No, you can’t have what you want

How do we deal with not getting the things that really matter to us?

The cover of the February, 2017 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Cover image by Jara Sijka

The Reel, By Anonymous

The Reel explores relationships, love and life in our mountain town. It’s published monthly in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. This article first appeared in the February issue.

Imagine this. You’re hanging out with adorable two-year old Lucy. You’re serving up her favourite dinner: warm, saucy spaghetti Bolognese with the noodles cut up small, just how she likes it. But as you set her little plastic yellow bowl down, her face starts to indicate that something catastrophic is happening.

She looks up at you with agonized misunderstanding and says, “I don’t want the yellow bowl. I want the green bowl!”

“It doesn’t matter Lucy,” you say, silently praying that reasoning will work. “It tastes exactly the same.”

But Lucy loses it. She strikes out at the offending bowl and sends it flying, redecorating half the room in Bolognese gloop. She’s flipped. At this point, her face is contorted like a wet, twisted tea towel and steam is coming out her ears. She bursts into flames as she continues demonically shrieking, “I DON’T WANT THE YELLOW BOWL! I WANT THE GREEN BOWL!”

You stand there, utterly bemused at what you are witnessing. Not the flaming two year old who set herself alight with her own fury, but the extreme intolerance of this little person for not getting what she wants.

“Wow Lucy,” you think to yourself. “This is a life lesson you are going to have to learn. We don’t get everything we want.”

As adults, we share this gem of wisdom with the young and naive as if it’s a lesson that we ourselves have learned. As if it’s a life truth that we actually believe. But do we?

There’s evidence to suggest that we are no better at dealing with this reality than little gremlin-child Lucy here. The only difference is that the things we want are much more difficult to achieve, and our coping mechanisms (for not getting them) that much more destructive. While Lucy just wants her green bowl, we want fulfilling careers, intimate relationships, financial stability, to be amazing parents, own a home and stay healthy.

And whereas Lucy simply bursts into a fiery tantrum when she doesn’t get her way (which she promptly self-extinguishes upon hearing about ice-cream), we fall into substance abuse, depression and becoming Stoke List trolls.

Since the time we were Lucy-like tyrants, every one of us has been working on our “things I give a damn about” list: tweaking, reworking and refining our ideas of what matters to us and what we want in life. Relentless, unsolicited reality-checks have helped us to trim them back hard. Giving a damn about the colour of our bowl? Cut long ago. Becoming an astronaut? Gone. A ballerina? Nope. Starting up that brewery? Not happening.

We’ve whittled those lists down to a completely reasonable handful of desires that now seem more like a set of rights. “I don’t want much; all I want is to buy a home in Revelstoke, have enough money for gear and trips, work a job that’s fulfilling, have a family, ski till I’m 80, have great friendships, travel, yada yada yada.”

Same goes for finding a partner. “I’m not being fussy. I just want to find someone who is a good communicator, makes me laugh, is a rad skier (but modest about it), wants babies and a dog in the next five years, doesn’t get hangry, shows affection, is social (but not a party animal), cares for the environment, loves the outdoors, has a good libido and a decent job.

We are told these lists are good. They help us maintain focus. They help us feel accomplished. We are obsessed with lists. Goal lists, to-do lists, bucket lists, hell, half the articles in The Huff Post are just lists (9 Ways To Save Your Failing Marriage).

But maybe we’re wrong about lists. Maybe it’s the lists that are the problem. Lists keep us focused on what is yet to be achieved, the un-done and unaccomplished.

Lists tell us we’re not done until everything’s crossed off; only then can we can call it, and ourselves, complete. A little harsh, no? Isn’t that setting the bar a little high? Do we ever get everything we really want in the order we want it? Of course not! Remember what you told little Lucy?

So let’s not set ourselves up for failure. Scrap lists. Let’s have some fun and make bingo cards instead. Seriously. Bingo.

You don’t need a black out card to win bingo. You need an X or a line or an L. 5 out of 25 and you’re a winner. You don’t need to have it all, but you have to have some. And guess what? You’ll still be as happy as a granny with a coupon when you win. Why? Because there’s no telling which squares you’ll cross off, it’ll be a surprise and when least expect it, BINGO! “That diagonal came out of nowhere!”

Your homework: Plot your list items onto a bingo card and get playing. Include the goals, dreams and values you seek. Then get out there, participate, work for it, and when life calls your bingo, be ready to dab!

Happy bingo-ing.

PS – I’d love to see your bingo cards! Email them to info@revelstokemountaineer if you’d like to share (all info will remain anonymous).