If I Do, Then It Will. That was the name of a game. How it went was like this: If I lose 20 pounds, then I will be happy. Or my father will come back. The people who have been lost to me will reappear like they’d been out having massages or dinner, perhaps just stepping in from the cold, Hello Jen! We’ve missed you. You look so thin.
If I am a good person then it will fix me. If I do, then it will.
I have notes scattered throughout all my old college notebooks regarding the rules of this game. Don’t eat. Be good. Do your work. Run for one hour.
The game never worked. If never preceded then. In fact, it usually precluded it. I starved myself and instead of the desired effect of being happy, I became a zombie. I’d sleep walk through my days and eat in my sleep. I hated myself. The revenant never woke. My life never became ordered like I’d imagined. I was a bad person and as soon as someone found me out, that’s it, I’d be done. I was a game-player, sleeping-walking and night-eating my way through my pathetic life.
The game is so tempting. It’s like gambling. This time I will win and it will all be different! This is the last time.
The truth is that there is no reward system.
You do or you do not and it’s all for naught. There is nothing waiting for you.
There is no If I do, then it will so you must do and do, or not do, for whatever reasons you have or don’t have, and not because you think there will be any sort of prize. Let me be the last to tell you, there won’t be.
The game I invented will break your heart.
No one comes back from the dead. And no matter how skinny or fat you are, you are there, right there. See yourself? That’s you. You. You are the same you. The pain doesn’t disappear unless you take it by the throat and talk to it. It does not go by way of bribing. The game does not work. The game sucks.
There is no game.
You must do things because you love.
The other night I read on Facebook that an old friend, a man I’d known casually for over 15 years, had been evicted and was homeless. He’d written that he desperately needed somewhere to sleep that night. My husband was still in London but I couldn’t not do anything. I’d called the friend, who is 70 years old by the way, and offered him my couch. My husband wasn’t happy, as I’d knew be the case, but I’d made a choice.
It was an awkward two days. He is 70 and I actually don’t know him that well.
I did it out of love. I saw someone who said I am desperate and I said I am here.
All of the times I was playing The If I Do, Then It Will game it was never out of love. It was out of necessity. I was so miserable that I was willing to gamble anything to find pockets of happiness no matter what I had to bet.
Often I would forget to breathe and then I’d spend the next few breaths catching up on the last ones so I was always behind a breath or two like someone that seemed desperate for air.
Like someone who was always almost dying.
So I took my friend/aquaintance in knowing there was no guarantee after this. That is what the game was about, isn’t it? Guarantees.
If I starve myself, then I can achieve things.
All I hoped to achieve by taking him in was giving him a bed for two nights. Much to the chagrin of my beloved husband, who was not at all happy with me, although he thought I was kind and compassionate. He didn’t want men in the house that he didn’t know when he wasn’t there. Which I get. And to which I still say You would have done the same thing.
Look, I can’t see that someone is desperate and walking the streets when I have a couch. Someone I know. It’s colder in L.A. then I can ever remember. The low today was 39 degrees in Santa Monica. I couldn’t let him just wander.
My friends said they could have.
We all went to dinner the other night (as the “homeless” friend was at my apartment without me being there, in fact) and they claimed they probably wouldn’t have done the same thing. I told them that they would have.
That’s how our hearts our wired: To care. To hurt. To bleed. To fall in love. To want to play the game of If I do, then It will because that game is meant to bring happiness. The goal is always May I be happy.
Most of us anyway.
I promised my husband that when he got back my friend would be off the sofa and I’d kept the promise. I can’t take my friend’s plight on but my instinct is to want to fix and help and heal and offer my sofa.
The revelation I had when I stopped playing my game of If I do Then It Will, was that what I operate from a place of love, there are no guarantees beyond this moment.
There’s the: Here’s my sofa.
There’s the: Here, have nice hot shower.
There’s the: You need a couple bucks?
There’s the: I love you. What can I do for you?
There the: I am doing this because I love myself now not because I think someone who has been dead 20 years will rise back up or I will suddenly be free of sorrow. It’s because I love myself now, in this moment. Not because I am waiting for a prize for being good.
If you or ever ever catch ourselves doing any of these things for any other reason than I love you or I care about you or I just want you to have a warm bed and maybe a hot chocolate then look in the mirror.
When you get to the mirror, reach out. Touch your face. It will be flat and cold as mirrors are. It will look like you but it won’t at the same time. You must know that beyond that glass, if you were to break it, is nothing. You are not there.
You are here.
So, fuck the mirror. Reach up and touch your face. And close your eyes.
What you feel is the face of someone who knows that no matter what is done, unless its done from love, it might as well be undone. Feel your own face. If you don’t love it by now you better realize that the game doesn’t work. That there is no prize. That you doing this, that, or the other thing won’t bring you a new face or a new heart or a new anything at all.
That if you do anything at all it must be for this.
What is this? you might ask. Or maybe you already understand.
This is love.
This is it.
Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. All of her events/workshops/retreats listed here.
I cannot even tell you how proud I am to know you. How wonderful it is watch you be you.
I am in recovery from an eating disorder, and I find myself playing a different version of the If/Then game.
“If I just show up to therapy, I will be less likely to use behaviors today.”
“If I keep myself busy enough, I can distract from the urges.”
“If I follow my meal plan, I won’t constantly feel sick and tired.”
“If I don’t myself, I will feel happier.”
On one hand, it works. I do what’s effective more often, and I have made great progress in my recovery. On the other hand, the underlying idea–“If I find the right algorithm, I can control myself”–greatly bothers me. I am not something to be systematized. I’m not going to be freed from this disorder by following a flowchart that tells me “If I take X action when I feel Y, I can stop myself from doing Z.” It is more insidious than that. I can do X (a positive, healthy thing) over and over, and Y (the pain) will persist. Or it will subside a bit, then rear its head a minute later. I cannot build myself impenetrable armor.
Through yoga I learnt the saying, “Act without expectation.” I try to remember this.
Reblogged this on McMahon Studio Wellness.
What we do does not create who we are it is an expression of who we are. Ultimately all our doings are an expression of love – even if they are presented in a distorted form. The only reason for doing anything is to experience ourselves as who we are at our deepest reality,(love) therefore it makes sense to do things from the perspective of love alone.The only prize is knowing and experiencing ourselves in a different way.
*tears* – so glad you were born. so glad to know you. <3