Hello, I’m Alive! (and ten lessons learned)

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It’s 2017 and feels like I got the memo when everyone’s already having a good time. For the first time since I started this blog I didn’t write a New Year post. I’ll tell you why, alongside the beautiful things that happened in 2016.

  1. My spiritual life became richer. I’ve always been an always-have-your-feet-on-the-ground kind of girl. If something does not make sense, the chance of trying them out is slim to none. In 2016, I learned that faith isn’t very logical all the time and the lack of sense does not make it an impossible feat.
  2. Forgiveness came easier. Ever felt like you lack the capacity to forgive someone who hurt you? I felt that way for a long time. I was hurt in 2015 and wondered how I would survive the year with all the anger and grief. Then I learned forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it’s something you do and then do again every single day after. It wasn’t my love I had to give; it was my consent to hand over the offender to the author of love. Life became easier after that.
  3. Studying made me almost mad. I’d say literally mad but that wouldn’t be true. I did feel almost mad though trying to pay attention to other things aside the pile of books staring me in the face every day, lecturers reminding me to read at least two hours daily and colleagues oppressing me with all their knowledge. But I realised with constant practice and discipline, everything becomes a tad bearable.
  4. We got stuck in a recession and Trump blew the world away. Typing this made me chuckle. Imagine waking up every day to the new fall in the value of your currency, going to the market to learn your favourite brands have doubled in price, searching for alternatives and hating them, dealing with the fear of unemployment and a pay cut, and knowing Trump is the president of America. Conditions will always change and everything bends to accommodate it.
  5. Ideas! That’s what happens when you know things may never be the same again. I spent a lot of time thinking of alternatives, which led me to considering the things I love most in the world, which further led me to research and now I’m a step closer where I want to be in 2017. Change can be a good motivator to realign priorities if it does not paralyze you.
  6. Learning to let go. Not everyone is meant to remain in your life. I heard that once and never gave it another thought until I had to let go of someone special to me. It was not an easy decision, but it had to be done. How did I feel afterwards? Terrible. But terrible is only a feeling and feelings change.
  7. Life hangs precariously on a very thin thread. And could be gone in a puff! I mourned the loss of a blog pal (you’ve probably seen Archaeopteryx here). But his demise made me think about life a little more deeply. Death comes for all like a long-lost friend; we can either embrace him with joy or regret.
  8. The past never goes away. I dream of him knocking at the door. Sometimes I look out the window and he’s there, bidding me to come out. But I don’t; I don’t invite him in nor do I go out to say hello. The past never really goes away; he’s there in our subconscious, but no one says you have to give him audience.
  9. Set manageable goals and keep them in sight. Goal setting have been a tradition for many. Some never see past February, and others can quite simply be termed ‘rolling plans’. I’m not sure why some goals never see the light of day, but studies suggest the reason for failure may be tied to our sharing. The logic is the brain feels gratified when goals are shared with others, hence reducing the likelihood of accomplishment. Mine has never tanked like that, but then I’m not a goal-sharer until I hit the mark. Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach (?) Write it down, keep it in sight, ask for help, but otherwise keep it to yourself.
  10. Victory! Comes sweeter to those who labour the most. I don’t know if I heard that somewhere or if it’s original. A week ago my final results were released and I’m happy to say this girl is an official holder of a professional certification. I had to let go of things I loved (like this blog) to get here, but I’m glad it was worth it. Although the journey may seem long and weary, the joy when it’s over will exceed every effort put into the task.

I like to begin each year with a general theme. In 2015 it was hope; 2016 was a time to tear down and reconstruct yesterday.  This year I’m trying out things that scare the crap out of me. I know it will probably feel stupid sometimes, but like an advice I read on another blog said, “if you wake up one morning and feel unhappy with where you are, have the courage to do whatever is necessary to make a change in your life.”

So here is to taking bold steps.

Happy New Year

 

Image: Pixabay

 

 

 

Authenticity and The Social Epidemic of Happiness

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The image of happiness is laughing eyes and tongue sticking out in a picture frame. My mobile camera goes click-click, balanced on a selfie stick held at an angle that flatters the errant jawline of my cheek. Eyebrows on fleek… click. One-eyed wink… click. Kim K’s pout … click. Goofy squint look… click. Two dozen pictures and filtered edits later, instagram is ready for my awesomeness.

The image of happiness is a facebook post; pre-wedding shots overflow feeds boldly captioned ‘save the date’. Wives flaunt husbands. Husbands flaunt wives. Parents share pictures of kids at every stage of their growth in a surprising wave of media parenting.

Yet, the paradox of our existence is with all the happy media frenzy, there are many out there who suffer bouts of depression.

Last month I had an emotional breakdown. I had spent the early hours of my birthday thinking where my life might be headed, and days on social media binging on everyone’s happy story, wondering why my life wasn’t cool enough. And inasmuch as we’re told never to compare our journey with that of other people, we can’t eliminate the lines of our individual existence that crisscross and overlap, nor can we deny its existence. So may be this comparison is a natural response to our shared reality.

I’ve been thinking about this, our social epidemic of happiness. The unicorn moments we love to create for the pages; the frames of laughter we hang on our wall or store in our mobile phones; moments of bliss we are all too happy to share with the world. Then there’s everything else either dialed down they are barely noticeable, or completely tuned off—and that’s the part we wish remains undiscovered.

In her Tedtalk, Brené Brown speaks about the power of vulnerability; the difficulty in letting ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen by others; our need for connection and erroneous belief that being vulnerable is akin to weakness. We think that to belong means to put up a happy front for everyone… even ourselves. And so we try to numb those feelings, but we cannot selectively numb “[because] when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness… and then we’re miserable.”

So I went through an emotional breakdown and cried and deleted my evil social media apps and shut out all my friends. But the thing is I didn’t feel any better. I still walked around trying to stop my cracks from deepening, and I struggled with it long enough to know my way wouldn’t work until I brought back the evil apps and talked to someone. And that’s exactly what I did. By opening up to someone else, I revealed another part of myself and learned a bit more about them. My feelings weren’t abnormal. My sadness was shared by many others. In my vulnerability I had connected. In connecting I allowed myself more joyful emotions.

Put into perspective, we can begin to appreciate the masterpiece that is Pixar’s Inside Out. Our mantra may be simple: sadness is negative emotion; happiness is positive emotion.  So when the photographer asks us to stare at the camera, he demands a smile before clicking the shutter button, adding to our belief that to immortalize this emotion is better than to do the other. But in truth sadness need not be the opposite of happiness; sometimes it could be another path to happiness.

The most interesting image I have of myself is an ‘accidental’ photo over three years old. Clad in a red tank top, hands clasped beneath jaw and eyes staring down a table, I’m the perfect image of disappointed. It’s still one of my favourite pictures, not just for its authenticity, but because every day it reminds me that we are a ball of emotional energy—not just happy ones, but sad, vulnerable, weak, crazy energy, and it’s okay to share those too.

 

Image: Instagram @Anapuzar

 

One Year Older

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This is in response to the daily prompt Cake. I’m doing this as a free-writing exercising after abandoning us for over two months. Coincidentally this is one day of the year when I’m allowed to eat lots of cake without thinking about calories. Continue reading