I was taking to a friend the other day about compromise. She was confused about why someone was acting a certain way when a compromise would be easy. I told her that this person most likely didn’t want to compromise. My friend asked, “then what do they want?” It was funny to me because the answer was obvious to me, but because of the nature of my loving and generous friend, she could not imagine it. She could not fathom that people want what they want. They want to win. They want complete and total victory.It’s perhaps obvious to me because I lived like that for so long, wanting what I wanted, feeling defeated or put upon if I had to let go of my (often grand and exorbitant) expectations. Feeling cheated and wronged by anyone who got even a fraction of what they wanted at the expense of the total of what I wanted.
Addiction makes most of us self-centered in the most unhealthy ways. We believe we should have all the good, and yet we expect everyone else to deal with the bad. We decide that we deserve our good fortune, but in the face of bad fortune, or even just the consequences of our bad decisions, we condemn life as completely unfair, and others as wicked, cruel, and out to get us.
This ultimately comes down to our attachment. Attachment to the way we want things to be. Attachment to our expectations.
In recovery, I had to learn non-attachment. Non-attachment is a spiritual idea that I have known about for some time, but was unable to practice until I got my eating under control. When I was younger and searching for a spiritual practice to make me feel whole, I read a slew of self-help, spiritual, and religious books. Zen Buddhism books talk a lot about non-attachment. But I was never able to fully grasp it until I put boundaries around my eating. I am sure that had something to do with the fact that addiction is attachment. It is attachment to one’s substance, the belief that you simply cannot live without it.
In recovery, I had to learn that I could only control my own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course this started with the food. I was no longer going to eat cake. Ever. And I was going to have to come to terms with the fact that other people were. And that I could not be resentful of that, or I would be in danger of ending up back in food hell. Even if They weighed 300 pounds and were diabetic. Even if I thought they were sugar addicts like me. I made a choice for myself and the only person I could expect to live the way I wanted to live was me. And soon, it became clear that this needed to be true in all areas of my life.
I do not get a say in what others think, say, or do, and (here’s the kicker) that is exactly as it should be. It was confronting to realize that I was not the center of all of my dealings in the world. It was painful to accept that I, not only would not, but should not always get everything I desired. But there is also something very freeing about recognizing someone’s autonomy as sacred, rather than inconvenient.
I do not claim to be a guru. But I am good at non-attachment. Not because I think it is holy, but ultimately because it is convenient. I live a happier life knowing that other people’s choices and behaviors have nothing to do with me. Of course I still want things. And yes, there are things that are important to me that I do not get. But that’s life. And that’s another thing I have found since I put boundaries around my eating. When I don’t fight against other people’s choices, trying to force the outcome I think I want, in the long run, life always gives me better than I thought I wanted in the first place.