Some things in life just don’t turn out the way we had imagined or intended. And sometimes the consequences for actions and bad decisions are harsh. Hell, devastating. The past few weeks I’ve felt my life spinning out of control and I have felt powerless to do a thing about it. I’m a dreaming man, and dreams for me die hard.
So I have been incredibly sad. Full of regret and remorse and a fair amount of self-loathing.
But that doesn’t change a thing. I have to take responsibility for my mistakes, just as I also must take responsibility for my life, such as it is. I am powerless to change the past. And I can not live in the past.
What I have is today and an uncertain future. And even as I struggle to deal with the overwhelming sense of loss, I have come to recognize that what I make of that future is within my control. I get to choose how I react to these changes. I can continue being the only guest at my pity party, or I can make the best of my situation and strive for happiness. Even in my current state of mind, I recognize being happy is the appropriate path to choose.
So the journey begins, and it begins in darkness. But I have to believe in the promise of a new sunrise and I have to have faith that I can find my way. It may not lead me to the future I had planned and dreamed about, but there will be new adventures, discoveries, and maybe new dreams along the way.
And I have a map of sorts. Or at least words of wisdom to guide me. I went back and looked at the Easter post from Kevin at Big Hominid. I found it inspiring at that time, now I consider it words to live by. And it is certainly worth sharing with you again:
Since I and a few people I know are all going through a painful period, each of us for various reasons, I thought it might be good to write about “putting it down.”
In Zen Buddhism, the maxim is “don’t make anything.” Your mind is so often the source of your troubles. You choose to face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune either negatively or positively. Often, at the beginning of a troublesome period in your life, it is difficult to realize how responsible you are for your own choices. It’s easier to shift blame to your surroundings. But ultimately, the healthiest route out of the forest of troubles is to start by looking in a mirror. Behold what’s actually there; don’t needlessly manufacture problems for yourself and others.
I’m not a scriptural literalist, so I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. But the story of the passion and resurrection nevertheless holds power for me, because it’s a story about a man who put everything down, including his own life, for the sake of love. How many of us can claim to be ready and willing to do something like that? Not many, I suspect.
Most of us, like little children, cling desperately to our cherished notions, preconceptions, and delusions, unwilling to countenance truth and change. We face the world with fear, and create clever rationales for our spiritual cowardice. In a crisis period, this instinct intensifies. The ego swells to enormous size– everything is about getting hurt, everything is about me, me, me. The world doesn’t understand my pain, and only I am in pain!
I’ve felt like that before. I’ve looked out at a street full of people and wondered why they didn’t see my agony, which was plain as day to me. The world kept right on turning, resisting my egocentric interpretation of it.
And there’s a lesson in that. Life is change, ceaseless change. All we have is this moment. If we try to keep the past with us, we merely create more suffering for ourselves. If we try to hold on to our anger, or our hurt, or whatever it is we’re feeling, we poison ourselves.
It’s better simply to put it all down.
People need time to do this. It can’t be done immediately. If, for example, you’ve just experienced a family tragedy, you can’t be expected to act like the Taoist writer Chuang-tzu, banging on pots and celebrating your wife’s death. No; most of us need time to mourn, grieve, recover. But after that period, we should be ready and willing to move on with our lives, to follow the constant flow of the river.
You can’t see the new life of Easter if you’re always looking backward. Easter points simultaneously to the present and to the future, to hope and happiness and fulfillment. Think positively. Embrace goodness where you find it. Actively seek the good, don’t wait passively for it.
So my goal is to achieve mastery of “putting it down” and trying to avoid the traps of dwelling in the past. My mantra is “forward thinking, John”. And I repeat that to myself everytime I feel my mind pulling backwards into the world of loss and remorse.
And I also want to say thanks. Being in Korea at this particular moment of my life has been difficult. I have no friends or family here and that can be trying in the best of circumstances. And although I have not had the energy to do much posting these past few weeks, I have gotten emails and comments of support from many of you. I was especially moved by the kind words of bloggers I have never met, and yet we share some connection from sharing our lives through words on a blog. Thanks Nomad and Raven. And Susan and Jim and everyone else who are pulling for me, know that your support means a lot. Your caring and concern are like candles in the darkness, and give me confidence that I will eventually find my way.
I even heard from an old friend that I have talked to once in the last 30 years. Larry is an amazing individual (you can get a sense of what he is about in his comment (number 7 in the post below). At the end he challenges me to live an extraordinary life. Which was ironic, because the same day he posted his comment I had heard those words while watching Dead Poets Society. Well, I’ll be 50 this year, so extraordinary may be out of reach. But at least I can make it interesting.
I’ll keep you posted along the way.