And just like that, it's December. Time will seem to hurtle towards the end of the year now. But lately my own perceptions of time have significantly changed. I feel that I have stepped out and away from the default track with its default speed. I am now walking or running as I pleased beside a moving train, unbothered if I get left behind, or if another one comes along to pass me by. Sometimes I am still, and I sit watching as a train rushed past towards a destination I probably do not care to see. Sometimes I walk away from the track itself, and enter the forest, and walk until I can no longer hear anything but the conversations of trees.
I have no thirteenth month bonus, nor mandatory Christmas parties. I occasionally miss the former but never the latter. I don't get a company Christmas basket with the requisite kilo of Christmas ham and Quezo De Bola. I don't do holiday shopping anymore, not for new things to wear as we were used to as children, not for gifts because my list has become shorter and shorter as the freelance years passed by (not only for reasons for financial constraint but also because people do drift away when you no longer see them everyday, when sustaining a relationship is now dependent on either or both of you making a real effort).
My life has become simplified, and to a certain extent my joys have become focused into specific things or experiences rather than merely being joyful in a general expected way. At the same time, these joys have become purer in the sense that they are of the same enduring things and experiences, and they can stand up to the occasions of difficulties to fortify the spirit. I do not coat troubles with joy, pretending that by osmosis the trouble will be joyful. Troubles are troubles. They may have their gifts and lessons to give but rarely are they joys themselves. They may eventually lead to joy but I have come to an important realisation that to get to the joy where they may be leading you, you must eventually leave them behind. Don't carry the troubles with you. And don't think you need them along to deserve the joy you will get.
In the past six years of being unemployed and having to live by chance and by faith, I have found a certain kind of peace that I never found when I was earning a regular paycheck. Being cut off from the mainstream of expectations and habits has its advantages. Suddenly there is all this space in your life where there used to be the schedules and demands and structures of someone else. Suddenly you are responsible for making your schedules and structures, and for demanding of yourself what YOU need and what YOU want. Suddenly you realise why for many people it is sometimes easier to just do the work for someone else because doing it for yourself is much, much harder. And yet, if you are able to find the way to work for yourself, you find that you will never simply be another person's or a company's tool for their own purposes. You will find that you are capable of negotiating for fair partnerships, and that this applies not just in work but in personal life as well. And thus I have found a kind of peace that is rooted in being in harmony with myself and what I need and what I do for myself.
This is not selfishness. I have wrestled with that for a very, very long time, along with the guilt. But what I learned is this: the only way I can give the best of myself is when I am the best of myself. And I can only be that if I take care of what I need to become that. By this I mean becoming what makes me alive and what makes me engage with the world with kindness and generosity, what makes me yearn towards life and growth and continuous change for the better. Only I can know what that is for me. Only you can know yours. How do you know? What makes your heart beat fast, fill you with the urge to move and to create and to make something of yourself beyond what you are now? What makes you want to expand to embrace all of life? What fills you up with hope and possibility? I realise that when I attuned my life and my daily living to this, I found that I still have, and will always have, the capacity to grow and become something more than what I am now, despite how old I am, or how much weight I've gained, or how many silver hairs I've turned (and for that matter, how much or little money I actually have in my bank accounts).
In the past two years, having become a much better and truer version of myself, I realise that I have brought light, inspiration, hope, and joy to more people in the deeper sense (even while in the midst if being stone-broke), than I have ever had in two decades of being loaded with money and doing what everybody else did. I have given and received more heartfelt messages of gratitude, encouragement, and solidarity in the past two years than I ever had in the whole history of my life.
There are no limits, no deadlines, no end of the road. For my part, where I have found hard reality slamming me down with high brick walls or impossible obstacle courses, I have discovered other doorways instead. I realised I do not always have to walk the well-worn paths, I do not have to follow what has been done before in exactly the same way.
I woke up this morning from a long dream of disjointed stories, but across all of them I was in a state of traveling, and there were many encounters with both people I knew and people who were strangers and people who were a bit of both. I woke up and a string of words wrote itself in my mind : My life has been a constant state of stunted arousal. That will certainly be food for further thought in my journal, and I believe it carries a lesson that perhaps I am finally ready to learn.
Today I will work all day again on a dayjob thing. The stiff neck from yesterday has not gone away. It is terribly tedious, that dayjob thing, writing that report, then having to do the next steps to get the project to the next phase. And then another dayjob project begins next week, and it is a heavy one, and brings with it so many invisible strings and unspoken questions and a whole lot of pressure.
But today, strangely, despite the stiff neck and the dayjob deadlines and the fact that I may have to pull an all-nighter later, I feel a thrum of hope for something much more beneath the daily drudge.
Every day I make a choice to hope and to persevere, to be resilient. Sometimes I fail and I fall into the dark crevices of my terrible fears. But today feels good. Today I seem to have been given a boon. Today, perhaps, I have just a little bit more good luck than the usual. We'll see. :)