There was this one time when my parents and I were on vacation in Canada and my mom and I had gotten into a fight the previous night; I was about maybe twelve years old. The next morning, we ate at the hotel complimentary breakfast with the expected aftermath of awkwardness in the air- I kept my eyes lowered to shield my puffy red eyes under my hat. There weren’t many other people around, but I remember seeing two tanned men sitting near us at the next table. I was in a foul mood, angry with the world and still upset at something my mom had said earlier; my feeling ashamed reflected clearly in my flushed face.
I was so lost in my own world of sulky thoughts that I only barely took notice that my mom had left the table to get more food. Soon after, my dad also got up to head to an aisle leading to the men’s room, leaving me alone. The next minute, I was whipped out of my thoughts by a man who approached me, pointing furiously towards the direction my dad had left in and jabbering in a foreign language. His panic was infectious. The first thing that came to my mind was that something had happened to my dad: he had a heart attack, he had passed out, there was a fire. I hesitated and stood up as the man bolted off – confused, I wondered if I should follow him or call the police.
Next thing was my mom’s alarmed voice; she had come back and immediately exclaimed, “Where’s my bag?!”
I glanced around to the chairs around me, and only saw mine. That was the moment I realized that I had been hoodwinked. The men who were sitting near us were gone. The police arrived and questioned us, and after watching the security footage, confirmed that the two men had dashed out the backdoor. The police told us that it was one of a few cases that had happened recently in the neighborhood hotels in the same exact fashion. The next hour was filled with my mom calling various places to cancel her credit card accounts, phone accounts, and anything else the police advised her to do. My mom’s camera, phone, and unfortunately, more than half a thousand dollars cash had been in her favorite bag. She said she had forgotten to remove all the cash since her recent trip to Taiwan where she wanted to exchange some of it for Taiwanese money.
The shock that had hit all of us that early afternoon had us immediately forget, or rather, let go of any ill feelings harbored towards each other. I remember feeling a mixture of emotions. I felt guilty that I had not watched our things more carefully, that I had so naively been fooled by that guy, who must’ve distracted me to one side so that his accomplice could grab my mom’s bag to the other side of me. I felt a bit regretful that so much money had been lost, especially since my younger parents worked hard to save up money.
I also felt tremendous relief that nothing in fact, had happened to my dad; he was okay. My mom was okay, I was okay, we were all okay. Nobody had held me at gunpoint or knifepoint threatening to kill us if we hadn’t handed over our possessions.
I also felt the weight of grudges just a couple hours ago melt into incredible gratitude, realizing by comparison the full pettiness of my sulky world. One argument was a bad grain of sand in the spectrum of our lives. Even though I don’t count myself as particularly religious, I remembered thinking that this incident must have been God’s reminder to me to wake up and understand that much worse things could happen at any given time.
We really tend to see what we don’t have, and what others do have. Even on days where I’m in tremendous pain physically or emotionally, or my car broke down, I would just think, if only I didn’t have to deal with this shit. How much better the day would be if I just wasn’t in pain, if the car just worked and I could get to my friend or my groceries. That’s how we see that the ordinary, “boring” events are actually extraordinary.
Today, some tragedy could’ve happened that left my family homeless. Today, I could be so destitute that I don’t have enough money to buy dinner. Today, I could’ve lost a loved one. Today, I could’ve found out someone I loved didn’t love me back anymore. Today, I could be feeling so depressed that I want to kill myself. Today, I could be lying in the hospital again, just wishing that I could sleep in my own bed and get a hot shower.
Today, none of those things happened, and I did get to feed myself, sleep in my own bed, and take a hot shower.
I was in the car the other day and musing over the whole “glass half full, glass half empty” cliche. Maybe we’re missing the point when we look at it that way. Maybe the truth to finding Zen and acceptance of everything around us, including the shitty parts, is to see the glass itself. That the glass exists at all. That we have a glass. That we have water at all. It could all so easily be nothing, just empty space floating into more nothingness.
-Just a passing thought about how to find happiness and peace since that is something I’ve struggled with my whole life.
Reminder though, that even though we should strive to be more appreciative and notice all that we do have, it’s still okay to let yourself feel the sad parts too. We’re wrapped up in a society that expects us to feel fine all the time or try to get us there (“Feel better!” “You’ll be okay” “I’m sorry” other crap etc.). Is that true healing? No. You have to walk through the tunnel to get to the other side, there is no shortcut. You can’t magically Apparate or sprout wings over the tunnel. What we can do for each other? For true empathy, be there for one another. Rather than a “Feel better”, I want to live in a society where we hold each other’s hand. We offer an embrace, we tell them yes, what they’re going through sucks, but I’m here for you. I will walk with you through the tunnel. You’re not alone.
There’s a difference between finding pleasure in sulking in misery, and brushing off any pain like it’s nothing. Validation, entitlement, to your feelings… I guess it’s a bit of a fine line sometimes depending on perspective. There’s a balance.
I’ll admit that this is one of my faults too. I’m a hypocrite, because I have told people to “feel better” before. Because when I feel their burden, I just can’t. I can’t even handle my own burdens sometimes. “Put the oxygen mask over yourself before helping others put their masks on” <— wise words of a flight attendant. But I’m working on it, and I wish more people would just give more of a shit to be honest.
Today’s Obsessions (Music):
-Heaven by Julia Michaels
-Sacrifice by Black Atlas & Jessie Reyez
-Wait by Maroon 5