How Do You Know When You’ve Done All You Can?

                                         Roadblock to the nth degree

You’re not lazy. You’re more than willing to apply yourself. You welcome sound advice. You’re focused. You’ve weighed pros and cons. You’ve over-analyzed your entire life’s choices. You’ve tried to be Zen. Maybe the operative word is tried. Which is not-too-subtle code for tried and failed. You’re supposed to DO.

You have but nothing’s panned out. You’re not sure if it’s a ‘until’ situation or if all is lost. But you haven’t given up. What if you’re surrounded by idiots, naysayers and saboteurs? You know, the Walking Dead. Of course you don’t want to be anywhere near them. You’re stuck. You’re hoping whatever protective gear you have lasts long enough..but you start to wonder if you should close your eyes and call it a day. Only this isn’t some dystopian novel that serves as entertainment. There’s no rescue squad. When is enough….enough? How do you know and who gets to decide?

From O, The Oprah magazine:

Know When to Fold ‘Em – Martha Beck

I hear again the yoga instructor’s comment, “The key to success is persistence. Quitting is failure.” My mind reacted to this with numb acquiescence – I’d heard it so often, after all. But my body silently screamed, “Not always!” Turns out my body was right.

Of course this is a hypothesis from someone offering advice (and her opinion) from a 4-year old article.

She wrote as a sub-head:

Want to be one of life’s winners? Stop trying! You’ll be a lot healthier, maybe wealthier, and altogether happier if you learn the glory in giving up.

Now, the act of surrendering (to a Higher Power) is a well-established tradition. We’re not supposed to be alone in this world. Some people – whom others have referred to as religious zealots, Coloring Book Christians, willfully ignorant and/or hypocrites amongst other descriptors – often insist life would be rosy if you were “obedient” to their “one true” (only valid) dogma.

There’s not a lot of room for questions, let alone love to flourish when other people – who just know they’re better than you (historically ranging from heathen, witch, the damned), the lost and confused person. If only you would surrender (to the madness), you’d be saved, spared from whatever life struggle (usually around matters of a personal nature they don’t agree with so it’s wrong and punishable by death even) is “plaguing” you.

You’re supposed to ignore the chaos in their lives or the things that don’t quite add up. Or all the years they were “lost” only to have found “salvation” amongst other naïve, broken folks who are paying too high a price to play successfully against the Pastor Pimp. Yet, I digress.

What if you did blow it and realize it, but can’t remedy it? What’s an ‘acceptable’ loss? Beck’s article assumes a universal balance and dare I word it, a sense of fairness. Dictators massacre, pop stars earn millions hawking cheap accessories, governments fail to protect their own and people line up to watch fake housewives beat each other up on tv.

Back to Martha Beck and her surrender moment. It is very similar to several coming into awareness moments like what Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Eat, Pray, Love.

The mechanism that helps people quit appropriately, [psychologists] Gregory Miller and Carsten Wrosch discovered, was not wisdom but dejection. People who are trying in vain eventually get depressed about their ongoing failure, and those who respond to this depression by quitting when it first appears enjoy all kinds of benefits.

So here’s my other question: If you don’t get high from an ideology what’s the point? We refer to ideologies by many things though some would not see a connection. A religion. A political stance. Your appearance. Your career trajectory. Who you associate with. External circumstances.

Ideally, if we do the opposite – taking comfort in our more evolved inner selves with the assumption we are more aware or willing to undergo self-improvement. Right? If that doesn’t work?

If this is a bit of a maze then imagine the larger ramifications!

If surrender (not mindlessness) is freeing, if dejection is freeing then how do you know when it’s enough before you descend into madness, fall through the cracks, into the depths of despair or become a pod person just to be left alone?

3 Replies to “How Do You Know When You’ve Done All You Can?”

  1. When is enough … enough?

    I guess it's enough when you're ready to become what you are trying to get away from/not to be. If you can submit/surrender/acquiesce without any doubts, fears, regrets, twinges, or pains over what is not to be, then I guess you can say that's enough. Otherwise, enough really isn't enough and you just haven't found the way that works for you.

    1. Which begs the question about finding enlightenment, religion, love, career” and more there an ‘answer’? What satisfies? What fits? Ruthless, greedy, selfish or destructive folks have no problem being who they are. I dunno. I’ve spent the past few days conversing with an 11-week old tabby who can’t answer back.

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