Note: This piece was a submission for Tiny Buddha that was not selected but gonna give some airtime for here. Enjoy.
“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~ Unknown
In my Life, expectations rooted in the expectations of others have led me to experience a lack of being, an incapability to be mindful, and unable to enjoy the presence of each moment. I have had to hit my head against the wall repetitiously to learn this.
At the start of 2009, I sat amidst my Quarter Life Crisis, which was on life support as I was close to turning 30, and I was trying to just “Breathe and Smile,” as Thich Nhat Hahn put it. I had been meditating off and on for years, part of the spiritual hokey pokey I played, before starting to realize that I truly was seeking to live mindfully and create a peaceful existence for myself. As I went deep into meditation that night, I heard a voice within my being ask: “What do you want Jason?”
As I focused on the question and where it came from, I felt like it was asking me what was in my Heart, the area in my chest feeling like it was opening up. One of my teachers expressed that “the body is the way the Spirit experiences the world” so I was learning to pay attention to sensations within my body. In that instance, as my Heart opened, I saw the image of a woman and that startled me.
I had not really any idea what that meant or why. Within a few months I found the answer, meeting the woman who was presented as a vision and with whom our lives seemed intertwined with synchronicity. I thought for sure that we would be married.
Well, Life being the “expect the unexpected” that it is, happened and we broke up during a series of events that changed my life. Within a short period of time, I was laid off from work, laid off from that relationship, and experienced the Death of my Grandfather, the latter two experiences within a day of one another.
Having been brought to my knees by Life, I had a choice: to see myself as a victim or quit playing the hokey pokey, strive to go deep within to understand, to let go, and finally accept. My pattern of fighting the occurrences of life stemmed back to childhood when I found out that my family was moving, an experience that was very difficult to understand at the time, impacted my development, and took years to process. The trauma that I experienced from the sudden change at the young age and made me strive unable to accept the house of cards tumbling around me each and every time a change occurred.
I began to pray for dreams, interpret them, and observe/interpret the symbols of my life as they showed up in my experience. If it worked for people in the past and other cultures, it had to work for me and I began to trust that Life knew more than me because each time I went through a change, in hindsight, I realized it was for the better, if only because of the growth that unfolded for me. I wanted to stop resisting the change and enjoy the whole show.
I found ways to joke about Mindfulness so that I could enjoy it, telling people that it was Okay-Ness, because within each moment, the perspective can shift and we can find the beauty in the chaos, the chaos in the beauty, or both. And whatever we focused on was in fact Okay because it was there to teach us.
In November of last year, my Grandmother passed away. Within minutes of finding out about this, my car died on me while I was driving. A friend informed me that perhaps it was my Grandma saying bye.
I believed it because for a time I drove her old car and it did the same thing to me, dying out while I was driving and left me on the side of the road, signs I took as it was time to leave a bad work situation that I was stubborn on exiting because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent.
As I look at Life’s Road, with its twists and turns, I am beginning to appreciate what presence brings in each moment because our fears really can facilitate our experiences. With all my expectations, I rarely had the opportunity to appreciate the emotions I didn’t like that came with change because I was not ready for disappointment, anger, or sadness. I have fought my emotions for so long and when I lost that last relationship shortly after my job and right before my Grandfather, I couldn’t fight the feeling because of how intense it was and how it consumed me.
It was a lifetime of not accepting change and the feelings that came with it and during that time, I felt it all fully because it helped me to really feel alive. I have since been cultivating the garden of my observer and feel all of this without getting so overtaken by it that I forget I have peace in each moment, if only because I realize I am not my emotion, I am just feeling them. Whatever I am feeling is really okay because it wouldn’t be experienced if it was not necessary.
The disappointment that came with my attachments, the suffering that I thought I was going through was merely my opposition to allowing whatever was present in my life. The other day, my then girlfriend and I broke up. I met her months before my Grandmother passed and there was chemistry that I chose to ignore until I was reminded of the frailty of life on the day my Grandmother passed away.
I gave love a chance again because I was present and it felt right to do so. I opened, allowed myself back into love, and yet we broke up.
It was mutually created, it sucks, but it is beautiful because I can allow my feelings to exist. I can accept that this is where I am. As with previous changes, where I didn’t know what was yet to come, I still do not know.
The fact that I feel strong enough to get out of bed, go to work, keep walking, give myself space to grieve, be angry, smile, laugh and feel peace as I go through each day is liberating. It is challenging but considering that I am a stronger person this time around, I made it through something that was at the time what I would consider worse, so I will be okay.
I am going to be okay because I already am. Even though I didn’t set out for this relationship to unfold as it did, the fact is it did. I am not a victim. I just had an experience and that is cool.