Monday, October 8, 2012

Lifting me up

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

This phrase could refer to anything from making a dietary change to moving to a new country to becoming a Buddhist simply out of curiosity. Regardless of its purpose or application, the moment after a big change - it's the kind of thing you think about. You contemplate the consequences of your actions and it fills you with wonder, questions, sometimes confusion.

But the important thing is to always do what's right. Not in the way of creating a wonderful world for humanity, while that can certainly be an aim too, but in the way of choosing the right path for you. For personal growth and happiness is the best thing you can do for anyone. In the end, it makes you a better person, and that's all you can really promise to the world.

I like to make pro-con lists. When I'm down to making life-altering decisions, it can be a comfort to see answers scrawled out on paper. The good and the bad become apparent, almost inescapable, because they're right there in black and white. Or blue and white. Or black and yellow. Whatever colors of pen and paper suit your fancy, the words themselves are reliable.

Over the last few days, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships with people - certain people and people in general - and how I can better allow myself to coexist with mankind. No added strains, no dramatic complaints, no mixed up feelings.

And I guess I settled on a simple conclusion: dump that which pains you.

I have a lot of trouble letting go of things. Past relationships, old friendships, objects that I've owned in the past, basically anything really. I've written about being a packrat at times, and while I don't think my addiction necessitates an appearance on the TLC show Hoarders: Buried Alive, I do think that at times my own desire to keep anything that has ever meant anything to me around serves to bite me in the bum later.

In conversation with friends, I've learned that I'm not the only one who suffers this fate. Many of us maintain friendships, relationships, etc. with the hope that despite dissatisfaction at the present moment, there will eventually be contentment.

Sometimes that's true. We work through our problems with people, we discover solutions, we go back to remembering what it is we loved about them.

Personally, I will never give up that part of myself. The part that wants to fight for something that I once believed in, assuming that if there once was happiness there, then there is still the possibility of happiness in the future.

With the pro-con list principle, though, it becomes necessary to start thinking of situations as not inevitably fixable, but as nebulous and constantly changing. There is room for help, but also room to let go. Sometimes room to banish, but only in extreme circumstances.

As it turns out, my life has gone from ordinary despite childhood tragedy to utterly confusing despite relative stability. I live in this contradiction where the worst years of my life were actually characterized by ineffable beauty, only to have the best years of my life be characterized by a sense of sadness at every turn. I've learned that the worst thing to have weigh on your soul is love, or rather lost love.

By this, I don't mean being broken up with by a significant other. I mean falling out of love with friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, acquaintances, anyone. It's that feeling of being rejected and feeling alone in the world that makes your life miserable even when on paper things seem to be headed in the right direction.

And while I find myself re-entering a period of stability, of self-assurance that will prevent me from feeling the toils of loss and emptiness, I also recognize that in doing so I've had to leave behind a big chunk of my life from before now.

By that I mean I've had to let go of that which strains me. My patience, my happiness, sometimes my love.

Earlier today, I was talking to my dad about my relationship with one of my relatives. Even though it meant having to stomach mistreatment and harshness, assuming I could get past being stereotyped by this person and thus infantilized and insulted,  I tried desperately to remain open to a future of friendship with the family member. But as time went on, I discovered that the fight, the effort, the occasional feelings of inadequacy, weren't worth the "love," if that's what you'd even call it.

In life, it's the relationships that lift us up that matter. The ones that drag us down aren't necessarily worth giving up, but that doesn't mean they're worth stomaching. When pain grows too much, our best interest as people is to let go of what ails us.

This premise is hard to handle, especially as someone who believes that big changes, big choices shape the rest of our lives. I always worry that any decision I make will create a domino effect that will only make the situation worse in the long run.

Yet because we live, and because we breathe, and because we maintain the responsibility to make this world a better place, it is our job to pick and choose what's best for us in our lives. These are the ways we prevent tragedy, depression, misspent concern. It doesn't mean things will be easy, but it brings us infinitely closer to an ideal.

And while I still am the kind of person who wants to heal all wounds, create strong relationships with the things and people that hurt me most, even I know that there is a time and a place where solutions run out. While it pains me to believe that, it would pain me even more to ignore it.

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