A lesson I keep learning over and over again, is that nothing is really mine to keep. Somehow, I keep forgetting to live my life with a looser grasp on things and people and experiences, until I suffer a loss that knocks me off my feet and confuses me.
The key is to be detached. I keep hearing that, and it’s something I find very important if I want to find a balance between expectations and reality.
I’ve read some of the great works on stoicism, a philosophy that outlines this principle very well. This Greek school of thought aims to teach humans how to maximise positive emotions and minimise negative ones, through living a virtuous life and by realising that you cannot control the world, only how you approach it and react to what happens.
People who are considered stoic are those who aren’t very reactionary and do not succumb to extreme emotions.
I know this, and yet I experience high highs and low lows.
I even have a tattoo on my body that says “be like water”. I took it from the Chinese practice of Daoism, based on the book ‘Dao De Jing’ by philosopher Lao Tzu. In it, he gives pieces of advice on how to live according to the way of the universe. It shows one how to be in unison with the natural vibration and flow of energy in the world. Daoism tells us that we must not resist, we must flow with the current, must be malleable and open to change and loss, like water.
For me, tattoos are a way of making certain lessons almost permanent, and reminding me of the things I sometimes forget.
For me, that tattoo is a reminder that I am not in charge and I should not waste my time trying to control what I can’t, because fear or anxiety in itself directs negative energy towards me.
The thing is, when you operate from a place of lack (a position where you constantly want), you lose things faster. When you accept that the universe is abundant, things flow to and through you, you will always have more than you could imagine.
The tricky part is accepting these things as they come and letting them go just as easily. The other tricky part is not taking things personally when they leave, and accepting rejection as a part of being alive.
Buddhism also preaches living a life in which you understand the truth of the world: that there is both pleasure and pain, and then accept it without fear, resistance, desire or need.
Even life itself is not ours to hold onto tightly. It is so, so easily lost, and we have no way of controlling or predicting how and when it will end. Literally nothing is certain.
That is the lesson I take away from all this, but like I said, it is something I am forced to learn time and time again.
No matter how many times I feel the pain that comes with loss, it takes me a while to re-centre myself and remember that the word ‘loss’ is actually a misnomer. Nothing is ours, so we can never truly lose anything.
I guess that is just a part of being human. Perhaps it is in the attempt itself that I may find success. Maybe the mere fact that I acknowledge these things and come back to the same conclusions is enough.
I have no way of knowing, though; that’s the beauty and the curse.
– Anne Hambuda is a poet, writer and social commentator from Windhoek, Namibia. Follow her online or email her [email protected] for more.