Something flew through my head in the shower this morning: I hate the way I look now, but I’m still a happy person. This isn’t me fishing for compliments so don’t @ me on the first clause in that random thought. I’ve just seen my body change through time, as we all do, and do I love what health issues, not exercising for an hour a day, and sitting at a computer all day are doing to me? Nah, not necessarily. Some people age more gracefully than others. But thankfully my happiness doesn’t hinge on that inevitability, because I know there are a lot of external factors at play, impacting our sense of self and how we think in general.
From “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig
In my 20s, I spent a lot of time committing to certain ideas and behaviors because I thought that not being consistent in thought and action made you a hypocrite. Life has a way of smacking that hubris out of you though, doesn’t it? Now, at 35, I give myself permission to be complex and I give myself permission to change my mind about things. I’ve learned that nothing is black-and-white and after I meticulously planned every detail of my life around a failed pregnancy, I’ve learned that it is downright dangerous to deal in absolutes. You have to be flexible- be like water, as Bruce Lee says.
Two resources come to mind when I think of ladies who have nailed down the concepts I am trying to share with you here, and they have articulated it all so eloquently that I reach for their words quite often. Perhaps you will, too:
Check out this amazing, amazing TEDTalk by the divine Elif Shafak whose voice calms me as she slams down truth after truth.
“Wherever I look, I see nuances withering away. On TV shows, we have one anti-something speaker situated against a pro-something speaker. Yeah? It’s good ratings. It’s even better if they shout at each other. Even in academia, where our intellect is supposed to be nourished, you see one atheist scholar competing with a firmly theist scholar, but it’s not a real intellectual exchange, because it’s a clash between two certainties. I think binary oppositions are everywhere. So slowly and systematically, we are being denied the right to be complex.”
Secondly, I often turn to Susan Sontag’s brilliant writings.
Sontag once wrote:
“…It is not necessary to be unhappy, even while one is clear-eyed and undeluded about how terrible everything is. (You said that a writer—delicately you added: all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource.)” -Susan Sontag in a, yes, unspeakably beautiful letter to Jorge Luis Borges, 1996”
Because the fact of the matter is that all things good and bad are indeed a resource. Everything from success and happiness to chaos, anger, and sadness contains information. There are lessons and learnings everywhere, and you can’t unlock them unless you’re brave enough to pay attention and open yourself up to your truth. Take the good with the bad, and learn richly from it all.
Anyway, moral of the story:
It’s cool to have feelings. They don’t have to always be “good” and it’s ok for them to change, as they often do. I learned the hard way not to cling to or double down on a mistake just because I spent a lot of time making it. I hope you’ll allow yourself the same freedom.