I grew up believing that life was a battle, from birth until death. Perhaps because I knew poverty and thought I had everything to gain. Or, perhaps because I also knew some financial strength and felt like I had something to lose. At my core was the feeling that I am fragile, and already broken. I had to survive, make do, provide for my family. And I didn’t quite know how…..
I put on a strong face, tightened my lips, lifted my chin, and threw on a garb of overconfidence. It was a false armor, forged in the pits of self-doubt and anguish, and polished by a keen intellect. A fake posture emerged that shone custom-fit for my battle, honed over the years, and carried as one would drag a burden. I believed that I would eventually fail at “life”, be seen for the weakness that I am, and chewed up by the grinders of existence that hummed in wait for the likes of me – antisocial introvert, clinging to the mental distractions of solving mathematical puzzles, and never stopping to smell the flowers.
There was no peace in inevitable failure. There was no ultimate reward or even occasional enjoyment. Only the sense of dread drove me forward so that I could stall what felt to be worse than death – utter resignation. To everyone else, there was no mystery that I was mostly flammable – despite being occasionally useful. I was a liability, and mostly to myself. To me, it was simply the way it was.
Over time, the facade of competence became exhausting. I needed to realize that “I” wasn’t working and had to become completely drained to turn away from my career and even my health. Then, a door began to open – a new possibility that can only be described as peace. I had to face my fear of failure by…failing.
I simmered in my worst nightmare for several years, unsure of what I believed about life anymore. Was it still a battle if I had already lost? Was there some way to give my life new purpose, besides not failing? And why was failure such a threat? It had happened, and I was still here. I let go into it. Had anything really changed?
Eventually, the core belief that I had carried had finally run its course – like a bad flu. Finally, there was no need to believe something specific about life – just living and connecting was complete. I no longer needed to succeed or to expect failure. I had nothing to prove or to achieve. Nothing felt “locked in” or “set in stone”, and certainty felt unnecessary. The armor dissolved, and I stood vulnerable in a vista of possibilities. It had become so easy to rest – just rest, and any previous delimma was clearly unnecessary.
A few paragraphs cannot sum up this journey, or possibly any journey that frees one from an illusion. Maybe it doesn’t matter how or why we eventually become at peace with the simple, the quiet, and the humble – only that we do. We know when that moment arrives because it never leaves.
It is so much easier to do things when there is no fear nipping at my heels, and there is no need to control anything. I traded in armour for genuine curiosity. It had never occurred to me that the need to control life to feel safe could color my perception so completely until the need to protect had dissolved.
Reality is so much more interesting than any illusion I could have contrived, and so much more relaxing. Peace is real, while fear and doubt are not. Who would have thought?