A courageous state of challenging the status quo and internalised perceptions that keeps one enthralled to a certain creed, mindset or way of living. A liberation from the self-imposed hurdles and personal fantasies that staunches growth and development. The emancipated position of assuming responsibility for one’s own choices, the acknowledgement of truth, and picking up the cloak of self-authorship in moulding one’s own narrative.
The air was reverberating with the gentle chimes of porcelain, steel and glass. In between those melodious waves drifted the steamy whisps and ambrosial aromas from hot baked bread and confectionery. Sunlight streamed through large paned windows that made browns seem golden and whites appear silver. And words flitted around the room in kaleidoscopic poetry without thread or meaning. It mingled with bell-like laughter, deep sighs, shifting timbres and deafening silences…
“.. Gernus could tell us a little more about that. “
“Oh, not here at all” my friend commented teasingly as she touched my arm and looked knowingly at the others. I knew she was referring to my absenteeism in conversation and my idle mind. She looked at me again with a half-teasing smile. “You are quiet today… We were talking about that film you watched this weekend.” Oh, still just that? I thought we had changed that topic?
I was lost in thought again. Or had been. This was not an uncommon occurrence at this point. My friends already had a partial understanding of this. Being lost in one’s inner world and all… Or rather, them losing me inside it.
Of late this was more frequent than I had myself anticipated. I think I was perpetually untethered to the flow of the mundane routine that was playing out around me. Chats and banter just did not stimulate me enough any more to keep my attention. But in admitting that I probably seemed… haughty, maybe even vain.
And yet, I could not bring myself to assume that description. Because these talks I found myself engaging in, this company, was not lacking in depth or in fascination. I was just not present, not really. So that would just make me susceptible to mind-wandering. Perhaps it even made me lost. And once I may have felt guilty due to a misguided construal of why I was feeling that way, but not any longer. One should not be made to feel guilty for lack of attentiveness to the immediate situation. It simply means that attention is invested elsewhere. And surely that space must be more important.
Though, regarding the place my mind did take me when out with friends, being mindful of the ambience of the restaurant certainly did not seem to be the crucial task at hand here. And yet, in that moment I felt it to be the most important task to set myself in escaping the thoughts that were actually lamenting for my attention. And these thoughts were trapping me. In fact, that scene of daydreaming was but one of many variations of me trying to lose myself in streams of thinking that coursed away from harder reality.
I was in a bit of an impasse. Much of my life had felt fabricated (yes, I use this word very deliberately) according to a very specific formula that I believed was truly working for me… and I felt my pedigree attested to that. The cornerstones of my personality were patience, commitment and self-control. And I firmly believed that consistent effort directed toward the attainment of a goal was key to success – in my career, my relationships and my mental health. I may have been a bit of a prude…
I think, back then, I believed a lot in that which kept me in line with a very “blue-eyed, golden boy” label that was attached to me. And what I have learned is that labelling serves as one of the many jailors to one’s perceptions. But there was something else. There was an influence that seemed more intrinsic in nature and firmly seated at my core. Its dark and numbing tendrils often reached out to play havoc on my amygdala. And though it was susceptible to outside influence – where it was either being reinforced or alleviated due to the flow of my surroundings – I knew that it was rooted within me primarily. Fear.
Thomas Hobbes had an interesting thought on the whole concept of fear when reasoned about in society. To him, fear was a kind of binding element in people. Because of the sordid reality and complicity prevalent among human predispositions, we aim to escape this by revoking the crippling power that it holds to a civil society to maintain the order. So, the fear is localised in an institution, such as the state. And so holds a social contract tradition…
But let us rework his theory. We agree that human nature has great potential to cruelty, brutishness and loneliness, and that does invoke distress. But such behaviour is bound to manifest in us as well of we are not careful. So, we surrender to more careful perceptions; we foreclose ourselves against the unknown by regressing to what is well within our scope of knowledge; and we nest all too leisurely within our very own comfort zones. We surrender that power of fear to something we believe we cannot change – perceptions. And thus, we withold ourselves from truth.
Now this is significant to understand. This page has talked extensively on the topics of truth and its link towards taking greater stock of personal potential and worth. And it has done so in the premise of knowing what your position of strength is an honest appraisal of your personality and disposition. And standing firm in those confessions when in interaction with others.
But the truth was: I was lying to myself as to what was truly making me happy. And to add to that truth, I could discard humility for but a moment to admit that I think I was too smart to lie to myself as to what was truly making me happy. Was I really going to add self-deception as a core skill to my resume?
Here was my thing: fear. It was a cage. But it was also a familiar space. Somehow, it was a space that I knew as well as my own inner thoughts. In that familiarity, it felt safe. It felt safe, because it felt known. It was a space well explored, with boundaries drawn out. Hypothetically, it was most possibly the lesser of two evils: remaining within a limited space as opposed to venturing into the unknown.
In fact Luvvi Ajayi captured perfectly what I had intended to say for the longest amount of time. Where we need to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable and to say the things that need to be said. Doing the very “anti-me” thing by going against the grain. In this case, I was allowing a false truth to protude through the sense of a more direct honesty that I knew was what I needed to hear. And what I needed to do was say the things to myself that I knew would be hard to hear.
She also talked about realising that you may be the most powerful person walking into a room to admit to certain perceptions, and that the realisation thereof may be important to effect change. But we don’t admit that, do we? And by doing that, I was denying what was possibly a primal kind of power that could pull mountains from flat stretches of land. What I was denying (among so many other traits) was my imagination. And more importantly, the extent thereof. And I realised this when I started writing. But we are reluctant in admitting to our own core potentials, and thus converge on mediodcrity as a default.
In fact, people and systems count on our silence to keep us exactly where we are. Then we keep ourselves there as well. Because of fear of what a broken system might afford. Its the whole conundrum of uncertainty, and that is just too much stimulation. And a wallflower facing this predicament has a particularly acute difficulty in dealing with this plight. High-reactive temperaments and sensitivity heighten our receptiveness of the consequences of unfamiliarity, and so we feel highly insecure by venturing into the world. But then… I cannot claim the role of narration for the lives of my fellow bloomers. I just knew that my own petals were closed in a tight bud against the uncomfortable realities of breaking the mould of all I knew. But something was prying it open with force.
Suddenly that cage I was in did not feel safe any more. In fact, it began to feel more like the barrier that it was in reality. And I needed desperately to break free. These old mantras were no longer effective. These old perceptions did not seem as wise. And this fear was beginning to feel more like frustration.
You could say I was in a bit of an existential crisis. And it seemed pretty holistic in its scope. In terms of my career, I had relentlessly invested hard work and effort to try and reach a goal that no longer seemed to be the dream. Socially, I was beginning to question the tangent points of interests between me and many of those I called my friends. What is more, my romantic views were becoming ever less tolerant of the excessive hubris that reigned among potential suitors. Cognitively I was filtering through views that seemed to cause me more dissonance than inspiring any sense of commitment. And spiritually I was yearning for something fulfilling, but that was unbound by the doctrines (no matter how open-minded they seemed) of the belief systems that abounded in society.
A hot mess, right? The inputs of others were not exactly relieving me of much of the confusion I was feeling either. Attemts to share these ruminations often resulted in very matter-of-fact replies. What was hurtful was that these replies sometimes came from those I invested trust in to remind me of the very truth that I knew I needed exposure to, but was blindsided from due to their careful perceptions maintained in order to solidify a sense of security. “I am glad you are finally taking this route. You need to do what makes you happy.”
What was more, these views seemed often shared in a presumptuous manner, as if these truths were insights I should have become aware of long ago. “I knew you would find your way. I always knew that you would eventually take this route once you experienced a few things. But I did not want to impose. But it is amazing how you came to discover this all on your own.” My oh my, thanks for caring… No… Really…
If you have been reading these blogs for awhile, then you know that these reflections hardly ever come without an attempt to extract a lesson to share with my fellow bloomers. And even though a few have made themselves evident, let me at least highlight something from the last mentioned points. Though respecting the freedom and independence of your friends is a show of great respect, withholding perceptions or sharing half-truths with them are not. You are not being helpful when you feel the need to pose a warning, but decide against it for fear of imposing. You are not being wise by withholding a sense of meaningful guidance by thinking that it is best discovered by an individual themselves. You are not empowering anyone when you have a valuable investment to scaffold an effort, but leave someone to their own devices. You are not being a good friend, partner, lover or any significamt support in another person’s life by digressing even a slight bit from your unique view of their situation. You are not taken into confidence (as someone meaningful in another’s life) to share a view that they would have likely convinced themselves of. You are there because you challenge it. You are there because that challenge initiates growth. You are there because your truth is valued. And that truth needs to be told. The fact remains that advice is something we feel inclined to give regardless if it is actually wanted. We should not attempt its denial or suppression. We could simply adapt a mindfulness as to how we convey it to those we care for. Besides, just because it may be good in perspective does not mean that anyone needs to stand in agreement thereto.
If you have a wallflower to tend to in your life, then you can be assured that they are fully present to whatever energy you are presenting to them at a given moment. If your role is then shaped toward the assumption of a guiding influence, then feel free to allow this expression – whether it be out of concern, or care or even a confidence in what you believe. If your inkling is to give advice, then you were likely pressed to provide it because of some perceived cue. But you may be met with reluctance from those who stand in reception of your views.
I have been a prime example of someone who despised the (what I regarded as) arrogance of another to prescribe my actions. I was quick to regard any advice as a direct display of another’s entitlement to my own life choices. And though such individuals certainly exist to test one’s patience, perhaps I was unfair to many a friend who only sought to offer help. From this I offer you another lesson. Always listen to the advice offered by another. You may not choose to follow it, but just pay heed to the degree of value it may hold in your life.
Once more, I knew where this frustration in accapeting guidance came from. It felt like another trap set to snare me. It felt too much akin to the other boundaries of mind that was in place in my life… It seemed too much like the cages I was already rattling to escape from. While, in truth, these may have been keys dangled in front of me to unlock my mind to different possibilities.
Wow, what a process to reach a meaninful insight to life…
Just like advice, opportunity had the same penchant of presenting something desirable that we need not pursue. We could consider it, but we need not accept it. And a display of such freedom seemed brazen in a society that valued a grateful stance toward opportunity. Or rather, that valued the opportunity to grow and develop. And though such pursuits are noble, whether in one’s career, social life or even spiritually, grasping opportunity that goes against the flow of your own intuitive direction is not a display of open-mindedness. It is a surrender to normative behaviour. And allowing oneself to be guided by intuition is not a surrender to fear, but instead an honest appraisal of one’s wants and desires. A greater move to a sense of joy.
The sollution is simple. If something is not making you happy, then you should not be interested in expending your attention, energy or time therein. And sometimes a sacrifice is not just a means to some more divine ambition. There are times when a sacrifice of one’s energy to more dilligent effort; one’s time spent on a virtuous amount of patience; or one’s attention directed to the apparent sagacity of others, are no longer a means to a greater end. Sometimes, that kind of sacrifice is simply just a loss. And the question that is posed to us (to you or me) is this: how much more are we willing to give up before we decide to break the shackle?
Love and light fellow bloomers. And have courage to rattle the cage!