Have You Lost Your Sense of Wonder?

As a child, I remember being fascinated by the idea of the circus, hot air balloons, and anything else that fit into my idea of a whimsical world. I was delighted by stories and the playful ways words could be rearranged to elicit different reactions from different people. On the contrary, as an adult, sometimes language seems like such a chore, so limiting, almost like it does more harm than good, and can lead to a myriad of misunderstandings. When did I become such a bore? How did I lose that special sense of wonder that used to get sparked by the most basic of things?

Wonder comes from a simple, child-like place. But as you get older, it gets harder and harder to access. It gets drowned out by all the clutter in your mind, all the worldly distractions, psychological fears and insecurities. Only when you make a concerted effort to remove all that noise, will you be left with an empty space inside of you, a space ready and waiting to be transformed by your sense of wonder.

Wonder comes from your search to understand the world around you. It comes from your intense yearning for connection with something or someone greater than yourself. Sometimes you feel wonder at the genius of a new contraption, at the logic behind the chaos that is life, at the beauty of this world and humanity, even at the devastation that plays out on such a grand scale around us. Wonder is what leads us to the questions, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”

I was blessed to be born into a loving family with comfortable means. Yet, at times, I felt like no one understood me. Like, perhaps, I was a child who’d been taken away from her real mother to be raised by some other family. My real mother would know all the answers to my questions, and solutions to my problems. I realize now, of course, that perfect mother I imagined is God, who has always been with me, whether I knew it or not.  I think, like a foster child or someone who was adopted, you never stop wanting to know the truth about where you really came from.

This desire to learn about our origins and, indeed, our eventual destination, is what drives so many of us. This is why people enjoy reading stories and watching films about characters who go on journeys and endure hardships, to find some meaning in their lives. These stories help people to create a lens through which to understand our world. Perhaps listening to stories is one way for us to re-claim our child-like wonder, and be reminded to keep looking at the world with fresh eyes and an open heart.

When you learn something new as a result of wonder – be it a mathematical concept, a better understanding of your partner, or an epiphany about your own life – you feel triumphant, like you’ve solved an important riddle. But all you’ve really done is unlocked your access to the next riddle. As people, we keep evolving, and with each new riddle, or trauma, or trial in life, the way we solve it or get through it determines how much we grow, spiritually.

Some people want to dig deeper and gain self-awareness in order to heal or grow. Others don’t want to dig deep. They’re perfectly happy not facing their demons. Perhaps they’re afraid of opening a Pandora’s box of problems they can’t face. And that’s okay. Each person is at a different level of self-awareness in life. Each person needs to move at his own pace. But if this describes your partner or parent or friend, make sure you don’t let him/her discourage you from doing what you have to do to find your own truth. Don’t dilute your sense of wonder for anyone else. Let it build and grow, and maybe even engulf those around you.

If we live from a place of wonder – not of certainty and control – navigating life’s challenges might become a little more bearable.

Do You Feel Loved?

I’ve been thinking lately about this whole idea of people feeling alone, even when they’re surrounded by a room full of others. We all feel this way sometimes. And it makes me wonder, why? Why is this loneliness such a common phenomenon? Why are we having such a hard time feeling connected to others? Is it that we’re not putting ourselves out there enough? Or are we putting ourselves out there too much, and just not getting any response? Are we hanging out with the wrong people? There are a ton of questions in my mind and even fewer answers.

I’m sure the reasons for being lonely vary from person to person. But one common theme that emerges when I talk to others, is that they are afraid of rejection, which stems from their core belief that they do not feel like they are good enough. If we believe we’re not good enough – because we’re too fat or too skinny, too shy or too hyper, too anything – then we feel the chance of being rejected by another person is high. Before we can experience the pain of rejection, we withdraw. We don’t reveal our true selves, or we pretend to be the kind of person other people would like. And where do we get our ideas about what makes a person likable? Well, I guess it’s all around us, in the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the ads in magazines or on billboards. Sure, we can blame the media for not including more diverse representations of people who are liked and accepted by society, but we continue to suffer. If we don’t make a concerted effort to be more self-aware and reflect on our own thought patterns and consequent behaviors, we’ll never break this cycle of feeling unworthy.

If you’re reading this right now, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine for a minute how it would feel if someone you cared about loved you and recognized you for being exactly who you are? This person could be a parent, a partner, a friend, anyone. Even if it’s not a reflection of your reality, just imagine that person appreciates you for simply being. Not for what you can do for them. Just for simply being.

How does it feel? Does it feel like a relief to let go of all the different masks you wear and people you pretend to be? Isn’t it freeing to disengage with all your fears and insecurities? Do you feel a sense of warmth from the knowledge that you are loved? Perhaps you can’t change how others treat you, but you can certainly change the way you respond to them. If you could walk around with this feeling of freedom from your self-imposed beliefs, and this sense of being loved for who you are, couldn’t that change your entire perception of life?

I know it’s easier said than done, but you cannot stop trying. Even when you are at your worst, you must remember that you are loved. Maybe not by the person you desire, or in the way you desire, but by the someone or something that created you. You are loved. That is the belief I have started carrying within me, to replace all the previous lies I used to tell myself. And this belief emerged after many years of struggle and despondency. It started to grow in me, the moment I made a conscious decision to lead a meaningful life in a quest for connection, with the world and God. The moment I decided to cast off the masks and be my true self.

Maybe we can start our road to feeling worthy by doing the exercise above from time to time, and imagining what it feels like to be confident in our own skins, and let go of all the emotional baggage weighing us down. If we spend enough time thinking about it and relishing in the surge of love that comes from within, maybe we can take small steps in our real lives to be our true selves. If we feel like we don’t even know our true selves, then we must commit to a journey of honesty and self-discovery. Let the Universe do the rest.

New Chapter

This summer, I moved with my family from one continent to another. And so began a new chapter in my life. I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities, paralyzed, really, by all the different ways in which I can reinvent myself. What will most likely happen, though, is that I will stay put in this exact same persona, doomed to carry on the same cycle of negative thinking. I’m trying so hard for this not to be true. To be a stronger, more emotionally resilient person. Not so dependent on any one person to make me feel loved or special. The love lies within, I keep telling myself. The strength lies within.

But who am I kidding? This is easier said than done. The frequency of moments in which I feel overwhelmed just keeps increasing. The potency of those moments, too, and their ability to just shut me down, completely. I always feel a hair’s length away from falling apart. Why am I like this, I often wonder. God made me this way, so I can’t be all bad, right? God made me sensitive and caring to a fault. There must be some way to be sensitive yet strong. To not lose heart every time I hear the news, or talk to my son about what bothers him, or see my spouse vacillate between moods. I want to find this wellspring of strength within me. I need to find it. Because I don’t think my life can go on this way.

A new chapter means new beginnings and endless possibilities. I hope I find that strength so that I might be the surprise character who emerges from this next chapter, the one who will carry the entire story through to its glorious end.

No One

The thing is, I keep telling people that the world needs more “unmasking”, that we need to stop “posing” and acting like everything’s all right when, in fact, we’re breaking down inside. But do I follow any of my own advice? Nope. Hardly ever.

There’s a comfort in knowing that, even if I’m breaking down today, maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. And why bother someone with the details of what I’m going through, why ruin the flawless impression they have of me, when I don’t really need to? I’ll bounce back in no time, on my own. Right? Or, maybe I won’t. And I’ll just suffer quietly for as long as this exterior mask will last. The question is, how long can I keep the charade going?

And what if I do tell people how I really feel? They’ll most likely say the most inane things, which, despite being well-intentioned, will just bug the shit out of me. If I am a little too honest about how I feel regarding my mother, my spouse, or my best friend, those are words I’ll never be able to take back, and relationships forever altered. I want to be comfortable being me, but without any of the collateral damage I fear it will incur. Perhaps the biggest fear is that, in being me, I’m really being no one. Because, let’s face it, I am no one. The voices in my head have done such a phenomenal job of convincing me of this. No amount of therapy and medication has been able to undo this belief. I am no one, and all I want is to be a someone, a me who I can be proud to represent.

I’ve always thought I had great faith in God. He will get me through this. Every night or day I cry, I beg Him for some help, some strength, a sign, perhaps, of what my next step should be. “Please steer me in the right direction, so I can climb out of this black hole.” I have lost interest in everything, even the things I used to love – movies, books, family. Writing. The things that used to make me feel a sense of connection with the world. They just don’t make me feel the same way, anymore.

I think I am craving connection. In this world of 7.5 billion people, why is that so hard to find? Do any of you feel the same way, too? Is anyone even out there?

 

 

 

An Act of Fearlessness

Lately, I’ve been suffering from anxiety, which is new for me. It feels like there are a thousand spiders crawling underneath my skin, like my body is full of toxic chemicals, and all I want to do is scream. I snap at my closest loved ones over the smallest things. I wish they would go away and just leave me alone. My head feels muddled, my speech gets tongue-tied, and my hands shake. My heart races and I keep trying different things to calm myself down – deep breathing, light reading, watching a funny show. Nothing seems to work, except sleep, of course. Sleep feels like the answer to everything, sometimes.

Perhaps the Universe is using anxiety to spur me to write more. I usually end up feeling better after writing, but the act of saying “no” to all the daily demands of life, finding a quiet corner, and putting pen to paper can feel more overwhelming than just dealing with all the shit life throws at you. Sometimes I think I’d write more, if only I could get a break, a few days with no one around to make demands of me. I know that wouldn’t help though. I mean, I’d love the free time, but I know I wouldn’t write. I’ve been in that situation before, and I did everything from cleaning the bathrooms to binge watching old sitcoms, anything to avoid writing. How can one person want so badly to write and yet run away from it at the same time? All my life, I’ve heard people say, you know you’re a writer if you always feel the desire to write. I hardly ever want to write, but I know I’m most alive when I do.  For me, writing feels like an event, an act of fearlessness. Does anyone else ever feel that way?

 

Bare Naked

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Be who you really are.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable;

only then will you achieve genuine happiness.

No matter that you’ll feel genuine sorrow, too,

and pain and love and passion,

the whole gamut of emotions.

What does it mean, though, to be vulnerable?

Should you unpeel yourself like a piece of fruit?

First, the outer, strongest layer,

the one that protects you from pain,

but also the one that prevents you from truly mixing with the others who are so like and unlike you,

the banana with the mandarin,

the apples with the strawberries,

the pomegranate with the pears?

If you strip away this outer layer of ego, what will happen?

Only the pulp will remain,

the substance,

the spirit.

Imagine unpeeling even further,

till you get to the core,

till you understand what exactly is at the center of your being.

It’s a mystery, and yet, you want so badly to know, don’t you?

Is there a black hole inside you, swallowing your emotions,

leaving you feeling alienated and numb in this world,

a black hole that, one day, will swallow you up entirely?

Or is it more like a white light, which illuminates your mind,

and pours through your pores,

making you shine like a gemstone,

dissolving your outer surface,

the sharp edges and rough texturing,

to reveal the hidden quartz inside?

What will you find at the core of your being,

if only you would examine it,

excavate it,

empower it?

You have a theory.

You think God might be hiding inside of you,

playing the longest ever game of hide and seek,

and you haven’t been able to find Him

until now.

He’s hiding inside you,

but also inside him and her,

and within the bark of the trees and the veins of the leaves.

He’s hiding in a light bulb where a moth will burn if it gets too close,

and in the center of the sun,

where you’re warned not to look for fear of going blind.

He’s hiding in your parents and grandparents,

in your children and grandchildren,

in the puzzle pieces you used to play with,

clapping in triumph when you’d finally put them all together.

He’s hiding in books and movies which have moved you to tears, laughter, and awe.

He’s hiding in the music which lifts you, and makes you want to dance,

or meditate on meaning.

He’s even hiding in your enemy, isn’t He?

Showing you what it means to be “other”,

because only then will you know what it means to be human,

and how to bring the world closer together.

What does it mean, then, to be vulnerable?

It means just letting yourself be,

travelling deep within and unlocking the gates,

exposing whatever there is inside –

the dark, the beautiful, the glistening, the gray –

allowing people in and allowing people out.

It means learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It means doing the things that scare you the most,

‘cause what’s life without a little adventure?

It means using your voice to change the world,

but first,

going in search of that voice.

I bet it’s hiding in there somewhere,

maybe right next to God.

Go find it and don’t come back till you do.

 

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Well, are they ready to hear what’s coming their way?

Are they ready for you?

Are YOU ready for you?

It’s about damn time.

The Wrong Rabbit Hole

I’ve always wanted to make other people happy, to shield them from the kind of depression I have experienced for more than a decade. But is it possible that I’ve been going about it all wrong? I mean, if there’s one thing I’m an expert in, it’s what it feels like to be depressed. I never thought that expertise would mean something to anybody else. Maybe it can, though.

For me, depression is the dark rabbit hole that Alice never fell through. It has no ending, only temporary landing ledges for brief respite from that constant feeling of falling. It’s self-hate, filling up your insides like bile, making you feel like you’re always on the verge of bursting. It’s the feeling of being a tree in the forest who fears it will fall, but no one will ever be around to hear it. And so, if that happens, does the fall even count? Does the tree even really exist?

It’s the world closing in on you till you feel you can’t breathe. It’s always looking for a way to escape your own mind. It’s wishing you were a different person, a happier person, living a different life. It’s the feeling that everyone will sooner or later tire of your negativity and leave you. It’s a haziness in your head, and a desire to give in to that haziness, and sleep all the time. Warm, joyous sleep, where, when you dream, your every next step is unpredictable. You feel more alive when you’re dreaming, than when you’re awake.

It’s feeling like you’re not good enough for this world. Even when there was obviously some Power that specially created you. But it must have been a mistake, or perhaps, this hell is punishment for your behavior in a past life.

Depression is falling into a pit and feeling like there’s no way out. Ever.

What does depression feel like for you?

What is Happiness?

I believe there is infinite beauty inside each of us like a locked treasure without a key. But instead of trying to unlock that inner beauty, most of us spend our time watching spectacles on TV like a child at the circus, or running around a hamster wheel in the pursuit of money and the happiness it cannot buy. The irony is, no one is happy. In fact, research shows that the happiest people are usually those with the least amount of possessions in this world – the weak, the sick, the elderly, and children. Because they know what it means to be truly grateful. And so, I believe, the secret to happiness is gratitude.

I am grateful to the master architect of this world, the artist who created a diversity of landscapes, and scattered them with creatures of all shapes and sizes. I am grateful to the sculptor who created me from clay and deemed me worthy of this beautiful world, who breathed into me my soul, so that I could remember. But instead of remembering, I walked the path of forgetfulness. It seemed like the right path since that’s where everyone else was going. My parents tried their best to guide me. But it was hard for them, too, because, to some degree, they struggled with the same sense of directionlessness, as I do now.

I am grateful to the chess player who placed me on this side of the checkered board, under the watchful eye of this king and queen – my father and mother – because they were always kind and loving and principled, and they always provided. That is all a parent can really do for their child, isn’t it?

I am grateful to the script writer who always kept me on the move, journeying from one country to another, to another, to another. He kept me on my toes, like a choreographer showing me the beauty of each movement, the thrill of each twist and turn in my story. She taught me to keep my head down, my heart open, and my body full of grace, like a ballerina pirouetting through life; not the best ballerina, though, because I stumbled often and sometimes fell flat on my face. Puberty, boys, friendships, fights, secrets, the use of words as weapons, the heart divided, thinking what it wanted and what it should want were two different things, completely. I am grateful to the negotiator, who coaxed me through this barbed wire and helped me get to the other side, intact.

I am grateful, too, to the one-who-shall-not-be-named because, without him, I would never have experienced the most basic sense of duality, good versus evil, and I would never have known which direction to go in. He kept me thinking all my life that my lack of confidence was actually my humility; my silence, my strength; and the noise around me a thing of beauty and intelligence, which had to be heard with a sense of urgency because that noise would guide me, and tell me how to stay young, make money, sound smart, and look sexy. The noise would keep the voices at bay, the ones he had snuck inside my head. Those voices told me exactly what he wanted me to believe – that I was worthless, burdensome, ugly. That the only way to rise up in life was through worldly success.

But now, I know better. The voices were only his minions, a way to keep me quiet and walking in the wrong direction. I am grateful to the teacher who uncovered, for me, the truth, who turned me around and told me to shut off all the noise and listen, instead, to my soul. And when I consciously experienced my soul for the first time, it was like my black and white world transformed into technicolor. Like I was seeing the world for the first time, through a child’s eyes, full of wonder and awe. The teacher coaxed open my memory and suddenly, I remembered. I remembered Him. I remembered my promise to Him. I remembered She loved me, and was merciful and forgiving. I remembered She was scary, too, like a parent trying to discipline her child. I remembered that I loved Him, for providing for me, food, water, shelter, yes, but also my senses, my comforts, the people in my life, the challenges that made me struggle till my knees buckled under, the moments of grace when I understood just a little more of His grand plan.

He is like my parent, my lover, my child, my best friend, my everything, all rolled into One. I am eternally grateful to Him. And THIS is what makes me happy.

This piece is a reminder for me, more than anything else, to be grateful. Do you feel grateful? If so, for who or what? I’d love to know.

Most Days

 

Most of my days are mediocre,

going through a cycle of pre-planned routines,

relying on handy little coping mechanisms,

sneaking in predictable bad habits like eating a hidden stash of sweets or sleeping later than I should.

On most days,

there’s child-rearing,

tv-watching,

phone-talking,

errand-walking,

job-searching,

journal-writing,

food-prepping,

mortality-facing:

all the usual suspects.

And throughout it all, a feeling of boredom I have come to depend on

because boredom is better than being in a black hole.

 

On my best days,

I feel like singing.

I’ll imagine my life is a musical with a song and dance for every occasion,

and romance,

oh-so-much romance.

I let go of all my anxieties

and instead of feeling depleted,

I have so much love to give.

Wisdom and warm hugs abound.

On my best days,

I feel like my best self,

and I want so badly for that feeling to last.

I’ll read uplifting stories, listen to inspirational music, watch intelligent videos.

It’s not long, though,

before the monotony of life sets in again,

and the feeling of being free is gone.

 

Most days,

I won’t sing out of fear someone will hear me

and think I’m tuneless.

I won’t write or share my work for fear someone will read it

and find out I’m a fraud.

Most days,

I avoid difficult conversations and distressing confrontations.

I’ll wear the veneer of an optimist who’s got it all together –

a fulfilling family life, a successful professional life, even a peaceful spiritual life –

but in reality, I’ll steep myself in the negative,

the fatalistic,

the frightening.

Most days,

my mind is like an obstinate child who will not listen

as I try to guide it towards positivity and love.

However, the mind has a mind of its own, and,

when left unchecked,

has the power to seduce me into a black hole of my own making.

 

On my worst days,

my mind is like a dominating overlord who takes joy in my torture.

I feel invisible,

isolated,

ignored.

I am weak in the face of all those voices in my head that tell me I’m useless,

that I won’t amount to anything,

when actually, I’ve already amounted to so much,

that I’m lazy,

when actually, I’m scared,

that I’m talentless,

when actually, I’m the only person in the world

who knows how best to be me.

On my worst days,

I feel unloved,

and that is the worst feeling of all,

because if nobody loves me,

then what’s the point of my existence.

On my worst days,

I wish I could just disappear.

I forget that there is someone out there who loves me,

the same being that made me,

that deemed me worthy of creation

and a place among the cosmos.

I forget

that to some people

I am the whole world,

and to others,

I’m important,

though perhaps misunderstood.

I forget that the people around me aren’t all out to get me,

but are flawed themselves,

and just want to be accepted for who they are,

despite their quirks and occasional cruelties.

They have their own black holes to battle.

On my better days,

I realize all this,

and I see the world through the eyes of an observer, not a performer.

I sense the beauty all around me,

in the human capacity for kindness,

and the majestic presence of nature,

the miniscule place our planet occupies in the universe,

and my ability to forgive.

There is beauty in every moment,

if only we could feel it.

 

On my best days,

I don’t fully inhabit my body,

and float, rather than walk.

I feel at one with the universe

and allow my spirit to guide me,

come what may.

“Just try to enjoy the ride,”

I tell myself.

“Coast through calm waters,

navigate around the rocks,

hang on tight during waterfalls,

but be sure to soar through the skies

with eyes wide open.”

 

On my best days,

I feel like singing,

and so,

without giving it a second thought,

I do.

Why so Lovelorn?

Ever feel like shit? A rhetorical question, obviously, because we’ve all felt like shit at some point in our lives. Tired, overworked, under appreciated, not really feeling the love. As if, despite the number of loved ones we may have, there is no one we can honestly share our feelings with. That would mean making ourselves truly vulnerable. And what if the person we choose to share with doesn’t understand us? Or worse, doesn’t really care? Being vulnerable has only ever caused us pain, so better not to say anything, just to stay quiet. Except the problem is, we’re still boiling over with all these negative feelings, feeling drained by life, possibly even depressed. We feel unloved.

“Lovelorn” means feeling bereft of love. And to some extent, I think we all feel this way. We have moments of feeling unloved, whether it be by a parent, a partner, or even the Universe, in general. We feel unloved and perhaps even unworthy of love. We take desperate measures to get attention or try to change ourselves to please others. We do horrible things from the lack of love, and get the sense that being horrible is just who we are because no one ever told us otherwise. One of this world’s greatest superheroes, in my opinion, Fred Rogers, aptly summed it up when he said, ““Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all relationships – love, or the lack of it.” I cannot help but agree.

In a world of hyper awareness, of processing and re-processing the news of just how vicious mankind can be, where we feel increasingly isolated and alone, and like the worth of human life – indeed, even our own – is negligible, it is only natural to feel lovelorn.

I’m sure someone out there feels the same way I do, and it might help to know that you are not alone. The pain is real and, sometimes, torturous. Full disclosure: I suffer from depression. And even though I receive treatment for it, the pain never completely goes away. Maybe it’s not supposed to.

I believe that each of us is a part of something greater than all of us put together. I believe that we are not only loved, but also needed. I believe we each have special gifts we bring to the world, and we need to identify those gifts and share them. I believe all these things, and yet, have trouble remembering them because there’s always that constant nagging feeling within me, that feeling of not being worthy, of wasting my time in this world and not being productive enough. I start to think, if only I felt loved, things would be different. It becomes this vicious cycle then, where I try to chase love, never feel like I’m getting as much as I need, and so, keep searching for it. And instead of using my energy to fulfil my purpose in life, I’m wasting it on this futile quest.

Recently, I heard Sufi teacher, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, say, in a podcast episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations (yes, I listen to Oprah!), that this hunger we always feel, this emptiness, this longing for love, is really just a longing for the Beloved. For Sufis, the Beloved is God. I’m a pretty spiritual person, so I think there may be some truth to that.

But the fact remains, regardless of why we feel this longing, we feel it still, and it can be painful. This site is my attempt at sharing that pain. Who knows, maybe my purpose in life IS to share my pain. It doesn’t sound like a very glamorous or divinely inspired job, but, hey, what do I have to lose?