Not too long ago, I’m not exactly sure how it happened, I found myself cornered by a guy who felt the need to share his life struggles with me.
“Here we go again,” I thought.
Somehow, I’m always finding myself in situations where people are telling me their problems. I must have a stamp on my forehead that reads, “Therapist on Duty.”
The point is … I’m not a therapist, but sure, I can listen.
Anyway, it was a lengthy tale, but long story short, the guy was expressing how miserable he was with his life. He shared that both he and his wife knew their marriage had long been over, but neither of them had the guts to bring up the “d word,” nor were they enthused about “making it work.” They were simply living in that wicked, detached, gray area of life where everything is purgatory and barely bearable.
In short, they were navigating the misery of life on auto pilot.
With that, the guy went on to talk about his strained relationship with his teenaged kids and extended family, his terrible debt that included two old houses that he was upside down on and the fact that he hated his job.
And then, as I listened, he said something that I knew would bring me here to chat with you. With a quizzical and frustrated look on his face, he said …
“I just don’t understand it!” “How did I get here?”
At that very second, I felt a neon-flashing lightbulb above my head.
“How did I get here?”
Isn’t THAT the question of the century – if not of all time?
How did I get here?
One of the things that I find so interesting about this question is the fact that whenever things are going well in our lives, we take full credit for them. We know exactly why we’re successful and we can explain to anyone exactly what we did to get to where we are.
When we’re enjoying success, our newfound hubris doesn’t allow us to question “how” we got there because we “know how” we got there. We got there because of something “we did.” It’s all about “US.”
We refer to our five-year plans and things like our health and meditation regimes. We even get emboldened to tell other people what they need to do to be successful too.
However, when things are not going well, we detach ourselves from them. We don’t even want to talk about them. I mean, who wants to claim credit for failure? And so, in the midst of our perceived failures, we ask ourselves …
“How did I get here?”
Failure is never kind to the ego, but boy, is it fantastic for the soul. More on that in a moment.
I keep thinking about what’s happening in our nation right now. Not just our nation, but the world.
You can hear it everywhere. Listen up.
In practically every corner you turn, you can hear people asking this question in some form or another. You know it when you hear it because people tend to ask it with as much childhood innocence – not a lot - as they can muster.
Everybody does it. Politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers, clergymen (believe it or not), union leaders, Joe Shmoes, Jane Does, ceos, men, women, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics … you name it.
It’s an equal opportunity question. It’s a go-to statement. It’s our warm and fuzzy teddy bear of rationalization …
“How did I get here?”
It’s bubbling up beneath our polluted oceans. It’s lingering above our corrupt government administrations. It gives everything in the world that reeks that unique stench.
Whoever said, “Something is rotten in Denmark” got it half right. Everything stinks. Lysol cannot even begin to address the problems. It’s actually part of the cover up.
That question – in question - is the easiest way to convince yourself that people are buying your bullcrap when you know full well they aren’t.
You know how it works. First off, you make sure folks are watching and listening. Then you widen your eyes, open your mouth and throw your hands up in the air and exclaim …
“How did I get here?”
Here’s the trick part. It’s not really a question at all. It’s your way of trying to convince people of your innocence amid this new debacle in your life. And so, other people, clearly familiar with this game, look back at you and say …
“I know! Right?!”
That’s the usual response. Please … everybody and their grandmother knows this game. Your now angelic looking grandma invented it. It works like magic.
And with that, you’ve all taken yet another step into the land of delusions. Aren’t delusions great? So convenient!
Am I sounding cynical? Sorry. That’s not my intention. But I mean, really. I bet not a single day goes by when you don’t hear someone, somewhere uttering this question. It’s an epidemic.
This question really is a symptom of a great illness in the world. Our nation is sick. The world is sick. There’s so much emotional, mental and spiritual anguish out there. And it’s not the sickness that’s the actual problem. We can heal sickness any day of the week.
It’s the denial.
That question is instantly indicative of our pathological denial … polluted minds and screwed-up thinking. Literally, in the face of this colossal mess that we’ve created as a human species, we have the audacity to ask that question.
We know FULL WELL how we got here. One thought at a time. One word at a time. One step at a time.
Look at all of the problems in the world right now: racism, sexism, greed, pollution, homelessness, child sex trafficking, slave labor, drug dealing, gang violence, government corruption, and so on …
Given that, let me ask this quick question …
Are you racist? Are you sexist? Are you a polluter? Are you selfish?
Needless to say, 99% of the people walking the earth are going to respond by saying “NO” to most of those questions.
So, here’s my question. If no one is responsible for anything and yet we have all of these problems in the world, then …
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Isn’t your soul desperate for truth? Isn’t it better to take full responsibility for whatever happens in your life rather than feign innocence and ignorance?
Taking responsibility doesn’t always mean you’re at fault. It just means you’re not going to settle for less. It means that despite - and in spite of - your circumstances, you have decided to step up and play the lead role in your own life.
The state of world may not be your fault or my fault, but isn’t it OUR responsibility?
When we ask, “How did I get here?” we’re really saying that we’re not willing to face up to what’s happening in our lives … or the world.
I mean, isn’t it interesting how people bemoan the state of the world and yet at the same time, they draw absolutely no correlation between their personal conduct and the state of the world?
They watch the news and look around and ask … “How did we get here?”
But don’t these things add up? Doesn’t your personal conduct add up with my personal conduct and things start trending and the next thing you know, we’re talking about how much the world sucks?
Look … I’m just as guilty as the next person. Haven’t you noticed how I started this essay? Go back to the top and take a quick look.
In telling you about my conversation with the troubled guy, I stated that I wasn’t sure how it happened and I also said that that guy “cornered” me.
I gave you the impression that it just happened to me and I played no role whatsoever. With that … isn’t a conversation a two-way street? Didn’t I ultimately have the ability to end the conversation and leave?
Didn’t I actually start out by asking the question myself?
People talk about their lives as if things always just hit them out of the blue. They don’t see any cause and effect … or they pretend not to see it. They played no role whatsoever. They put delusion to work for them.
Delusion does serve a purpose.
To hear them tell it, one day, they were just walking down the street and out of nowhere came a bad marriage, upside down mortgages, estranged kids, a putrid job, angry family members … and so on.
We often live as if our lives have lives of their own.
Okay, I know. We DO indeed get hit by curveballs. Crap does happen. It’s often unavoidable. But don’t we play a role in many of the things that happen in our lives AND in the world? We’re not living in a vacuum, are we?
I cannot believe I wrote all of this. What’s the point? Is this going to change anything? I certainly could’ve been doing something more productive.
This is ridiculous.
Shouldn’t I be out there living my life rather than writing about life? I just don’t understand it.
I mean … How did I get here?
Do you by any chance know a good therapist?