Today’s my birthday. In the past I’ve had a hard time with my birthday. It reminds me of a lot of painful things. Yet, as I’ve learned how successful/fulfilled people think about the world, I’ve come to understand that the core of it is a naturally positive story, or actively managing the story.
I’ve talked about ‘story’ before, but it bears focusing in on again. When an event happens, it really is just an event. Yet, human beings are story tellers to their core. When something happens to us, we immediately begin telling ourselves what it means. That person doesn’t like me because… I got hit by the other car because… I didn’t get the job because… People who generally have a high self esteem, will not self-define as they pass through negative circumstances. They feel solid where they are so a rejection or failure is just that, an isolated incident… If that’s you, I applaud you. While I’m improving, I’m not wholly there yet.
I… at least I used to… define myself by my failures like mad. I’ve noticed as my self esteem has been healing and growing to places it’s never been before, I do that much less, which is great because defining ourselves by our failures is toxic. A failure simply means we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. We need to be intelligent about our failures, checking in to find out why it happened, but to call ourselves ‘useless’ or ‘unwanted’ etc. when things don’t go our way is actually an immature and toxic reaction.
So… this morning and felt starkly lonely. My house was empty and I was alone, true, but last night I was surrounded by excellent friends and laughed and danced and had a wonderful time. A core concept of Buddhism is that misery is created in wanting things to be other than they are. I liked being married. I loved my ex despite understanding her mindset was toxic and I had to (in order to live a happier life in the future) break away from her. So when I wake up alone or sit in a quiet house at night, I think, “I don’t like this.” I define it negatively. Yet a more empowering story is to understand that I’m there because I was strong enough to take the hard road. That’s a very different story. I could have stayed married. It would have been decent enough… tolerable in many ways with bouts of awful. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not here to live a tolerable life. I’m here to live a life worth dying for… because I will.
So I considered my story carefully, got up, went to the gym, and as I exercised I stayed in the present with small moments of gratitude… I policed my thoughts carefully and you might guess what happened. The feeling of loss and loneliness, of lacking something important, faded away, and I was left with a solid sense of satisfaction and wholeness.
I’ve come to understanding those good feelings are on the other side of these practices.