Breaking Free from Hopeful Illusion: The April Fool’s Edition

In the comic strip “Peanuts” the character Lucy is a bully, and perhaps her most famous mean trick is the football swipe: She tells Charlie Brown that she’ll hold the football for him, then swipes it away at the last minute and he falls. I hated this story line as a child. I got frustrated with Charlie Brown for falling for the same trick over and over. The first couple of times, I felt sorry for Charlie Brown, but I lost patience with him after that. I could not understand why he kept letting Lucy hold the ball for him.

Charlie Brown probably wanted to believe that Lucy could change. Maybe he couldn’t accept the idea that she truly got a kick out of humiliating him. Every time she promised that this time she wouldn’t pull the ball away, he wanted to believe it was true and every time he fell for it. He was stuck in a pattern of unhealthy optimism. Lucy was consistently Lucy, and if Charlie Brown could only have accepted that fact, he could have moved on and trusted someone else to hold the ball for him, leaving Lucy behind to trick and torture some other naive person.

Most of us have had a “Lucy” moment at some point in our lives. Mine was in my twenties when I dated a man who was unable to be there for me in the way I wanted him to be. There were many breakups and reconciliations, and my friends could not understand why I kept going back to this person, over and over again. Like Charlie Brown, I did not want to accept the fact that this man was not who I wished he was. Like Charlie Brown, I believed that he would change and then I’d feel betrayed when he didn’t. One such time, I complained to a friend about some horrible something he had done, hoping for sympathy, hoping she’d join me in demonizing him. Instead of sympathizing or demonizing, she patiently pointed out that he was consistently being himself, and she asked me why I stayed with him when I clearly wanted something he could not give me.

This response shocked me awake. Until that moment, my obsession with his inability to be there for me distracted me from being there for myself. I was addicted to the hope that he would change, much like a gambler is addicted to the hope that the gamble will bring the big win, much like Charlie Brown was addicted to the hope that this time, Lucy would be kind. The only way to break this sort of addiction is to face the painful but freeing truth. I finally faced the truth of my situation: I was with someone who, though attractive and sweet and even well-meaning, was never going to be with me in the way I wanted him to be. Once I accepted this truth, everything became clear and it felt like a spell had been broken. There was not even a smidgeon of temptation to stay and try make the relationship work, because once I saw the truth, I also saw that there wasn’t actually a relationship to begin with, just hope and illusion keeping me stuck. Letting go of illusion freed me to move forward into the reality of truth and I haven’t gotten stuck since.

If you are having a “Lucy” moment, it might be time to stop and take a look at your life. Do you invest your energy in something that consistently gives you the same unhappy result? What result are you are hoping for? Is what you are currently doing going to bring that result? If not, it is time to accept the truth of the situation. Prepare to have your world rocked.

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