What do you do when everything you thought you knew you liked and wanted to do gets called into question? What do you do when you’re not sure when and how to find your way? How do you find the inspiration to move forward and create new dreams? How do you begin to enjoy life again?
I’ve been in the throws of and existential crisis for longer than I care to admit…and longer than I can remember sometimes…and somehow in the past 2 years it’s gotten much worse. The very basics and fundamentals which I thought I knew and understood about my life, trajectory and even what I enjoy have been called into question and it’s turning my life upside down not knowing which direction to go. My brain is constantly berated with questions. It really never stops.
Where do I go? What do I do? What can I offer? What can I do differently? How can I be happy? What do I do if I can’t make a future out of what I want to do?
I think it’s in large part due to the constant uncertainty of my daily life. Not knowing what to do or where to go in a few days is both exciting and highly terrifying. It leaves me in a state of continual questioning…but the alternative (staying in one place living and working as a local) is worse to me than living in this endless cycle of unknowing.
Try as I might, and as often as I feel the answer is just to let go and accept things as they are, the practical side looks more like a roller coaster where I feel wrapped up in turmoil followed by moments of peace and perspective. Through this cycle, it’s absolutely possible that my subconscious mind is trying to get me to understand some key concepts about life.
What could possibly be so important to take me years of practice and understanding in order to fully appreciate what I’m learning? I have a few ideas from the lessons that keep coming up.
First of all…and maybe it seems quite obvious…but finding peace amidst the chaos. One of the first stops I made when I started traveling around the world was Krabi, Thailand. While there, I visited a Temple where I saw the most inspiring work of art covering an entire wall. It showed a war waging, brutal and horrific as they are…but amongst the war…right in the middle was Buddha meditating calmly on a perch where he could see everything clearly…but he was at perfect peace and stillness regardless of the savagery going on around him. The lesson to be taught from such art? Regardless of how horrifying life may get around you (and sometimes it is that bad) there’s always a way to find inner peace and comfort.
So why does inner peace and comfort mean anything when the entire world around you is at war? Well, the simple answer is this: you can only change yourself…and the only way you can do that is through peace of mind. If we are giving in to the fight around us, we are adding to the energy of disconnection and separation. However, as we find peace within ourselves, we’re able to create understanding and connectedness within our own experiences…and each of our moments with others has a ripple effect on how they’ll see and approach life and what/who they come across.
Another important point that comes up repeatedly is the need to know who I am…and not just who people believe that I am, but also who I believe myself to be. This may be the most important education I have or will ever receive: to know who I really am, to believe in myself and to accept that others (even those I love) may not ever be able to see or experience the true me but that it doesn’t affect how I see myself.
Believe it or not, the second lesson has been much more difficult than the first. For some reason, my entire life I’ve searched to elicit the approval of all whom I’ve come in contact with…whether we have a personal interaction or not. Knowing what I know…I understand that it’s not realistic, possible or even needed…and yet there’s a part of me who ALWAYS cares. Of course, I care much more about how people I love see and feel about me…but even strangers have this sort of power over me and how I act. Why? I’m not quite sure, to be honest…but I remember one of my brothers mentioning it as an issue (for me) when I was a teenager…so I know it’s been around for quite a while.
The problem with trying to make everyone else happy? Despite the extremely obvious…how it’s entirely impossible…you’re also left with the fact that you’ll never make yourself happy when you care so much about what others think. Consider this: if it’s not possible to simultaneously make EVERYONE happy is it a losing battle to try? And what about when what YOU want contradicts what you know others desire or expect of you…then what? Every time you give up your agency you not only cease to serve yourself…but you can’t possibly give your best to anyone else. No one enjoys a victim…and when you knowingly give up your agency, you actually become that which you meant to avoid…unlikable. It’s a tragic catch-22 but totally avoidable!
Morals of the story: (1) When given the option, choose what works for you and makes YOU happy…because if you’re not feeling good within yourself, it’s impossible to give more than you have to the world around you. (2) Accept the stillness and unknowing in your life and focus on peace of mind, whatever that means to you and you, alone.