“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”― Rainer Maria Rilke
Maybe it’s because I just got out of a 10-year relationship, but I’m feeling awfully sympathetic to the movement of existentialism: the idea that we are all free agents, responsible for our own choices, and that the results of those choices and our personal experiences govern who we are.
I’m also determined that our unique choices shouldn’t be criticized, least of all by ourselves. (And aren’t we often the harshest judges of our lives?)
Obviously there are exceptions here. Violence, abuse, etc. Those aren’t the kinds of choices I’m talking about and I’m sure some reader hellbent on arguing with me will go in that direction.
No, what I’m talking about is the kind of individual choice that brings you to the very cliché concept of the simple things in life. It’s cliché because we all know that there are such things, different as they may be for each of us, that just touch us and fulfill us down to the very core of us.
And this comes to mind because I’ve spent so much of my life trying.
Trying is something we all do, all the time-
trying to succeed, trying to excel, trying to be something or someone more.
But what if we just stop trying?
I’m not talking about giving up or giving in, but just letting some things BE without pushing it or forcing it or expecting something to change. Trying is so good for so many reasons, but sometimes, some situations require that we just let go and stand still and silent and simply experience it, good, bad, all of the above.
Like the choice to be single, and then parenting and choosing to work.
I wanted to provide for my daughter. I wanted to be proud of myself. I made the choice, now I can let this just be whatever it is.
For me, it’s singing and music and dance and the sensation of freedom that comes with all that…even if it’s just how I pass the time as I clean up the counters after the last passenger has checked in.
It’s my daughter’s toddler-thick arms squeezing tight around my neck when I take her from my parents’ room after a late shift at work, and it’s the grateful smile on her face as she groggily confirms that mommy is indeed home and promptly falls back into a deep sleep.
It’s the way the sunlight suddenly bursts through the windows at JFK Terminal 1 right before sunset, filling every corner and my pores and my eyes and making me feel like bursting out myself to run through it, arms outstretched like a young, unburdened child.
It’s the heart flutter that comes with being assigned certain gates where I can watch airplanes taxi and rev up and cut into the air on takeoff, reminding me of my promise to myself to travel and explore, and the very near eventuality of that.
It’s laughter that stretches out my lungs and makes room for soul-cleansing, mood-lifting Oxygen, whether in response to the chaos and randomness of the airport or to the chaos and randomness of my friends and family and coworkers. 🙂
It’s a peace that comes with making choices based on what I really want, what I really need, and being unashamed and unapologetic about it.
Maybe I’m not your version of Pakistani, or his version of Muslim, or her version of American, or someone else’s version of mother or daughter or sister or friend. But stop pigeonholing me into what you think I must be, because I AM my version of me, a combination of all of those things and more.
It isn’t always easy knowing what really matters to me, but if I’m honest with myself, it is easy to know what feels absolutely wrong, and what my instinct tells me is right.
I know that I care about people, deeply, quickly, and that I’d rather do for others than ignore their needs. I know that I also tend to put that ahead of myself and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t.
So I allow myself to say so, to stand up for those things that do truly matter, for those moments that I used to stifle my own voice for the sake of someone else’s. No more.
And instead of trying to do that, I just do it. It’s easy, it’s neat, it feels right.
Maybe I’m just finally at that magical age when I’ve found comfort within myself.
Maybe existentialism is just the natural progression of thought that comes with truly growing up.
Or maybe I’m just happy, because even through the struggles and sacrifices and worries of a single working mom, I don’t feel helpless or powerless or afraid. I feel quiet and calm and strong inside, aware of the obstacles ahead and even a bit excited to see just what ends up happening, the beauty and the terror and everything in between.