As much as I may not want to admit it, sometimes my husband is right. If I’m being truthful, I have to give him credit. And one of things I must accept is that German, his first language, has some really great words. Words like Handschuh (which means glove, but literally translates as hand-shoe) or Kopfkino (which describes the images in your head — both positive and negative — that you use to play out all kinds of scenarios; literally it translates as head-cinema). And then there’s one of my favorites: Futterneid.
Futter means feed, as in the food you give an animal, and Neid means envy. So, "feed-envy."
Futterneid describes that feeling when you’re at a restaurant and the food comes and you wish you had ordered the dish that someone else got. Your food looks okay. Theirs looks delicious.
As in food, so in life.
We all have probably experienced moments of thinking, or at least wondering, if perhaps we made a wrong turn, went the wrong way, made the wrong decision. Wrong job. Wrong partner. Wrong town. Wrong education. Wrong family. Wrong friends. Wrong wrong wrong.
We see others who didn’t have our life and we think they did it better, they are better. And that this is why we’re miserable. Because they didn’t make the wrong turn. And we did.
But here’s the problem with that thinking: It’s just wrong.
There is no way to make a wrong decision.
Let that sink in for a moment: you never made and never will make a wrong decision. Yes, every decision has consequences, and perhaps you didn’t like the consequences you received. But then, that decision provided you with a very important learning experience: You now know what to do in the future, if you want to avoid that particular outcome in a similar situation. You have the understanding of the consequences and the awareness of your own power in this situation. You can make another decision next time. And this understanding is priceless. Without it, you would not know the path of joy.
Since you can’t make any wrong decisions, you are always on your path. You are never NOT on your path. But you do have a choice of whether you take the path of joy or the path of misery.
The joy path is the path you take when you listen to your own inner guidance, follow what feels right to you inside. On this path, doors open that you didn’t even see. Time relaxes. What you need presents itself to you. The path opens up in front of you and you just step forward.
The misery path is what you choose when you listen to anyone other than your inner self for guidance. This is the path of choosing against what your inner wisdom says. This is the path of listening to the outer noise: cultural norms, family, friends, the voice of obligation. This is the path of becoming an accountant when you really want to be a dancer. Or vice versa.
Whichever path you choose, the Universe will support you. It is always supporting you. But the support may not look like what you think support should look like, depending on which path you are on.
If you choose against yourself, against what brings you joy and inspiration, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. If you’re choosing the path of accounting when your inspiration is in dance, the Universe may have to take all sorts of extreme measures to help you become more honest with yourself, more attuned to your own joy and more open to following your inner guidance. This may present itself as doors of opportunity shutting, feeling lost, taking on too much work, struggling, not allowing yourself to rest, thinking that thinking will solve your problems.
Choosing the joy path doesn’t mean it will always work out exactly how you wanted or predicted. You will still have challenges to help you clarify, focus and master yourself. But the joy path significantly increases the possibility of things working out better, easier and more relaxed than you could imagine.
In the end, though, even this doesn’t matter. Because either way, you are only going to one destination: back to your joyful self. Back to your path of joy and inspiration. The Universe uses every moment and every situation to help you come back to your joyful self. If it needs to set up guard rails, it will make things difficult. But it’s only difficult so that you realize what you’re doing to yourself – the misery you’re putting yourself in -- and decide you’re done with it. In this way, all outcomes are perfect outcomes, leading you to a better, more joyful, simple, easy, orderly, beautiful version of yourself.
Let go of trying to be something different from who you are, trying to be someone other than who you are or thinking that you made any mistakes in your life. When you think like that, you’re missing all of the wonderful opportunities in front of you to be yourself and follow your own inspiration, right now. You are in the exact right place to do that right now. Now. Now. Now. Even now. Or…Now.
The Universe is playing the long game. It has all of infinity to wait. Even if you choose against yourself for decades and lifetimes, you will eventually get tired of that misery and come back to the path of joy and inspiration. And it will have been perfect. When all other options have been exhausted and there’s nowhere else to turn, you will finally, consciously choose joy.
So take your time. Be miserable. Enjoy it.
Hate others for what they have. No problem.
Just keep in mind that when you’re ready to realign yourself with joy, you will get a meal more delicious than you even knew was possible.
* A version of this post was originally published in the Redding Sentinel, Redding, CT