When I resolved to change my habits and ways of thinking at the end of 2014, it totally seemed doable. I’d had a good run in my first five months of parenting (seasoned parents I can hear you laughing from here), I’d managed to keep at my deadlines and the various obstacles on my path to wellness – the house build, my new blog, my book etc – didn’t seem that daunting. But I’ve always been a little slow to catch on to things, and dare I say it, a little naive.
Fast forward two or three months and early into 2015 I am feeling completely differently. The house build is still going nowhere (again, I’m building with family, which brings with it a whole host of pros, cons and delays), work for my husband and I seems crazy, and even though I am still committing to moving as frequently as possible, it seems that everything in my everyday is eating at my resolve, threatening my undoing.
February was going to be my time for mental change: I had chosen to focus on meditation, because I figured that by being more mindful of what I was doing in each present moment, I could better complete each task and breeze through the rest of the changes with ease. But I didn’t commit to it, and February passed without me meditating for more than three whole minutes in the entire month.
As February began winding down, I realised that maybe this was meant to be. When I planned out my Better Habits Challenge, I put meditation second and put temperament all the way at the end, but as March approached that I had subconsciously been working on my temperament for much of February, without even knowing it.
I had forced myself to be hopeful of good triumphing over evil when week in, week out I was bombarded with negative news stories. I lost heart over race-related deaths in the US, feared the spread of the IS threat, pained over Boko Haram’s burning of thousands of people, lamented the attacks on European Jews and cried over the genocide of the Arab World’s Christians, something that has been ongoing for years but has recently amplified with the growth of IS. The beheading of 21 Copts on the Libyan shore – the bloodied aftermath I accidentally caught on uncensored Arabic news in my parents’ home – weakened me for days and I would spend nights whispering to my husband in the dark, fearing for my daughter’s freedom when she was our age: it seemed that the world I had grown up in had taken a massive turn for the worst.
Needless to say, I hit a bit of a slump. Although I have always had a positive nature, this time things felt really different. I knew had to get myself out of the slump for my daughter’s sake, but I also had to stop and think every time I complained about one of my problems, which were minuscule in comparison to the real problems experienced on a daily basis all around the world.
Ere go, working on my temperament. How would I find the delicate balance between being aware of my privileges and also sympathetic to the plights of other people? How could I remain hopeful – which was the essence of life as far as I was concerned – when it felt like everything around me was crumbling?
It felt like it would take a lot of energy to keep me at my normal, optimistic demeanor. Especially because that other ‘good’ in my life – my writing – seemed to be falling to pieces too. And I didn’t know how to deal with that because it was my bread and butter and something that put joy into my life when I felt like there was no joy left. It was only recently that I realised that I could sum up what I do perfectly, and I loved that summation: I’m a storyteller. I write stories, I read them, and I share them. In different formats and on very different mediums but whether they’re pictures or blog posts or interviews or fiction books, they’re all stories.
And not all stories are blemish free. There’s drama and complications and resolutions and antagonists. And the characters just keep on being.
So maybe all it takes for me to get to that mental zen of temperament is reminding myself that I am just a character in this big, wide world of drama and complications and antagonists, and that I too, will just have to keep on being.
There won’t be resolutions for everyone, but I’m here in the story, so I might as well make the most of it.
Which in the spirit of story telling and story sharing makes me a little curious: how do you deal with the big bad woes of the world?