What Is and What Is Supposed to Be

by Belinda Munoz on June 30, 2010

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WHAT IS

We have trouble leaving what is alone.  Take Chapeau! for example.  It is a French restaurant.  If we give it more consideration, we might think about whether or not we like French food.  We might peruse its menu online. We might think about having dinner there one night.

JUDGING WHAT IS

Once thoughts and feelings touch what is, it starts to look a little different.  Judgment enters the picture.  What it is becomes personal and subject to critique and interpretation.  After having dinner at a restaurant like Chapeau!, our experience, perception and preferences begin to color our assessment of what is.  If we’re easy and happy customers, we think the service is lovely and the food, top-notch.  If we’re seasoned foodies, we notice if the side vegetables are seasonal or not, if the wine reduction is done just right or if the aperitif and digestif menus are thoughtful or too all over the map.

WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE

We do the same thing in life.  We often judge what is and inject our own spin based on personal, received or conventional standards of what’s supposed to be.  If something goes wrong per these standards, we’re compelled to appraise whose fault it is.

If our kid takes a fall from the monkey bars while we’re wrapped up on an urgent call, we might label ourselves bad mommy or daddy, or lay blame on the ill-timed phone call, or on our kid who should’ve known better than to let go, or all of the above.  It takes a good number of bruising years of parenting (and for many, maybe never) to arrive at knowing and accepting that these things happen.

If we’ve done everything right and have followed all the steps and sound advice we’ve been given, we create projections and condition ourselves for a set of expectations as to where we should already be by a certain time.  If we’re not there, we wonder why or perhaps we feel slighted or confused.  We may even feel like a victim (though admitting this is an entirely different matter).  This is not how it’s supposed to be, we often think when something appears to have veered off course.

If a partner leaves us and says it’s not you, it’s me, we recognize the cliche but struggle to concede that it may indeed be them and not us.

WHAT IT MAY BE

Simple may at times be too simple.  We stumble at accepting what is because it may be too simple; something that can be a challenge to grasp.  So, we seek details or construct convoluted explanations, intricate interpretations or plain wild guesses as to what it may be.  Because sometimes, complicated is comforting.  Unlike simple, complicated lends a touch of mystery, a few variables for us to manipulate, or even a convenient hole, that just might explain why things turned the way they did.

What is can be touchy.

Sometimes we handle it just fine.  Sometimes we refuse.  Both, seemingly always, are part of the process.  Of living and of learning.

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  1. Do we give learning enough credit for its richness, texture and flavor?  Or is getting it right more important than the process?
  2. Does what is matter?  Or is it more important to personalize the look and feel of what is in order to make sense of it, or to transcend it, or to appreciate it?  How does this apply to work?  To play?  To parenting?  To life in general?
  3. Is there something in your life that is great as it is?
  4. Is it possible to live simply and thrive in a complicated world without getting caught in the fangs of frustration?

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June 30, 2010 at 10:19 am

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aging Mommy June 30, 2010 at 6:38 am

I am loving my life right here and now and thanks to my daughter am learning far more than I ever used to be able to to simply live in and enjoy the here and now. It is a complicated world for sure and our perceptions and expectations color our view so that when reality does not match up we are disappointed – like with restaurants, my husband and I were always real foodies and if a restaurant is talked up as top notch and turns out not to be we feel we are disappointed, and yet if we go to an inferior restaurant knowing beforehand what to expect we are happy. So I think to be happy in life you need to set yourself challenges, have high expectations but don’t over sell or expect too much and love what you do have.

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2 Phil - Less Ordinary Living June 30, 2010 at 7:36 am

Hi Belinda –

You always touch on the paradoxes of life. I love that you explore the contradictions of simplicity and complexity. Living a simple life could be seen as naive, being sophisticated could be seen as arrogant. I think that life is a constant juggling act where we play at finding the right balance for the circumstances we face. The bottom line is that the approaches you outline have merit – what is defines our reality, what may be fires our imagination. Thanks so much for this great post which I loved.

Phil

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3 TheKitchenWitch June 30, 2010 at 8:06 am

I wish I didn’t get bogged down in the minutiae. So often I miss the beautiful, big things because I’m focused on the drek! I’d love to have a restaurant like Chapeau! in my area–jealous!

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4 Gini Martinez June 30, 2010 at 10:21 am

This makes me think about the trend for parents to become bogged down in the psychology of parenting. My husband & I have reached a place where we try to remember that we view everything our children do through an adult prism & that isn’t the case for kids. We see the future & the children are blissfully forgetting what happens every 5 minutes. Often times a cruel word to a sibling isn’t the beginning of a high school bully, it’s just brothers being brothers & it is part of growing & finding their way in the world. We try to give them room to do that.

With children, there are these moments, sometimes very fleeting, in which everything is great as is. Everyone is in sync, we seem to be moving as one unit with the ebb & flow of life. I LOVE those moments & try to savor every millisecond of them.

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5 rob white June 30, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hi Belinda, I love your restaurant metaphor. Ignorance really can be such sweet bliss! My wife loves looking for everything that is wrong on her plate while I shovel it down. We often walk away from a dinner with a completely different point of view! I believe we should always seek excellence in our passions, but never perfection. There I things I will not tolerate in business, but we have to determine when it is benefiting our ultimate goals or when we are just causing a melodrama.

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6 Jenny June 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Hi Belinda,
Oh how I struggle with living simply in a complex world. I’m beginning to wonder if it is even possible for me. I tend to do well with what is complicated. Simple often stumps me. (I come by this honestly. It runs in the family.)
I believe in accepting what is, when we truly can’t or shouldn’t bother to change it, but then, I truly believe that we can change many, many things if we are determined enough.
Yep. It’s complex.

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7 Belinda Munoz June 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Jenny, like you, I haven’t given up on believing that we can, that we must, change many things. As is often the case, the question is how. As for living simply in a complex world, I’m not so ambitious. I’m happy if I can simplify a few things for as long as I can.

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8 Colleen June 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

So long as when people can’t accept what is they don’t take their frustration out on those around them. I work in retail and it is amazing (appalling) the way people behave when what is isn’t what they want it to be. The people who can accept what is are always the happy ones.

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9 Belinda Munoz June 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Colleen, I can only imagine the type of retail aggression you’ve witnessed thus far. In this economy, it’s likely that folks pay beyond currency when what is isn’t good enough.

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10 Patty - Why Not Start Now? June 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Ah, Belinda. The fangs of frustration. Now that’s just perfect. Sinking their teeth into us and not letting go, no matter how hard we shake. I think you’re onto something here. There’s some sweet country between what is and what may be, but I have a hunch it’s located a little closer to the what is side of the continuum. Because when you talk about projections and expectations and shoulds, and our self-imposed judgments about not meeting them in spite of doing everything right, well yes, that is a subtle form of inner victimization. A way we abandon ourselves by forgetting that in the grand scheme of things we’re pretty unimportant, and life just is. So I really like this, and I do think it’s possible to live simply and thrive in a complicated world. Because isn’t that what life is – a paradox?

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11 Rudri June 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I think the pendulum between complicated and simple is a delicate one. Each person’s perspective is their reality. What is for one person, isn’t for another. So I think we need, as individuals, to find what is right for us, regardless of whether it is simple or complicated. It is our reality that we need to live with, despite what others may perceive it be.

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12 Meg June 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Expectations get in the way of seeing things as they really are. Expectations arise from desire, in the Buddhist sense. We want this, want that, want things to be this, to be that. Stepping back from desire lets us see things as they are, all their good, all their bad. As a result life itself will be fuller and more satisfying. Or will it?

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13 Sandra Hendricks June 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Hi Belinda,

It can take many years to see through the complexities in life and finally decide that life is simple. After all the labeling and comparing is past, then our judgment relaxes. This is when we can really live and observe the world and the people around us, without analyzing everything. This is how it seems to me anyhow. Thank you for the thought provoking post. 🙂

Regards,
Sandra

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14 Kate July 1, 2010 at 1:26 am

Hi Belinda,

I think it is sometimes difficult too accept things as they are – but the difference between what they are and how they should be can really impact on our happiness. We need to look at the simple things and appreciate them just as they are – exactly as you say without trying to make it more complicated. I think we often want more, just generally more of everything, and this leads us to strive to change things that are perfect as they are.

Great post,
Kate

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15 Eva @ EvaEvolving July 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

“Do we give learning enough credit for its richness, texture and flavor? Or is getting it right more important than the process?” These are the questions that really captured my attention. Because, unfortunately, we place so much value on success, on doing things right. We forget about the incredibly important process of learning, of trial and error. And I know – in my heart – that it’s better to try something even if you don’t succeed than to not try at all. But it’s hard to follow through on that belief all the time.

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16 Sara July 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Belinda,

After reading this post and your questions, all I could think about is my cat. I know that’s strange, but she really does accept “what is” and she lives simply, finding her comfort whenever she needs it.

If she gets shut in a cabinet, she just curls up and goes to sleep. No long howls of “let me out” will be heard; she waits until she’s found. She takes frequent naps, but will occasionally let out the wild cat and run through the house, sliding on rugs as she goes. She’s almost always happy.

I often watch her and think I could learn quite a few things from her, like enjoying life as it is.

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17 Belinda Munoz July 1, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Sara, she sounds like a total sweetheart. Give her a squeeze for me ; )

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18 Preeti @ Heart and Mind July 1, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Belinda,

What I like about your posts is something unique and different subject that one may not have thought of it and this particular way. Lot of things we think or follow based on our perception and our perception is always based on our past experiences.

I am glad to read this and be open minded for something I can not seen or experienced.

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19 Belinda Munoz July 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Thanks for the compliment, Preeti 🙂

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20 Wilma Ham July 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I finally am understanding that this is a total useless and dangerous thought; “This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Who am I to know how things are to be? There are so many other forces at work in my life, I have NO idea ever and giving that up has freed me up and I am no longer wasting my time on things that are not my business.
I have to admit that this took me a long time to understand but now at least I know where I can direct my thoughts to where they bear more fruit. ‘What choice do I have here’, ‘what is my intent right now’ and that is getting me through life in a very wonderful and far more productive way. xox Wilma.

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21 Belinda Munoz July 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Thanks, Wilma. I’m glad you wrote about that mind shift that takes place from feeling frustrated because things aren’t how they’re supposed to be to “what choice do I have now”. I really think that’s critical to happiness. xo

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