Every person is a process, which means that every relationship is a process. We are changing all the time, our dynamics are changing all the time. Every cell in our body is changing in every second, and in every few years, we are literally, physically a different human being.
Change is natural. It is the most natural, most certain truth on earth, and of the deal of being alive on earth.
If you resist change or hanker after the past, it will only turn you bitter, frustrated, resentful, cynical and angry. You will surrender any power to change; you won’t stop growing, but you’ll be dragged into growth in whatever haphazard, reactive way.
The only thing that belongs in the present… is the present. The past and the future don’t belong in the present; they must be dragged, like wraiths out of time, ghosts out of their dimension. That’s why they grate against the present, against us, and cause depression or anxiety or bitterness– because they do not belong here.
Very few situations are ever all good or all bad. In fact, situations just are; they’re neutral. We give them meaning and value. And that meaning and value changes over time, our perceptions of those situations change over time, because we change over time. But what we will remember the most, what will never leave us is how we felt at the time. I am suddenly reminded of those lyrics, “In the end we will only just remember how it feels.” Which brings me to…
We decide in each moment how to feel and what to think of something. That is an ideal situation, of course, but with patience, mindfulness and time, we learn that skill– the skill of being present and claiming any agency we might have in a situation.
Mental illness, like depression (or bipolar, or chronic anxiety, etc.) strips us of this agency, of balanced perception, of choice in how we view the world; it takes over like a huge black cloud and blackened windows, pours tar into your chest and squeezes your ribs and heart and mind and soul shut with blackened twine. It is the biggest waster of human energy and talent on earth; it steals from both rich and poor the ability to feel positive emotions, to act, to care, to feel anything at all.
Every story has more than one side. Woe be the person who only listens to one. And bad journalism.
A sense of wonder, an ability to be excited, amused and amazed, are conscious choices, and they must sometimes be consciously fought for; sometimes one must even decide if one is willing to face the consequences of choosing to retain these things. In the same way, it is a choice to take the responsibility and consequences of remaining authentic, vulnerable, and loving.
Those of us who have the space, access and luxury of knowing or discovering what it is we love best to do, to do it, to live well, and not to be persecuted for it, are the luckiest of all. I hope we all discover for what we are put here, the courage to do it and keep at it, and the luck to be appreciated for it.
Congratulations on what you have all built and survived in 2014, happy new year, and may 2015 be all you hope it will be.
The non-blogging can be explained, I swear. I have spent the last two days paying with my sanity and composure for being in denial in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Toys R Us is NOT a place for timid souls in the week leading up to Christmas, as I discovered recently– too recently for me to have forgotten the high-pitch cacophony of, “this Daddy! Mommy! I want this I want this I want THIIIIIIS!!!”.
But I have a reasonable sense of humour, so I managed to float through the place in a kind of slightly bewildered haze with a beatific smile frozen on my face. The bewilderment came from the sheer number of choices… But! I really must express my profound dissatisfaction with all this cotton-woolly over-cautiousness. Where are all the chemistry sets of old, with real chemicals and things that can go bang if you mixed it up right? Or the little paper-wrapped pellets filled with sand and gunpowder that went SNAP! when you threw them on the ground?
Everything is so tame these days.
I also managed to elbow my way through each aisle, then keep my spirits up in the Very Long Queue To Freedom Beyond the Cashiers, because I am easily amused. I have never before seen a bunch of parents so frazzled and wild-eyed.
I should say that I’m grateful I didn’t have my own screaming brat to deal with, but I was a lot more grateful that I could witness this pre-Christmas phenomenon from the outside with an easily-tickled sense of humour.
Up until recently, I didn’t really know how to play with small humans. They’re quite a mystery to me, having been quite a serious, thoughtful, worried small human myself, prone to spending hours reading, building a sandcastle complete with moat and dams to protect it against the encroachment of the sea, concentrating on slowly forming very tall drip-sandcastles, or playing Lego in a blanket fort.
So, I did not become the child-friendly variety of adult.
Until recently…. when my aunt set up a pink princess tent for my very small, still-portable goddaughter. The little ankle-biter started putting all her fat-Lego pieces into the fort, so I went and sat inside and started making random things. That’s when the small human crawled inside, emitted a screech and a giggle…. And we ended up sitting there in amicable silence for the longest time– I clipping pieces together to make things, she pulling them apart with a satisfying “click”.
I even ended up having a wonderfully calming and entertaining time. She finally likes me a little more.
Yup, I’m grateful for princess tents and Lego.
[Mind you, if my “biological clock” (pffft, please; I question its existence) ever starts ticking, I won’t just press the snooze button… I’ll throw it out the window onto the pavement downstairs.]
Swimming pools. When it’s scorchingly hot and sunny, and humid as a jungle.
Teletubbies. I am a young godmother to a small human, whose mother seems to have some kind of misplaced optimism in my child-minding (non-)skills. I don’t know what to do with a crying baby except to find the Sesame Street baby-equivalent on YouTube and desperately plonk it in front of it, gasping, “here! Here! Look! Teletubbies! You like Teletubbies, right??!!”.
IKEA’s small-things-I-never-knew-I-could-live-without section. Because Christmas and acquaintances.
Craft skills. Not drawing a regular pay check has its downsides! But it certainly prods out any artistic and creative craft skills….
This is beautiful because it started with just a few small gestures of kindness– two people’s ability to empathise and their choice to care about another human being who was a total stranger, and then to act on it. In case you’ve been living under a rock, while a gunman was in the midst of taking a whole Sydney cafe of people hostage in the name of his idea of religion, a young woman sitting on a train in Sydney noticed the girl next to her silently remove her hijab. She ran after her when they got off the train, telling her, “put it back on. I’ll walk with you.” The girl with the hijab, who was Muslim, started to cry and gave her a long hug, and then walked off alone.
Tessa, another young woman who read this person’s account, was moved by this, and simply offered over Twitter to ride her regular bus in the morning between the suburb of Coogee and Martin Place (where the incident was unfolding) with anyone who wore religious head-dress and who was frightened to go alone. Thus, the #illridewithyou hashtag was born.
These moments help me to remember that there exist people who choose to do good in the world when it is easier to simply seal oneself off from the world’s pain and just wallow in one’s own, to be self-serving rather than keep an eye out for opportunities to serve (or, at least help) others. They melt the cynical, hardened, embittered parts of my otherwise squishy, languid little heart. And they stir up the embers of the audacity of hope.
I’m grateful for random acts of kindness, for they start wildfires of compassion in a time where unspeakable evil would cloud our hearts with fear, bigotry and suspicion.
We are all so glued to our smart devices these days, particularly in big cities. We email, Facebook mail, What’s App, text, Viber, Line, Skype, FaceTime, tweet, etc., each other. We expand our personal space at peak hour on the underground metro through our little screens, as we are squashed elbow-to-elbow with other commuters. Some families or groups of friends sit together in silence, absorbed in their respective virtual worlds, or are regularly interrupted by dings and beeps.
That’s why letters from friends in the mail are so precious these days. I recently received a little package from a friend who recently got married overseas. She had sent along her sweet little bomboniere, what Aussies call those thank-you gift for guests, with a lovely note. It was such a nice surprise. That’s why I still send Christmas cards.
I never really know what to say to people who tell me that meditation is not for them. My first reaction is to think that perhaps they haven’t found the right kind of meditation for them, or they weren’t taught it well, or they haven’t really put much heart into practicing it. Or that they haven’t been pushed to the point of needing it desperately.
In my experience, meditation has a similar effect to classical music. The first time I ever sat within a large rehearsing choir, the harmony of voices made something deep in my core vibrate and stand perfectly still at the same time. It was love at first listen.
Meditation was more slow-burn; it took some time, dedication and discipline before it started to come naturally. And it keeps evolving. The paradox was different, though. I find that it draws me deep into the centre of my being, so I’m sitting right in the centre of my self, connected; while at the same time creating space around my feelings, thoughts… and internal organs, almost.
It’s not always easy, though. Some days it’s uncomfortable, twitchy, distracted, frustrating, and almost impossible, a bit like a crappy choir rehearsal. A bit like bad turn days in ballet class. Some days you just can’t turn. They just remind me to be kind to myself, and forgiving. And that all things pass.
As you probably know, if you’ve been reading some of my previous entries, I’m not the religious type. I’m spiritual, but I’m really not into organised, doctrinal religion. Nonetheless, I find it touching when anyone– friends or family– of any religion tell me that they “say prayers for me” (for whatever reason). I mean, it’s a kind thing to do, when you’re busy talking to your god, to take the time to put in a good word for someone else, especially if that person is having a rough time. It’s like sending out good vibes into the universe on their behalf, to soothe someone else’s Karma.
If you don’t have the courage or strength to walk away when a situation isn’t good for you, you will always be someone’s doormat.
These aren’t mine. These are from other people who learnt their lessons earlier than I did. I think, this year, I’ve finally learnt these lessons, too, the hard way.
Never lose yourself while trying to hold on to someone who doesn’t care about losing you.
Knowing when to walk away is wisdom. Being able to is courage. Walking away with your head held high is dignity.
One of the hardest decisions you will ever face in life is choosing whether to try harder or walk away.
When someone treats you like an option, help them narrow their choices by removing yourself from the equation. It’s that simple.
The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.
I’m grateful for the lessons in knowing when to walk away. They were awful and humiliating sometimes, but they were largely my own fault (and who hasn’t listened to their own gut instinct or dismissed their own needs at some point in their life?) and they were necessary. Because they were part of my learning to let things go.
Picture attribution: Modified from Elephant Journal.