At the time of this writing, it’s about 11:00 PM and I’ve found little purchase in sleeping. Instead of trying to fight against it, I decided to look at what was going on objectively; as if I were a third party observing keenly into the mind of a subject. I realized I had a lot on my mind and it centered on my perspective on emotional strength vs emotional weakness. On my own strengths and weaknesses, to be more precise.
2016 was an incredible year. It was what I’ll call the year of rebirth, rediscovery, and reconnection. In many ways I learned more about myself than I ever had in just that one year, and those lessons were even tested after being learned. I asked myself how I got to where I am now after having gone through so much in such a short span of time. While 2016 may have been an incredible year, 2015 was terrifying. Cataclysmic even.
Yet, I lived through it.
Despite everything, even my own twisted perspectives, I made it. I reflect on that now as emotional strength. But where was that strength born from? Ah, it’s counter, my emotional weaknesses. See, some strange part of me saw the terrible things I was going through, deep down, as a test. A problem I needed to solve. I wanted to be happy, but I had to solve the problem of being happy. I had approached the problem like you’d approach any problem: I am here, unhappy, and I want to be happy, as my destination. I want to solve the problems that prevent each step and make each step until I’ve achieved it. With most goals, this is a sound practice. But the problem that I had discovered was that, despite my sincerest personal inventories, I couldn’t discover what made me happy. I couldn’t find anything that would give me the kind of happiness I wanted, nor could I understand what exactly it was that I was really, really searching for.
Then it hit me, I was looking for happiness as if it were a treasure. As if it were the Holy Grail.
So, all at once, I stopped. I stopped trying to do things that would resonate with me. I stopped faking that this or that was making me happy. I just stopped everything and decided that, until I understood what happiness was, in its full nature, I couldn’t pursue it. Attempting to would be folly, as I had learned the hard way. It was then, when I had let go of it all, that I felt free — I had removed the weight from my shoulders. It wasn’t apathy, it was acceptance. The kind that you get when you find peace in the chaos of the world. The kind you feel when you sit in silence for long enough that you begin to lose track of where the lines between who you are, and who everyone and everything around you are. And that freedom, for the first time in a long time, gave me true happiness.
I awoke the next day and smiled, and I was happy. And my happiness began to reflect in how my fingers poured my tea, or how my attitude towards my co-workers formed. Feeling free and connected to everything, I felt a natural compassion towards everyone I saw, everything around me, because it was me in some way. And when I awoke with happiness and it touched all that I was doing, those things began to spread happiness too. I drove with happiness and kindness, and others followed suit. I spoke with kind speech and others’ tones changed to match the happiness in my own. I became thankful for what I had and for who entered and exited my life because I accepted both that life will do all the things it must, and that my happiness didn’t depend on it.
My happiness depended only on me.
That brings us back to Emotional Strength. I look back on 2016 and further to 2015 and I realize that my mindfulness is what gave me the strength I needed. My weaknesses were the clues I needed to seek out the happiness I felt later. I faced the world and my troubles with acceptance and with mindful dedication, and so I had found my emotional strength. I had discovered through my own struggles, like clues in a mystery, that I had the keys to being emotionally strong all along.
Now, I dare say I can face anything. That isn’t to say I will not suffer or feel emotional pain — I am an empathetic person, how could I not? It just means that I know that my happiness doesn’t and indeed must not depend on someone else. It depends on me, on my perspective, and on how I see the world. When my view of the world changes, so too does my state of mind. And happiness, like all emotional forms, is a state of mind.
So when I have forgotten this, I hope that future me returns to this blog post and reads it. I hope he sees this and remembers that letting go of sadness is as simple as accepting it and as embracing it. It is as joyful as loving yourself, as breathing, and as being one with all things. When we shed our fear, we can shed our sadness, our anger, and our suffering. And when we shed those things, all that is left is love and compassion.