Expecting life to treat you well just because you’re a good person is like expecting an angry bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.
7 months ago I gave up vegetarianism after having been a vegetarian for over several years. A bull charged at me. Let’s call that ‘bull, ‘life… no pun intended 😉
I grew up with the belief that observing vegetarianism was part of a long list of things one did to ensure their status as “being a good person” a step on the path one would take to “live a life of righteousness” and I wanted to be a good person, heck, I wanted to be a great person, I wanted to live a life of righteousness. So, the logic that was engrained was …
Premise: Good people are those who do good things
Premise: A belief in karma entails what goes around comes around
Conclusion: good things happen to people who do good things
Premise: Being vegetarian is a good thing
Conclusion: Good things happen to vegetarians.
The logic, in and of itself, is sound. The conclusions are drawn accurately from the premises. The premises however… not so sound, or accurate. There is too much ambiguity, room for (mis)interpretation; what is good? What defines a good deed? Who defines good?
In my case, I had a list. A religiously, culturally and socially defined doctrine. There were certain things that were good and would pave my road to salvation (and success) and others that would deter or hinder that journey. As I grew older, more things were added to the list. Don’t cheat. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink, abstain from this, abstain from that, don’t have sex until you’re married, children who listen to their parents are blessed with good fortune, and the driving force behind it all, this idea that “good things happen to good people!” I consoled myself saying, I was paying it forward, and that my good deeds would be rewarded “one day…” not considering that maybe, maybe I don’t get “one day”…
It took a series, or charge if you will, of unexpected, unfortuante and uncontrollable events (the ‘bull’ called life) that made me really question this way of living, I was growing tired, worn out, underappreciated, insufficient and the list went on. I was beginning to understand why this was the ‘road less travelled.’ The gremlins in my head sent me to a dark place, a place of shame and guilt, made me believe I just wasn’t good enough. That’s why this was happening! If I was good enough, this wouldn’t be happening; after all, good things happen to good people and these aren’t good things (faulty logic!!) As these events occured, as I kept trying to put my best foot forward, do the “right thing” and *expecting* good things in return, it was not only leaving me with a chipped spirit, but a chipped shoulder as well.
“I’m doing the good things…” lead to, “But, I’m a good person…” which lead to, “I don’t deserve this…” which lead to, “I deserve BETTER than this…” which inevitably lead to, “Screw this.. ”
Guilt slowly turned into rage, frustration and discontent, all of which became fuel for an ego; an ego which I had previously surrendered in my spiritual pursuits. In darkness this ego grew and bred resent, “but I did this for… and I didn’t get that from…” Insidious. There quickly became two versions of me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dark and light. Righteous and vicious. You get the point…
All the things I was doing to be good, to do good, to have good, were making me feel really bad inside. I was trying to exert so much control in a life that really, we have no control over, and the less control I felt I had, the more I tried to control. The more pressure I felt, the more condemnation ensued and the polarization of me continued. I was sowing in one field, and trying to reap in another. Listening to everyone but myself. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, I was doing what I thought I had to do, to get what I wanted. I decided I needed to do what I wanted to do, to get what I wanted.
And on thanksgiving day, I did it. I started eating meat again and man, I was a happy little lady! It was one unnecessary pressure off my shoulder and it helped my fitness goals and wallet exponentially. Closer to my goals, spending less money, life wasn’t so inconvenient anymore, what did I have to be mad about? I was seeing results, the skies didn’t fall above me and my conscience was okay, too. This wasn’t a bad thing, it was a really really good thing. Finally, I was sowing where I wanted to reap; I was getting what I wanted, doing what I wanted and I was happy. Such a simple concept.
And that’s just it –it doesn’t have to be complicated: do what makes you happy. I can’t live paying it forward all the time, I need to get mine in the present, and that’s my responsibility –not through obeying mom and dad, or pleading with a higher power, not from passed on karma from a previous lifeime, the responsibility is MINE. If I want to be happy, I have to do things that make me happy and as long as it’s not harming anyone else… you can bet that’s what I’ll be doing.
There’s a difference between discipline and deprivation — discipline cultivates, deprivation condemns and I want to cultivate a good life, not grieve over a deprived one.