The last couple of weeks with all the comings and goings in the world, I found myself to be severely depressed, unhappy and extremely annoyed. However the last couple of days I randomly started talking to 2 colleagues of mine , they have a way of coping with all the bull shit around us , in similar yet very different ways . These 2 colleagues of mine cannot be more dissimilar, the on a lady of color, intelligent, well-traveled and with a very senior position. The other colleague, extremely capable, well-read and doing very important work, he is still white, male and in his 50’s.
My male colleague has summarized his way of thinking in the following way, he calls it the Universal Truths:
• Everything is inherently unreliable
• Everything is impermanent
• Everything is uncontrollable
In other words, everything is transient, evanescent and inconstant. Therefore suffering is the result of resistance (reactivity) to the three truths. However you look at this and disagree with this, there is one thing that is not in discussion, that it is the truth. It is because of these truths, he decided not to have an opinion on the majority of issues that may confront him in his life. Because if you have an opinion or expectation, and as most things it turn out not to agree with yours or disappoint you, it leads to self-doubt and depression. He therefore lives with the notion, that if something do not directly impact on him, it is not important. To him, the way of life his wife and he chose, is the foundation of their happiness and self-worth. Something not to be decided by society, nor by politicians, nor by religion, but by themselves. They are therefore only accountable to themselves.
My female colleague summarized her way of thinking as follows, she will not surround herself with:
• Bad news
• Will try to surround herself with good news and good people
• Only read things that can empower and better her as a human being
• Try to only see the beauty and good things around her
In other words, create a world around you that you and your family want to live in. Nobody around you will create this world for you, you have to create this world. A world where you feel safe and protected, where you are in charge with the kind of people, information and news you want to be part off. Where you are the architect of your universe. A way of living not to be decided by society, nor by politicians, nor by religion, but by themselves. They are therefore only accountable to themselves.
My first reaction to these similar yet different ways above mentioned individuals chose to lead their lives, was very foreign to me. Both these people are highly respected by me, and I seek their council on a daily basis on a wide array of topics. They seem quite “normal” to me. My first inclination was to think that it is impossible to lead a life “like an ostrich, with his head in the sand “. It is furthermore very important to have an opinion on everyone and everything. If you are not informed and do not stay on top of everything in your life, your community, your country and the world per say, how can you live in it.
Only after doing a lot of introspection, and thinking about how much of my life do I control, did these 2 individuals viewpoint start making sense to me.
If I think about my life , it can be broken up in the following percentage points worrying about my children , my country , my work and what my happen and things I cannot control , a “healthy” 80% . Enjoying life and being happy a “paltry” 20%. It is clear I am doing something wrong!
Probably the biggest worry, parents like Jacky and I have, is that we worry ourselves to death about our children, the youngest one Erik turning 21 in March. Sometimes I think I worry more about Erik’s studies, than he does. The truth is, I cannot make him study, and he has to decide what his future is. The same with Ruan, JC and Jampie, they are in control of their lives. We cannot keep anyone of them save nor can we control their actions or choices. Neither can we control their futures .We know that they know , we love them un-conditional and that there will always be a safe place for them in our house. That should be enough for us!
In South Africa, with all our challenges with crime, a corrupt government and millions of other things, it has become important to me, to stay on top of every little piece of news, I can lay my hands on. It in turn has made me neurotic, depressed and downright scared. But why, why do I keep surrounding myself with negative information all the time. Yes, it is the truth that is what the press, politicians and criminals bring to the table, but I choose to eat it. If I surround myself with more positive things, more positive news and a more positive outlook, I think I will feel much better. It does not mean I should be ignorant, but as the lady said to me, people in conversation still keeps her informed of what is important, what she decides to do with that information is the point.
Although I do not do earth shattering important work. I am extremely hard working with my own code of ethical behavior that cannot be faulted by anyone. However I am still worried all the time if the quality of me and my fellow employees work is still good enough. If an incident will not change that impression. The truth is I cannot work 24 hours a day, I have a very limited amount of control of what I may and may not do, and that can really make an impact on anyone. So why do I worry? I should do my job to the best of my ability, because I can control it, I cannot control anything else.
Let’s not forget the big one, money! Will there be enough money to finish the children’s schooling, help JC and Ruan? Will we have enough money to pay all our accounts? Will we have enough money to …………? The truth is, we will never have enough money. This is not the problem, the problem is that we are not happy enough how fortunate we are to have a job and some money. More than the majority of people in this country. It is important that we give more and worry less!
So I can go on and on, the truth is, that this may be my story, and that everyone has their own story. With percentage markers that are unique to them. However, all of us are the architects of our own lives.
The lives the 2 mentioned people chose for themselves, may not be the right fit for Jacky and me. However what is exceedingly important, is that we , must take more control of our lives, re-assess and come up with our own ideology of what makes us happy. Change the paradigm from a percentage point of 20% happy and 80% worry, to as close as 100% happy as we can.
In the end we are the architects of our life!