There was a stretch of my life where I actively studied eastern religions, especially Buddhism. Buddhist have an amazing way of simply accepting anything and everything that may be happening around them. When life is an illusion, it is really not worth getting worked up about either a flat tire or a lost client.
Admittedly, my nature is to make things happen. I love moving the ball. I wake up in the morning with a sense that I could achieve anything that I put my mind to and that there are no impediment to achievement. My law partner and brother Mark has many sayings. But one of them is “it is what it is” mine would be closer to “it is what you make it.” Where’s the truth?
I have been an achiever by nature for the last fifteen or so years. The period when I was doing my Buddhist minimalism thing, I had, in a way, decided to deny society the benefits of my talent. Whatever version of capitalism was playing out, it didn’t deserve my talent or attention. For those of you who know Ayne Rand, I suppose I was doing the John Galt thing.
At this point, I have to say that the truth about whether it is what it is or whether it is what you make it depends, I suppose, on what you are applying it to.
There are certain things in life you can’t control. It doesn’t do much good to worry about those things. If you get cancer, your options get pretty limited. You may be able to choose amongst a choice of treatments, but you cannot choose from whether or not you have cancer. An “as is” attitude is probably more helpful than “poor me” or “I give up” attitude. That doesn’t mean, however, that you simply accept everything and do nothing. On a personal level, even a cancer patient has a wide latitude of decisions to make – decisions about their relationship with members of their family, their friends, where they’re going to spend their time during treatment and in case of the worse. On those issues, life will very much be what you make it…what you decide to make it.
My brother Mark is relaxed about everything. I used to say that you could tell him the world was coming to the end by the afternoon and he’d still follow his routine through the end of the day without much additional worry. Mark’s got a perspective on things which I often wish I had. Me, I’m more wound like a top. I am constantly thinking about how to blow something up so you can start again and recreate it, or to take something that already exists and improve it. My brain is constantly pushing the envelope of ideas and challenging the way everything is done, including how I process my own thoughts.
My brother Mark joined my practice about a year and a half ago. I feel like I am better equipped to manage my impulse to grab things by the throat and remake them in an image which I can see in my mind. I still wake up thinking about the active and fully engaged self expression that has become my life and which, I admit, I am spending a lot of energy trying to infect on the world around me. But I am better at accepting each day’s gains and setbacks for what they are – part of the process by which things are achieved. I don’t obsess nearly as often as I used to about whether or not things are happening fast enough. I am much more prone to accept or even embrace the pace of life.
I’ve always said that life is like a river flowing downstream. No matter what you do, you are caught up in the current. It is pulling you downstream. You can fight the current, you can even swim upstream for a time. But eventually, the stream will win. You are much better off slowing down the stream and working your way from one side of the river to the other as you deem appropriate. The stream is what it is. What will you make of your journey down it?