If some of you are like me, then you probably have gone through a phase of soul searching, purpose finding, self helping… whatever you’d like to call them (or as one of my friends has called – averting midlife crisis). I am 39 years old and at a ripe age for this kind of phase. The role switching from a young lady to a mature mother/wife, the rosy fairy tale story fading into a cold hard reality of surviving, the once healthy and carefree body becoming fragile and full of scars and wrinkles. It made you wonder…
Once upon a time, I thought, I am searching for an answer, a destination, a purpose, and at the end of the journey it was those shiny words of wisdom, glowing with the comforting lights waiting to calm my soul. And now, I want to declare that my journey is abandoned, quit and given up on. For I realize now that life is about living in the moment, instead of chasing some unknown into the darkness of future.
I can’t say that I didn’t gain any insights from the past year of trying to find the meaning of my life. A lot of time, I caught myself thinking about it so hard that I totally ignore a question from my daughter, or a beautiful scenery passing by, or a deliciously decadent meal I was having. I was so wrapped up in figuring out right and wrong that I forgot to enjoy the people around me, even in retrospect, those included a few of my favorite and incredible persons.
I went through quite a few painful moments, both for myself and people around me. There are times that I feel that I was ready to give up living, there are times I feel so hopeless in humanity. Just as I thought things had hit rock bottom and that I bounced back, I hit another lower point, and laughed at myself, “Did I say that I hit rock bottom? Then what is this?” I finally decided that I needed to see a doctor, otherwise I may lose sanity/life. The doctor told me that I had depression. I was thinking to myself, really? How can someone like me who has always been bubbly, happy and if mad feisty go into DEPRESSION? I didn’t quite believe it. But I took the advice to take some medicine to make myself happier, and to take some time to focus on myself.
Then I got comfortable – being depressed. Using it as a universal excuse for anything I feel like doing or not doing. I didn’t like how that is going but didn’t know what exactly to do with it. Then one day I went to see my doctor after another argument with husband sent me into a deep sense of sadness, I told her that I couldn’t go to work the next day. To my biggest surprise, she told me: “I want you to go to work, even if you don’t do anything and just stare at the screen all day.” That advice instantly shook me out of my self pity and magically made me much calmer. I came home in the afternoon and picked up one of the many self help books that I have purchased – a bright orange one: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
Should I say I feel that the book was a godsend? It answered/resonated pretty much every answer to every question I had about meaning of life, relationship, love, death, etc… In my own words, some points are:
- Be selective about what you care about, you can’t care about everything in the world. What you care about defines who you are.
- There are values that are better choices to care about than the others, such as honesty, nonviolence and generosity vs money and fame.
- Pain is an inevitable part of life, embracing the pain will only make you stronger. Constant happiness is probably a mirage.
- We should take full responsibility for our actions, regardless what happened to us, because we have a choice in how we react. We shouldn’t take responsibility for other people’s actions, because we have no control over other people.
- I am not special. Truth be told, similar to the belief most of us have during childhood, I believed that I was special, and I had magic power to bring happiness to people around me. But as I grow older, I realize that coming to terms that “I am not special” is essential. When we admit that we are not special, we become more human, more humble and empathetic to other human beings.
- Everyone is wrong to some extent, in some aspects. It’s just that, sometimes the question becomes whose wrongness is right for the other person’s wrongness in the right way? And maybe we could correct our wrong to be less wrong if we choose to.
- Doing something sometimes is the most straightforward answer to a question. E.g. Question: how to live my life? Answer: just live it already! Question: how do I improve my piano skill? Answer: just play it already! Question: what if I want to publish a book? Answer: why aren’t you writing yet? Etc, etc..
- Unconditional love means you accept the others as who they are and it’s not about what you want from them back. You don’t have to like what they like, don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you give the acceptance and support in them being who they are and pursuit of their growth and happiness.
- Beauty of commitment comes from the limit of choices, persistence in your choices, concentrated focus on the highly important items. The sticktoitness will carry you through the hard times and bring greater sense of success in contrast to aimlessly chasing new opportunities and experiences, only to be left with the feeling of boredom and shallowness.
- Reminding yourself of possibility of death is the way to achieve the full living. When measured against death, life’s meaning becoming clear. Personal priorities and values become evident. I have been living my life asking myself “what would I do today if I die tomorrow?” ever since I lost my dear aunt to ovarian cancer. With this question, how much money is in my bank account seems unimportant, whether or not I feel fulfilled on that day becomes much more important – whether I said “I love you” to my loved ones to let them know, whether I gave the hugs to my daughters before they leave for school, whether I enjoyed the sunshine and smelled the roses, whether I attended the volunteer event that I am passionate about…I want my gravestone to say “No regrets…”
So my friend, I hope you can find your set of answers and peace of mind along your journey of self discovery. It is invigorating once you realize that the art of living is living itself. Wish you well!