Knowing yourself is hard. It’s even harder to know what you want and need. And without knowing those things, it is impossible to find happiness. How can one orient themselves towards a path that leads to eventual happiness when they don’t even know what matters to them or who they are?
I have struggled with this a lot lately. Feeling disconnected from myself during the pandemic has highlighted how little I feel I truly know about myself. It feels like there should be these pillars inside you which you can identify and lean on when things become uncertain; a central certainty in the core of your character.
Buddhism teaches us that there is no self, that the concept of a self in reality is all an illusion – grasping to worldly concepts that don’t exist in absolute reality. I’ve always struggled with this concept. I want there to be certainty in my self. I want there to be a resounding ‘Meagan-ness’ that I can rely on day-in and day-out, no matter what the world throws at me.
So much of recovery involves trying to find your self, your core characteristics and values, in order to let them lead you to a life worth living. A life you want to live. My core values were that of Joy, Freedom, Connection, Authenticity, and Growth. And I do feel most myself when I am prioritizing these things.
Lately, Connection has been highlighted in my day to day. For so long, I kept myself separate from others to keep myself from being hurt. If you aren’t vulnerable with others, then they have no grounding, no ammunition, with which to cause you pain. But you also have no ground to cause you joy. Connection lies at the basis of so much joy in my life, and without it, I feel stagnant, lonely, and in a sense, purposeless. Recognizing how much I need meaningful connections, meaningful relationships, at the center of my life has made me rethink some of my practices lately. It’s caused me to open up when my anxiety is telling me to shut down and hide. It’s caused me to be vulnerable with people who aren’t always there for me, and to deal with the pain of that rejection and disappointment.
It hurts when you are open and honest with someone, and they aren’t able to or interested in being there for that. In reciprocating or being open and vulnerable or even receiving your vulnerability. When you get no reply, or, worse, a disinterested one. It is painful to feel alone. To have your fears that ‘if you open up you will be rejected’ confirmed. But in the end, it weeds out the meaningless connections and strengthens the meaningful ones. And that bit of risk is totally worth it to find who truly cares, who truly is ready and willing to reciprocate your connection.
I also have been thinking a lot about Freedom. How desperately I want to be and feel independent. How I want to make my life my own, and follow a path I create because it is what I need. How important it is to not be dependent on others (even if I am connected to them). How much it means to me to be dependent on myself. After losing so much autonomy for so many years to my mental illness, the prospect of being completely autonomous feels revolutionary. Radical. Important.
This all leads back to Joy. The question of who am I, what do I want, what path do I need to craft for myself to find happiness. Because in the end, my most significant value is that of happiness. I just want to be happy. I want to feel fulfilled in my relationships, my self, and my job. I want to wake up satisfied with my life and go to sleep feeling actualized. I want to be happy.
And to be happy, I have to acknowledge that I have needs, and that those needs are valid. That they matter. That I matter. I have to set boundaries in my connections and make hard choices about who I have in my life. I have to ask myself what kind of life I want to lead – not just what I can or should, but what I want to. What is going to feel worthwhile and important. What is going to be meaningful.
I have to feel that I deserve happiness. I have to feel that I’ve fought for it. That I’ve woken up every day asking what is going to make me happy today, tomorrow, and the next day. The next month. The next year. What do I want? What do I need?
I don’t know the best way to do this, and it feels terrible not to know. I feel like I’m having all of these thoughts and pulls towards this concept of happiness, but I’m in a boat with no rudder and all that is leading me is the direction of the current and gusts of the wind. I don’t know how to build my rudder, how to find my needs, how to fight for what I want and demand what I need.
So for now, we drift. And hope that every wrong turn helps to show the right one.