Save yourself from regrets

I believe that among the great deathbed regrets will be the realisation that we never truly showed the world who we are.

It’s the what-ifs and if-onlys that cause more regret and heartache than any bad decision.

Bad decisions are made with good intentions, yet we always choose to remember the negative outcome, rather than celebrate our innocence and sincerity for trying.

We do this because we’re more focused on what others think of us, than we are about what we know to be true about ourselves.

This bias against ourselves is one of the roots with which ingratitude takes hold in our life.

When that happens, we become martyrs in our own mind, as we focus on everything that didn’t work out, while losing sight of the beauty and blessings that we have.

Living up to your convictions, despite society, is what will provide you with peace and fulfilment when you need it most.

That is, in those final moments when you look back at the sum total of your life and wonder if you made the best of it, or did you only focus on the worst of it?

Redefine what peace means to you. It is always beyond just the absence of disagreement or hostility. Peace lies in being true to yourself, and appreciating the opportunities for growth that such conviction creates in those around you.

#hope #expectation #sincerity #selfworth #selfawareness #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthrecovery #theegosystem #ownyourlife #ownyourshit #embracingME #motivation #optimism #zaidismail #peace #deathbedregrets #death #companionship

The Sound of Inevitability 

One of my favourite movie scenes is the one in The Matrix where the agent holds down Neo’s head as he has him pinned down to the railway tracks. With the sound of an oncoming train rumbling in the distance, the agent pulls Neo’s head up and says in the coldest, driest, and most deliberate tone, “Hear that Mr Anderson? That’s the sound of inevitability.” The rest is history. But that sound of inevitability always resonates with me.

The endless jokes about the light at the end of the tunnel need no retelling. It’s not the light that is important, but rather the inevitable nature of the passing of every trial or tribulation that weighs us down. Too often we’re so distracted about the light and whether it is good or bad, that we forget to step out of the way if it’s bad, or embrace it if it’s good. Most end up just feeling overwhelmed, while others entirely miss the opportunity that presented itself because of the fears associated with the assumptions that they made before it even happened. A rare few embrace the light and work it to their advantage.

That’s the obvious part. The not so obvious part is when we define what we believe is inevitable or needed. I’ve noticed in my own life how many times I’ve set out focusing on establishing some means to an end. That means, be it a car or a house, or some other tool intended for a specific purpose, usually had a huge effort associated with its acquisition. Let’s stick with the house for this example.

It started out as a need to have a place of my own if I wished to get married and start my own family. Like everything in this world, everything needs maintenance, and so the cycles of maintenance started not long after I moved in. Along with the maintenance my creative side kicked in because I needed to at least get something out of the burden of maintaining the place, and suddenly maintenance turned into a renovation. Then the ego kicked in and soon the space was just too small to achieve what I wanted to achieve. Suddenly I couldn’t entertain as many people as I wanted, nor could I get a quiet space to contemplate the next renovation or upgrade to the house, or to just forget about the house and all its demands. In between, the marriage was neglected and the upkeep of the home became the pivotal point of the relationship. Making ends meet became the focus, and suddenly the tool that was intended to enhance our lives and create a space for us to grow together became a shared burden instead, and created a tension that eventually eroded the very foundation that the house was built on.

This is one simple and often relatable cycle that we go through. The inevitability of the outcome was entirely defined by our actions and decisions, or more accurately, our shifting priorities as we placed material gains ahead of what was initially important. None of that mattered though, because the moment it became contentious, it was no longer about finding a path back to what our starting point was, but instead it became a struggle for significance. Whose needs were taken care of and who was making more compromises. That’s all that mattered.

Stepping back and taking stock requires more than just an arrest of the ego. It requires a desire to return to a point of sincerity and authenticity in our lives when we were filled with hope about the future, after finding ourselves filled with a longing for the past instead. Arresting the ego becomes easier if we believe that what we stand to gain is more valuable than having to swallow our pride. Swallowing our pride only becomes palatable if we recognise one or both of the following. Holding on to it will turn us into someone that we do not wish to become, because our self worth is more important than the value that others place on us. Or, swallowing our pride holds little risk of ridicule or reminders amongst those that we hold with significance in our hearts.

While the former is substantially more difficult to achieve because it requires a level of self knowledge and mindfulness that escapes most of us, it is the shortest path to retaining some level of sanity in our lives. The latter, however, as wholesome and embracing as it sounds, means that an important part of who we are is still shaped by how we are accepted by others.

Not realising the difference or the gravity of either will result in much stress and strife, as we find ourselves hamstrung between what we want for ourselves, versus what others want from us. And that’s an important distinction. Realising that even though others indicate that they want the best for us, their perspectives are often tainted by what their association with us means for them. This realisation has caused me to pause and reflect more than any other realisation in a very long time. Not only does it provide insights into my responses to the expectations of others, but more importantly it provides key insights into my expectations of those around me, including my daughters.

Inevitability is often a cacophony of silent screams that we feel, but rarely hear. It’s only in the most quiet moments of reflection that it dares to surface and whisper a chilling note that shakes us from our deluded or distracted state, so that we might have yet another chance to course-correct as we trundle down the tracks leading into that tunnel with the inviting bright lights. Inevitability is only guaranteed in one single outcome, that is the final end of your current life. Everything else only remains inevitable as long as we choose to remain stagnant when we should be taking action instead.

Stark Reality

There is a starkness that stares you in the face as you see the distractions for what they are. Looking to the future with great expectations, I always found myself pushing the boundaries within which I operated. It was never about what is, but instead, was always about what could be, what is possible, and what I could improve. What if the world could be different, better, more enthusiastically engaging, rather than predictably boring and rigidly traditional? Thoughts like these, despite rarely fully surfacing, tickled my mind throughout my life. With each change I influenced, I convinced myself that I was making progress. I was improving, and more importantly, I was contributing positively.

Years of reflection tend to strip away the candy coated layers that colour my perceptions of reality. Pursuing a career meant seeking purpose and being able to contribute towards society. Establishing a home meant adding to the wholesomeness of this world that is in such desperate need of more of it. Encouraging others to prevail beyond their self-imposed limitations seemed like a noble pursuit as I tried to infuse my passion for progress into the lives that I touched. That’s the candy coating that maintains the pleasantries of life. Chipping away at it quickly reveals the lack lustre tone of the core that is less palatable, like a sugar coated pill with a bitter core.

I see, with great disdain, the hoards that cherish this life as if it were not fleeting. Selling our souls to distract ourselves from the bitter core that we tasted in moments of defeat, moments that robbed us of the comfort of being in control of our delusions, as the reality of someone else’s delusion prevailed in our lives instead. We live lies, blatant, obvious, and well known lies, but hold on to it because of the emotional highs that it offers. Emotional highs are easier to solicit from delusions because we make it what we wish it to be, because in the absence of such delusions, our impotence in the face of certainty smacks us down.

Reality is never known, except in death. Everything up to that point remains a distraction from its inevitability. We hate inevitability. It denies us control, which denies us power, which reminds us of our insignificance in a world that we cannot control. There is not a single king that reigned forever, regardless of the mythical statuses we endowed on some to the point of deifying them. The greater the collective weakness of the masses, the greater the delusions needed to maintain social order. Those that subscribe to the delusions as wholesome gatherings of human connections weaken themselves, until those with an inkling of recognition of those delusions become estranged from the common good while the distracted lead the masses down the garden path to oblivion. But oblivion can be a beautiful place, just like collective self-imposed suffering.

When everyone subscribes to a harmful behaviour, its perception of value makes it healthy, but only within the context of the collective delusion that we live. We compete to excel above our peers in who can most accurately and elaborately articulate the distraction to the point of giving it purpose. They are the ones that are celebrated as leaders and spiritual guides. True guidance cannot be obtained from others similarly or more elaborately distracted. Such leadership is akin to the guides that demonstrate the strategy behind a video game. It is leadership focused on how to excel at a commonly respected distraction.

This world is full of such common subscription to common distractions that have grown to define our purpose and objectives in life. Study the cycles and the systems with such intensity, that your mastery of it leads you to believe that you are in fact mastering life, when in essence, all you’ve mastered is your own ego. That is not the same as subduing your ego, but few would recognise the difference.

The painful irony is that the ones less distracted are not easily found, if ever, because they do not circulate among the distracted. They avoid the systems of delusion that attempt to cheat the inevitable outcomes by soliciting collective celebration about achievements that prevail in part beyond our moments of inevitability. Inevitability is death. Some meet it while still breathing, others don’t see its imminent arrival until it has overtaken them, while a few spend their lives preparing for it. They’re the intelligent ones. But faced with a sea of distracted delusionists, they appear as nothing more than an insignificant lot of fools who just don’t get it.

A fool, if left to judge the merits of others, will deem the entire world a charade except for those that respect their foolhardiness. This world is overrun by fools, pretending to be leaders, providing spiritual indulgences that alleviate the burden of seeing reality for what it is. The starkness of reality exists somewhere in between all this insanity, but fortunately for most, its starkness is also its rarity.

Final Moments

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-tumblr_mu79gcdgio1qeoyseo4_128013.jpgI’ve always believed that if we were to live a long and painful life, and in the end, in our last few moments, we experienced the absolute serenity and completeness of everything we sought to experience or achieve in our lifetime, the entirety of the pain and struggles of our lives would be easily forgotten. It would still feel like a complete and beautiful life, because the intensity of the struggles before that point would directly inform the intensity of gratitude and peace we would feel when experiencing it. But only if we live in the present moment. Otherwise we’ll lose that beautiful moment cursing at its late arrival while still yearning for the past to have been different.

Zaid Ismail

Dying is Easy

During my morbid years, you know, the years that are accompanied by knowing everything, followed by the years of futility before we realise that adults are weighed down with responsibility rather than just being deliberately boring, I found it attractive to look forward to death. Living beyond the age of 23 was not a life goal of mine, not because I was suicidal, but because it just didn’t seem like a probable outcome at the time. This improbability allowed me to live with a sense of freedom in my heart, feeling unrestrained by the burdens of deep contemplations of a future that I saw no reason to look forward to.

This is not morbidity, and I’m not saying that to convince myself either. I’ve always viewed the advent of death to be one of liberation and ease. Life is a struggle, and the struggle is real for all of us. We find different ways to cope, to distract ourselves, and to push forward beyond the current state, but it doesn’t come easily. It requires effort. If that effort is not met with relief or joy at the perceived success of it, it intensifies that struggle. Those perceptions of success therefore become the trappings of morbidity or ease. If poorly informed, it convinces us that success may be in the shape and form of something that is detrimental to us. If well-informed, it may reveal that we’re not as celebrated as we thought we were, which has its own ball and chain to bear.

Perceptions are therefore at the heart of the matter. How we perceive life or death draws us closer to either, or rarely to both. But we find ourselves facing life with a binary disposition. The debates and the philosophising are far too often focused on how to cheat death or live a fuller life, but is rarely focused on true balance. That true balance, for me, is how to appreciate life while embracing death. The one is meaningless without the other.

People die a million deaths in a single lifetime, but very few live a single wholesome life before death. This is not surprising since many focus on understanding the definition of wholesome relative to someone else’s views without reflecting on their own needs, and then are convinced that they have a wholesome life, while never truly experiencing it for themselves. Life becomes a tick-box exercise when we are so externally focused and so internally ignorant. This is probably what I find most fascinating about the self-help book culture. We spend so much time looking for insights from others, that we spend only a fraction of that time seeking insights into ourselves. I know many would disagree by suggesting that their poring through those self-help books is their efforts to find what resonates with them, but that’s still like a child going to their mother, looking at the sun shining through the window, and asking if it’s morning yet.

That seems to be at the core of it all. We’re often so insecure about our own capability that we need someone else to affirm it for us before we believe it for ourselves. I’ve never understood why the opinions of others are so important to our own lives, because I’ve always seen how two people acting independently but sincerely, regardless of race, religion, or culture, align with the same human ideals, and goals. But we’ve distracted ourselves with labels and compartments that go as fickle as defining our perceptions of others based on the compartments to which they belong, before we even see them as independently minded human beings.

That’s where the chicken and egg situation arises. Do we behave the way we do because we’re conditioned to align with the traits and attributes of the labels that we subscribe to, or do we subscribe to those labels because we find familiarity in their traits and attributes? For this reason I despise labels, token events, and the like. It preconditions us to a conformed response to life rather than encouraging us to live and think independently. I think the insecurity that drives us as a point of departure is what informs our inclination to first be surrounded by nurturers before we believe that we are capable of exploring and overcoming on our own.

I’m not suggesting that we only learn from our own mistakes, and that we ignore the experiences of others. I’m saying that we set out with the belief that it is achievable, and then draw wisdom from sources that talk to our goals. However, defining that goal first before seeking such guidance is the difference between leading and following.

Dying is easy. We kill our spirits regularly, often several times a day, because the threat of failure and its perceived humiliation is so daunting, that we’d rather slay our souls than believe in ourselves. Humiliation is relative. A failure only becomes humiliating if the opinions of those around us defines who we are, and what we think of ourselves. But that’s the problem right there. Most of us know no other way of living, and then die a thousand deaths in the face of rejection.

Cyclic Sanity (Take II)

Once we obtain a level of realisation regarding the finite nature of life, or rather, knowing without doubt that death is approaching, we will realise the time that is passing without us exploiting its opportunities sufficiently. When we consider that against the knowledge and skills we may have acquired up to that point, we realise how fickle our focus on life may be.

If we truly believe in the ephemeral nature of life, and we claim to serve a higher purpose, then it dictates that we should endeavour to ensure that every skill or resource that we have that can benefit others must be brought to bear in their benefit. If we don’t, we’re insincere in our conviction of purpose, selfish in our endeavors, and undeserving of investment from others.

Why then are we so easily distracted from this purpose? I believe it lies in the continued cycles of sanity that we subscribe to. We have developed an unhealthy fixation on time. Everything we do is measured in hours, minutes, or seconds. We see our lives through the cycles of birthdays that pass, and relationships in the context of anniversaries to determine its success. More recently we’ve been distracted by the annual commemorations of days earmarked to recognise the value of significant others in our lives. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the insanity continues. But none of this would be an issue if it wasn’t for the distraction it instills in us.

I’ve always believed that if it was not for entropy, time would be irrelevant. Yet we’re still more focused on time spent, than the progression of entropy in everything inside and around us. Coupled with this distraction is the conditioning that leads us to believe that there is age appropriate behaviour that is expected of us. Those that wish to be accepted by society willingly subscribe to these stereotypes, while those that don’t are often shunned or inadvertently isolated, or at the least, become entertainers.

The combination of such conditioning and the distraction of time robs us of the very essence of life. Imagine a world where time was in fact irrelevant? Entropy would still exist, but then our measure of the quality of our lives will not be in how much quality time is spent with our family, but rather how much of our health and wellbeing did we expend in their benefit or enjoyment. Yet, we are caught in a cycle that insists that the best years of our health must be expended in amassing enough wealth so that our twilight years which are most often accompanied by ill health and fatigue is available for our indulgences in life. The logic is simply illogical.

The reality is, we do live in a world where time is irrelevant, except when we give it significance. It’s yet another distraction that we use to ensure that we’re apparently not distracted from the task at hand. And that’s part of the problem. We’re so task focused, and time aware, that most of what we do eventually becomes a chore, the cycles bed down deeper, and freedom of expression and indulgence is considered within the norms that we subscribe to in order to be accepted, validated, affirmed, or all of the above all the while bemoaning the constraints that society places on us.

When will we realise that we are society. We defined the rules that burdens our souls. The same rules weaken our resolve and discourage individual accountability so that we constantly shift the blame to the collective, while denying that we form part of it.

I do not subscribe to age appropriate behaviour, nor do I believe in a work life balance the way it is traditionally perceived. But that is a topic for another day. Right now, it feels like I’m wasting too much time bleeding my thoughts into a post that will largely go unnoticed leaving me lacking in affirmation or validation, resulting in the stress of unfulfilment building in the bile that slowly erodes the lining of my stomach leaving me aching for acceptance so that I won’t have a need to feed on myself while denouncing my significance in a world that doesn’t care. Because I don’t care. And that is exactly the point we miss. Each day, every day, as we continue on that treadmill now fitted with an interactive LED display to feign the experience of movement while running like a hamster in our efforts to be at the top of the pile (pun intended).

Life awaits.