“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The beginning of April I found out about a Facebook friend who passed away. She was more than just a Facebook acquaintance but a beautiful young soul that I have known since childhood. Over the summer, she visited my studio and attended classes but stopped attending due to health reasons. I could feel the pull of my soul to contact her but the instability of my life distracted me from reaching out. For this, I am sorry. I can only imagine her struggles as she made the decision to no longer stay with this earth. I have been to the depths of despair and struggled with the thoughts that left me question my own self-worth. At one point about 15 years ago, I thought that I would never recover.
There are many of us who have faced this struggled in our lives. Today, I understand her pain in a way that I am thankful my end was not the same. I felt the distortions of myself take me deep into a place where I was isolated and contested my very existence. There is a difference between being depressed and taking measures to end the life that you have been given. Most of us will never grasp the “why,” but there are some of us who have tasted that pain and self-rejection, attempting to no longer live with the struggle. We have had the overwhelming feelings that pull the very breath from our soul, leaving us feeling lost and alone. We will never truly understand why she chose this path, but we do understand that this beautiful soul left this world far too soon. May love and peace find her and her family.
Admita, the “I am-ness,” can be either the self-centered ego in accomplishment and status or in the insecurity of self-worth. Both egotism and insecurity are a misconception of our true authentic self. The ego defends itself and competes when being challenged, ignorant to the truth which makes us strong. An inflated ego limits our ability to grow and evolve, creating a narrow minded view of life. On the other hand, the insecure and disheartened are terrified of relinquishing control, meaning that the one thing the insecure person has is the control over is their existence. They feel trapped with no window of opportunity to get out, change, or to grow. Eventually, without help or finding meaning in their life, they take the one thing that they believe will free them from their suffering.
This past summer, after I found out about my husband’s affair, I had dinner one night with two of my dear friends, Ann and Jessica. I asked them for help. I was feeling lost and in a place where I could not feel comfort on my own. I told them I was able to work and everything was alright during the day, but found myself drowning in thoughts of desperation and loneliness at night, unsure if I wanted to see the next day. I knew that I was strong enough to get through, and I was also strong enough to ask for help. I knew that Ann and Jessica would be there for me. I asked that they text me every 30 minutes from 6-10 pm every night until I told them when I was honestly through the torment of my crushed emotions and deflated self-worth. I told them that I was going to stop drinking and would respond back with honesty. They agreed to my request and followed through with their promises. I didn’t ask much, but I know that these two ladies likely saved my life, or at least were a huge contribution to the new found strength that I have now.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
In order to work through my misconceptions and insecurities, I had to figure out why I was feeling insure. On the surface this seemed easy, but there were layers of emotions, thoughts, patterns, and delusions that I had to work through in order to see even a glimpse of light. I asked for help from people around me that I trusted and grasped blindly at the small strands of life that were positive. One of those was my ex was coming home in a month and that we could work on our marriage together. Looking back, this was also a distortion of reality, but I gained an awareness that I am stronger than the fragmented self that just wanted to give up.
We often think of challenges in life, the fine line between pleasure and pain, as an enemy. It is uncomfortable and less desirable to experience the discomforts that life presents us than to face ourselves at these points of unequivocal growth. We feel trapped, limited, and even debilitated by them, leaving us to make the choice to suffer, seek refuge, or to experience the things that have happened. It’s actually a sign of health that we can experience a place where we balance on that fine line. Unfortunately, we do not take the time to see the message as a gift to stop struggling and look into the eyes of fear, disappointment, and anxiety. These messages are telling us to venture into unknown territory and to explore our true nature.
In life, when we gravitate towards what we desire we also find ourselves ill, sick, lost in life, losing control of our life, and then we suffer. We lack the tools to regain the strength that it takes to process and grow. When these life struggles are brought into our lives, it is a time to be curious about ourselves and to notice our reactions. This is the time to tap into our support, our family, friends and professional guidance that are around us. We experience suffering due to our fear of impermanence and our pain is rooted so deep in our skewed perception of our reality that we feel that there is no escape.
A healthy self-esteem does not feel threatened by change; in fact, it feels empowered and has the tools to overcome suffering. This does not mean that it doesn’t take time or walking the tightrope of experiences that are both uplifting and debilitating. As we evolve, we use our higher self, inner wisdom, and our past to be a witness to flourish into a life that is stronger and more balanced rather than our ego’s agenda to let our thoughts and emotions that weaken us. Pleasure and pain go hand in hand; they are inseparable, but neither is permanent.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller