For Writers Island prompt: Beguile
Did my usual trip to the Dictionary: Beguile:
verb (used with object), -guiled, -guil·ing.
1. to influence by trickery, flattery, etc.; mislead; delude
2. to take away from by cheating or deceiving (usually followed by of ): to be beguiled of money.
3. to charm or divert: a multitude of attractions to beguile the tourist.
4. to pass (time) pleasantly: beguiling the long afternoon with a good book.
We don’t like to be tricked, to be made to look foolish. Yet, many of us pay good money to sit and watch a magician perform his tricks, delighting in his/her ability to deceive us. And if he/she does a really good job, we even applaud that skill and ability at trickery.
On the same token, we are very quick to criticize and demean anyone with authority or prestige who does not live up to what we consider the standards of ‘fair’ play. And some of us expend a great deal of energy looking for just such behavior and howl in righteous delight when it is exposed, screaming for blood in compensation for our wounded expectations.
We have all heard stories of men and women who have spent years in prison, only to be found innocent by means of better technology. We have also found stories, long after the fact, that prove a man or woman of high esteem to have had the morals of an alley cat. What, if anything, does that all mean?
Last week, I wrote of That Illusive Safe Place. One of my commenters spoke of the spin that is forever put on things, people, and incidents that makes safety irrelevent. And I agreed with him. But, today I want to speak of how each of us, as individuals, puts our own singular spin on things, and how that in turn might be why we are so easily beguiled.
I recently spent time and energy doing a project. I chose to do the project, knowing it might be difficult, maybe even impossible. And my concept of the project changed even in the process of doing it. The project went well, far better than I had expected, and then I made a mistake. I leapt to a conclusion, based on my feelings. I decided on an outcome, the one I wanted to see. The one I wanted to have happen. And my expectations became the only outcome I would accept.
Of course, that wasn’t the outcome. My first response went deep, and then I wasted some time and energy trying to figure out why I didn’t get what I wanted, blaming others, feeling cheated somehow, disappointed, and wanting to quit the whole scene. However, I knew that was old behavior: run away and lick wounds, withdraw, isolate.
So, instead, I went right back and did what I had been doing all along. But, I also talked about my feelings with a good friend, and spent some time writing about all of it in my journal. And within a very short time, I found the place where I had made that leap into my own expectations. That place where I had decided on the only acceptable outcome that would satisfy me. In other words, that place where I became the one who put a spin on things.
I had been all ready to deny what I had accomplished. I finished the project. I had done a good job, better than any I had first considered possible. I had created something I could take pride in. Yet, I was poised to throw it all out the window because I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. No one had beguiled me, but me.
The project was simply the next step in my own journey. I was the one who needed to see that I could do it, finish it in a timely fashion, under pressure, and know that I had done the best job possible despite the obstacles. That was the outcome. And I almost missed seeing it, because I wanted something else, something personal. That doesn’t mean I won’t get what I wanted. That may still happen some time in the future, on another part of my journey. And, because I didn’t withdraw, didn’t isolate, but continued to move through it, I can be satisfied with that outcome. Actually pat myself on the back for it.
When we pay to watch a magician, we agree that during that time we will suspend our right to a specific outcome. We agree to be beguiled and many times are delighted to be. When we cry for blood because our expectations have not been born out, we forget that everyone is human, makes choices, takes chances, and is on their own journey, separate from our own. Perhaps we should cry for justice, rather than blood, making sure we first define what we mean by that, and then spend some time examining our own expectations.
Expectations are good things. They are formed by our dreams and the way we see and partake in the world around us. But, like all things, they have an underside, a shadow aspect. It is best to remember that we all have expectations. Even better if we realize that they can be a beguiling sort of magic act that can take us far away from whatever path we may have chosen.
A regular periodic session of self-talk might work well here. What am I really expecting from this or that thing I am doing? Are my expectations in accordance with any outcome that occurs? Are my personal expectations beguiling me, taking me where I do not want to go? Do I even know what my personal expectations are?