"God only gives us three answers, 'Yes, not yet, or no, I love you too much.'"—Anonymous
I have a big imagination, we all do. If I'm not careful—keeping a clean system, eating well, exercising, minimizing alcohol—mine devolves into 10,000 hours of neurosis. When applied productively, I love using that imagination to tackle meaty, complex projects liking writing a book.
This big imagination creates fantasies too. Life fantasies about what's possible with my career and relationships. It can be a lot of fun to spend a day (or days-upon-days) mind-crafting. I'm sure many women can relate to the strange impulse to fast-forward what our entire lives might look like within the first 60 seconds of meeting an attractive man.
These fantasies are fun, but they are just that—brain candy. They cause trouble when they become expectations. I have this fantasy, so this is how things should go. This is what I want. But as the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. And my other favorite from David Whyte, "What you can plan is too small for you to live."
It is a central refrain of Buddhism that attachment creates suffering. When we attach rigid shoulds and wants to our lives—the moment we set a bar of specific expectations and outcomes—we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Of course, disappointment is inevitable—we are only human—but how long it hovers overhead like a dark cloud is up to us. How quickly can we notice our attachments—our shoulds and wants—and dissolve them? How quickly can we bounce back to trusting in what life has to offer us? Sometimes the very best plans are the we could never dare to dream. Or the best things that happen to us are the bullets we dodged in unanswered prayers, misguided fantasies that thankfully never came to fruition.
When something in the reality of our life does not match up with the fantasy in our minds, that "no" from life is a form of not yet, or not right for you. The trick is to stay curious until we have a clear answer. Either way, there is nothing to do until we have an instinct about the next concrete steps to take.
If the answer is not yet, don't push the river, as the Zen saying goes. Delight in the wisdom of life's slow, perfectly timed unfolding. We wouldn't rush a flower bud, nor should we rush our life. It will only spoil the beauty along the way, and the end is never really the end anyway.
If the answer is not right, release your grip. Let go. The fantasy is past its expiration date. Thank it for its service, its entertainment, for whatever new insights it revealed to you, and let it dissolve. In letting go of misguided fantasies we make room for the simple joys of reality.
In one of my favorite books from the last few years, Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver teaches us how to turn things over to the Divine: "My perfect new path is already selected and will arrive at the right time. I will be shown the steps to receive it." In following this mindset, she says:
"You learn to get out of the way, follow the signs, and invite the highest outcome. You stop manipulating results. Synchronicities become rampant. It's like flying above the turbulence in a plane where the air is clear and open, or drinking water from a pristine river rather than begging for it door to door. You start to trust where the flow is going and how to move with it."
What attachments can you dissolve today? Can you set your expectations free, like big balloons into the sky? Can you live in the magic of the unknown, with faith that something even more right for you is on its way?