Dealing with one’s past requires courage but it is the best way to move forward in life. Lucky are those who realized it earlier than later. The enlightenment is usually triggered by an external event or by a close relationship.
I was 16 when my mum passed away. And until recently, I thought I coped with the event rather maturely. After all, I did well in my university days and got a decent job after that. On top of that, I really don’t lack anything in life. I could get my hands on anything that I wish for although I don’t long for many things. My life is always a smooth sailing one, as one friend used to tell me. As a result of it, I don’t have burning desires for many things as I could just as easily get anything I want in my life.
After my mum’s untimely departure, I found solace in the writing of Kahlil Gibran (The Prophet) and the book of Ecclesiastes. Everyone deals with bad experiences in different ways and I have, at 16, chosen this approach. Kahlil Gibran’s ‘indifference in everything’ and Ecclesiastes’ ‘meaninglessness in everything’ shaped my life philosophy strongly until today. After all, for 17 years, these thinkings protected me from unwanted disappointments and sorrows in life, especially in regard to relationships.
It was a recent conversation with my family that made me rethink if indeed I was right in my approach for the past 17 years. Think about it. 17 years to realize something!
My dad told me, “It’s wrong to live like a monk. And that’s not the right way to live. You seem totally fine if something happens or if it doesn’t happen.”
My elder sister reminisced, “You are totally different 17 years ago.”
The night when the conversation took place something strange happened. I mean I rarely cry (less than 5 times I would venture an opinion, minus say those baby/ toddler cryings). But that night it’s like there is a cry button inside me and tears just rolled off my cheeks. Just like that. It is scary.
And in those moments I shouted, “Why did you leave me? Why?!” (It suddenly hit me at the moment why I have gravitated towards Kahlil Gibran’s writing and Ecclesiastes. Everything seems to stack up and I suddenly understand why I have behaved in such a way. It wasn’t by choice but rather by the work of my subconscious mind protecting me from the untoward episode in my life. I only realized it at that night, 17 years later.)
Approximately one year earlier an ex colleague recommended a book called Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki by Murukani Haruki.
“This book talks about how we need to deal with our past in order to move forward,” she advised. (She could well sense something?)
I read a few pages and put the book aside. Note how our mind protects us by shutting off threatening information that may alter our present state of mind. It seeks to protect us for sure, having our best interest at all times but if the setup was wrong, then our mind will end up upholding the status quo, doing us more harm than good in the process.
This is perhaps the first barrier to change and it took me 17 years just to realize it.
Paul Kalanithi in his outstanding book, When Breath Becomes Air wrote, “I realized that the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in a medical context.” (He was an outstanding neurosurgeon and wrote the book when he was diagnosed with late stage cancer. He died penning his thoughts half way through. He was just 36 then).
I am still as reticent as ever but I feel that lump in my heart starts melting away, drip by drip. To what extent I don’t know – only time will tell. But I have a plan on how to fix it.
This post is very difficult for me to pen down for sure but I hope if you have similar experience that you can relate, you’ll take less time to recover and learn from my experience.
The world doesn’t need to know if you have fallen. It doesn’t care. Go somewhere far and hide away. Cry alone for heaven’s sake, throw some plates off if it helps or shout at the top of your lungs by the sea or mountain but when you return back to your reality, bounce back stronger. With that best smile. Get your shit together. Like the phoenix that finally rise above its own ashes. The world requires positive influences, nothing more and nothing less.
Signing off from
Rizal Park, Manila.
(1) Kahlil Gibran and Ecclesiastes are most likely right at the end of the day but the paths to reach the conclusion are infinite. Realizing the different paths we can take is essential.
(2) “You can put a lid on memory, but you cannot hide history.” (from Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki)