Monday, October 21, 2013

My Biggest Fear

Sometimes people disappoint.

They have their reasons, of course. We live in a world shaped by emotional turmoil and uncertainty. It's a reactionary world and it can make us unforgiving, ungrateful, and embittered. It becomes easy to quit people, to build walls around steadily shrinking hearts, and to inflict our pain upon others without discrimination. We forget that people deserve dignity and that kindness isn't a commodity to be bargained for (or an act made with the expectation of return).

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” In other words, every impatience, every painful infliction from the outside, is a mirror offering us an opportunity.

When I consider this quote, I realize that what he’s talking about is empathy – the ability to relate to the pain we encounter, to its origin. Because if we look deep enough, if we can dig down into that pit of compassion we all carry, we can confront our own souls with honesty.

It isn't always easy. Compassion, empathy and patience are all acts of practice. They take time to master; each must be a conscious choice, not only reserved for those closest to us but applied to the briefest of interactions. Only in this can we learn what it means to love unconditionally, to cure the pain we see in the world - a pain once inflicted upon and by us.

As I left Ghana, left my position as a volunteer trained in cultural understanding and mindfulness, I feared that I would somehow lose that; that, in a world where Twitter, Instagram and the instant gratification of Facebook exists, my compassion would fall short of the life I once knew. I wanted to reflect on my time as a volunteer without idolizing the third world or damning the first. I wanted to change problems I saw through my understanding of them, not my disgust. Because, I thought, if I couldn't use my third world experiences in the first world, 'my' world, than I obviously hadn't spent them well ...

The world I see today is seriously lacking in empathy and patience. And if you’re looking to do some good, take a moment to look into a mirror - whether it be a he or a she, a Christian or a Muslim, recklessly angry or smiling like a child watching bubbles float into the sky – forgive them, forget yourself for a minute, and remember that they might actually need your love more than you know (and that giving your love is never a sign of weakness). 

Make the world more beautiful. Make your experiences count.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Hope You're Happy

Life is about learning lessons, sometimes very painful ones, and when I think about my past – a past I might be forced to confront soon enough – I realize one thing:

I want you to be happy. 

I want you to be happy because everyone deserves to be happy. I don’t want to be attached to you anymore. I don’t want to feel anger or bitterness or resentment. I want you to be happy, even if I have to remind myself every day. I want you to be happy, even if I’m not ready to run into you on the street. I want you to be happy, even if our relationship should have been better, should have been different, should have been happier. I want you to be happy because we both experienced pain, because we both searched for something, because at one point I loved you (and your happiness shouldn't hinge on whether or not I’m a part of it). 

I want to be a better person; I don’t want to fill my heart with hate. I don’t want our past, our once upon a time, to be stained by hurt. I don’t want to give you the satisfaction of gnawing on my resentment, of finding strength in my weakness. I want to remember that there was a time in my life when all I wanted was for you to be happy. You're a part of a world I absolutely adore and I want you to be happy in it.

It’s not even about forgiveness – the only person I had to forgive was myself. It’s about the fact that holding onto the past, dwelling on things I can't change, isn't the way I want to spend my time. You taught me a lot of things, a lot of important things; you helped me become the person I am today (and I love the person I am today – the person I am today is happy). And maybe some days it’ll be a struggle to know I’ll see you everywhere I go, but it’s not about you. It’s about me (and the ‘me’ I am today wants you to be happy).

Thank you - for everything, for all of it - there was a time our paths were entwined, a time our happiness merged; and just because our paths changed doesn't mean the direction of our happiness needs to.

I hope you’re happy.