I was stunned by the outpouring of support, of love really. I was amazed at how much people appreciate me. Somehow I had forgotten.
I don’t know who said this originally. I learned it from Donald Rothberg at an engaged Buddhism retreat I attended years ago now: “The most important thing to remember is to remember.” It is so easy for us to forget both how much we appreciate and are appreciated! It probably is even easier for those of us to forget who have learned to focus more on the needs of others than on ourselves.
Yet, the question that bubbled up yesterday and again this morning lingers: Have a lived my life fully?
That brings me to the other insight I remembered today: Comparison is poison. Part of what fueled my blues were recent comparisons I’ve made of my life with that of other people’s lives. They had so much going for themselves: A career they love, a partner, a successful hobby! The first response to my Facebook call-for-help reminded me that I was comparing my inner world to others’ outer. The person who responded first shared of her own struggles. What?! She was experiencing doubt and depression, too! But her life is perfect! Well, from the outside it might look that way. Most of us don’t share our struggles – one reason, incidentally, I try to share mine because I find it helpful to read that others are also struggling. It reminds me of my shared humanity. No one is immune.
Comparison, of course, fuels these struggles. In part because we don’t stop to think whether that life that we envy is really, deep down, attractive to us. Would I want to give up my leisurely walks to nowhere in particular for a chance to testify in front of Congress? Well, uhm, honestly? Not really. I’d rather enjoy the sunshine and be some obscure person than someone who passionately works for a cause. Not that I don’t appreciate and support the work they are doing. It’s just not me. Interestingly, following your bliss and just muddling along because you don’t really have a calling seem to be equally beneficial for our mental health.
That’s the other thing I want to remember (again) from this weekend: What seems to be the most important thing is acceptance. Accepting, for example, that we live in a culture that overemphasizes the importance of passion, of bliss – and makes those of us who don’t have it feel like there’s something wrong with us. When there really isn’t. It’s just another way to live a life. Some of us are passionate about one thing. Others are a little bit passionate about a lot of things.