A significant phase of my life is coming to a close, a phase that has given me the silence and space to look at my priorities, evaluate my goals and focus on my intimate relationships. I am left deeply affected and indelibly changed. As I look back for the meaning in the madness, I find these lessons:
1. Happiness doesn’t come from external circumstances; it comes from within you.
Days of emotional flux took a toll at one point, and I was fed up with all the teary-eyed drama and uncertainty. One evening, I realised with dread that even if my immediate material desire were to come true, I’d still be miserable. In complete humility, I asked God, “Tell me, what was the lesson in all this? What was I meant to learn?”
The answer came the next morning when I was putting detergent in the washing machine: “Happiness doesn’t come from external circumstances; it comes from within you.” And it all fell in place, somehow. No matter what was going on in my external life, happiness was a state of my own mind. If I couldn’t find happiness within, even the biggest gifts from the universe would ring hollow. Life is all about flux and change; I have to find the stillness and peace within — I have to find the balance of being and becoming, as Krishna says.
2. You’re raw at home.
When working outside the home for eight hours a day, you develop shields, reflexes and defence mechanisms over the years. When someone says something nasty, you are able to (with practice) brush it off and not let it affect you emotionally. But at home, you’re vulnerable. These are the people closest to you, people with whom there are no defence mechanisms in place. If they say something mean or hurtful (“I hate you, leave me alone!”, “You cooked today? Can we order out?”, “Short skirts are not a big deal, why are you so paranoid?”, “You don’t understand anything!”, “You’ve ruined my life!”), you’re bruised left, right and centre, and there’s no shield to lessen the impact.
The lesson of course isn’t to run away. The lesson is to understand and value your own vulnerabilities and sore spots. If you can find it in your heart to withstand even this — this most cutting of knives, this most brutal of assaults — even when it has you sobbing or screaming in frustration; if you can find a way to deal even with this; if you can find a mechanism to still give love back in return for anger or hatred, then (as Rudyard Kipling didn’t say), you’ll be a woman, my girl.
I’ve braved barbs at my most rawest of spots, and still come out alive and lovin’. I’m invincible!
3. Be the change.
I’ve been living in a perpetual state of worry, anxiety and fear for several weeks, and if I share the reasons, you’d probably laugh — they’re to do with domestic helps, laundry, dogs and dishes. (But to me, they are just as scary — and real — as the monster in the cupboard to a three-year-old.) A few days ago, however, I noticed I could change my life by changing my attitude. It was the end of a day I’d spent cribbing about my workload and my family had borne the brunt. Suddenly, while watching a few funny videos via friends on Facebook, I decided, “I’m going to be happy. Now.”
And so I got the kids ready and we all went for a movie and had a great time. Now, whenever I feel miserable, I look back to this evening and am inspired by how I was able to change my morose mood simply by deciding to change it. And I feel empowered. My happiness is in my own hands.
(As I write this, I realise there’s a lot more lessons coming, so I’ll just break this post into two.)