I rediscovered peace while walking underground.
Cars passed by behind glass windows on either side of the walkway, some to find their parking space, others to leave for home. Dim ceiling lights accompanied me during my solitary walk. Every few seconds, a presence of a human or two, walking from the direction I was heading to, would relieve my solitude. Some were on their own as well. Others walked in groups, with family or friends, sharing stories and laughing. The appearance of a graffiti on the left wall signalled the path’s final turn. Two escalators would then take me to my destination. I looked at the faces of the cute creatures on the graffiti. Then the questions flashed in my head as I kept walking.
Why did I choose the dim underground walkway over the bright and busy street above?
Why do I have to go and write, when it hasn’t given me any return on investment yet, and I have to pay for coffee (and a sausage roll or two)?
Why do I seek the long path of the dream when I can choose something else, something easier and quick?
The first automatic escalator began ascending after I stepped on it. “Because I’m at peace with myself,” I muttered under my breath, answering my own questions.
I paid a man to make me cry.
All the excitement I felt a few minutes before went away in an instant. I stared at my MacBook’s screen in disbelief. Hurt. Pissed. Upset. Disappointed. I had logged online expecting praise and a congratulatory remark for the first module of our writer’s course but Dan Blank’s comments ripped my website’s About page into pieces. Mr. Blank, miles away from the West of the Earth, threw a spear straight to my ego here on the East. Tears streamed down my face as I continued reading, word by word, sentence by sentence, while thinking “I paid him to do this?” This happened at the beginning of 2015, almost a year ago. When I look back at it now, I have only one reaction - LOL.
Sure, it’s easy to laugh at that situation now with the ultimate gift of retrospection. But is there any other better reaction to pick? Harbour a grudge? Be bitter? Keep crying? Anchor hate? It’s a definite NO for all those stupid suggestions. That incident made one thing clear. Although I had already chosen the right path I wanted to begin an authentic life back then, I still didn’t have peace. That’s why when Dan threw the spear to my glass castle of entitlement, it hurt right away.
My friend Michael Ferrarella shared this wonderful insight on peace and authentic living.
“Peace is necessary for being authentic. Now, I'm not talking 100% peaceful existence, or anything unattainable like that. More like peace at our foundation, or inner being. And that's being authentic. The inauthentic self wears masks and disguises, creates various stories to make this person and that person feel comfortable. It's stress in itself just keeping track of false stories. And then there's the lingering inner voice that constantly reminds you that you're not being you.
For me, authenticity was overwhelming at first but feels so comfortable and right after living it. I've met some of the most amazing people I've ever known since being authentic. I like myself more than ever in my life since allowing myself to be authentic.”
Every day I see Mike share a daily post of gratitude on Facebook. Some posts are lengthy, some short and sweet. Whatever the number of words written, his posts have always felt authentic and honest. I used to wonder how he could put himself out there like that, exposing his vulnerability. You got to be at peace with yourself in order to be authentic. Mike absolutely had peace.
Three Things We Need To Make Peace With To Live An Authentic Life
In order to live an authentic life, we need to be at peace with three important things.
Peace With The Past
Those who wronged us and let us down, situations that embarrassed or hurt us, emotions that continue to haunt us - as long as we hang on to them, we cannot have peace. We must remember two key things in order to let go of the past.
First, we must know that the past taught us something, reminders and lessons. That person who humiliated us in public taught us what kind of person we should not become. That lie we made that ruined our relationship with somebody taught us the repercussions of lying and served as a reminder to not lie again. Our past happened for something and it’s our choice whether we look at it in a positive or negative light.
Second, we must know that we can never turn back the hands of time to erase or undo the past. It’s a waste to harbour regrets and resentments over things we no longer have control of.
As I transitioned into my new life, I had to let go of some people from my past. Some of them wanted to continue wallowing in negativity, I no longer have any heart for that. Some of them were heading into a different direction in life away from me, I must make peace with that even if it was painful at the start. I also needed to make peace with the years I wasted not following my dreams, stop mourning over the time I lost. The important thing is I have turned around now and I’m on the right journey.
@@We can’t live an authentic life if we don’t make peace with the past.@@ If we don’t, they’ll forever remain that sinister shadow following us everywhere, a fake friend in the light and a diabolical traitor in the dark.
Peace With Who We Are
I never understood the meaning of the phrase “comfortable in your own skin” until I found peace with myself.
My introversion picked the underground passage over the busy street. I enjoy little moments of solitude. They give me time to think, imagine, and explore, a chance to revel in my own world.
I write even if it doesn’t pay me anything yet because that’s who I am deep inside - a writer. It’s also my choice of being of service to the world, of making a difference in someone else’s life, and of giving back to the world what it has given to me. There are other avenues to do those things but I picked the one that deeply resonates in me.
I pick the long path of chasing my dream because that’s what feels good to me. I want to build something with value and I believe that I must begin by building first a solid foundation.
Heck, I even learned to love the craziness and waves of my hair.
We can pretend to live an authentic life but if we are not comfortable in our own skin, if we dislike parts of ourselves, and if we have no understanding of who we really are, then it’s a lie. As Mike said, an authentic life is one that doesn’t wear a mask and make up stories. It’s one who shows its true self to the world with pride and courage.
@@We can’t live an authentic life if we don’t make peace with who we are.@@ We cannot be the soldier who goes to battle when he hasn’t even resolved the war he has with himself.
Peace With Our Role In This World
Sometimes writing comes easy, other times it’s a challenge. But no matter which side of the coin it flips to, I love to write. There were other things I could’ve spent my time on instead of writing but I chose not to. When you love something, you do it whether it becomes a piece of cake or a boulder to pick at.
As the escalator rose and bright lights from the mall entered my vision, happiness washed over me. Each inch of ascension brought me nearer to where I wanted to be (my favourite writing place) to do what I love to do (write). It didn’t matter whether people didn’t see me on the street. It didn’t matter whether I have to pay for coffee. It didn’t matter whether I was to write a shitty first draft or the next literary masterpiece. I was about to do what I was meant to do in this world and there’s no better definition of happiness than that.
@@We can’t live an authentic life if we don’t make peace with our role in this world.@@ Who am I? Why am I here on Earth? What am I supposed to do? These questions all of us have asked ourselves at one point or another in our lifetime. For some, the answers had already been given. For others, they remained unsolved. But the important question we should ask ourselves is “Am I willing to do what I was meant to do?” We cannot move forward to an authentic life if we do not welcome with open arms our destiny.
My friend Tracey Yokas, whom I met in Dan Blank’s course, shares her story on peace and living authentically.
“It was the middle of the night, and I was in the hospital emergency room, lying on a gurney trying to get a moment of rest, a modicum of peace.
I wasn’t in that hospital because I was sick. I was there because my teenage daughter no longer wanted to live. I was nestled against her back on the gurney because she dealt with her emotional pain by making that pain physical. She had hurt herself. She had used broken glass to saw at the skin on her thigh until she opened several deep, wide gashes. The wounds had required medical attention.
As her mother, I gladly would have traded in my life for a pain free life for her. Unfortunately, saving her life was beyond my control. She had to decide for herself whether or not she wanted to live. This realization decimated me. I wasn’t sure what would happen to her or to me, and peace was nowhere to be found.
After a while my daughter decided that she did want to live. Three years later, she is now healthy and living life to the fullest. And so am I.
Here’s what I learned during our journey about peace and authenticity:
Before my daughter got sick, on the rare occasions when I slowed down long enough to think about peace, I searched for it high and low. I changed myself to fit it. My quest was like a scavenger hunt, each clue leading to the next destination but never to the grand prize. Then I’d get busy again and think, Peace is a great idea, in theory. I thought I didn’t deserve it, that I could never find peace because I wasn’t worthy of such a lofty goal.
When my daughter got sick, it took me a long time to figure out that my pain was propelling me towards a more examined life. During that examination, I realized there were facets of myself that I didn’t like. It was time to make changes, and I did. Primarily, I stopped blaming myself for my daughter’s medical illness. I stopped finding fault with myself for my imperfections. I accepted myself, as is, in all my imperfect glory. I discovered that peace is not a commodity. It cannot be bought or sold. It cannot be found, no matter how hard you try by conforming to societal expectations.
I learned how to love myself. In so doing, I also learned that peace had been inside me all along as it is inside each of us. Every day since I worked to let go of the layers of inauthentic facade I created to please others, I have felt peace.
Whether I am more peaceful because I live authentically or I live authentically because I am more peaceful, I may never know. Perhaps they are entwined, as much a part of each other as the double helix of our DNA. In the end, the only way to have one is to have both.”
The baristas greeted me as soon as I entered the door of my favourite writing place. I went to my favourite chair, dropped my bag, and walked to the counter. After the coffee arrived, I entered my zone, staying there in an hour or two, basking in the deconstruction of my jumbled thoughts.
A few years ago I was a wanderer, with no purpose and no direction. I did things because others did them. I said things because others said them too. I tried to keep being them instead of being me and in the process I became at war with myself.
Ever since Dan speared my ego, the castle of delusion began chipping away. As the rest of the year unfolded after that, the unnecessary turbulence inside me slowly withered away. And I didn’t even know I had gained back peace until I asked myself those questions.
The funny thing about peace is that in its presence we sometimes can be unaware of its existence. We feel so serene and at ease with ourselves we forget to say “Thank you” to it. I almost forgot, thinking my 2015 was a year of commitment or even consistency, until I realised it was the year of peace all along. I had been walking in that underground walkway for many months already, on my way to my mission, peace accompanying me all the time without asking for anything in return. It’s only right to express gratitude to it.
Tracey was absolutely right. We had to learn to love ourselves. We had to know that peace resides inside us all along but we need to be without a facade. Peace and authentic life go together. We can’t have one without the other. I can pursue the path of writing but without peace, I’m only living a life. But whenever I walk in that underground as a free man with peace by my side, I will always emerge on the escalator breathing an authentic life.
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