There are times when you wish you’ll wake up and all the pieces of your broken life have somehow come together to form a beautiful mosaic, but until then you’ll keep looking at them all scattered across the floor. Maybe you should collect them at least, put them all in one place, so they wouldn’t hurt anyone. But what if you no longer had the energy to do that?
They call you cold-hearted but you’re surprised at their mention of the word ‘heart’ because they’ve each taken a piece of it and never returned it. There’s a story behind every behavior. There’s always a story. The trick is to know the story and then you’ll be able to understand. Understand the why and the how and the who…who will matter and who never will.
But just because the story exists doesn’t mean you’re obliged to tell it. Something happens and people’s initial reaction is to explain themselves, to give an excuse, to tell the story. What if you reach a point where you really don’t care what the other person thinks? What if you reach a point where you can say, “I don’t need to explain myself to you. Actually – and I can’t emphasize this enough – I simply don’t want to.”
Everybody has a gravity field around them. Our problem is we try to pull others into our own gravity field. That explains the masks people wear and all the lies they conjure just so others would accept them. What if we actually accept that our own gravitational field is more than enough?
Today’s wish for you comes from the book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware, “I wish you’d have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.”
Recently, I wrote about the importance of tuning into your emotions. What if the most rampant emotion you’ve been experiencing lately is that of frustration and hopelessness? Maybe you want to do something – anything – to change something in your reality but you can’t. How do you deal with that?
1) Go on vacation.
It sounds counterintuitive. You’re obviously having a life crisis, and you’re trying to fix it. Dropping everything and going on vacation looks like you’re running away, and it’s easy to imagine there’s no point since everything’s just going to be the same once you’re back. But here’s the thing. Yes, maybe everything would be the same, but you won’t. In response to a similar situation, I remember someone telling me, “You’re feeling this way because you’re in the middle of storm. When you get out of the storm your perspective changes and you’ll think differently about it.” Taking a break from your daily life and unplugging from your routine not only gives you a time-out from whatever it is that is troubling you, but it could even expand your horizon and hand you a possible solution.
2) Think it through. Ok, you’re feeling frustrated about something, and you want to stop feeling frustrated. You wish you can go on a vacation but a break just can’t be caught. Think your feelings through. Are you truly helpless? Is there really nothing you can do about whatever it is that’s frustrating you? Discuss it with someone you trust and get a different opinion.
Alternatively, write it down. A friend of mine asked about journaling. Don’t you see it as a waste of time? They asked.
I told them, “You know what’s a waste of time? Keeping everything in my head, because I know I can really obsess over things for a long time.” It sometimes feels like my brain is inside a blender that’s continuously on. Until I write about it, that is. But I told them journaling isn’t for everybody. Some people talk through whatever bothers them. It’s just that because they tend to ramble, they really need a patient friend to listen to every idea that crosses their minds. My friend said they can’t always talk about stuff, and they didn’t have the patience for writing. I ended up introducing them to mindmapping and that seems to be working for moments when they need to take their brain out of the blender.
3) Accept that some things are within your control and other things aren’t. Define the boundary between your circle of influence(things you can control) and circle of concern (things that matter to you but you can’t control)[ as was made famous by Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People]. Once you define your boundary, you need to accept that there are some things that will frustrate you but you can’t do anything about them, and that’s just the way the world works. Or as they say in urdu, dunya dari.
4) Do laundry with gusto. Turn your frustration to positive energy. Since you’re helpless about that big annoying thing you can’t do anything about, focus on the small stuff. Decluttering. Spring Cleaning. Do something, even if it is mindless.
5) Be present. Stimulate your senses. Live in the now. A lot of your frustrations happen when you’re inside your head too much. But the moment you start engaging with the world through your senses, it’s easier to let go of your worries. Listen to a baby laugh, have a tasty meal and savor the flavor, hug a teddy bear, walk through a Bath& Body Works store or as cliched as it might sound, wake up and smell the flowers.
So the other day, one of my friends was posting their pictures on facebook. “What are you doing?”
“Posting my pictures from a recent business trip.”
“So that my friends will think I’m really successful.”
“Do you think you’re successful?”
You can imagine what the answer to that was.
But did it matter? Apparently, external validation was more important here.
Why is it that we seek external validation? In reality, it shouldn’t really mean much because when we close that door, we know exactly how our lives are, and how we are on the inside. Just because someone else thinks we’re happy or successful, it doesn’t mean we’ll cry less tears. And yet it’s human nature to seek validation. At some point we might have been seeking it offline, nowadays, our self-worth is measured by the number of likes our pictures get.
In the sunnah, there is a duaa someone says if someone else praises them. It translates to, “O Allah, make me better than what they think of me, and forgive me for what they do not know about me, and do not take me to account for what they say about me.”
It makes one internalize the importance of how they are on the inside vs. the image or perception that others have of them. So my message today is simple, before you post your pictures on facebook, ask yourself why? Be true to yourself and don’t project an image of the person you’re not just so that people will go like, “WOOOOW!” because at the end of the day, there’s a swahili saying that goes like, “The thief has forty days (before he gets caught)”…Eventually you will find out that you aren’t really fooling anybody. But yourself, maybe.
“This new city, so extravagantly ruthless and lonely did not take me in kindly. I am still learning how to survive with a blizzard in my chest.
Strong winds that built even stronger lungs, I have learned to inhale ice
and somehow not die.
Tell me, is that not extraordinary? I am such a summer thing. Yet I have remained. I have lived to see the sun again
I left to find a home
outside of what felt comfortable to me
and I found that home in me
like a season I had never seen
I was not lost. Or running.
I just needed to relocate my being.
Just needed to fly without fear, trust my heart’s navigation
this beating compass has never failed me.
I am here.
Right where I need to be.
I am so
— Aman Batra
For some reason this piece resonated with me. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to endure New England’s winter recently. Or maybe it was the concept of finding a home within myself. For some reason I remembered The Alchemist and how people liked it not because of all the surreal mystical scenes but because of the concept that, “Wherever your heart is, there’s your treasure.” And how this Santiago had to go on this adventure to find his treasure only to discover that it was back home.
Things go full circle sometimes. Not always. Sometimes. And when it does, you find yourself thinking, why am I surprised by this when I’ve been here before? But that’s the nature of 360-degree changes. Talking about changes, when people make decisions, it’s very easy to assume that situations are going to stay the same, but we fail to see the transient nature of life. No, let me rephrase that. We don’t fail to see the transience, we choose to ignore it. People change with time, circumstances change with time, you change with time.
That’s the main reason why I don’t value the idea of promises much. I don’t make them, and don’t expect to receive them. How can you make a promise when there’s so much uncertainty in life? Uncertainty gives birth to worry and worry is not healthy. I would know because I’m a chronic worrier and I’ve had to collect techniques through my life to deal with it.
The easiest one?
Look at the stars.
Ok, I know we live in cities nowadays, so finding the stars might be hard. Find the moon instead. Actually looking up at the sky might be enough. Or imagining you’re looking up at the sky might be enough. God knows I’ve seen many variations of the sky. Downcast, foggy, clear blue, gradations of color associated with sunrises and sunsets. But all skies have this in common; not only do they make you breathless with awe, they inspire you to paint them with your dreams. They also make you get over yourself, because seriously, the world doesn’t revolve around you. If you think about it, you’re the only person thinking about you. Nobody really thinks about you as much as you think, and that feeling of insignificance can be surprisingly liberating.
You know the problem with us people. A lot of times we want to understand why. “I did everything right. I followed all the rules. Why did this happen to me?” We seek closure when it comes to some of our personal life narratives, and thinking about it wastes a lot of mental energy, and time. Someone I know once told me, “It took me a decade and a trip half-way across the globe to find closure.” And since then I’ve learned that some answers don’t appear to us immediately. They take time. Maybe ten years, maybe never. Maybe I need to take that trip half-way across the globe, but dude, where’s the money?
It doesn’t matter. Until the answer appears to us, just let it go and move on.