Whenever I get a little bit loose with my manners karma has a way of reining me in. A few weeks ago I fell down a couple of stairs and didn’t get something I really wanted, and that’s when I knew, I had to pause and reset. When I say reset, I basically mean that I have to try to be a better person. Andrew gave me a high-five at this declaration and I told him that the universe also rewards the intention to be good. Sometimes the both of us get down with our judgemental selves and he nodded “yes,” because refinement of self is an art that we try to take part in.
Personally, I like my karma straight up and all at once. Like, if it’s coming just make it into a stick and give it a gentle wack. I’ve accepted it as part of my existence and these little reminders make complete sense upon reflection. When I was near the end of my undergrad studies and working in a hellish restaurant, I sliced my finger open one particularly busy day. Standing over the sink with the tap on full blast, I honestly thought I had never felt to so miserable in my life. Then, the thought occurred to me that this was probably my karma for being mean to my grandparents or something. So, I got a band-aid and got on with the rest of my day. I also vowed to not be so flippant and it’s a part of my nature that I try to monitor and check. There you go.
My project to be better is not as abstract as you would think and it’s twofold. One, words matter so I work on not being so reactionary and saying things I usually regret. Secondly, I work on my thoughts and try to keep them on a higher plane. I feel that it is so much more productive to expect the best outcomes before you get the answer because I personally find pessimism to be so toxic. I don’t see the point of worrying about problems and setbacks until I’m in the middle of trying to solve them. We live in society and not a vacuum so frustrations will ultimately test your resolve to roll with the punches. Though I don’t always succeed, taking part in the challenge makes me feel like I’m trying to whittle away at my faults.
I personally find these checks and balances to be helpful. It’s comforting to me to know that bad things don’t happen to me because I am a bad person. Rather, unfortunate circumstances are opportunities to work off wrongdoings from the past and try to prevent further failings in the future. As I gained more life experience and have had the chance to mature, I’ve come to terms with the fact that being an adult means that you often have to do things that you do not want to. Participating in life as a mature individual means that you have to be gracious and understand the concept of duty while still not losing your own beliefs in the process. I now understand that there are individuals I would be fine with seeing once a year for twenty minutes tops, but, they are part and parcel of my life’s choices. Everyone understands that you can’t just quit your job because you don’t like one or two of your co-workers. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to take your commitment to being professional and cordial in your workplace to other aspects of your life. It is so refreshing to know that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone and they don’t have to be best friends with you.
Are these types of tension-filled relationships salvageable? I used to think so but I’m not so sure anymore. I believe that over time, continued hurtful behaviour towards someone, whether the individual is aware of the consequences or not, changes a dynamic. Most humans will begin to shut down and close themselves off from these triggers and circumvent any further damage by being hands-off. In the past, I thought that this form of coldness was a shame but I now believe that it can be the most healthy remedy for dysfunctional relationships. The best part of being born is that you enter the world able to connect with so many others. A part of that too is that there will be loads of people who become sources of friction and resentment. But that’s not say that you can’t be civil and co-exist. I’m pretty sure that’s what an adult would do. Now, in your downtime, be with people who bring you light.
When the shit has hittith the fan my philosophy is to take it like a woman and to clean up later. Because you know that’s where character’s needed right? The clean up. But when things are a bit shaky I also draw on two lines written by a Victorian poet and a man with a beautiful voice. The words are from “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley and Morgan Freeman is the one speaking them. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” In my mind there is nothing more powerful than that. The belief that you have the power to make things better, and if not, at least the will to trudge right on through to the other side. After the poem I also tell myself that “this” will not break me. Perhaps it’s my own little prayer but man, the comfort it provides it indescribable.
All the talk of lyrical words also bring forth thoughts of spirituality. I’m sure that many faiths frown upon it but as a Burmese Theravada Buddhist, I’ve been raised to also believe in a little bit of magic. Perhaps it’s because we know that so many things are out of our control, we arm ourselves with a bit of the mystic. Whether it becomes true or not, the practice of drawing on the gifts of individuals who may have access to another realm is not reduced to nonsense. I appreciate that, the world is far too serious already. Plus, it’s become somewhat of a ritual, that when I’m in Yangon I consult with the fortune teller, a woman I met when I was fifteen and last saw when I was twenty-eight. Her face is pure light, her aura is very beautiful. It’s all in good fun and I like having brunch with my family afterwards. If you’re going to have Burmese fish soup (mohinga), it always tastes better at a cafe downtown, on a wooden stool, in the middle of so much life.
I’ve also had a long-term relationship with astrology. I was that girl who looked up the sign of her high school crush and tried to figure out how to go about speaking to him. Judging from my list of boyfriends (one, the one who became my husband), I was a bit shy and awkward during that time and didn’t end up speaking to most of them. The idea that all born within a three week time-frame would have similar characteristics is somewhat silly, but those who take these things seriously know that the rising sign and moon sign make an attempt at drawing out the nuances. Either way, I occasionally read my monthly horoscope at the back of fashion magazines. While I chuckle and hope that those new opportunities do come my way, I am aware that working towards it is a necessary part of it all.
There are a million different ways to come to terms with the unknown. Some people worry and others feel that they have answer before it’s even been delivered. I always remind myself to ask for what I want and have the flow to change course when necessary. After all, what are captains if they are not leaders.
I feel blessed that I’ve never felt true devastation. The closest I’ve come to it is when I lost my grandparents. This is not to say that pain like this will never touch my life again. I know that it’s just a part of living in this world. And this world is extraordinary, beautiful and productive. It’s important to remember that in the face of utter destruction.
I draw this philosophy and approach from Buddhist teachings and other less defined forms of spirituality. That and just generally observing human behavior. The main principle is to tread lightly. The image I always see is that of skimming water. There is still displacement but there’s less impact than a cannonball, right? It’s also a whole lot less selfish because now people don’t have to change their shoes.
Studying these concepts and actually practicing them are two different stories. One or my worst traits is my lack of patience. I can sometimes be reactionary and not fully think through the consequences. I also have a flair for drama. I recently noticed that a moth from our old apartment in Toronto had put holes in several of my sweaters, basically leaving them ruined. I commented that “it’s like we’re living in Victorian England,” to which my husband responded, “it’s like we living a house filled with hyperbolic statements.” I gave him a “humph” but I can’t disagree. But recognizing these flaws and trying to improve on them is the first honorable step. It’s always a work in progress and I’m just trying to live as respectfully as possible. Plus, these traits can sometimes make me brave.
So how exactly do you become enlightened? Well, the simplest route is to always seek the middle ground. Here are some examples: acknowledge the shortcomings in the world but also see the good; don’t place anything on a pedestal, imperfections are what provide richness in life; there are always different approaches and various ways of being, respect that; and you’ll only have a letdown if you build something up too much, simmer down and just enjoy it while it lasts. The principle: moderation in all things.
Therefore, when hard times approach you won’t completely fall apart. True grit is often more valuable than privilege, wealth or even talent. It’s what keeps you going.
I have a photograph on my Tumblr blog that states “what if the one that got away came back?” Ten years ago, heck three years ago, a statement like this would have made me swoon. I keep it on my blog now to remind me not to be a fool. He is never coming back and if he got away, well, maybe it was for the best. Forget chasing and dodge that bullet.
I’ve smartened up because I’ve learnt the hard way that pining over something in the past is so completely useless. It’s probably the very opposite of being productive and you end up not loving individuals around you like they so deserve. But I see the pull. The past is so much easier to figure out because it’s already happened, the present is what you’re working through now. The bigger picture is mostly granted with experience but the good news is that we almost always learn to live with whatever plays out.
Don’t worry, being less naive has not made a cynic out of me. When I say that he’s never coming back, I just mean maybe not this lifetime. If you’re one to believe in karma like I do, you probably also subscribe to the idea that souls are somehow linked. Now this is not soulmate with a capital S where there is only one person in the world who can make you happy. How absurd is that, especially when you are growing everyday? No, I believe that you only get that surge of energy when you meet someone, when your entire body reacts towards them because you’ve met before. I believe that a couple of us circle each other lifetime after lifetime and the relationships are not always romantic. Sometimes you’re siblings, platonic friends or enemies and because of your karma it might take a few tries to actually be together.
I’ve felt that seismic jolt a couple of times like I’m sure we all have. There’s happiness in knowing that we’ll probably meet again no?
“See you next lifetime brother.” If you watch Lost you’ll get the significance of that statement. God, Desmond was my favourite.