There are so many reasons to feel overwhelmed, and even hopeless, these days. For those who don't believe in an all-knowing, benevolent higher power that has a plan for it all, where are we to look for hope?
Guatama Buddha's great teaching was how to become free from the cravings, fears, and ego-filled pride that keeps us all miserable. He offered a clear path for how to achieve this enlightened state. But he also said that no one can save us but ourselves. "We ourselves must walk the path," is the translation often given.
So maybe you're not aiming for nirvana, but the same is true for any kind of healing and self-actualization that you strive to do.
Two years ago today, my husband helped me check myself into a psych hospital with symptoms of mania, severe insomnia, panic attacks, and racing and delusional thoughts. Our daughter was three months old.
We have great power to change and influence many things, both in ourselves and in this world, and it is good to want to improve and to work toward positive changes. But for those things that we cannot change, we still have the power to see beauty, even in the ugly and tragic.
For 20th century French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, we humans have the power to determine who we are. Every moment, we are creating ourselves through our choices, both in actions we take and in the meaning that we ascribe to those actions. And no matter our circumstances, we are always free to choose differently—to choose new ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and actions.
I had a text exchange recently with a friend who was grew up with a conservative Christian upbringing, but has since left the church and stopped believing. She was reluctant to watch a video that her uncle gifted to her, (likely in a passive-aggressive attempt to bring her back into the fold), which ostensibly made a case for everything from the Biblical great flood to the Christian resurrection, based on archeological artifacts and other kinds of data.
"I struggle with that sort of thing," she said. "Like: what if that evidence was in any way legit or convincing? I'm not sure I could be convinced to revisit my conclusions at this point."
I'm reading What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen and reflecting on her point that motherhood and mothering is now described in language more so than ever before--in books and online rather than through nonverbal communication in multigenerational families, as it was in years past--and yet there is such a lack of both words and stories that communicate the activities of mothering.
As soon as I learned what an episiotomy was, I knew I didn't want one. For the uninitiated, an episiotomy is a procedure done to help make room for a baby during delivery, by making an incision in the perineum, the tissue between the vagina and the anus. Yeah, that's why I didn't want one. In fact, when I filled out the intake form on my childbirth class, I wrote it down as one of my biggest fears. But, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.