We don’t notice it most of the time, but a lot of what we do is based on receiving awards or avoiding consequences. We want to support ourselves and eventually retire, so we go to a job and deal with the demands and stress for the reward of having other things we want, either now or in the future. Or perhaps we want to prevent something bad from happening: we take our maintenance medications, go to doctor’s checkups, diet and exercise to avoid the consequence of feeling bad, poor health, or dying too young. Either way, it’s part of being a responsible adult. We call it long range planning, looking at the big picture, and responsibility.
Sometimes, those compromises can grind on you. This can especially be true if you feel that there’s too much compromise and not enough reward to keep you motivated. Case in point: when your job goes into it’s busy season, when you get sick, or when you haven’t put anything in your mouth that you actually want to eat in nearly a week, and all you want is a cheeseburger. Especially if you want said cheeseburger because your job is busy, you have a sinus infection, something else in the house broke and needs repairs this weekend, you have a new novel burning in your brain and no time to write it, and all social media has is people bragging about summer break and being on vacation.
Can you say last week?
Other times, consequences come from refusing to compromise. You don’t want to be bothered with something, so you put it off until you feel like it. The problem is that there was a deadline with no grace period, and you missed a great opportunity. Or you have a penalty to pay now. Or you lose something. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a little late: that deadline exists for a reason, and it’s not flexible. You thought it was, and you were wrong. I use deadlines as an example of the consequence of not compromising because this is where I see it most often. It’s incredible that we have these smartphones that we are glued to all the time, but we don’t use the calendar and reminder apps to meet deadlines.
I’m not being holier-than-though. It happens to us all. Whether the compromises are rubbing you raw, or you didn’t do it when you should have and now you’re paying the price, we can’t escape it and life smacks us all with it repeatedly. These pressure points and consequences are one thing that drives my fiction. It really isn’t a surprise that I got an idea for a new novel when work was exploding, bacteria was running amok in my sinuses, and I was falling behind on my responsibilities because I felt like crap. What was there to inspire me while I was lounging around Disneyworld in May? As somebody posted on Twitter earlier this week, it’s the hard times that inspire creativity. Indeed, writing (fiction and non-fiction) is based on conflict. Writers work out their issues by projecting them into outlines, plots, setting, and characters. Readers work it out by escaping into a book (or TV show, or movie) and bringing those messages into their own lives. Reality really does mirror fiction when it comes to the compromises we make to have the life we want.
One thing I fear is that this truth is becoming lost in this world. It’s not just the consequences of refusing to budge off what you want ‘right now.’ I see a lot of people walking away from situations because there’s some minor thing that they feel they can’t deal with anymore, and they make a major issue out of a minor nuisance by losing their patience. This is dangerous, because nothing in life is perfect and once some things are gone, they’re gone and won’t come back. In fact, when those compromises start to rub you the wrong way, it’s often because of a temporary situation that will pass in time, if you’re patient and deal with it correctly. All things pass in time. The important thing to realize is when you’re dealing with a temporary situation that will pass, or a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. And if it is a bigger issue, then it’s important to act with discernment and wisdom, neither of which are at their peak when you’re angry or frustrated.
My frustration with compromises were caused by temporary situations that are passing even as I type this blog, thankfully. But I did make two important realizations from these past couple of weeks: first, refusal to make wise compromises will be a major plot element in Broken Time; and second, probiotics don’t do me any favors. But that second issue is better not to blog about!
Some people think compromise shouldn’t be part of life, but the truth is that we do it every day because there’s no such thing as life without limits. We live in a real world with real people, and as such there are always boundaries, rules, and yes even those cursed deadlines that are part of being a part of this world. They don’t go away if you ignore them. They cause consequences that reproduce – and nobody’s got time for that! Life is a careful balancing act of decision and discernment to achieve the best results possible both now and in the future.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow, and a wonderful weekend.