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Happiness

23/01/2010

I have, of course, in search been writing versions of this post for many years: different milestones of self-revelation. Each time making a definitive shift to a new mindset/habit/approach to my professional life, believing (sometimes only by half) that that particular shift would be finite. Ultimate. The shift to end all shifts. The one that would allow it all to finally make sense, and ultimately, for happiness to descend upon the quotidian.

I’ve realised now that perhaps no such definitive shift can be made. That perhaps the search and the struggle are perpetual within our mortality. Either way, I’m not particularly concerned. Observing the most recent shift – the most dramatic, I suppose is fascinating. But not unexpected. Nor am I rendered particularly distraught by it. I suppose because ultimately, it has been the most obvious, the most straightforward of all. Also, because it is clear to me now, that all the various points of shift over the years, have in effect been cumulative.

It is a huge thing, I suppose, in one’s tiny life to say, “The thing that I have always known, and I have been doing since a child no longer makes me happy.” To look at that statement and analyse the reasons for it can be saddening and embittering if such responses are permitted. And in a way, they must be, in order to truly understand the nature of one’s psyche – ultimately, one’s journey through it all. There is, of course, a deep sense of guilt attached to such a thought, as well. “I’m not supposed to feel this way. I have an obligation to this thing that I have built.” But even such thoughts as these have to be released, because, of course, to hold onto such pathways to denial is merely delaying the inevitable. Is merely keeping one trapped in a holding pattern; treading water.

To say, “The thing that I believe will now make me happy is quite different from what I have been doing for the last twelve years of my life,” is at once empowering and terrifying. Too easily construed as failure (internally, externally), the fear with which I utter this phrase I fight only with the weapon of a vision for a bright, new dawn upon a day that resembles nothing of days past. It does not, of course, need to be said that every day of that past, every gesture made, every heart and mind encountered, every principle debated, stroke on the page, breath on the stage, has brought the present to bear. For this, my gratitude knows no bounds.

So easy it is to become confounded by the complexity of a small practice within a small community within a small world. The recognition that one’s own mindset towards one’s vocation has become microcosmic does not automatically guarantee a Buddhist undoing of all similar pathways of thought, whilst remaining healthily within a constant context. Such recognition often renders the need for a larger change. And ultimately? Such change is nothing. Of no concern, and not very dramatic at all. It is merely the next step. The next stage.

With guilt released for the most part –  at last (“I must persist, I have wasted my training, I have so much to offer; what must people think?”) it is clear now that today is simply a day that follows the last. That nothing ever ends, nor does it disappear or get lost to oneself. It simply shifts in a different direction in that perpetual ebb and flow of human existence. And we can grieve. And I have grieved in great, heaving sobs, in unstoppable tears in hysteric laughter that stems from exactly the same point of origin. But, I see how profoundly beautiful it all is, too – the whole lot – the process of loss and renewal – death and regeneration. It needs to be seen for what it is.  The privilege that so very many of us experience in the ability to choose our occupation, our pass-time, our profession, or life’s study –  that we can at any point choose to shift, to change, or to remain in the same place is phenomenal – a great gift – and one so rare, for which I now more than ever see the need for daily gratitude.

And I am aware that I am but a green juvie with regards to handling such shifts. It has taken me great courage to throw off the shackles of what I have always known and believed I must do. Others, more evolved than I, have not had such difficulty coming to such simple realisations. It is said that we shift our life’s career between five and nine times in the average lifetime. A statistic to which I have always pretended to be indifferent, but one that I have, for most of my working life, feared deeply. I am amused and at once saddened by memories of such fear now. Such lack of comprehension of the truth of life. Which is that it is short unless you are miserable, and then it is very long.

I realise now that the statistic that represents the versatility of the average middle-class human in the developed, Western-world is a gift of freedom; a luxury; a thing to be celebrated. What’s more, I am a woman, I have the right to vote, to earn a living, and even to own my own business. Not to mention that I am a coloured person in an Anglo-Saxon country, and that I maintain such rights. These facts are nothing at which to sneeze. Perhaps a white male would not/does not see their life through such lenses of accumulated historical oppression. I am daily hyper-aware of the extent to which women and members of cultural minorities have been denied the basic rights that someone of my class and professional pursuit in this city have come to expect and has taken for granted. I do not feel the right to not make an example of the opportunities that have been offered one such as myself in this lifetime. I owe it to the past, and I owe it to those still victim of oppression, discrimination and abuse here in Melbourne, Australia, and globally. (It is indeed my simple obligation to be a standard bearing feminist. How dare I not fight?) The blessings bestowed upon this life are boundless. To be given such privileged opportunity, and to not follow one’s bliss, I have learned, is a crime.

We are here for a short time. We are given certain gifts. It is up to us as to what we do with them. Although I am far from being the first (and certainly won’t be the last) to see this for myself (and will probably have the need to re-realise it again and again) – no volume of self-help manuals or spiritual leaders can teach a person a truth that they need to learn for themselves. It is to value one’s own soul over societal expectations; it is to tread a unique path rather than chase somebody else’s rainbows; it is to recognise that what brings happiness to an individual shifts and changes every day, and that it never, ever, ever comes neatly in a one-size-fits-all package; it is to know – to truly know – to feel, to believe, to understand that change is more than okay – it can sometimes be our greatest salve.

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