Willie Nelson, performing at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California. Photo credit: Dwight McCann. (CC 2.5)
I have a new favorite song. Well at least it's my favorite for today, or this week anyway. This is a song that's currently my new mantra, a thought that's staying to the forefront of my consciousness.
The song/mantra is "It Gets Easier" from the new album entitled God's Problem Child, by Willie Nelson. The song starts out with the words "It gets easier as we get older..." And yes life can get easier, in many ways...
We've all experienced that things we learned got easier as we did them over and over again. Whether it was reading, writing, or walking, it got easier. And the same applies to habits we may have picked up along the way, good or bad. Whether the habit was being on time, or being late, it got easier. Whether the habit is following an exercise routine or a new diet, if we stick to it, it gets easier.
It gets easier to say 'not today'. It gets easier to say 'some other time'.
Learning to say "some other time" is a blessing of getting older, and one perhaps that it would have been a blessing to learn while younger in our life's journey. When we say "not today" to someone else's request, we get a chance to respect our own desires and needs, rather than putting other people's desires and needs first and discounting our own.
When we're younger, we sometimes get caught up in doing things to please others. And of course, some of that "not saying no" involves jobs and careers where we felt, rightly perhaps, that if we said no we'd get fired, or demoted. Or perhaps, we felt that the "love of our life" would no longer love us if we disagreed with them, or said no to what they wanted.
Yet as we get older, we may develop Willie Nelson's "I don't have to do one damn thing that I don't want to do" attitude. Perhaps you're retired or near retirement. Or perhaps you've been in a relationship, or without one, for so long that you finally don't feel the need to impress the other, or "make sure" they keep loving you. Or perhaps you've been in your relationship for so long that you finally feel safe and comfortable with being you and speaking your truth.
Saying "no, not today" also applies to doing what's right for us, to saying "yes, today" to our desires and needs, even when it displeases someone else. I've noticed so many times in life that when I'm true to myself, even if someone else wants me to make a different choice, it turns out for the best not just for me, but also for the other person involved. The best solution is a win-win when it is truly the right choice. Sometimes we don't see the "rightness" of it right away, but it usually becomes clear later.
One of my favorite lines in the song, being the rebel that I am, is "I don't have to do a damn thing that I don't want to do..." Now for some people that may sound selfish or self-serving, and yes it is! But is that really a bad thing? After all, we've all experienced not doing what we wanted while doing what the other person wanted, and then we ended up resenting it and the person too! Sometimes the other person ends up resenting it just as much. Actions not done from the heart leave a sour note or a bad vibe in the air and it can be felt by all.
I recall a situation during my first marriage: My husband wanted to go see a movie and I didn't. I was tired and just wanted to stay home and relax. However, since he wanted to go, I agreed. And it seems "everything" went wrong. We got caught in a traffic jam, I didn't like the movie, and we ended up arguing on the way there and on the way back. Hum. Not a very good outcome.
However, another time, I decided to honor my feelings and said, "No, I don't feel like going. You go ahead by yourself and go see the movie". What a different experience. I got to enjoy some "down time" at home alone, he got to go see a movie that he wanted to see, and we both ended up much happier. When he came home from the movie, he was happy, and I was happy, all because we both had been true to what was right for us individually. It was a win-win situation. We both got not just what we wanted, but what we needed.
When we try to force someone else to do what we want, or vice versa, it's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't fit. Yet sometimes we choose to compromise thinking we're "doing the right thing" and "loving the other so much that we do it for them". Yet the reverse side of that is loving ourselves so little that we ignore our needs and end up tired, frustrated, depressed, angry, etc. etc.
Now to clarify: Following your inner guidance, or "being true to yourself" is not always "selfish". A lot of times your inner guidance will encourage you to go out of your way to be kind to someone, or do something that you don't really "want to do". But, this too gets easier. The more you follow your heart's promptings, even at the risk of appearing foolish or being judged or doing it "against your will" (your ego), the easier it gets.
The more times you follow your heart and your intuition, the more you will trust yourself. Sometimes you will be prompted to give money to the person asking for it, and other times it won't feel right to do so. Other times, you'll be guided to stay away from that bar of chocolate (or other thing you're "trying" to resist eating), and other times it will feel OK to eat it in moderation. And at times you'll know it's for the best to compromise and go along with the other person's desires, while sometimes you just have to say no.
Each situation is different and needs to be dealt with honestly and intuitively. It's not always OK to say no, sometimes the right answer is "yes", and vice versa. But either way, it gets easier to do what's right as per your own inner compass, rather than doing what is expected of you or taking the easy way out. This doesn't mean doing the right thing is always difficult. There is no "cut and dried" rule for behavior... except one, in my opinion: Live according to your inner wisdom and loving heart.
Back to Willie Nelson's song: "it gets easier to watch the world fly by and tell it, I will catch up, but not today". What a blessing maturity brings. It gives us "permission" to take time off, to get off the merry-go-round, to just do what feels right for us. To not feel like we have to bend to meet other people's rules and requirements, but rather listen to our own guidance which leads us to true inner peace and well being.
So yes, it gets easier. But for it to do so, we have to be willing to listen to our inner voice that says "yes" or "no" depending on the situation. We have to be willing to put that voice before the one that says "you should" or "what will they think" or "what they want is always more important than what I want".
Being true to ourselves is the path to joy and inner peace. And the sooner we learn that in life, the happier we, and the people around us, will be.
And the song ends on a nostalgic and heart-wrenching tone...
"I don't have to do
one damn thing
that I don't want to do,
except for missing you,
and that won't go away."
The Infinite View offers tools and insights needed to help readers transform their understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com