A while back, somebody started the #100happydays project that asked the question, ,”Can you be happy 100 days in a row?”
The idea is quite interesting as it made people appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Soon social media sites were filled with pictures of coffee and books and cats and of course…selfies.
But if you really think about it, it’s quite an unrealistic expectation; staying happy for a 100 days in a row?
Life goes in cycles. There’ll be good days, not-so-good days and outright horrible days you wish you can forget and delete from your memory. There’ll be days when the alarm will go off and all you’ll want to do is throw it across the room; when no matter how much coffee you have you can’t seem to stay awake; when you just need everyone to go away and leave you alone. And when they do, you sit and brood about why you’re so alone…
My point is, there’ll always be ups and downs. It’s not really about having a 100 happy days in a row, but rather about having a repository of little things to help buffer you from the radioactive effects of the not-so-happy days. I say radioactive because sometimes one bad incident can have a long lasting effect on you; it causes a sort of mental tumor so you don’t think the same about something anymore.
Let’s take an example. I’ve always been used to seeing bodies of water wherever I go. It could be a lake or a river or an ocean…For the longest time, the Indian Ocean was the basis of one of my anxiety-reducing techniques. I would go into details about the technique but not today. Anyhow, come 2004, and the videos of the Tsunami spread around the media….and it took me a very long time to get over these mental images. Sitting down on the fence right outside of Fort Jesus in Mombasa was no longer something I enjoyed doing. It just made me anxious to leave.
It took a while to get over it.
So I guess the take-home lesson is to focus on the happy moments more than the unhappy ones, but don’t pretend the unhappy ones don’t exist because that’s just another way of numbing your emotions and as a great writer once said, “Pain demands to be felt.“
Isn’t it funny how people seem to be experts at giving you advice on how you should lead your life, and yet when it comes to their own lives they seem to be unsure themselves? I think people in general need to enroll in a “MYOB” course. In case you’re wondering what that stands for, google it. Yet we’re all guilty of it at times; telling people what’s best for them or because we’ve gone through something similar or because we think we’re the experts. People always suffer from this close to graduation; “Get a job,” “Go to grad school”, “Get married”. Nobody talks about traveling to India and asking a young boy begging on the streets, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” the answer to which inspired, “Pencils of Promise.”
So what are the few lessons that would need to be enforced in an “MYOB” course?
1) Recognize that you don’t really know the whole story. A lot of times people reach conclusions and make judgments from the way things look like on the surface, but unless the person sat down with you and explicitly opened up, you’re really not aware of the whole story and you can’t really reach a conclusion or make a judgement.
2) Interfere only when you’re financially invested. So when a kid keeps on failing school, the parent needs to interfere because he’s paying for all that education. The problem is many people interfere, they do so under the claim of being emotionally invested. They care about you. They don’t want to watch you fall….yada yada yada….but you know what, their emotions? Their problem. Not yours.
3) If you really really really care about that person, then you need to ask two questions; “Are you happy? Can you stand on your own two feet?”
The follow-up to the second question falls under point (2). If the answer is no, and they financially invest in you, then they can hen you can interfere since their business becomes yours, technically.
Society has built this whole idea of how success needs to look like for everyone, they don’t realize that some people really don’t care about the mansion with the swimming pool, that they’re just happy with their own mud house and cow, so let them be. People are different. They’re motivated by different things. They want different things.
If you’re at the receiving end of all this unsolicited advice about how you need to lead your life, and you’re tempted to listen to them, ask yourself one question, “If tomorrow, you break your legs and you’re bedridden for two weeks, will they drop their whole life and nurse you back to health?”
If the answer is no, then you know what to do…
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.”
“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.