Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And it all came tumbling down.

Hello again. Sorry to those of you who have been waiting for a blog with baited breath. I've not had anything to say and I dislike talking for talkings sake. I'd much prefer a conversation somewhere. Now however I do have things to say. For those with just a passing interest I might as well put in the disclaimer here that this blog will likely fall into the TLDR category, best not to bother. It's long and introspective. Come back next time. Who knows there may be monkeys then. For anyone who is interested in what's been going on with me recently and what I plan to do next, please continue. I hope I don't bore you.

First off, an apology to those who have been following me recently and especially to friends that I've worried, or angered, with my melodramatic outbursts on Twitter. Yes I've had a tough time, no I did not need to pour it all over the Twitterverse. I was having a personal crisis I couldn't cope with and I didn't cope, I certainly failed to keep it personal. Sorry if I upset you.

The culmination of several uncomfortable experiences all at once was what has, in a painful and roundabout way, led to this blog and more importantly the subject behind it. I don't want to rake over everything again here. Suffice to say in the middle of it all I was forced to take a long hard look inside myself and wasn't overly pleased with what I found.

I had considered myself to be at a reasonably good place in my life. I was happy. I had a good job, a nice place to live, great friends and a wonderful family. There were gaps in my life but they didn't worry me because things were going well. I felt happy. I felt good. Then that life I was living was threatened and I realised just how fragile my happiness was.

If you'll forgive me slipping into metaphor, I was standing on a still but delicately balanced platform that felt like joy above a great turmoil below. A turmoil I couldn't even see from my home on the platform. The platform even seemed strong to me from my place atop it. It would stand up to the occasional breeze that came across my world. It would rock when they came but it was comfortable and I loved it. Then the breezes gathered and became a wind and my safe platform shook. I became frightened. Then a final gust smashed against the platform and the illusion that it was shattered and it all came tumbling down and I was dropped into a turmoil. All that from a a few light breezes all coming at the same time. Sorry if that sounds like I'm slipping into melodrama again but metaphor has a want to do that.

The point was, my happiness was rooted in my lifestyle, my current situation. Everything I was happy about was external to me and worse I had convinced myself was an integral part of my self. I had convinced myself that situation was stable. That I could remain there safe and happy. It was not. It was a house of cards, fragile and impermanent and when it was threatened I realised the fear and emptiness it had been hiding. As the minor crises hit me one after the other the security was stripped away and I became afraid. I panicked. I could not cope.

Panic is exhausting. It simply can't be maintained. It requires too much energy and has to come to an end at some point. For me it did with an anti-climatic, simple realisation. One of the crises I was facing was potential redundancy. Not unusual in these uncertain times but more worrying to me than the financial problems that would inevitably come with unemployment in a recession was the emotional problems I hadn't even considered before. I love my job very much. I love working for the company I work for and the opportunities it offers me to do fascinating and varied work. This job had become one of the pillars my platform was stood atop and without me realising I had made it an integral part of my personality. More even than calling myself an engineer, I was this job and couldn't even conceive of being anything else. It was more than just a job at stake. It was a part of what defined me. I did not want to lose one of the core parts of what made me, me. As the date of the announcement came closer I became more of a wreck. I was unable to deal with this part of me being ripped away, not to mention the risky and uncertain future being jobless at the moment would entail.

Then something both strange and wonderful happened. A sense of acceptance. I remember it clearly. It was a Thursday afternoon. I looked at the clock and knew that the management teams consultation meeting was over. I knew at that point the decision had been made. The letters would be posted on the Friday. Those made redundant and those who would keep their jobs would find out on the Saturday and there was not a single thing I could do any more to affect that outcome one way or the other. This sense of acceptance brought with it a great calm. The winds were still blowing all around me but I was able to stop in the middle of them and catch my breath. The panic left me and I was able to see things a bit more clearly. I saw that the way I was acting was not helping. I also saw clearly how unhappy I had become and how little about what I was calling me was me.

I knew I hadn't always felt like this. I did not consider myself by my nature an emotional wreck unable to deal with the world. This illusion and false sense of security had slowly built itself around me and I had become dependant upon it. I started to look within myself.

Someone who I have come to trust a great deal, and who has been going through her own self discovery for the past few years, suggested I read “The Power of Now”, and was even kind enough to lend me her copy. I'm reading it for the second time now and really should return it. I loved the simplicity of the book. The lack of any flowery prose or convoluted text that so often accompanies religious works or self help books. As I read certain parts it occurred to me that, “I already know all of this”. This led to the question, “Then why aren't you doing any of it?”

If I hadn't always been this fragile, when was I not. At what point in my life had I been best able to cope. When had I been truly happy and what had I been doing differently then that I was not doing now.

At first this was a difficult process. I had got out of the habit of self reflection. In fact I had learned not to look too closely at myself at all, prefering to believe the simple illusion of happiness my mind had been telling me was real. As I became able to examine my life more closely though I realised that I was most at peace in my early twenties. At a time when I was not well off, had debts, was working myself ragged with two jobs and a degree and yet I was also finding time for other things. I was practising Karate every day, teaching most days (technically a third job but I never saw it like that). I was meditating daily and studying a wide range of philosophy, centring on eastern philosophy such as Buddhism and Taoism but also reading western philosophers and seeing more correlation than contradiction. I practised Tai-Chi and other martial arts. I was focused and still. So why had I stopped?

A few years ago an injury forced me to bow out of Karate, for a while at least and I had honestly not even considered the entirety of what I was giving up. Unable to do the core of what I loved I walked away from the whole lifestyle. I know longer studied any martial art, never mind teach one. I stopped meditating. I still read the occasional book of philosophy but it had become an intellectual exercise, nothing more.

So now the crises that started all this have for the most part resolved themselves, for better or worse, with little intervention from me one way or the other and I'm left with some frightening self realisations. I have decided to look at this as a glass half full situation and build something better from the experience, namely me. I've decided to see what I can do with myself to make me happier, more joyful, more content and more at peace with me rather than some illusion of me made up of external things like my job. I can't go back to Karate just yet. I'm not ready and wouldn't feel right doing a different martial art either. I don't know why and I can't explain it yet. I am going to go back to studying teachings of people who have already achieved such inner peace. I'm also going to try something completely new to me called Holosync. I learned about this from my friend, the one who's book I still have. I feel the need to stress she did not recommend Holosync. What she did was explain it and describe her experience with it, good and bad and I'm excited to give it a try.

I've learned better by now than to promise regular updates on my blog but I will try to keep you informed as to my progress. There's even things in this blog I'd like to go into in more detail but I think it's long enough, perhaps in the future. In the meantime please feel free to get in touch and ask me about any of this. I'm only too happy to talk things through.


  1. Didn't I say something about how all the gurus say you shouldn't take away suffering - it is often the route to enlightenment.

    I'm glad it's had this effect, and that you can start building a more solid foundation for true happiness now. I know a lot about living on shaky ground and I forget sometimes that other people find shocking what I live with every day, but it's amazing what little earthquakes in your life can do for you.

  2. Thanks Joely. Yes an older an wiser person than me once told me it's possible to enjoy every fall if you learn from it and stand up taller. Or to put it another way, every day's a school day.

    It's still a little close to see the last few months as a good thing, but if they help me back to that calm place where I once was, or an even better place, then I'm sure I'll view them differently.