Tuesday, June 28, 2016

You Get What You Get

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

This the rhythmic mantra of every preschool teacher as they’re passing something out to the kids, be it colored scarves, pencils or assorted chocolates. This morning in a class with Sofia about games from the Latin-Afro diaspora, Jackie Rago invoked this chant as she passed out maracas of different colors. “All colors of the world are beautiful. And remember: you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Living with the mind that I got, I immediately felt it as some grand metaphor for our lives. How much time we spend complaining, lamenting, feeling angry about all that we got! Our bodies that we find so hard to wholly love, our hair (or lack of it), our shape, our weight, our teeth prone to decay—not to mention asthma or diabetes or dyslexia. We spend time in therapy being upset at the parents or family that we were dealt, we’re angry with society for marginalizing us when politicians decided that all colors of the world are not equally beautiful, we wonder if we would have enjoyed our life more as the other gender. There’s no end to the possibilities of getting upset with what we got at birth or blaming others for the life we got and the things that happened to us.

But should we really just passively accept it all? If you have a passion for social justice, as I do, this statement seems absurd. No, do NOT accept injustice and yes, GET upset about the things that try to hold you back from being wholly who you are and who you deserve to be. Don’t be complacent about your incapacity to immediately play Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu on the piano or fix the engine in your car—work on your skills, make an effort, take charge. Take your shortcomings that have arisen from genetics, upbringing, opportunities (or lack of them), social issues and look them square in the face, wrestle them down to the ground to get them off your back and put you back in charge. As Ella Fitzgerald once said, “It’s not where you come from that matters—it’s where you’re going.” But to make that trip to your full promise, you will spend a lot of time comparing and despairing, feeling upset about what people did to you or what you did to yourself until you can’t stand the whine of your own voice anymore and get to work to turn things around.

Fine, But at the end of the matter, we do finally have to accept what we got. And bless it. The Buddhist feel it a great honor to be incarnated as a human being and suggest not only constant gratitude and appreciation, but determination to be as fully awake as we two-legged creatures can be. Some people feel a grand plan behind each individual incarnation and a hidden reason why you were born with everything you got—your face, your body, your parents, your talents, your inclinations, your interests. You need to spend a lifetime sifting through all the things that are not central to that purpose and arrive in the center of your particular genius.

If you’re in a group 24/7 for two weeks in this intense Orff-Afrique Course, all these things come up. This person drums better, that person dances better, that person easily learns all the words to the songs, that other gets the melodies in one minute. This person is the center of the social mix, that person on the edge, this one’s funny, that one’s smart, the other is elegant. A thousand opportunities for people—including me— to compare and despair!

So maybe that’s why this simple preschool phrase hit home. Accept myself. I don’t have to be able to do everything as well as everyone else. I just have to make the effort to do it as well as I can. And enjoy every minute of that process. And so do we all.

Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?

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