Heck! Why didn’t I do this before?
If I only knew, I wouldn’t have wasted all those years.
For heaven’s sake, what on earth am I doing? Is it the norm to write at 3am? Does it really matter? After all, I absolutely love it! I should have jumped out of bed two hours ago when no tricks in the book got me to a tranquil state of deep sleep? I didn’t know…
Life is so much like that. Imagine knowing precisely what will take place every single moment of our lives. There is an unquestionable sense of security. But, where is the challenge? Are some surprises not pleasant? Surely, knowing won’t be fun. Yet, I catch myself wishing that I knew which of the choices would be best for me. Am I trying to use my time efficiently?
I am led to ask what is the purpose of our time on earth. Would life serve the same purpose if we already knew everything about our future? Or, would it be truly better to know who we are, what we are capable of doing and what we are meant to do so that no time is wasted and the destination is reached within a short time?
Are we not to appreciate and enjoy the journey instead of being obsessed with the destination?
As a teenager, an ugly duckling, I was a chicken. I would be infatuated, head over heels, with the cutest boy at school but I would not have the guts to show it or do anything about it. I would rather be a tortured teenager wondering if he might have a crush on me, too. I would spend weeks imagining being with him, as I stalked him (in a sweet innocent yet pathetic way). Finally, a slight rush of courage would possess me and I would tell him that he’s the cutest boy ever and my life would be forever destroyed if he didn’t like me back. Let us assume that my story had a happy ending and he liked me too. Would I not kick myself for being the chicken that I was? I could have enjoyed those weeks spending time with him instead of staring at him from a distance.
It is to be expected, I suppose, at that age to fail to appreciate the concept of every day’s simple joys. I did not see the excitement of anticipation. My older self has accepted that many moments in my life are unknown until they happen and I am left to simply enjoy the ride, to have something to talk about as I take a break in my journey before I reach my destination and to fully be grateful for what I eventually achieve.
As we grow older, possibly more astute and even audacious, we are confronted by the reality that somehow the relationships we fashioned to be perfect were, in fact, not.
Oh no, he is just so color-blind. No, it’s not only the colors that are atrociously wrong there. It is the sheer lack of dress-sense. There is more! He emits gas generously as if the survival of the needy communities, that not even the UN can assist, depended on it.
Is it my unreasonable high standards or the boy has no aspirations? At least he adores me so I’ll stay the course. He’ll metamorphose once he learns the definition of the word. Besides, I won’t find anyone who will tolerate my own garbage, as what I have is the city dump along the N3 freeway.
I told myself that there was no Prince Charming in the 21st century. The young man was not so bad so I stayed on despite the knowledge that what I had was not the best that I deserved simply because I did not know what was waiting for me on the other side of the fence. I was losing it all – self-respect, self-confidence, self-esteem, and all the other self-prefixed words. Most importantly, I was lost myself! I permitted dementia to take over my being. Luckily, I’ve always had the habit of waking up to reality when pushed too far!
All by my independent, clear-headed self, I discovered that being alone was not as dreadful as being with a person who brought out the devil in me. I could again listen to my choice of music. I could sing out loud and dance as if I were a mad cow. Then, I wandered around to find my almost-soul-mate and knight in shining armor. And I did! It must be a fairy tale. It can be true, too.
Alternatively, I could find my Shrek, challenged in the physical attributes department but with the absolute best character. What if? Wouldn’t it be pleasant?
I do think it will be more than pleasant. It is incredible to know that we have the power of choice. If it’s not according to the plan, it would still be fine. The initial choice would be but a detour so that when we come home, we are able to truly appreciate what we find at the end of our rainbows.
And to think that I waited too long wallowing in misery and accepting mediocrity!
However, I must admit that it is not intensely appalling sticking it out there for a while. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that in more than one occasion I had been lazy and weak and I stayed longer. The crucial thing is distinguishing between the fun part of the ride which we are meant to enjoy and the masochistic tendencies we insist upon ourselves due to fear of the unknown future and definitely not because we think we are brave to handle such abuse of self. We must recognize the need to eventually get out of the avoidable sufferings, hoping and doing our best to see the signs before it is irreversibly late. Having experienced the less than perfect [for us], we become aware of the perfect, the ‘good enough’ for the most vital person in one’s life – self.
“I wish I’d known from the beginning that I was born a strong woman. What a difference it would have made? I wish I’d known that I was born a courageous woman. I’ve spent so much of my life cowering. How many conversations would I not only have started but finished if I had known I possessed a warrior’s heart. I wish I’d known that I’d been born to take on the world, I wouldn’t have run from it for so long but run to it with open arms.” These were the words of Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, ‘Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self’. I will never forget these words, words that rescued me out of many a misery.
The following makes up the long version of this post, which is meant to be for the book I am working on. I don’t think it will take away from the post not to continue reading although perhaps it will make my point more convincing.
A very good friend of mine, I will call her Maria, was raped when she was young. She was not quite out of her teens yet. This negatively affected her adult life – thirty years at least – starting from the pregnancy that was the result of the rape. A man offered to marry her, in spite of her situation, or perhaps it was due to that situation, to rescue her from the shame. She accepted her fate. Perhaps she was even grateful that the child would have a father. She did this even though she hardly knew the man who would become her husband. She probably did not learn to love him at all. She could not tell me for sure. She bore him three children and became a wife and a mother. She later got divorced and lived her life purely as the mother to her growing children.
For Maria, being married did not require her to love or be loved and sex was the means to procreate. She did not like to be touched. When we first became friends, she was not capable of expressing loving emotions and she was definitely not one of the bear-hug people that we were. She was uncomfortable with hugs, to say the least. Yet, I saw something in her, or perhaps I was simply the instrument of a higher power. The patience I normally did not have allowed me to persist with our friendship. I invited her to join me for everything. She celebrated one Christmas with my family and I. I introduced her to more friends. I shared with her my books, the books that helped me through my trying times, from John Powell’s “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I am” to Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, and of course that which I call the guide every woman should have, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self”. I guess I can say that the process of healing started.
Notwithstanding what others might say, I believe that her healing was fast-tracked by Landmark Forum. We had agreed to be my other friend’s guinea pigs. I shall call my friend Tony. It was Tony’s first time as a facilitator. He was introduced to Landmark during his “self-exile” in the United States after the painful end of his [first] marriage. I am convinced that Landmark transformed Maria to the person she never knew she was. In no time was she a devout member of our bear-hug bunch whose members constantly reminded each other of how we loved each other madly, before or after those tight brotherly/sisterly hugs.
Maria later told me how special I was to her for being stubborn about our friendship, persistent with the invitations and patient in the whole process, all unintended. In fact, it might have been my selfish motives that made me drag her along with me all the time for I loved having the company of someone other than my own spirit. I felt honoured to be the person instrumental in bringing out her authentic self. I sometimes wondered, had she known how special she was – from day 1 – to her God, would she have at least made small efforts even before I came into her life? If she had known how special she was from the start, how wonderful love is and how it is to feel a gentle loving touch and peaceful bliss, would she have opened her heart much earlier? It didn’t really matter. She learned to acknowledge this beautiful world and she started to live her life as though she had just been borne. She also fell in love for the first time, at almost fifty years of age.
However, as if it wasn’t enough, when she found herself in a new world, one with love, it was taken away from her before a year was over. One might ask why she was permitted to fall in love with a person who was about to die. It was not that it was known that he was about to die. It was a heart attack. None of us know when our time to meet our creator will come. This was indeed too sad for me. How much more was it to the person who experienced it? How could life be so unfair to a human being?
I had to remind myself that some blessings are disguised and we have the choice to look at it from a different angle. Love does not only mean joy and laughter; sometimes there are some sorrows. I think that my friend was able to feel all that there is a heart can handle and that is a blessing. For when something good is taken away from us, we learn some lessons and we are able to understand the concept of love being either for a season or a reason. The truth is that when there is life, there is hope that each day will bring more sunshine and that despite the storms, the sky eventually clears and we are able to witness flowers bloom, no matter how cliché it may sound.
While it was Maria’s fate and the myths related to her by her care-givers when she was a child blocked all visions of hope, love and joy she later got to know better. What she knew was that she had to do what her father told her to do. As an adult, she knew she had to be the dutiful wife to her husband and the devoted mother to her children, even in the absence of love. She had her roles to perform and duties for which she was responsible. Things do change as they did for her.
Not all of us have had that completely blinded knowledge of life and we are able to imagine many ‘what ifs’, positives and negatives alike, and play in our minds the ‘if I had known’ as though we knew before the encounter. We are capable of consciously shifting our paradigms and changing our thinking, attitudes and actions to get the best out of what life presents to us. The problem is that although we have always known, there is a paralyzing fear that stops us from taking the step forward. If we really do not know, yet we contemplate the what-if-we-knew-what-the-future-holds, should that not be recognized as the stimulus to jump and do it anyway, especially when the nagging feeling of desire to know for sure persists? Is it not a better option to view it as an opportunity and not a threat? Obviously, I am talking about the positive what-ifs. Conversely, if it is a negative feeling churning inside me I will heed my intuition and save myself from avoidable suffering. At the end of a chapter, it can only be either good or ‘not-so-good’ from where lessons can be learned and memories to cherish can be taken.
If only I knew I was in the wrong relationship or job… But, did I really not know? Was there not a slightest doubt telling me something was wrong and perhaps I needed to get out? Was I not listening?
What is the worst that can happen due to action? Some pains that teach us strength and courage, and a temporary setback perhaps but definitely wisdom earned. One can come out stronger and wiser. The opposite side of the coin is the best possible consequence, that is, a better job/relationship, a life that is complete and full of passion. This is an inviting thought!
And if I should have stayed, if getting out was a mistake having entered a worse situation, as long as it doesn’t kill me I could go on knowing that the world has many more to offer and that a mistake does not signify the end of all good things. I could view it as my path to the most fulfilling destination. It could simply be a break in my journey, not its end.
If only I had known… So, what is stopping me? What do I have to lose?
Perhaps there are more to gain. I do not want to later regret the consequences of ignoring my gut-feel. When questions arise, I must investigate. When an invitation is received, I must RSVP. We do not really have any idea of what the future holds so I’d rather not disregard the voice of wisdom, of the unconscious and of the spirit within. The reason why we are able to live without knowing is because the grace of God comes to us and when we welcome it, we follow our gut-feel and avoid unnecessary pains. It is the grace that tells us when we have veered off and when it is time to say goodbye and let go. I know this concept may not be widely accepted as this leans a little too much towards religion but isn’t religion a way of life?
More often than not, we have experienced what we had to experience and it is up to us to pick out the lesson. It is important to recognize though that when we find the courage to venture into the unknown, it is because it was meant for us. It is always the right path to take until we are presented with the road sign showing us that the path has forked and we need to turn. It was merely part of our journey. (Note that I do not refer to painful experiences deliberately caused by others, simply because they are evil or selfish or plainly loathsome.)
It was not long after their first meeting that two of my friends chose to be together. They fell in love and decided to get married. It is probably right to say that 99% of the people they knew and who knew them did not think that it was the right time or that marriage was the right way to go so early in the relationship. However, they were destined to share some time together, grow a little and learn from each other and from their union and move on. They were married for a year and the end of the relationship had not been amicable. He did not regret the year though. I also believe that it was not a waste. When he came out of the negative space he became a Christian. Had they known it was only going to last a year they might have not gone ahead with the wedding and maybe he wouldn’t have looked for God. We probably would have missed out on the true man that was buried deep down. Life would have been so different. And while it is true that we don’t know what will follow, what the future holds for us, the present feels so great and it feels so right that it doesn’t bother us that we don’t know. We hold a bigger knowledge within us. We know that whatever tomorrow brings, it will always be good, if not the best.
It is good not to know. It is the best to listen to your own voice and watch out for the sign advising us that the grace is within us, coaching us to march on.