Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
― Lao Tzu
Seven days from now, I’ll be in the air, mere hours from arriving in Incheon. Nearing the end of a four-month journey across and around the country, I’ve noticed perhaps one of the biggest changes to take place inside me: emotional balance. Unlike in the past, I’m not consciously or subconsciously seeking emotional intensity. When close friends have asked how I feel about the impending move, I’ve honestly responded, “I don’t really feel much of anything".”
Truthfully, I have moments of excitement or sadness, anticipation or longing, hopefulness or anxiety. In comparison to how I may have experienced a move like this even just five years ago, my emotions are but mere ripples. No tumultuous waves beating against the shore. No real outbursts (okay, maybe one here and there). No unbearably intense highs where I’m verging on manic or lows where I fear wanting to harm myself or crawl under a rock. Here I am in the city where I lived my most formative years, a city in which my resting heartrate was previously 80 bpm and climbing, and I feel calm. Content. Stable. Let me tell you, this a new experience for me.
They who reach down into the depths of life where, in the stillness, the voice of God is heard, have the stabilizing power which carries them poised and serene through the hurricane of difficulties.
― Spencer W. Kimball
I’m part of this Facebook group where alumni from my TEFL program who are either going to South Korea or already there can talk about life, share stories, post job openings, and generally support each other. The blessing of the group for me has been having the space to just ask for help. Even this experience has been one where I’ve noticed a change in myself. Many (if not most) of us have no clue how to ask for help when we really need it. The freedom to ask a simple question about banks and cell phones, food or travel, has been a blessing. There is no shame in needing help, much less asking for it.
Where I have changed and grown the most is in liberating myself to ask for help without any inclination to feel ashamed, inadequate, stupid, or any other self-critical emotion. Admitting “I don’t know everything” is something I do regularly. To be able to do so without any kind of emotional upheaval is a gift beyond description. When I talk about feeling stabilized and balance, this is what I mean.
In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it ― Mitch Albom
Being back in a city where I spent the better part of a decade, you can imagine how many people are still around with whom I’d love to reconnect. Naturally, I’m not going to see everyone. Beyond that, with four years and some major life changes having passed since we last saw each other, I’m not the same person and most of them aren’t either. This has forced me to reevaluate each of those friendships more deeply.
Recently, I made the decision to tell someone I love dearly, “I don’t think we’re on the same path anymore. It feels like we might not have the friendship we once did, and if that’s the case, I’d rather give us both the space to part ways on good terms, in love and with no hard feelings.” Wanna know the last time I did that with anyone else? Never. I detest letting people go, and like my favorite character, Doctor Who, I hate endings. Except now I don’t. Things end, and that’s okay. I was able to say what I felt and make a decision without intellectually beating the options to death or overthinking beyond reason. I looked back on that interaction a few days later, smiled at noticing my own growth, and mentally sent my friend some love. All this was possible because of the work I’ve done on practicing nonattachment, acceptance, and mindfulness. I’m not afraid I’m still a baby in each of these areas, but I’m doing the work. That’s all God expects of me, all I can expect of myself.
As I enjoy my last week in the country, I feel thankful for all the love shown to my by friends, family members, and strangers alike. I feel blessed having couches to sit on and beds to sleep in, food on the table and clothes on my back. Wherever you are, whatever blessings or hardships you’re facing in this very moment, I pray you can take a moment to breathe, to be, and to feel your own sense of being grounded and stable.
photo credit: EJA (via Flickr)