One day, you stumble across a magic lamp in a back alley—you just had a feeling something special might be under a trash pile back there so you walked into the dark to check it out. You rub its golden side, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with magic lamps, and then, sure enough, out floats a genie.
“So do I get three wishes or what?” you ask the genie.
“No,” the genie says, “I’m not one of those omnipotent genies. I can’t give you whatever you want. All I can do is travel into your past and change it. If you so desire. Just say the word and I’ll reach back through space and time and alter a little something, or a big something. What would you have me do?”
Do you command the genie back into your past to change something? It’s a roundabout way of wondering: Is there a version of your life that you think might be better had something else happened that actually didn’t, or had something not happened that actually did? Which is, in turn, a disguised form of the question: Do you believe there is an unrealized version of you that might be better? Stumbling upon this question, another question now has to be asked: How could you possibly be better than you are now?
Perhaps the only better version of yourself is the one who is capable of loving even more than you are now. Forget about being wittier or wiser. Forget about improving your body, as if that were possible. Forget about getting more money and power. Forget about getting altogether, and consider love. What is it? What if the only better version of you is the one who can embody more of whatever love is. Include more. Stand more. Care for more. Whatever or whoever you reject or loathe or get annoyed by now, the better one would respond in and by and for love instead. That’s the better one, the one who doesn’t get snagged by pettiness, doesn’t get sucked into fear, doesn’t shut down from believing in Not Enough—that there’s not enough time to love, not enough money to love, not enough energy to love. Believing that you are not enough to love. The better one doesn’t believe that. The better one loves.
If that is indeed the only possible better version of you, then this is good news, because you don’t need a genie to become that better one. That one is available now, waiting for your welcome. Every thing that triggers you, that is the invitation to welcome that better one, and become it. When you feel the hate inside you, the aversion, the judgments, that’s the better one asking to be midwifed into being. Commanding the genie back into your past to change something with the hopes that it might make you some better version of yourself neglects the fact that becoming better, becoming love, is work. Is labor. And that labor is always now.
And the quiet part of you that actually believes there is a better version of yourself out there, the part of you that is ashamed of yourself as you are now—horrified at your own pettiness, humiliated by the judgmental tyrant inside you, exasperated at just how limited you seem to be, overwhelmed by your smallness, all the ways you choose not to love but to hide instead, or hoard, or harass, in your own private mind or in the outside world—that part of you that wishes you were the better one and not the one that you are now, that is the one that wants and needs to be loved. And, incidentally, that’s how you become the better one, the one who is capable of loving more, by loving who you are now, exactly as you are now, including the part of you that wishes you weren’t you, that wishes your life wasn’t what it is. Especially that part.
So, you didn’t find a magic lamp in some dark alley, and there was never a genie. You don’t need the genie because you are the genie. Now what?