Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you try sometimes you might find ... You get what you need

Has that Stones line become a cliché (or maybe it was already one before they ever got their hands on it)?

The thing about a cliché ... well, there has to be a reason why it's been repeated over and over. Or so it would seem.

This morning before I went to work I finished a letter I'd started last night to K, a friend I met in college. If I'm being honest, K and I weren't really close friends--we got along well enough, but really we just hung out with our mutual friend, P.

The minute I began writing to K I knew there was a confession I would eventually have to make to her (and maybe, if I'm still being honest, that's why her name ended up in THE LETTER JAR). I started my letter as I have started many--explaining how I was writing 365 letters in 365 days, how I was aiming to reconnect with people in an "old fashioned" way. And I told her I included her on my list of names because I remember her being a part of some really fun memories--which is true. I recalled in particular a trip to Kansas City with her and P and some other friends to see Rush. I really do still laugh when I run across the pictures of all of us clowning around downtown before the show.

I also told K that I admired her for always being so calm and collected. During those college years when we were hanging out, I told her, I felt like an unmade bed most of the time (completely true) and I envied her poise and togetherness.

Then came the confession: I particularly envied her back then, I wrote, because I had a terrible crush on P. I felt that if I could just be more like K, I could win his affections. (I didn't win his affections, and it had nothing to do with how much I was or wasn't like K.)

And therein lies an instructive--albeit a little painful--byproduct of this project: owning up to wasted time and mistakes and forgiving myself for being foolish. I look back at that time now and wonder how my relationships with you and P might have been different had I not been so hung up on my feelings and wanting to be someone other than myself.

I noted that while I know I can't--nor would I want to--go back and change history, I can recognize upon reflection how I might have behaved differently and apply that lesson to my life now.

Not that I am in any situations of "romantic competition"--I am quite happily married ... but if I think about it, there are certainly situations where I am convinced I want a certain thing, and am pursuing it to the potential detriment of other possibilities. Were I to let go and be open to what might be, I could be surprised at what I discover. (Which, I suppose, is a paraphrasing of sorts of the Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want ...")

And it's true. (Like all good clichés.) Right now I most definitely have my mind set on how certain things should go in my marriage, in my job, in my life. I have to constantly remind myself to be open to other possibilities, to consider that I might be wrong about what the "best" outcomes are. Perhaps writing to K first thing in the morning--and seeing that truth in black and white--was the reason for my sunnier-than-usual mood today. Certainly motivates me to experiment with doing my letter writing in the a.m. hours.

I told K that I hoped my letter wasn't too weird or trippy for her.

It really has thrilled me to discover through this project the lessons I've been "taught" in my life--and the extent to which I have "learned" them--and I have people like you to thank for coming into my life in the first place and for being one of my letter recipients now.

Are there lessons that life is trying to teach you, but you haven't quite learned?

STRANGER THAN FICTION: I was reading the "10 Questions for" interview with Willie Nelson the other day in TIME, in which someone asked Willie if he had it to do all over again, would he do anything differently? Willie said he would be reluctant to change anything in the past because it would change where he is now, and he likes where he is now. I actually sighed aloud when I read that. Wisdom! From Willie! Who knew he was a sage? Read the whole interview for yourself and see what I mean.

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