Light Trumps Darkness

Dear Friend,
               Every day you wake up with this hole in your chest; an ever-expanding pit in that place where blood gets pumped around your body. Depression is a horrible feeling. It is that sticky black residue that remains after all hope has evaporated from your life. It’s hard to imagine happier days down the road because the thing with this ‘D’ feeling is that it gives you a sense of permanence to everything. Like nothing’s ever going to change. And ‘ ever’ is a word not to be taken lightly.
                I look at you and see parts of you die on the inside. It’s like I have an aerial view of a well-let city and then the power starts going off, one block at a time. God know in my heart, I wish I could switch the power back on, one block at a time. Make you realize that even though there’s been some darkness in your life, the time period was so small, it was inconsequential, like the seconds after the power goes out and before the back-up generator kicks in.
               I wish I could make you open your eyes wider and see there are still people out here who love you and care about you. Maybe they’re not the people you want them to be, but they’re the people you need them to be. And I wish you could see yourself through their eyes, our eyes, to see how much our lives have been made richer by your presence.
              I know your initial reaction to this dark fog inside is to shut out the world. But shutting out the world will not make this chasm in your chest any smaller. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other. It’s hard to open the blinds and let the sunlight in. But you’ve got to do it.
             Because light trumps darkness.
             Every. Single. Time.

Forging meaning out of moments

You string moments together and forge meaning out of them

that laugh they share when all their hearts are aching,

the knowing glance he throws that blatantly says, “You know and I know you know,”

but nobody could say a word out loud,

the unexpected laugh that breaks the silence,

the sense of pride when he wins the race

even though he’s the oldest one there by at least a decade,

their gleeful cries as the foamy ocean waves chases them,

the jaw tightening with frustration as he grips the steering wheel

the moment of truth in the sea of lies,

the palpable silence after she asks a direct question…

They’re called Kodak moments. In this day and age, people overcapture life moments and overshare them on twitter and instagram but we don’t really capture the feeling evoked during these moments. In our rush to record, we fail to feel enough. We fail to pause and contemplate the significance of each moment. How it can take a human connection forward…or not. We fail to understand that all we need is to string moments together and forge meaning out of them.

Tips on Building Self-Confidence

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but it’s just that I’ve been trying to live offline more than online this year, adding new experiences to my list, and opting to meet people face-to-face instead of hiding behind usernames and passwords. But it’s quite interesting how during my visit to Kenya this year, I met a lot of people who brought up my blog over and over again discussing possible topics I could write about.

So today I’m going to address one of those topics. One of my closest friends told me that her problem in life was with self-confidence. She said she didn’t even have the self-confidence to talk to customer service people on the phone, and the topic made me laugh because if I had enough self-confidence in my life, I’m not so sure I would have ever become a writer. It was because I found it difficult to connect with people and express myself that actually made me pick up a pen as a child.  So how was I to teach her on self-confidence, when I obviously needed a few lessons in that area myself?

But I’ll try.

My advice to her was to take risks and expose yourself to an experience over and over again regardless of how you feel about it. For instance, I personally have an issue talking to customer service myself, and until recently, I used to delegate that task every chance I got. But picking up the phone to talk to them, I realized that we avoid tasks like that because we dread we’d sound so stupid in front of these people, or we’re scared they’re going to judge us. And I suppose many people in my community would relate to that, because we grew up listening to people being judged all the time. Dialogues got dissected, behaviors got misinterpreted, lifestyles got judged…it was no wonder we were always scared of making a wrong move lest we step on a verbal land mine.

But it gets easier when you tell yourself to accept that feeling as normal, whether it is the fear of being judged or being seen as stupid, or deaf (which sometimes happens when you can’t understand what that customer service woman is actually saying). Accept that feeling uncomfortable is normal, and accept that you’re not perfect, so there’s no point in pretending to be perfect all the time.

Accept that you will make mistakes and you will be judged so be prepared for it and don’t sweat it. Whatever it is, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. People make mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. People move on. Again, taking into consideration our society, unfortunately, the communal memory of our people can astound you. You’ll hear people recalling someone else’s mistakes decades after they’ve made them.Why? In the decades you’ve been holding on to a grudge on whoever it was, Pluto got demoted so it’s no longer a planet, Japan’s coast moved 8 feet after the 2011 earthquake and over 30 new countries came into being (since 1990 at least). My point is, the world changes, and so do people. So cut others some slack.

 Empower yourself with knowledge and be more competent. The main thing that makes us lose self-confidence is when we don’t know. In some scenarios we don’t know what to say, how to behave, how the other person will perceive what we say. Not knowing makes us think, “Oh God, they’re going to think I’m so stupid.” So in order to negate this, learn. Sometimes learning is simply done by spending time with a self-confident person and seeing how they do it, how they deal with different scenarios.

Practice in low-risk scenarios. This is very useful advice for people who struggle with public speaking. To some, speaking in public can be quite a terrifying experience, especially when the audience consists of high-calibre people in your field. Just the idea of presenting something can make you sick to the stomach. So step number one is to know your stuff (previous point), and step number two is practice in front of your friends and family; people who won’t judge you so much and exist in your life to be supportive. Of course, shifting from a low-risk environment to a high-risk one is not going to be easy, but at least with practice you manage certain aspects like your nerves, or how you present the material…

Fake it until you make it. This deals with your body language. I personally struggle with this because I tend to act small, disappear into the wall every chance I get. But people who fake self-confidence feel that self-doubt rise inside them and yet they never fail to stride through the room, walk tall and speak loudly even if they knew that they’re not so sure about what they’re saying and even if they knew you knew they’re not sure about what they’re saying.

If you found this post useful, feel free to share with your friends.

istockphoto.com/donskarpo

istockphoto.com/donskarpo

Life’s like a folding ruler

istockphoto.com/mofles

We live in a world where the road of life is likened to a straight road set with milestones every few hours. Society has certain expectations of you, and sets a timeline to what you should be doing at what stage. So it becomes odd when an eighty four year old man enters the Guinness Book of Records for being the oldest person to start primary school [because he's a little too late]. And it becomes odd when you’re a guy or a girl who’s still single in your mid thirties. And it becomes odd when you decide to change your career halfway into it. And it becomes odd…

But as your life unfolds and you listen to the stories of others you realize the road of life is not straight. It’s tortuous, filled with curves and twists. You keep on taking the next step, totally clueless about what would appear in the bend ahead. And this uncertainty makes life scary. But it also makes life interesting.

Personally when I think of our life’s path, I like to think of a folding ruler. Of course, while an actual ruler measures distance, our lives are measured in time. Each section can rotate around a hinge and the final shape is determined by the angles at which you decide to set those sections. Just like there are many choices to pick from whenever you reach a certain crossroads of your life and your life’s narrative is determined by each one of those choices. Even not making a choice is considered a choice.

So own your choices and choose wisely.

Image from: istockphoto.com/mofles