And I’m not talking about tolerating the differences in others. I’m talking about those less-than-optimal conditions in your life. You know the ones—the, well, this may be less than perfect, may not be exactly what I want, may be a different path than the one I envisioned . . . But it’s good enough, right? Don’t we all have to “settle” a bit?
Whether this concerns a mate, a job (or career), a home, a car, even what to have for lunch, often we make excuses and tolerate conditions that aren’t what we truly want.
And often, what we do truly want becomes obscure as we travel life’s paths. We lose sight of the light we were following, the shine fading to black off-stage as we deal with the day-to-day grind, the light bill, the kindergarten teacher . . .
As girls, especially, we were raised to “get along.” To not make waves. Girls who do so are called bossy. I can never remember—not once—any of the boys in my class who took charge being called bossy. Not once. But man, were the girls dubbed that.
I truly hope most of those girls are now running Fortune 500 Companies rather than gnawing on their own arms to get out of traps set in childhood.
And while we may indeed have been raised to follow our dreams, almost everyone I know was also taught that you just may not get what you want. Which is true. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle or even tolerate those conditions.
Doing so will slay your soul. Maybe not all at once, but the very tolerance of the way you didn’t want your life to go will cut small pieces from your heart until finally you look at your life and have no clue how you veered so off course.
And that is not to be tolerated.
No matter who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve done (or didn’t), you, too, deserve to live your dream.
So often women who realize this have forsaken that dream so long ago, they no longer remember what it is. And that’s okay. You can always find it again.
In a pivotal scene from the upcoming re-release of I Just Came Here to Dance, Diana asks Paula, “If a huge banquet were laid out before you, but you had a craving for mashed potatoes and gravy, would you eat from the banquet or start boiling the spuds?”
And Paula Ann responds, “It wouldn’t be very nice not to eat the banquet.”
Almost every woman who’s read the book has commented to me on that scene. Because it resonates within us. Raised to be “nice,” raised to think our own dreams are selfish, we smile and go along with what others want.
So many women have told me they married “the right man,” because of his stature or how the family liked him, or a billion other seemingly worthwhile reasons. I did it myself. I married a man in my forties who “seemed” like what I needed—a “mature,” “responsible,” etc., man whom I loved but was not in love with. It was not fair to either him or me, although I tried to “get along” for many years.
But what that led me to learn of myself was that I actually prefer living alone (although if you can call a house with 9 Labradors being alone!). My independence, having been legendary since childhood! is precious to me. It took a bad marriage for me to own up to that. I always knew it, but saying it aloud seemed blasphemous.
How insane is that. I, along with hundreds of women who’ve talked to me, have stuffed our very natures in order to get along.
It never works out well.
Because what so many of us have learned by this stage in life is that following our own dreams, being true to our own natures, being the people we actually are, blesses not only ourselves but the world around us.
As Joseph Campbell said, “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
And you can’t do that if you’re dancing to someone else’s tune.
How has tolerating hampered your life?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.