Am I Living Authentically? Am I Happy?
These last six months have been fairly dark. It began with an increase in stress at work, but it just kept growing. I felt overwhelmed, sad, and nearly in tears all the time. I began to question every choice I had made in the last seven years. The heaviness and sadness squashed my heart and just kept going for what felt like forever.
There were some outward reasons for it–job stress, challenges in friendships, and loss. But really, nothing was wildly out of the ordinary. It was happening on the inside.
For the first time in years, I felt like I was looking at my life from the outside in. Like this person called Gita was unfamiliar to me and this life was not my own. I felt cynical. I felt a strong pull toward a different life; one with outward recognition and money and excitement. I yearned for the time when strangers looked at my life and uniformly said, “Oh, that Gita is a good person. She’s making a difference in the world through her humanitarian work. She’s fun.”
There are a lot of factors that play into how things have changed. As a mother with two children under 5 years old, I can’t show up for my friends in the same way I used to. Heck, I can’t show up for my family either. My mom will have knee surgery in a few weeks, a surgery that requires a lot of effort to heal from, and I can’t be there because I’m needed at home even more.
Before kids, when a friend was in crisis, I was often the first to show up. I think I was pretty good at that. I moved friends out of abusive homes, drove friends to medical treatments, stayed up all night hugging friends who lost parents or lovers or other friends. Friends meant a lot to me; they still do.
The other big change is that I live in a cooperative spiritual community and work there too. For those who are spiritual seekers, that’s pretty cool, that makes sense. But for those who don’t share that particular interest with me, that’s pretty weird. Crazy even.
The third big change was about trying to “look” like a spiritual person. My life has become so focused on spiritual development, that I unconsciously jumped the gun. I started to look and behave outwardly in the ways that I thought other people in my community expected me to look or behave. This is a common trap in EVERY life; we put on the persona we think others want us to be.
The confluence of events in my life over the last six months brought these inconsistencies, changes, and challenges to the front and I was forced to look at them closely.
I felt like I was mourning a huge part of me. I felt like maybe I had made mistakes. And I stayed in that place of doubt for a while.
My breakthrough came when I realized I wasn’t having any fun and I was done with that. I started dancing around my house to Justin Timberlake. Reading novels. Watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I made long phone calls into the night to old friends.
By focusing on fun, I started to find balance again. I began to notice when I felt torn between what I want to do and what I think other people expect of me. I began to notice how much I show up for my kids in the ways I used to show up for my friends. I began to ask myself what I think I can’t afford and how I might fulfill the desire.
Today, I feel more balanced. More free. More authentic. I am letting go of the fears that rose up in my period of doubt. Fears of losing the beautiful life that I’ve built with my family and community. Fears of missing out on the exciting life I lived before moving to Ananda and having a family.
Do I miss aspects of my old life? Yes. Would I trade my life now for my old life? Not for a ZILLION dollars.
What I am learning is to find balance. When the joy is gone, find ways to bring it back. For spiritual seekers, it’s easy to get too serious. It’s easy to create a long list of “should do’s” and override the need for healthy “release” valves in your life…moments and outlets for letting off steam and not taking it all too seriously.
I’m motivated by fun, so I better find ways to have fun or I’m sunk. We’re all motivated by different desires, so we each need to identify those desires and find ways to fulfill them in an upward direction.
Good luck friends! I love you all.