My daily morning journey typically consists of the following three checkpoints: Gym, train station, work. (Think GTL but with less sunburn risk and more general real-world bleakness.)
My gym (which is actually just a workout room conveniently located in my low-rise apartment building – which, yes, I realize has everything to do with my forthcoming complaint) is about the size of an airplane bathroom. So when there are more than a couple residents in it at the same time, the competition for machines is fierce. Like, RuPaul’s-Drag-Race-with-a-side-of-Scar-from-The-Lion-King fierce.
And then there’s the Metro-North train, which I take from Connecticut into New York City. I start out standing amidst a sea of fellow commuters on the platform, all of us solitarily minding our own business – maybe even bopping our heads along to whatever motivational morning music happens to be blasting through our headphones on any given weekday (angsty female country for me, please!) – but then the train shows up and the scene turns into the freakin’ Hunger Games as everyone tries to push and shove their way inside first to snag a coveted three-seater.
And then there’s work, which… Well. I work in Manhattan. Enough said.
And so I don’t mean to sound whiny, but seriously – why? I get that there are only so many machines in a gym, and only so many seats on a train, but I can’t help but sense that all of this speaks to a much larger issue at hand.
The first time I heard about the dreary concept of a “scarcity mentality,” I was watching a conversation between Marianne Williamson and Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, in which they talked about pie. (Metaphorically, mostly. I think?) You see, pies are cut into slices, of which there can only be so many, and so if someone else gets a slice, then we might not get a slice for ourselves, and so therefore – thanks to pie – we are all conditioned to be in competition with everyone for everything.
Except not, because exhaustion. (And disappointment. And detachment. And disenchantment. And… I could keep going with the D-words, really, but I’ll stop now before I get carried away and spiral into what Mariah Carey would call a “woe-is-me diva on a tangent moment.”)
So back to Super Soul. Marianne and Oprah eventually got to talking about how the rules that exist for physical things (like pie) don’t necessarily hold true when applied on a spiritual level. Which means that, on a spiritual level, we can ALL. HAVE. PIE. We can even have multiples slices of pie! We can have multiple pies! (If you’re into that kind of thing.) It doesn’t matter.
When I watched this conversation for the first time, it resonated deeply. I felt liberated, like a lifetime of restrictive thoughts and dead weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This means I can let go of my irrational fear that all the authors in all the land are going to publish their (subpar) books before I do! I proclaimed to myself. There’s room for us all!
But then I kept running into roadblocks on my path to publication, which forced me to recognize that I always seem to love new age wisdom when things are going my way – but then bitterly return to Self-Pity Central once something (a literary rejection, for instance) comes along and screws with my plans.
Still, though, one has no choice but to recover and continue growing. And as I get older, I can feel the moments of self-pity lessening in both frequency and intensity. I can feel myself getting more and more confident in the fact that there is an infinite amount of pie – if we just have the right perception of it.
In other words, the pie probably isn’t the thing we need to compete for. I mean, how many times do we learn this? Me, I competed against a lot of people to get into a super-selective graduate program four years ago – and I got in! And? It didn’t make all my problems go away. Then I competed against a lot of people to get an internship at a hip television network – and I got it! And? It didn’t make all my problems go away. Then I competed against even more people to turn that internship into a full-time job – and I got it! And? It totally made my problems disappear once and for all. LOL — kidding. It actually created a cute little army of brand new ones.
And so it seems that the task isn’t to get consumed with competition for the things we think we need to complete us (be it a treadmill, seat on the train, job, or book deal), but rather to redefine what the pie is in the first place. Is it something that other people – “decision-makers” – have the power to control for us? Or is it something that we can control and generate from within? Does it require external validation? Or just a little self-love?
Some combination of all of the above?
Frankly, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. But the one thing I do know for sure is that whatever it is, it’s not going anywhere. And we don’t have to compete with anyone to get it.