As I contemplate all the mess in my life, I try to come up with answers with a little help from The Matrix.
A couple of years ago, I was meeting a group of friends for dinner. These are a group of women I used to go to dance class with and saw each other frequently. Over time we dropped out of dance school and had less opportunity to see each other. Later that night when I got home I felt this sadness in my heart like a stone that was weighing me down. “This is strange.” I thought to myself. “I just spent the evening with a group of fun, intelligent and inspiring women. I should be feeling happy.” As I contemplated this surprising feeling that has snuck up on me, I realized the root cause of the dark sense swirling around my chest. I was feeling sad because these women were reminding me of who I used to be 10 years earlier when I used spend lots of time around them.
I used to be full of energy. I had a certain zest for life about me. A feeling of optimism. And then a set of difficulties dropped down from the sky on top of my head. I went through a difficult time which I have nick-named “wading through sludge” phase. Where everything in my life had gone haywire. Personally and professionally I was being humbled. Although the difficult times had passed, I was left with a depleted energy reserve. I became a passive person. A former shadow of the person I once was. I found myself asking:
How did I become this way?
Why did I end here?
Why is my life such a mess?
After a few days of feeling sorry for myself. I finally asked a more important question:
What can I do about it?
My joie de vivre was my default setting before. Something that was just part of me. Now I would have to reclaim it through hard work and determination.
I sat down with a pen and stack of paper and wrote down a list of things that bring me joy. I wrote and wrote and wrote. About three hundred items. Some big, some small. The list included things such as: Dance, drink coffee, eat sushi, hosting dinner parties, dressing well and holding a novel that I had written in my hand for the first time.
And then I set about to bring things from that list into my daily life. At first my efforts were random and chaotic. Later I got organized about my project of bringing joy into my life. Thus I embarked on a set of challenges:
Today, I feel better than ever. My sense of joy and play has come back. With it came something even better. I have a sense of insight into my past.
I am reminded of a scene in The Matrix movie where Neo becomes The One. He can finally see the code that forms the walls, the ground and the ceiling. As agents shoot at him, he is able to stop the bullets in mid air with his mind. He no longer has to dodge bullets, the bullets stop for him. He is able to do that which he himself never thought he could do. Here is the video clip. It gives me goose bumps each time I see it.
Here I am pretending to be Neo stopping bullets in mid air. Only I don’t like bullets. If I am to be attacked, I prefer to have shoes thrown at me instead. In this, I am inspired by the video of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush. His name is Muntathar Zaidi. I have watched that video probably one hundred times. It’s hugely satisfying. You have to give it to George Bush for his agile ability to dodge projectile shoes.
In Arabic culture hitting somebody with shoe or even pointing your shoe at somebody is a grave insult. Therefore, the shoe throwing in the video is of a greater meaning to us Arabs.
Not only did I manage to reclaim my former sense of joy. But also I can now see the negative patterns that I have repeated in my life. All the ways in which I stood in my own way. I have devoted a decade to my head until reason failed me. Later I devoted a decade to my heart. I wanted to live from my center and out of my head. When that failed me. I devoted the next 10 years to spirit. I can tell now that is not the right course of action for me neither. The next decade is firmly devoted to integrating the lessons learned from all three phases of my life into one cohesive whole. My head, heart and spirit. My good side along my flawed side. All of me. Integrated. Moving forward. Moderation is the name of the game.
I know exactly what I want. I want to write novels to elevate your mind, move your heart, delight your senses and free your soul. Before I can accomplish that, I have to turn myself into a person who is worthy of that quest. I can’t think of a better or more noble goal to have in life. It’s hard work but it’s also worth it.
As for the question: “Why is my life such a mess?” Because I am human. Mess is part of my nature. My being. There is no way to live life without creating a mess in the process. While I flapped and fumbled along the way, I can promise to continue to do so.
I remember the story from 20 years ago. The one where I heard a voice in my head instructing me to get a hold of my life. I can see now that was this Elen, the older one, looking back through time beseeching the younger Elen to hurry up and get herself to this state. No clue how I travelled in time. I just know it was me giving advice to my younger self.
This is the second time I used The Matrix as a reference point. The first, was in my Self Acceptance vs Self Improvement blog post. Yes! I am a bit of obsessed. But I promise this is the last time. So you can stop rolling your eyes already!
Was there a point in your life when you asked yourself “Why is my life such a mess?” If yes, what answers did you come up with?