Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Personally, I’m approaching today from a point of its traditional values, yes, in the sense of appreciating and giving thanks for the bounty in our lives, and all of the blessings we are honored with throughout every day of each passing year. To celebrate all of this with the people you really want to give thanks for as well, is a wonderful thing.
But I’m also approaching it as something of a check-in point for myself. Probably should have done this, like, yesterday so that I can feel totally selfless today, but that didn’t happen. I think it’s important to reflect and express gratitude for yourself as well. Well, any excuse, right? [Kidding]. This year I’ve really been trying to steer myself in a new direction, and this has meant reflecting on a lot on my values and priorities, in regards to life and my goals and ambitions, and what I’m doing with myself day by day. It’s so easy to fall into habitual patterns.
It’s like, you can look into your past and pinpoint the time at which a spark was struck; a dream ignited inside of you. A dream, or probably dreams, that flared up, somehow, out of nowhere and really stuck. Dreams you thought you would see come to fruition; dreams you were sure would really come true. And you dreamed and you dreamed until you couldn’t dream anymore because you couldn’t do anymore, and like a match that you lit under a waterfall, finally you can’t protect it with the clammy palm of your hand, cupped so protectively over a whim, fizzled out, leaving nothing in its wake but years’ worth of thinking and hoping and believing and the acrid scent of smoke.
Looking back on dreams you held onto for what felt like forever. Dreams that finally locked the door on you and, pushing
you into that chair you spent so many hours sitting in and dreaming and hoping and believing, and making you decide –and
I mean really decide– whether you were going to make those dreams come true.
That’s what I’ve been working with in this second half of 2011.
Over the summer, I hit a pretty solid low point that lasted a few months. My own inability to attain the goals I was reaching for, or rather, planning on reaching for, floored me. And while it was going on, as miserable of an experience as it was, I just kept reminding myself that it was one of those true learning experiences. I didn’t know what I was going to learn from it yet, I just knew I had to trust that there was a valuable lesson in there somewhere, and if I could let go of the urge to grasp at the illusion of the solidarity of my habitual patterns, I knew the lesson would show itself to me.
And it did. Just when I thought the feeling of futility and worthlessness would go on forever, things started changing. And as I’m sure a lot of you know from experience, it’s not exactly a and then the clouds parted and the meaning of life was revealed kind of experience. It’s a gradual process of realization — one that doesn’t have a black-and-white, clean-cut beginning or end, but one that occasionally gives you some kind of sign that you’re getting on or off an exit along the way.
Part of this process was allowing small changes. And part of being able to allow those changes was to create a space in my experience, both in the mental and the material senses, for them to emerge. And part of that was giving myself permission to give up on some of the dreams and desires I’d been holding onto for a long time — years. A lifetime. Or, if you believe in karma, which I do– then probably for many lifetimes.
I’d been hanging by a thread for a while, obstinately pushing ahead out of a sense of stubborn refusal to, in essence, give up. And this is all starting to sound pretty miserable, like I’ve been crushed by the weight of my goals and my own inability to achieve them, but that’s not what I’m trying to get at here. What I’m really trying to say is that at the very heart of this process of self-reflection, eventually you have to be straight up and honest with yourself about how you’re spending your life. Whether the goals that you’re trying to achieve are goals born out of passion and seen-through out of passion, or whether they are goals born out of passion and fought-for out of obligation.
I stumbled across a quote that I had written down in a notebook some time previously, that really spurred me on in this process. It said,
Relaxation is who you are.
Tension is who you think you should be.
I thought a lot about this; I applied this to my life as a kind of view to guide my decision making. And it guided me to a point where I was OK acknowledging that I had outgrown a lot of the goals and aspirations I was struggling so hard for. But even though I got to a point where I had to say, alright, it’s time to move on from this, part of me, the one that wants to see things through to the end and achieve the things I set out to do, didn’t want to let it go. It strongly urged me to “just do it, because you’ve already come so far,”, and I hesitated over it because it was logical. Like, if I shelved these dreams now, wouldn’t all the past years’ worth of work just become a waste of time?
But then, especially as the prospect of this time of acknowledgment and thanks-giving began quickly approaching, as I just sort of let the thought hang in the back of my mind in the form of an open question, not really expecting an answer right away, I kind of came to something of an understanding of all my work up to this point.
All the past years spent working toward the goals that I’m now putting behind me, or at least setting aside for the time being, were not a waste of time. Setting them off to the side and starting off on new ventures is not a defeat; I’m not seeing this as “losing” to myself. On the contrary, I look at all the work I have done, all the goals and dreams I have had, as extremely important steps toward the greater aspirations that are definitely going to arise out of the ashes of the original dreams.
The dreams that I was clinging to, and the goals I was grasping for so long, have made me who I am. They are huge steps in the winding ascent of my life. I don’t see them as failures, or even as childhood dreams that were foolish and unattainable, because I still do believe they were, or rather are, very attainable. I was the only thing getting in the way of attaining them, and in realizing and coming to terms with that, I’m able to see the necessity of all of it. And so, I am unendingly and extremely grateful for all that they have brought to my experience. They have given me tools and knowledge that will propel my progress on into the future. Those dreams of the past made the dreams of today possible, and the determination to live fully, with purpose and meaning, could, for me, only be born out of their death.
Today I am giving thanks for that. Great, great thanks. I am thankful for the conditions I was born under, and the conditions I am living under now. I am giving thanks for the people in my experience, many of whom I am very blessed to be acquainted with, and many, many of whom I have yet to encounter face to face, but who have, regardless, contributed greatly to this life I am leading.
I can but hope that I may return this gift to you all ten-fold. And even if it was necessary for me to abandon all of my goals, I should still hope that every day I could wake up to yet another opportunity to always, in every moment possible, be expressing gratitude for all of this.
All that aside, or perhaps better to say “all that in mind”?, I feel like this might be a somewhat relevant theme for the day. Enjoy your holiday!
So everybody – everybody
Days we grew up are days
We will treasure
Everybody show is beginning
Curtain has risen
Make your own storyline
Dream as if you will live forever
And live as if you’ll die today
*Chaosmyth by ONE OK ROCK,
from the album Zankyou Reference (2011).