(image courtesy of Google images)
reality check (noun) : an occasion on which one is reminded of the state of things in the real world. (from Google dictionary)
reality check (noun) : a word or phrase used to bring a person back into the life of those around them, sometimes used to smash hopes and dreams. (from urbandictionary.com)
Reality checks can be harsh. In all actuality, I once described a reality check as being similar to a brick to the face. The sudden realization, the slap or bite of reality, can often be a very hard and bitter pill to swallow. (An interesting side note: The idea of the reality pill was popularized in science fiction culture and was derived from the 1999 film The Matrix. The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, are pop culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue). In the movie, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix. The red pill would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the “real world”. information from Wikipedia.org)
From my perspective, I’ve noted that reality checks often occur when we believe things to be a certain way, when in actuality they are not. In our mind (in our world, if you wish), we truly believe these things to be true. Maybe we are naïve, maybe we are wearing the proverbial rose-coloured glasses, or maybe we have even been fooled (tricked, lied to) into believing them. Sometimes reality checks are given out by others, sometimes we arrive at them ourselves. At times, reality checks can be enlightening, other times they can be devastating. The reality pill can be a difficult pill to swallow.
In considering my conversations with friends and loved ones, I have noted that the suddenness of an abrupt reality check has been extra cruel as of late. It may seem that we are cruising along on the highway of life when suddenly we are hit with a flat tire. The reality check is not the flat tire, however, because those things do happen just as life happens. Where the reality lies is in the fact that the help needed to fix the flat tire is not available, or is not willing to be available, to help. That, itself, is the bite of reality; when we are disappointed by the actions of others it is often because we would be willing to do so much more for them.
For some of us, we are givers. We give and give and give until there is almost nothing (if not nothing) left for ourselves. Friends and family may need us and may lean on us to provide emotional or even financial support to them on a continuous basis. We love, so we help. Unfortunately, the reality check of ‘helping’ is that there are also many, many takers in the world. Some will take and take and take from us without ever being thankful or appreciative (or, at least without demonstrating it sincerely), let alone returning any of that good back to us.
There may also come a time when reality hits that we must be willing to see things and people as they are, rather than as we hope, wish, or expect them to be. That also can be a difficult pill to swallow. It is especially hard when someone disappoints and hurts us. Perhaps something has been done that is hypocritical or has betrayed our trust, maybe our heart has even been broken. We may even begin to question ourselves and doubt our own instincts – ‘How could I have been so foolish to have trusted him?’, ‘How could I not have seen this coming?’, ‘Why was I so willing to believe the best about her?’
It could also be that maybe we have invested a huge amount of time, energy, and focus into a friendship or relationship only to be pushed aside when we are no longer needed. The reality may hit that while we truly believed that we could rely on that person, he/she was never capable of being the kind of friend that we were to him or her. This is often a sad, but necessary, realization to face and with it comes a huge amount of disappointment and letdown. We may feel embarrassed for having been played for a fool. Perhaps placing expectations on the friendship or relationship may have even been its undoing. But, having said that, there isn’t anything wrong in expecting fair treatment from others or expecting to be treated with the same respect which we give to others either.
Friends, reality checks are not always bad. There comes with the bite of reality a bittersweet realization and clarity. We may experience disappointment in having put ourselves in the position to be let down, but we can learn a valuable lesson from the experience. We can move forward with our eyes wide open. We can lessen our expectations on situations, friendships, and relationships and accept people and things the way they are, not the way we want them to be. This acceptance may also lead to an understanding that the friendship or situation cannot continue in the same direction as well. We can let things take their course and happen the way the way they are meant to happen, all the while keeping this newfound reality in check. The noise and drama can stop – we can accept the bite, we don’t have to like it but we need to accept it, and move on towards healing in a quieter frame of mind. Life becomes easier when you accept an apology you never got. (Robert Brault)
The bittersweet bite of reality can be an opportunity where we take a closer look at ourselves and how we handle conflict and disappointments in our lives. I am strong because I’ve been weak. I am fearless because I have been afraid. I am wise because I have been foolish. (Anonymous) The acceptance of the bite may take time, as most things do, but after all is said and done, if we look at the reality check as an opportunity to learn and grow we can become a stronger, braver, wiser person because of it.