Life is Not a Chinese menu…..
This is a rather weak analogy, a reference to the traditional Chinese menus [which still exist for some restaurants] where one can pick 'one from column A, one from column B]. A similarly poor food analogy would be a buffet in which life's various aspects [like platters] could be picked and chosen individually.
Some of us approach life with a hidden, unsatisfied hunger. We look at the lives of others and envy those aspects of their lives we feel are missing or deficient in our own. We believe we would leap at the opportunity to make new choices, to select differently from each column of life, as if that were even possible.
We have a tendency to see our own lives as unfulfilled, lacking in something–but we're not quite sure what it is. We tend to see the darkness, the frustration rather than the beauty and light.
We look around. We find that one family has more money, are more financially secure. We'd love to be in their situation. Others have achieved a degree of fame and recognition. Who wouldn't want that? Someone else seems happier in their career–we'd love to trade places with them in that regard. Another is healthier, more energetic than we are. We could certainly would pick better health from 'column A'. Another family seems to have children that are more settled in their personal and professional lives. That would clearly be a great choice as well.
Someone else has a more attractive spouse, another had richer parents who left them financially well-off. Another is a better golfer, tennis player, more personable, appears more 'content'. The list is literally endless.
When the scenario is laid out like this its a lot easier to understand how ridiculous it all appears.
Clearly, life is NOT A CHINESE MENU. We don't get to choose each item as if they existed in isolation for the others. Of course there IS much that we can choose. And people continually make new choices. They leave jobs, spouses, locations all the time. Yet there are other aspects of our lives over which we have little choice.
Jealousy and envy are always, and I repeat always corrupting influences.They are pure negative energy for those who 'go there'. The fact that they so naturally arise is itself interesting.
My point, if it remains unclear [and it probably does] is that many factors in life: money, love, occupation, family, happiness etc, are so interconnected and interwoven that they cannot be teased apart easily. We are a whole package, the 'full catastrophe' as some have borrowed before from Zorba the Greek's description of life.
Human nature is such that we tend to see those aspects of another's life which we envy, not always appreciating that we would not trade the totality of our life for that individual's.Notice how shocked we are when we learn that a celebrity or acquaintance who we believed to have 'everything' commits suicide or falls into a depression. We can never know the inner workings of anyone else's mind. We truly don't know, for instance, how they feel.
We fail to realize that what we all truly really seek is serenity, contentment, happiness. We also fail to realize that this elusive quality is not the sum total of these 'factors' from column A, B, or C anyway. Happiness is an elusive, interior quality, a state of mind and often diverges from what we believe will makes us happy. We also fail to realize that happiness, optimism can be learned. In effect, it can be a choice.
Life is not a Chinese menu. We all need to remind ourselves of how challenging and rewarding everyone's life is–that imperfection is built into the system. We don't need to 'choose' each item in our life, rather our ATTITUDE, itself a choice, will hopefully leave us more fulfilled.