the absence of life

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”

C.S. Lewis

Hm… where should I begin?

Depression. What does it even mean? Does it mean sadness? I think we all experience moments of sadness in our lives but wouldn’t be diagnosed with depression. With recent high profile stories of suicide due to depression, everyone’s talking about prevention services you can reach out to. But nobody is really defining what depression is. It’s difficult to think that, people who seemingly live normal, happy, fulfilling lives but can be deeply depressed.

It’s easy to be on the outside and think, what’s there to be depressed about? Why don’t you just get help? Talk to somebody. Surely there’s a solution. Although, taking one’s own life is tragic, a part of me feels a sense a relief for those who have suffered from depression. Because they’re no longer battling their inner demons. To think that ending your life is the best option to end your suffering, means you must be suffering a great deal. Unbearable even. Maybe people don’t suicide to die, they’re simply escaping from life. “Death is not the opposite of life; nonexistence is. Death is merely a word we use to describe the process of passing from life into nonexistence.” I believe we all have a will to live, some are fortunate enough to know the reason(s) to live. But not many are willing to die either. Naturally, humans fight to survive. Even through war, famine, tragedy, we happen to manage through. But no battle is more powerful than the battle between you and your mind. Only you and you alone can convince yourself the will to live.

For anyone who tries to understand someone else’s suffering, it will almost always be limited to their own experiences. Don’t try to understand. It’s not for you to understand.

 

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

 

Though recent tragedies have many expressing their sorrows on social media, the reality is, come next week, we’ll all go back to your everyday lives. Suicide and depression no longer a table topic. I hope stories like these remind us to pay attention. Perhaps the onus isn’t on those with depression to reach out and dial 1-800-suicide, or whatever the call to action is. Maybe a part of the responsibility falls on each individual to live with more awareness and mindfulness to the people around them. Countless of articles all over the internet help you determine – 10 signs of people suffering with depression, 50 things to do if you’re depressed, and so on. To be honest, I’ve experienced loss from suicide and depression. There are signs. Although, I’m not sure if they’re subtle cries for help or simply whimpers of expressions.

Like I said before, only the individual suffering from depression can decide for themselves how to handle their struggles. Sure, you can try to help, reach out, talk about it, but in reality, there’s nothing far more true than your own beliefs. Loneliness for example, doesn’t mean there’s no one around. The factual approach says, there are 7 billion people in the world, how can you possibly be alone? Society says, you have a whole community around you, how can you possible feel lonely? Your friends and family tell you, “I’m here for you, you’re not alone”. But really, none of that fuckin’ matters. Because, there is nothing more true that how you feel. Just as depression is nothing someone who isn’t experiencing it, can determine false.

Truth: Everyone has a story. Maybe if we all start from a place of inspiring others to share their stories, we can encourage authentic conversations on the struggles in life.

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the in-between relationships

Deep Cove, BC

What if we can ultimately define the relationships we want? As I get older it seems harder to understand relationships and how I feel toward them. When you open your heart, you realize your capacity to love is tremendous. But loving doesn’t always lead to romantic relationships. There are people I love but don’t want to date because of various reasons. Circumstances and timing play a huge factor. Timing is the point in time when opportunity meets courage and action. Relationships, as difficult as they are, depend on two people. Good timing for one and not the other can impact the outcome. But it doesn’t mean you love them any less than someone you’d want to be in a relationship with right? The argument is that if you love someone enough, you’d ultimately want to be with them. No questions asked.

I’ve seen countless blog posts about this. People sharing their stories of relationships that failed before they even begun. Misaligned expectations; she wanted a relationship but he didn’t; s/he was emotionally unavailable; love yourself enough to let go/walk away. If s/he loved you they would’ve made the sacrifices necessary to be with you. And in the end those moments you’ve shared become memories that leave you confused or discouraged.

So what are these relationships? Generally speaking, they are; acquaintance, friends, best friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife. What if your relationships don’t fall into any of those categories? The boyfriend/girlfriend thing didn’t quite work out, do you become friends? If you can’t be friends then are you nothing but a person in the past? It makes me sad to see people walk away from those they care about because the relationships we know, no longer apply. Why do we have to let society define our relationships? Society says don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If it didn’t work, let it go. But why do we have to limit ourselves?

Things don’t always work out the way we want them to. When the person you’re pursuing says they’re not interested in a committed relationship with you, maybe the answer wasn’t necessarily no, but not now. The opposite of acceptance is not rejection; it’s indifference. Often these misaligned goals from a potential partner leave relationships empty because the conditions were not met. Why do we limit our love to those willing to give us what we want?

Annee Ngo, Co-Founder and every day hustler of Protohack explains it like this. “True love is when you care about the other person so much you’re willing to accept whatever they are emotionally capable of. We can’t let society define our relationship just because they don’t fit into the relationship categories we know”. We’ve been told time and time again to “create the life you want”. “Be the author of your own story”. Wouldn’t your story include relationships as well? What if two people can create the relationship they want? Define what the expectations and commitment look like and build love within those parameters.

Many of my older friends (ages 50+) have already been through divorce(s) or have never been married. They have ‘partners’. I used to think… “Oh they’re so silly. Not willing to commit to marriage and just label their significant other as a ‘partner’.” I thought of it as a fear to pledge to one another. Yet if more than 50% of marriages end in divorce anyway, what does this label mean?

Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, TedTalk speaker and most notably psychotherapist for romantic relationships says, “Monogamy used to be one person for life. Today, monogamy is one person at a time.” According to Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, explains the idea of marrying in the name of love has only been a phenomena in the last 50 years. We’ve been taught that if you love someone, you should have a romantic relationship with them. But what if that doesn’t have to be the case? What if instead of asking will you be my boyfriend/girlfriend, we can ask, will you be my partner in life? That to me, means so much more than the conditions that limit how I can feel toward someone important. To be able to create a relationship in lieu of a title society has defined for me. 

In the end, love that is honest, genuine, and selfless doesn’t need to be limited.

One day

Maybe one day you’ll understand;
that pain has a purpose.
A challenge from me to you.
One to see you through and through.

Maybe one day you’ll understand.
I am the light, the way.
All you have to do is follow my command;
for this is part of my grander plan.

Maybe one day you’ll understand.
You are not alone.
I will never forsaken you,
I have suffered so you don’t have to.

Transgression

Am I not entitled to the best of the best?
I’m simply asking, just like the rest.
The riches I’ve worked hard to earn,
Is only mine to claim in return.
It’s selfish you say?
Well, rightfully so if I may.
How can what I have not be mine?
I purchased it with every dime.
If I give it all away,
What will I have at the end of the day?

Ah, well there lies your value.

Everything comes at a cost.
Things that can be gained and lost.
What if you’re worth more than your possessions?
This, my friend, is his transgression.
Fix your eyes on what is true,
Because everything you have was not earned but given to you.
Your skills, your opportunities, your will,
Were always in his plan to fulfill.
So enjoy the things you can grasp,
Just know there’s more to what you have.

internal battle: heart, gut, and mind

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.” Robert Heller

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Depending on who you talk to, they’ll either tell you to go with your heart, gut, or mind. Sure, the factors all play a role in some of life’s most difficult decisions however, one of the three propels you further to your conclusion(s). The heart says “it was love”, the gut says “it just felt right” and the mind says “I’ve weighed my options and this was the best choice.” As someone with ISTJ personality, I’m practical, logical, analytical and often time too critical to lead with emotions or gut feelings. Not that I don’t have them, I can analyze them in a way that they’re no longer unexplainable ‘feelings’. You’ll never hear me say “it just felt right”, because I’ve already systemized the values of each option to describe my feelings. Simon Sinek, a great British-American author and TedTalk speaker describes that the part of our brain responsible for decision making is unable to process language. Therefore, we often justify as oppose to really understand why we make the choices we do.

Richard Restak, a well-known neuroscientist, talks about this in his book The Naked Brain. When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking.” The thing about being analytical is every option can be justified and weighed for or against. It’s like playing the prosecutor, defendant and judge all at once. In your own head. On the flip side however, I can’t imagine leading my decisions with gut feelings or emotions. Do you get the same feelings everyday? Is your gut telling you the same thing no matter what mood you’re in? When it comes to relationship, how can you trust your instincts? I don’t love any one thing everyday and some days all my gut wants to tell me is “why did you eat so much carbs last night?”

Unlike decisions about what to have for lunch or where your next travel destination will be, decisions about relationships are never easy because they impact others. The choices that you make do have an affect. How do you choose if you can’t weigh your options and how can you trust your feelings enough to come to any conclusion that can’t be explained? We take a leap of faith. Faith means not having all the information you need but trusting that it’s the right decision anyway. There’s never any certainty. But accepting that,   and having the courage to choose is better than not choosing at all. There lies the paradox. Not choosing is still choosing.

In the TedTalk, How to Make Hard Choices, Ruth Chang explains “Choices are difficult because they cannot be easily broken down into numbers. In comparing the weight of 2 suitcases, one could be heavier, lighter or equal in weight. All questions involving numbers can be broken down in this way. It is a mistake to think that these simple numerical comparisons have the same structure as the decisions between your future life. We need to make a 4th alternative – that things can be better, worse, equal, or ‘on a par’. When decisions are on a par, neither is better or worse than the other, and your lifestyle after the decision is not exactly the same, but you see both future lives as having a similar value…  It is the ‘on a par’ decisions where we get to create our own reasons for picking one over the other, and define who we are.”

To begin defining who we are and who we want to be not only comes from a place of self awareness but understanding your individual goals and values in life. Not what do you want? But more accurately, what are you willing to suffer in order to have them? What does your heart, gut, or mind tell you?

paradox

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“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.”

— Bob Moorehead (Words Aptly Spoken)

sacrifices

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Matthew Kelly once said, “Everything is a choice.

This is life’s greatest truth and its hardest lesson. It is a great truth because it reminds us of our power. Not power over others, but the often untapped power to be ourselves and to live the life we have imagined.”

What if we have it all wrong? What if life isn’t about choices but ultimately about sacrifices? The things we choose are not alternatives that exist in the presence of the other but a series of sacrifices that once you choose, the other cannot be.

Is it right to say you’re choosing to be single as opposed to being in a relationship or are you sacrificing your self reliance and independence for intimacy and company? Perhaps both? With choices come sacrifices of what you once knew and become so used to.

As I get older, choices seem more burdened to sacrificial decisions where the things I once knew should no longer apply. I once knew that I can party all night long simply because it was a choice I made between going out with friends or staying in to study. That was a choice. After years of nights I can’t remember, friendships fostered from beer and fist pumping music, it doesn’t even dawn on me as a choice. This becomes a lifestyle curated by the people around you. Maybe you’ve experienced a different path. Maybe you’ve chosen to study and dedicate 10+ years in prolonged eye to text strains, late night papers, and hard ass dedication to becoming a professional student. That was a choice right? At some point, the choices you’ve made stresses you to make sacrifices that are no longer choices. They’re what you have to give up. The origin of the word sacrifice is to “surrender, give up, suffer to be lost”. One cannot move forward without letting go of the “choices” that they’ve made to create the life they’ve lived.

Mark Manson describes “life is a bitch that happens in four stages – Mimicry, Self-Discovery, Commitment, and Legacy”. Within each of those stages we can make choices. Choose to backpack Europe or Asia. Choose to become a Marketing professional or Stock Broker. The thing about progressing from one stage to the other is not through choices but through sacrifices. You can’t choose Self-Discovery over Commitment. You can’t choose to “find yourself” and want a committed relationship. One that’s supposed to last a lifetime anyway.

 “The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.” —Thornton Wilder

Are you still choosing or are you making sacrifices?