cat your partner’s proxy? Does that mean that what you’re resisting in the cat is actually yourself? The cat looks levelly at you, chewing the last of the cheddar with her sharp little teeth. Are you meant to see yourself reflected in the cat. The cat has “resting cat face”. Admittedly the cat doesn’t have a lot of facial options available to her. Still… You hate her. That can’t be good.
You return to FB, and, severely undermining your attempt at distraction, there he is with his immaculately trimmed hipster beard. With a woman.
Like the strange urge of the casual passer-by to look at scene of a gruesome crime, you zoom in on their faces until the awful truth reveals itself.
The woman next to him is Elise from the Real Estate. They are at your favourite restaurant not eating chickpeas from a can. They are both looking in an adorable manner at the camera. You feel dizzy with self-pity. You pick up your mobile. You have to ring him. The low life rat fink.
Do not ring him. It will achieve nothing.
Accept that the Universe has a plan for you. There is a lesson to learn.
How could he do this to you? Also, where did “low life rat fink” come from? “Low life rat fink” sounds like a 60’s cartoon mouse villain. Your thumb hovers over his number. Don’t ring. Accept.
You make your thumb return to FB.
A picture of a women standing atop a mountain she has just climbed. She looks resolute; exultant. The text…
“The feminine fire is primordial, elemental. Find the essence of your Wildness Woman. She lives in all of us.”
A Wildness Woman. That sounds good. Your Wildness Woman won’t be pushed around. But if you find your Wildness Woman, will she make you climb a mountain? You’re scared of heights, but maybe that’s the lack of this Wildness Woman. You suspect it’s your repressed Wildness Woman who’s constantly craving carbs.
Elise from the Real Estate is thin. He likes his women thin. You had struggled to stay thin enough for him. The cat eating the cheese has done you a favour. 100 calories you won’t be eating. Elise didn’t know about the cat. The flat doesn’t allow pets. Perhaps you could go down to the restaurant with the cat, hold it aloft and say; “He lied to you. He owns a cat.” That’d kill the relationship stone dead. Or maybe it wouldn’t.
You wonder if Elise from the Real Estate has accepted that he still has his baby teeth; his adult teeth having never usurped the baby teeth’s position. In this pic however his mouth is firmly shut and she is planting a kiss on his bearded cheek which is in close proximity to his teeth. Proof she mustn’t be put off by them. She’s accepted his teeth. Good. Wait till he starts eating with his tiny teeth. Let’s see how she likes that.
The cat, still sitting on the counter, is now licking one paw. You realise it was looking at the cat’s sharp little incisors that reminded you of your ex-partner’s teeth. You wonder at the pointlessness of your thought process. You wonder at your life generally.
What exactly should you be accepting? Elise from the Real Estate’s duplicity? Mark from Marketing purloining your idea? Your partner’s philandering? The fact that after all you endured and rationalised, it was him that left? The fact you’re 34 and eating chickpeas alone with someone else’s cat?
You return to FB.
“The universe wants to give you what you want. Dream Big. You just have to ask.”
Well, … you just want your partner back. Simple.
Dear Universe, please give me back my partner. Love Holly.
He wasn’t perfect but he was yours, and yes, he had a bit of a temper, but life with a partner, a job, a beard to trim and a cat would be stressful. So in that case you should ring him. Just be up front. Say, “Elise from the Real Estate looks like a cat-hater so how’s that going to work?”
But then again you shouldn’t want him back because you’re not accepting the situation. You shouldn’t want. You should be grateful. Maybe he’s done you a huge favour. Maybe your soul mate is just around the corner. You don’t care. You can’t stand it. You just want him back. You have to call him.
Do Not Call Him. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
Back to FB.
“Life is 90% what happens to you and 10% how you handle it. “
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you handle it.” (You misread it the first time.)
“Chuck out any cats that aren’t yours and go down to the bottle shop.” (You may have made that up.)
You look up and the cat hasn’t moved. It has probably nailed mindfulness. You shut the computer. You grab a pillow and scream into it to stop yourself from ringing. This startles the cat out of its mindful state. You feel pleased.
The phone rings. It’s his ringtone. Hope and fear jostle for primacy in your chest.
You will your thumb to hit decline. Accept he’s ringing you, but you do not have to pick up.
You pick up.
“Hello. Hello, Holly?”
You’re like a reverse heavy breather.
“Holly, I just want to know if the cat’s there?”
Post modern wanker never named the cat.
“Holly. Is she?”
The cat looks at you feigning indifference.
“No,” you say, winking at the cat. Your thumb hits the button.
Accept that he’s seeing Elise from the Real Estate. Accept that you’d come home a month ago and she emerged from a bedroom mould inspection with him in tow. Accept your own naivety. Accept that he was bored with you. Accept you’re not hot. Accept that being hot is an arbitrary benchmark created by men to make women feel like crap. Accept that you were unable to keep him. Accept that he’s more interested in the cat than you.
Your desire to ring him back and say; “The cat is here. Come and get her. Stay the night,” is so overwhelming, you take the phone and put it outside on the ledge. The cat follows you, hops up on the ledge. Miaows. She must want food.
“Sorry,” you say, “There’s nothing except chickpeas.”
She looks plaintively out the window, contemplating her return to him.
“Please,” you say to her, “don’t go. I’ll buy you chicken.”
HOLLY AND HER PROBLEM WITH ACCEPTANCE
We leave Holly sitting with the cat that isn’t hers, and ask the question; how do women sort their lives out? How do they recognise patterns in their own behaviour? How do they tease apart what is their contribution to the issues in the relationship, and what is not?
To delineate what they can affect and what is outside their control.
Holly’s main focus is on her relationship with her partner, but as for many of us, the dynamics are played out in other contexts; her inability to hold her ground and garner attention in meetings is also a problem for her.
So when we figure out that things aren’t going as well for us as they could be, where do we go to sort it out?
Well, if you’re after a melange of relationship, behavioural and spiritual advice, there is plenty of it online. Plus books, videos and if you’re cashed up, courses. We have the Germanic spirituality of Eckhardt Tolle, the savvy pseudoscientific spiel of Deepak Chopra, and the mad certainly of Oprah. And they’re just the start of it.
What’s wrong with that? Deepak has some good points. Eckhardt wants world peace. Oprahs a big supporter of women.
For all the valuable elements in their philosophies, caution is recommended.
The human brain has a propensity to believe other charismatic humans. It’s called Argument from Authority. We are social animals, and if someone has a lot of followers, then there’s a collective inference that they’re speaking the truth. When we’re in the thrall of a charismatic person, we literally suspend our critical thinking. Gurus take advantage of this brain tendency.
In many of these New Age philosophies women are encouraged to search internally for their truth and to line up their behavioural and emotional responses against a set of arbitrary, inflated and untestable principles and mystic notions.
Take the concept of Acceptance. Broadly speaking, acceptance is a positive way to approach your life. Acceptance of inalterable events in ones life is of course preferable than endless pointless railing. The same goes for Gratitude. Many of us with comfortable lives could do with a dose of perspective-giving gratitude, but women in difficult, unsatisfying, or even dangerous situations practising acceptance or turning themselves in knots trying to be grateful is unhelpful.
But how do women discern what they should be accepting and what they should be rejecting?
How do we discern within ourselves what is the truth, and what is simply a bias? With the ideologies on offer often blurring boundaries and ownership of behaviour, it’s disturbingly easy to misappropriate the responsibility for an issue.
Take, “my partner’s behaviour”. Some would suggest that their behaviour, which is separate to me, is instead viewed through the lens of; “What I don’t like in my partner is a reflection of myself.” I can think of a about a million ways this statement can be misused or misinterpreted.
Women need to use their intellects, not have them relegated to the back seat in favour of their instincts and some vague notion of what the universe wants. They need to be supported in honing their ability to be able to make judgements about what they’re told. To be able to build constructively on their own strengths. Women need to discern, evaluate and decide; learn to apply critical thinking to the situation.
Self-help is a blunt instrument. Some of the ideas have merit, but in the dissemination of them by the gurus who stalk its metaphor riddled landscape, it can be misleading.
Acceptance and Gratitude have become movements, and movements can be dangerous. Movements do not invite nuance.
To a submissive women Acceptance fits like a glove, and because we make largely emotional decisions and post rationalise them, it won’t feel like submission, it will just feel right.
The main consumers of the Acceptance and Gratitude movement are overwhelmingly woman. Funny about that.