The three magic words aren’t what you might think
I am 40 tomorrow and reaching record levels of simultaneous panic and introspection.
I am, of course, not who I thought I’d be. Taigen Dan Leighton, Zen priest and author of Visions of Awakening Space and Time, asked wisely “did anything ever turn out the way you thought it would?”
We yearn for predictability because it gives us an illusion of comfort, but in reality it isn’t what we want. I know no-one who is unequivocally happy as a result of achieving what they imagined they wanted. There is temporary satisfaction, yes; but also always a hidden twist in the landscape, that can’t be seen until we’re right in front of it.
The good news is that this releases us from trying to control the future. You can only do your best, and your best is enough.
I figured that once I’d attained enlightenment, I could doss around and enjoy the rest of my life in bliss – in the same way that some people view retirement – however this myth was quashed when I asked my teacher, a Zen master, “are you still learning?” and he replied “yes of course.”
So there is no end to self-improvement. That’s good, right? Nobody likes endings. Did I even want a happy ending? Or how about eternity? Vampires, holders of eternal life, don’t look too satisfied either.
In truth there is nowhere to go, emotionally, but to accept what I’ve been given. Which for now is a little disappointment, that I am not Secretary General of the UN or editor of the NYT; a little fear, that this means I’ll be branded a loser; and a worry, that I’m going to develop an irrational craving to cover it all up with a red sportscar.
On the other hand the worries that media and busybodies say I should have, i.e. that I’m unmarried and CHILDLESS, don’t bother me at all. “It’s a shame”, I’ve been told. Shame that what? That I don’t fit into their personal picture of how everyone should be?
The idea is, “Oh no. If I don’t have a family and a job, then I have nothing.” This ideal is then projected into “well-meaning” (read: patronising and interfering) judgments on others.
The reality is that you can be fulfilled; but the contents of that fulfilment are usually beyond what most of us can imagine. I would tell you mine, but each person’s love is different.
So dream, for God’s sake. Dream for all you’re worth, do your best, and then wait in wonder.
One of the most beautiful book titles I ever came across is Only Don’t Know. The sooner you can embrace those three words, the sooner you’ll be fulfilled.
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