Everything we need to experience joy is inside us. When we seek it outside of ourselves, we miss the mark. When we defer the responsibility to someone else, eventually we find that they will repeatedly fail at the task — because it isn’t their job; it’s ours.
So many of us are looking for happiness in books, things, relationships, experiences. While they can, indeed, provide a sense of satisfaction and might even be part of our individual recipe for fulfillment, they’ll never fill the gap that remains when we don’t ourselves tend to the work of satisfying our inner lives.
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to assemble and share my thoughts, but I’m prompted to do so now and must submit to that urge. Too often, we get caught up in doing whatever we’re doing, maybe even doing things we don’t really want to do, and ignore the internal push guiding us elsewhere. For far too long, that’s been the case with not just writing and my dedication to this craft I repeatedly abandon, but other equally and more important tasks like creating the life I want to live.
Doing so requires commitment. Tireless commitment. And the passion necessary for dedication.
I’ve wasted too much time, fearful, doubting, wavering, uncertain. And the odds are in favor of me correctly saying “so have you.”
Let’s get clear and let’s forge new and unique paths that uplift and illuminate us and those around us.
This year has been an amazing testimony of what’s possible and I see so clearly now that I’ve got to get out of my own way and you’ve got to get out of your own way so we can be so great, truly. Individually and collectively. It must happen.
Stop allowing yourself to be distracted. Focus, commit, and succeed.
How willing are you to do what it takes to get it?
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
- Mary Oliver, Thirst
while in haiti, i met a couple who recited this poem. the husband read it in its native spanish and the wife translated it into english. it’s beautiful.
You’re not depressed, you’re distracted. Distracted from the life that fills you, from the life that surrounds you: dolphins, forests, seas, mountains, rivers.
Don’t fall for what your brother fell for, who suffers for one person when there are 5,600 millions people in the world.
Besides, living alone isn’t so bad. I have a good time deciding what I want to do every time and it’s because of solitude that I know myself, a fundamental thing for living.
Don’t fall for what your father fell for, who feels old because he’s 70 years old and forgets that Moses guided the exodus at 80 and Rubistein played Chopin like nobody else, at 90. To mention just two familiar cases.
You’re not depressed, you’re distracted because you think you lost something, which is impossible because everything has been given to you. You didn’t make a single hair in your head, so you don’t own anything.
And life doesn’t take things from you, it liberates you from them. It makes you lighter so you can fly higher, so you can reach fullness. From the cradle to the tomb it’s a school so what you call problems are really just lessons. You didn’t lose anybody, those who died have just gone ahead, because that’s where we’re all going. Besides, the best of them, their love, stays in your heart. Who could say Jesus is dead? There’s no death, there’s moving. And on the other side, wonderful people wait for you: Gandhi, Michelangelo, Whitman, St. Augustine, Mother Theresa, your grandmother and my mother, who thought poverty was closer to love because money distracts us with many things and alienates us because it makes us suspicious.
Do only what you love and you’ll be happy, and he who does what he loves is fated for success, which will arrive when it should, because what must be will be and will come naturally. Don’t do anything under obligation or compromise but for love. Then there will be fullness and everything is possible in it. And effortless because it’s the natural force of life what moves you; what lifted me up when the plane that carried my wife and daughter crashed; what kept me alive when doctors gave me only 3 or 4 months to live. God put you in charge of a human being and it’s you. You must make yourself happy and set yourself free, it is only after this that you’ll be able to share real life with the rest. Remember Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you”.
Reconcile with yourself, stand in front of a mirror and think that the creature you’re looking at is a work of God and decide right now to be happy because happiness is an acquisition.
And happiness is not a right but a duty because if you’re not happy, you’re bringing down the whole neighborhood. A single, talentless, coward man had six millions Jewish brothers killed. There are so many things to celebrate and our time on earth is so short that suffering is a waste of time. We have to celebrate the snow of the winter and the flowers of the spring, chocolate from Perusa, French baguettes, Mexican tacos, Chilean wines, the seas and rivers, Brazilian soccer, One Thousand and One Nights, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, Pedro Páramo, Manzanero’s boleros and Whitman’s poetry, Mäiller, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velásquez, Picasso and Tamayo, among other wonders.
And if you have cancer or AIDS, only two things can happen and they’re both good: If it beats you, it sets you free from that annoying body: I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m tired, I want to, I’m right, I have doubts… and if you beat it, you’ll be humbler, more grateful and therefore easily happy. Free from the enormous weight of guilt, responsibility and and vanity, willing to live each moment as profoundly as it must be lived.
You’re not depressed, you’re just not busy. Help the boy who needs you, that boy will be your son’s business partner. Help the elderly and the young ones will help you when you’re older. Besides, service is sure happiness, like enjoying nature and caring for it for those who’ll come. Give beyond measure and you’ll receive beyond measure.
Love until you become what is loved and even until you become love itself. And don’t let a few suicides and homicides confuse you, goodness is the majority but you can’t tell because it’s quiet. A bomb is louder than a stroke but for each bomb that destroys there are millions of strokes that feed life.
Very few things as beautiful as these words have been given to me, that they seem to come out not just from a kind soul but from a very human one. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and I hope we all put them in practice. Now, let’s live and complain less, don’t you think?
- Facundo Cabral
* original title: No Estas Deprimido, Estas Distraido
This is the sixth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 13, 2012.
There is a great irony in my personality. I suppose it’s common amongst others that identify as writers, but knowing it’s not specific to me doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it than if it were only my problem.
I’m a horrible communicator.
However eloquently I may be able to string together written words, I’m much less gifted with the spoken word, especially when it comes to my most vulnerable relationships. Especially when I’m hurt. Especially when hurt and most other painful emotions are filtered through anger. The only thing I can communicate then is anger. The knives come out. They’re figurative, but the wounds from my words can be just as painful as a literal cut — and they can go deeper.
The result is frequent apologies. I’m sorry for days, but anything said too often begins to lose its power. The last thing you want to do is issue an impotent apology. I fear sincerity won’t be able to carry me for much longer.
This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.
Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.
When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…
I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.
After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?
This is the second #notetoself letter I sent during my trip, sent on February 13, 2012.
Buenas! I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. I’m coasting on the joy of so many blessings in the past week, but also a bit weighed down by the reality of the lessons I’m still learning from my bag being stolen a little over a week ago in Costa Rica.
I’m now in Granada, Nicaragua, which on the surface is a quaint and charming colonial city with humongous houses and beautiful, colorful architecture. With the feel of a small town, the pace is comfortably slow and inviting. I can walk at 2 miles per hour here and not feel hurried. It’s a nice change of pace from Brooklyn and Manhattan.
But travel not even a mile outside the city center and experience the stark oppositional reality that this is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Tiny, wooden shacks with tin roofs. Dirt roads. Normalized poverty. I’m accustomed to seeing…more. The standard of living in Nicaragua is lower and visitors like me are thought to be wealthy simply because we can travel, regardless of how budget that travel is or what was sacrificed to do so. Here, I’m faced with how much I have and how much I’m accustomed to having.
On Friday, what I presume to be the purpose of my bag being stolen hit me. Hard. Release your attachments.
I’ve been traveling for seven weeks. Those who get my #notetoself emails are updated, but most others aren’t. I’ve been meaning to share these here for a while. This is the first #notetoself email (reformatted into letters!) I sent after one week of travel, on February 6, 2012. Please feel free to comment, share, etc.
I’ve only been in Costa Rica for one week, and have learned some pretty big lessons. Traveling is by far one of my favorite things to do because it throws you out of your comfort zone, leaving you with less armor to shield yourself with, which can, if you let it, result in purer knowledge of self.
You live. You learn. You adjust. You get over, under and through if you have to simply because…well, you have to.
At the time of my last writing, I was in Tamarindo. From there, I took a seven hour bus ride to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. I stayed the night, woke up and took a two and half hour bus ride to Cariari on my way to Tortuguero, a village on the northeast coast of the country. In Cariari, my backpack was stolen. My bag was one of the last things to be loaded, thus one of the first to be unloaded, while I was one of the last to exit the bus. By the time I got off, it was gone. Nearly everything I needed for my day-to-day living during the next two and half months: shoes, clothes, vitamins, medicines, toiletries, etc. Gone.
Too shocked for an immediate reaction, I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. After I realized this was no mistake and I wasn’t going to haphazardly see the thief with my bag so I could run them down and take it back (yes, I really thought of doing this…quite a number of times), I did cry. As I walked down the streets of a foreign city, wondering what to do next. Do I keep moving in the direction of Tortuguero? Nothing clean to put on the next day, or to wear to sleep. What to do?