The Discomfort of Scrutiny

At what point does acceptance serve as a nice way to describe complacency, resignation, or willful blindness? When does the quest for self-improvement metastasize into a loathing of one’s perceived vulnerabilities?  What is the tipping point for a rhythm to become a rut? Is the embrace of change and variety an escape from the tedious aspects of stability and commitment–a perpetual adolescence of sorts? There’s impartial scrutiny and then there’s torture disguised under the petticoats of “authenticity.”


I ask myself these horribly uncomfortable questions as part of the ongoing process of re-booting my life. The self-imposed demands of justifying one’s life’s choices (let alone results) extend far beyond my circle of one. In fact, I am willing to bet that all of you reading this have asked yourselves some version of these questions—at least once.


Like languid lizards resting in the shade of a hot desert rock, answers may peek their heads out briefly and then withdraw into the comforting darkness. Few of us go about with sticks, doggedly poking at our carefully constructed, stone hard mental defenses, holding our breath as we dare the answers to show themselves.


Recently, I was speaking with a friend back in California, inquiring as to her job situation. She endeavored to answer my questions, often prefacing any acknowledgement of her struggles by making reference to the fact that she was so blessed in her life. She could not bring herself to admit, flat out, how lost and unhappy she felt about being stuck in a low paying job beneath her capability. As I listened, it occurred to me that while, yes, it is undoubtedly true that we always have more than we lack, at what point is it ok to feel disheartened by our current life circumstances?


I am in no way endorsing a life spent wallowing in sorrow, but (aside from an evening involving strong cocktails) when is it ok to officially recognize the disappointments of our lives despite our blessings? Considering all the suffering in this world, is it ever, truly acceptable? And furthermore, at what point do you make the decision to remain in stasis “for the sake of xyz,” or to wrench yourself, kicking and screaming, into a new place with no guarantees it’ll be better?


Each person answers this differently. How often is the decision based on fear? based on love–for oneself or for others? How often can the decision be revisited? When does it become too late? Is it ever, truly, too late? At what point does it even matter anymore?


Even on the small scale that is my life, I struggle with these issues. I’m out there with my stick, poking at that wily old lizard on a near daily basis and I don’t feel any closer to nabbing him now than I did three years ago. There’s something to be said for patience and letting answers reveal themselves in good time—perhaps mine will crawl out one day, completely unexpectedly. In the meantime, I have to hope and trust that life will work out in the long run.


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