They say life begins at 40. I say it is at 41, a couple of days ago for me. And it depends on what you really mean by life and what beginnings are.
These were part of my musings during my birthday. I could not help but ponder on realities besetting us. What is a birthday without a celebration or a surprise from colleagues, or going to Church; the things I get used to during my birthday? What omen could it be for a birthday to find out that the province has its first local transmission on the same date?
My meanderings settled with the acceptance that life is indeed difficult. And it does not begin at 40, it begins the moment we were self-conscious.
Being self-conscious is both a bane and a boon. In the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their “minds” were opened. The first thing they realized was that they were naked.
This literally and symbolically represents vulnerability: vulnerability to our own desires and lust, vulnerability to the uncertainty of the future, and vulnerability to dissolution and death. And we struggle to protect ourselves, physically and psychologically, as we begin our journey back to where we began, ironically.
Self-consciousness makes life difficult. But it is also the very tool that we use to redeem our lost Beings. That is the boon. But somebody has to provide us direction so we know what to do and where to go.
My clinical practice shows me much of this psychological struggle. The misery is real. And it comes from knowing that people can be better but they are not. It comes from the knowledge that they are alive but are slowly dying everyday… faster for some.
And yet, for the most part, it is failing to see and understand, that the misery emanates from the desire to get rid of the pain and struggle at once. This aspiration for freedom all the more adds to the burden and the strife.
For a psychotherapist, to convince people to slow down and embrace the struggle, to accept the difficulty, to take down psychological defenses, to face the demons, and do the little things; is a difficult challenge in itself.
People don’t want to be miserable, but they unknowingly perpetuate it by dreaming big, so big they get drowned in their illusions. Most of them want happiness and well-being but they don’t want to take responsibility of their thoughts and habits. They pin the blame on their past and their environment.
Most of them are afraid to challenge their own lies,building psychological defenses that eventually collapse or make them immobile to make progress in their lives. They would like to get healed, yes, but are defiant to take the bitter pill.
Our real struggle is in the little things. It is the clearing out of the chatter and whispers in our minds which sabotages our motivations. It is the challenge of waking up with hope, fixing our bed and our room first thing in the morning before we proceed with anything else. It is getting enough sleep, saying no to the lures of the internet and television. It is diligently setting aside savings for emergency purposes. It is enduring with your spouse through thick and thin, serving your children with honor and respect. It is consistently giving time to the ego, making it strong enough to be humble.
Freedom is admirable. Big dreams are noteworthy. But when we don’t deal with the little things, it will lead us to nowhere.
I always tell my children to do the hard stuff first before they enjoy and relax. That may includewaking up early, keeping the dining table, sweeping the floor, praying, etc. These things may appear trivial, but they are actually hard to do consistently and with joy. But when they are respected and embraced, they lead us to freedom and the actualization of dreams.
The little things matter. The Bible says, “When you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
Life is difficult. But if you do the little things well consistently, it becomes bearable.