We are not unique in our suffering.
We really are not.
The specifics may vary, and we’re not absolute carbon copies, but many of us run through life with the same themes.
The themes that cause some things to break and others to breakthrough; the themes that transform us, but not define us, because no singular theme or event can or should. We are greater than that, more than that, but sadly, many of us waste life playing a singular theme repeatedly on loop—and we don’t know how we end up stuck.
We don’t understand how we let our lives just drift…
With each repetition, we get more and more accustomed to this “loop” and settle for comfort over significance. We don’t like our soundtrack, but we don’t hate it enough to make a change.
The idea of becoming comfortable with anything less than beautiful is an ugly one. But reality is too often this ugly idea, compounded over time. It’s why we become addicted to emotional pornography—but the escapes don’t set us free. We hold on for too long; we’re afraid to let go. There’s only one place this leads us to—we end up attached to our problems and our identities become aligned with our suffering.
That’s not a way to live, and there is a way out.
Let’s play a game. “Make a list, check it twice.” It’s that time of the year again, but how often do we take inventory of ourselves and our lives? It’s never too often to repeat, and it’s never too late to start.
- On a sheet of (actual/real) paper, write down a list of your problems and the things and people that cause you suffering. This is List A, a.k.a. garbage.
- On a separate sheet of paper, write down your dreams and desires. This is List B, a.k.a what you deserve.
- On a third sheet of paper, write down who you are—list all the qualities that make you you. This is List C.
- On a fourth sheet of paper, describe the person you wish to become. This is List D.
- On a fifth sheet of paper, list all the things that feed/nourish/grow you and all the people who empower/inspire/celebrate you. This is List E. Treat this list like gold.
- Compare lists A and C. How much are you defined by your problems? How much sh*t and garbage are you carrying? How would you walk, if you no longer carried these trash bags? Would you walk faster? How would your stride change? Head held up high? What kind of clothes would you be wearing? What kind of shoes would you be wearing if you’re not just walking to the garbage disposal? Euphemisms are used so that we don’t hurt people’s feelings, but for real, what would your life look like without the people who cause you grief and distress?
- Compare lists B and C. What is standing between you and your dreams? Do those things resemble list A? Because once we’ve identified what’s holding us back, you know what this calls for, right? Make it your life’s mission to erase list A as quickly as possible. Drop the people. Solve the problems. There is always a solution. There is always a release. We all deserve to live the life of our dreams, but we can’t get there if we are defined by our problems. We can’t bring garbage into paradise.
- Compare lists C and D. Analyze the gap. This is truly the wasteland of potential and the dreamland of opportunity. Will you arrive faster at D if you got rid of A? Can you fill up the blank space with things and people from list E? What would your life look like if you replaced your attachment from list A to list E? Because really, let go of the trash and hold onto gold for dear life, which brings us to the best part of this game:
- Be obsessed with the things that move you forward. We’re all shackled to something—so make sure we’re shackled to something golden! Print out List E, set it as your wallpaper, and stick it to every door, window, and mirror you see throughout your space—the space where you live and the space where you shall transform. This is the space where magic happens, because magic always happens, for those of us who not only dare to believe in it, but dare to trade in our old stories for a new life. One that excites us; the life of our dreams. If you’re not in a space where you are able to transform—move! Because magic doesn’t happen in toxic environments.
The things and people we associate ourselves with—those who are disempowering and empowering—have a profound impact on our lives, how we live now, and where we are headed. If we live life constantly swimming in our problems, we will never get to shore. We will only drown, and drowning in garbage is surely a bad way to die.
The only way to untangle our lives from our problems is by cutting off everything that no longer feeds us, grows us, or makes us better. Cut it off, let it all go. Be ruthless, unwavering, and relentless, because life is too short to be attached to problems and not dreams. Or in real talk, life is more than the trips we make to take out the trash. We actually want to go places. We actually want to live. Like, really, really, really, live.
Buddhist philosophy states that suffering comes from attachment. For a culture that has largely conditioned us to hold onto things, non-attachment doesn’t come easily. But we can learn to attach to new things—things that propel us forward, and people who celebrate us, as we are, with all our imperfections. But please know that this isn’t a one-time exercise. As we live and grow, we will change, and so will our lists…all of them. If we truly played this game correctly, then our “new” lives will, in time, become our old stories, and that’s when you’ll know it’s time to take out the trash again.
Attachment, for better and worse, gives us structure, and when we detach from that structure, however toxic it may have been, it will make us feel naked, vulnerable, empty, and the whole process from start to finish can be very scary. When we release, we will, for the first time in a long time, feel space. Sometimes, this space can be very bleak, uncomfortable, noiseless—so much so that everything we think and everything we do echoes. If we are not used to having our voices heard, this echoing will surely frighten us. Our realities are filled with so much noise these days that this space of emptiness will give us the illusion that everything is finished.
Yet, as Louis L’amour said, “That will be the beginning.”
Author: Xiren Wang
Image: Instagram/Xiren Wang
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis