It's Not All About You

A couple weeks ago, I sat down in the living room waiting to watch an episode of one of my favorite shows, which may or may not have the word “housewives” in it. As I not-so-patiently waited for an episode of Meat Eater (one of my husband’s favorite shows) to end, I decided to listen to the host Steve Rinella’s final words regarding a trip he took to Brazil. During his trip, he had met and fished with an indigenous group of people there. As he reflected on his trip, he said something that has stuck with me ever since:

“An exception to my earlier statement, about how scenes like this play out all around the world, is that the camaraderie in those cases usually carries with it an assumption that you’ll at least try to meet again—maybe next year’s opening day of deer season or when the weather turns and the ducks come through. But honestly, way down here, that’s just not gonna happen. I know that this trip was a rare glimpse into another way of life that I will not get again.

I’m reminded of something that’s known to most fishermen. It’s when you tie into some huge fish and you don’t even know what it is. All you really know is that you’ll never land it. You try to enjoy the fight for a second or two, knowing full well, the fish is gonna bust you off, and you will not hear from it again. I can’t escape the sense that something very similar happened down here. I wanted to get to know the Tsimané, and for a good chunk of time I had them on the line. But all along, I knew it would end before I ever got a really good look. The line inevitably had to break. All that’s left is to remember the feeling and be grateful that you felt it.”

It made me think about how, only a few days prior, I had sat in my therapist’s office listing off all of the “almost”s in my life—the boys I had liked who never fully reciprocated my feelings, the promotion I had wanted so badly, the writing contest I had hoped to win, the interview I had scheduled with the well-known writer who never called, the new client who never replied to my last email when I sent my invoice, the film auditions where I basically embarrassed myself and left feeling like such a failure, the time I blew my chance at winning more money on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire—wondering why these disappointments were always happening to me.

Once I had finished, she pulled out an article titled, “It’s Not All About You.” Talk about humbling.

She had it printed out already. Apparently it’s so common to feel this way that she has this on hand for all of her clients—or so I hope. Otherwise that means she printed it out anticipating I would need it. Yikes. That would be extra humbling.

She began explaining that most of what we think is unique to us in life is actually something we are all experiencing. The critiques we worry most people have of us are probably all in our heads because most people are too preoccupied with worrying about how they’re being critiqued. The failures we experience are part of being human. The universe doesn’t have it out for us. It’s nothing personal.

Suddenly I started thinking about all of the things that had materialized beyond an “almost” in my life—the family I was born into that gave me everything I’ve ever needed, the neighborhood we moved into where I made lifelong friends, the schools I was able to attend and the jobs I was able to have where I’ve learned so much and made fantastic friends, the supportive husband I met outside a Starbucks who has been an amazing partner to me and father to our son, the extended and in-law families I’ve been gotten to be a part of that always offer their love and support, the sweet son I’ve been lucky enough to hold in my arms every day since he was born, and let’s not forget the time I went on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and won the $5,000 that funded my first solo trip to Europe.

That session, plus the unlikely wisdom I stumbled upon at the tail-end of my husband’s favorite hunting show, completely shifted my perspective. Since then, I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to see that our lives are filled with blessings and opportunities as well as disappointments. We almost never remember the things that have actually manifested in our lives and stayed, but we always remember what we almost got but didn’t. We take for granted what we’ve been given and lust after what we wish we had. These are all such simple truths, which themselves are also easily forgotten and taken for granted.

And as for the things I almost got but slipped through my fingers, I’m working on being grateful for ever having had that feeling of “almost” in the first place, that tug on the line, that thing I was so close to getting but just wasn’t meant for me in the end. I hope the people those things were meant for enjoyed them and held on to them tight, always remembering that someone out there thought that thing they have was the thing that was going to make them finally, completely happy—despite how naïve a thought that may have been.

When I was in Paris over a decade ago, I was walking around the Jardin de Luxembourg, which was lit with the golden glow of the setting sun, thinking about how it was still morning time back home where everyone I knew was waking up on just another weekday to live their daily lives. I told myself to soak up that moment and remember it so that someday when I was back home, I could remember it and realize that there were different people in that garden that day experiencing what I wish I were experiencing again.

Then a couple years ago, as I drove down PCH watching the sun set behind the ocean, I thought, “Someone in Paris is probably lying in bed right now wishing they were here.” And I took a deep breath, inhaling that moment and appreciating it on their behalf.

Today, I intend to do the same with my life. And I hope you will do the same with yours. Because it may not be all about me or all about you, but this life surely is all about us.

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