The one where we have to own what is wrong with our lives...
Albert Ellis said once that "The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. The best years of your life is when you realise that you control your own destiny".
When I was younger, I struggled with that. I almost used to think that in order to be happy, one needs to be perfect. No room for mistakes. Make the perfect choices, be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect gymnast, the perfect friend and the list goes on. Sometimes I did well. Others I really stuffed it up. Badly.
Of course I made mistakes. I still do. Difference is I am almost now at a point where I can admit to them. And "own" them.
Mistakes. Wrong choices. Decisions. They are all there looking at me, waiting to see what I will choose to do this time.
As I grow older I have come to realise that I am not alone. We all know right from wrong, yet we all make mistakes. I am a good listener and give great advice. But, my god, it's hard to own your own problems.
Recently I came across Andrew Solomon; a very talented writer who has spent his career going around, meeting people and telling stories about the hardships of others. He has had his fair share of struggle so he can most certainly relate.
Andrew believes that truth in our lives is irrelevant. Truth is "predictable" if you ask me. Why? Because I don't know many people in this world that don't know the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. The question is which path we choose to follow at one point of time and how our decision defines us later.
As the years go by, I realise that irrespective of the outcome of our choice, we still have one very important decision to make. That's whether we will turn a hardship into a lesson and learn from it or take the traumas and make them part of who we have come to be.
Think back. Would you still have found the same fulfilment in your current lives if things had come more readily that what they did?
Have you "aced" a test after failing an exam?
Have you won a medal after a sports injury?
Do you remember your first pay check at work after being unemployed for a long time?
Did you learn to appreciate simple things more when something was taken away from you?
Did you realise how much fun or love you experienced with one person after that person was out of your life?
Some of our struggles are things that we have been born with and some are things that have just happened to us along the way. It makes little difference at the end, for when we are weak, then we are strong. That's just the nature of who we are. We fall down, we get back up. It might take a day, weeks or years, lots of strength and endless tears but at the end, we get up. We look at ourselves again and learn to survive whatever it was that "destroyed" us in the first place.
But only after we have accepted the "situation", admitted to our mistake, recognised our struggle and forgiven ourselves can we experience happiness.
It all comes down to how we let our mistakes and hardships define us. It takes identity to rescue one from sadness. We have to lose the "guilt". When we are ashamed, we can't tell our stories and our stories are the foundation of identity. "Forge meaning and build identity" Andrew says.
Drop the perception of perfection, I say.
LIVE OUT LOUD.
"Forging meaning" is about changing ourselves. "Building identity" is about changing the world.
Most of us haven't been political prisoners, rape victims or lived in a third world country but we have all had our own battles and we have all been, at one point of time, in battle with ourselves.
Sure, it's easier said than done. It takes the courage to really look at ourselves and own what is or was wrong with our lives. If that doesn't happen and we don't make peace with our past, then we could never be in nirvana because our present "bliss" would always be shadowed by the struggles of the past. And according to Andrew Solomon "the only way to get to happiness is to look deep inside us in what looks like sorrows and find in the seedlings of our joy".
If you don't OWN it, then you will never be able to achieve happiness. If you don't accept it, then you will never truly move forward. If you still struggle to talk about it, then it is still there "shadowing" your future.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes though hard times. Let's consider ourselves lucky to have been able to experience absolute sadness or desperation so that we can achieve ultimate happiness down the track.
We are not perfect. But we are all survivors.
Some time ago I decided to face all my problems. Talk about them. Accept them. Own them.
I am not done. I am still working on it and it takes time and effort but when I look back I think to myself; "Sure, I might have had an easier life if I wasn't the way I am, but then it wouldn't be me. And that's part of the fun," don't you think?!
Have a great month