A friend once told me of a quote by the Peace Pilgrim– and it has echoed in my mind since. I sought out the exact phrase again, and it goes: “Insofar as we disobey these [ universal ] laws, we create difficulties for ourselves by our disobedience. We are our own worst enemies. If we are out of harmony through ignorance, we suffer somewhat, but if we know better, and are still out of harmony, we suffer a great deal.”
The idea that our happiness or our suffering is something we can work with, use as tools to identify the best path forward- that idea works for me. Ever since hearing it expressed as such, I have used the idea when I’m unhappy- “ok, in some way I’m still choosing this difficulty, I must still somehow want to be experiencing this disruption…”
When I look back at my life during my teens and twenties, I can see the tropes I fell for: ideas about the body, ideas about relationships, ideas about success and ambition- ideas about how these things are supposed to work. I was disappointed and unhappy when things didn’t work as I thought they would, as the general ideology of contemporary American life says they will.
I fell for the body trope first- the idea that it’s not a self-balancing entity, but given free reign will become wildly imbalanced and (of course) fat or sick. It took me a good fifteen years to start to trust my body again. I stopped trusting when I was fifteen, and was back to normal around the age of thirty. Occasionally, during that time period of distrust, I’d encounter stories of women who described surprise at their experiences of relaxing their grip on “body control” only to find they were happier and felt better and- the biggest surprise- looked more like what they’d wanted to look like. The same thing happened to me, exactly as I would never have believed: when I stopped over-excercising and controlling food, I was not only happier, my body looked more like what I had tried to achieve through control and exercise. (and I don’t think it’s just a change of perspective- I am a clothing designer and pattern maker, and thus have had to know my size in order to properly fit patterns…)
Second, I fell for the relationship trope. This generally presented itself as such: loneliness is scary, I need love to feel better, and I need it from this one person- someone who gave it and then took it away. ( I replayed this trope about 5 times during my twenties, so it’s hardly a specific sentiment. ) The surprising place I find myself at now is happily married to a man I’ve known since I was twenty. It is a relationship that started as an acquaintance, proceeded to business partners, and, only after knowing each other a dozen years, became romantic. And it has continually surprised me, in the best ways.
And third, the trope about ambition and success: I still struggle with this one everyday. The traditional American ideology about success mirrors those about body and relationships- regime, regimen, structure, 5 year plans, and hard work, plus many failures = SUCCESS. If I were to apply what I’ve learned from the other two tropes, I’d start looking for a different path entirely, something surprising, unexpected, and in the flow.
Now, I have no doubt that as I continue living, more tropes will present themselves to be struggled with. Perhaps it will be aging. Perhaps it will be relationship changes. Perhaps outer world events will intrude on my peaceful life. I don’t know and can’t predict- but I can extrapolate, based on past experience, there is an easy way to deal with things- especially self-created things like emotions and ideas- and there is a hard way.
After re-reading that quote from Peace Pilgrim, I tried to identify the universal laws I’m aware of…perhaps a task undertaken in hubris, but here’s what I could manage to write down:
-change is constant, so embrace it. Planning is fine, but it’s more important to be able to evolve the plan to meet the change. What works now may not work tomorrow.
–Emotions are a choice, and even if you can’t seem to control them, they are temporary. Acknowledge them, identify the source, and if they are negative- change the source or change the emotion.
-Go with the flow. Why do you try to make a relationship work if it’s hard? Why do you spend hours on a treadmill if it’s not enjoyable? Why not take the easier path?
–Focus on the things that interest you– because attention and energy make things bigger.
Part of the Feel Something More campaign, from the lovely ladies at Team J and A. Very excited to have such an inspiring prompt to write from, and looking forward to seeing the rest of the tour! Next stop: “Salsa dancing, arepas de choclo, and stepping into my true self. .. ” by Angela Spignese