I do the right things most of the time. I think the right thoughts – okay, I still have to do cognitive and dialectic work to counter the neurotic inside voices, but I’m trying. I make the right choices. I’m basically a good person and I’m trying to be a better one.
I want a reward for my efforts, despite life not promising that.
I really do try to feel selfless about the whole thing because recovery and philosophical pursuits have been nothing but helpful and advantageous but sometimes it’s hard not to want. Sometimes it’s hard not to think you deserve something simply because your history has crummy bits and life can be hard. Doesn’t the universe owe you? (I also use this logic to justify unnecessary purchases – I deserve a boxed set of hand cream.)
Yes, I know, virtue is its own reward. Living well is an end in itself. At least a lot of people say that. It’s true, too; I believe it most of the time. Living the good life is all you need, and so on and so on.
But sometimes the idea that virtue is its own reward irritates. Sometimes, trying to get better is fatiguing. And sometimes, I want or feel entitled to more.
I swear I have a split brain. There is the evolved, enlightened, remaining unattached to outcomes, live in the moment, seize the day me, and the other, unrealistic, impulsive, labile, maturity of a teenager and self-control of a toddler, struggling with mental illnesses me. I try hard to keep the latter under control but I hear from her fairly often.
(Side note: I wonder if there are people out there who feel wholly cohesive, who aren’t made up of a whole bunch of other people? I would find it helpful to be able to slip into other people’s brains and get a sense for how they work. It would be nice to receive some validation, a sense that in this regard, we are all the same.)
It’s the other me is that tells me I deserve a reward. She wants praise, props, and tangible confirmation from the universe that I’m on the right path. She needs and feels entitled to external validation.
I’m satisfied with the choices I’m making a lot of the time but that little voice is still there in the background, whining. Telling me that I deserve more. Telling me my reward should be concrete, something more than internal peace and life satisfaction.
Because aren’t we entitled to something for all our hard work?
Shouldn’t life come with a prize?
Not really. Life’s not a game so there’s nothing “out there” to win. It’s also not a punishment, nor is it a test. It simply is. The thing is sufficient unto itself.
The voice that pushes for external validation and proof of good work, the one that feels a reward is owed for living a good life is an immature voice. Demanding concrete proof that doing the right things and making the right choices is the correct course of action demonstrates a continued missing of the point about the things it takes to make and have a good life.
It’s just that sometimes, a shiny blue ribbon or a fifty-five-inch smart television dropped off on my doorstep would be nice.