I’ve thought a lot lately about how I’m the most fortunate person on earth. I even feel more fortunate than Angelina Jolie because I can leave my house and go out to dinner without getting harassed. I don’t constantly get asked for money or interviews or to save all the children of the world.
As my friend Aaron and I talked about one day after I had been sea kayaking with the whales in Washington, he said, “Do you realize we are among the most fortunate beings to have ever existed?” “Even more so than most kings and queens throughout history because we have the ability to fly over oceans, to see all the landscapes of the world and meet people they never could’ve met.” We have access to more knowledge than ever, the most sophisticated health care that’s ever existed and comforts and freedoms that most societies couldn’t even dream of.
I am a white, attractive enough, educated, middle class female living in the US in 2015. I have my health. I have a beautiful, safe place to live. I have every material comfort I could need. Other than a new dress or pair of shoes every now and then, there is nothing material that I need or even want that I don’t have.
In this country, I have the freedom to educate myself, to date who I want to date, to do or be anything I can dream of and to express myself as I choose. I often felt discriminated against and judged when I was fat, and at times, I’ve felt objectified as a woman. But other than that, I’ve never known what it’s like to experience racism or even gender discrimination. I’m the least likely person to ever be targeted by police, and I think in the work that I’m in, being a woman actually works in my favor.
Most of my beautiful family is still on this earth, and they love and support me in ways that don’t even seem real. When I hear crazy family stories, it’s something that I can’t wrap my head around. My family has no agenda for my life, other than wanting me to be happy. I don’t get lectured or pressured about religion or having babies or getting married or making more money. I can be totally myself with my family, tell them anything without any fear of being judged or criticized. We have fun together, we support each other in our pain and together we try to heal from our past and understand more about each other and this crazy life. My family and our relationship is probably the most amazing gift I could ever be given.
I have meaningful work that pays me well. I’m self-employed, so I have a lot of control over my own schedule. I have enough structure to keep me busy, but I also have plenty of free time to do other things that I love. I don’t get an insane number of e-mails or phone calls everyday. I’m able to leverage my time and assets, so that I can create income for myself even when I’m not actually working. I’m not super wealthy, but I have plenty of money to keep me out of debt, to invest in retirement and to do all the things that I want to do. For the first time in my life, I can say I have more than enough financially.
When I started this blog over three years ago, my mission was to create a peaceful life for myself. And for the most part, it has actually worked. My life is pretty balanced, and I don’t live in a constant state of anxiety anymore. A few years ago, I realized that feeling anxious was my default state, and even though I still get anxious, it’s not my baseline anymore. Granted all or any of this could be taken away from me overnight, but for now my life is pretty simple and peaceful.
As I write this, I’m thinking, “Why would you tell people this when there are so many people struggling and hurting because they don’t have the things that you have?”
But I wanted to write this for two reasons. One is because I want people to know that it’s possible. I want people to know that if you are drowning in debt, battling with addiction, constantly anxious or in chronic pain, that there is hope.
Fifteeen years ago, my family as I knew it was falling apart. I was caught in the throes of an eating disorder. I was severely depressed and afraid nearly all the time. I wanted desperately to have never been born and was grasping for any ounce of hope that would keep me going one tiny step at a time. During that dark time, I couldn’t have believed that anything else was possible. And I’m SO SO grateful that there were a few people who were willing to believe it for me until I could believe it myself. And now I’ve found a way to have a mostly healthy relationship with food and my body, and I’m really happy that I was born. What I believed to be impossible was possible.
I think that we forget to be grateful. We get so caught up in our misery that we forget how amazingly fortunate we are just to have running water and heat in the winter. Here in America, we forget about all the things that are going right. Like the Dalai Lama said when he was here in Birmingham, “Think about all the people that didn’t get murdered today.”
And yet there’s still so much to do. The amount of suffering and pain and violence that happens everyday is unfathomable. Paralyzed by possibility and the amount of need in this world, an infinite number of options is a blessing and a curse. I know I can do anything that’s humanly possible, so then how in the holy hell do I choose.
A second reason I wanted to write this is because I finally get that having most of your ducks in a row never takes the hard out of life.
Because of some personal struggles that I don’t want to write about publicly right now, I’ve felt kind of raw and lost lately because I’ve lost some of my tethers that kept me grounded and gave me a sense of purpose. So I’m in this scary place that I’ve been many times before of trying to find a new normal as I live with the pain of feeling like there’s a giant hole in my being. It’s hard to sleep, and I feel miserable a lot of the time. Many days I struggle with insecurities and self-doubt. Even though I have enough, I can still feel like I’m painfully not enough. I judge myself for all the things that I’m not and all the talents that I don’t have. And relationships are still hard and terribly confusing. I have hope that it won’t always be that way for me, but I’m not sure.
And I feel guilty for being so fortunate. I feel like I should dedicate my life to helping those who don’t have the fortune that I do but I’m afraid to suffer by totally immersing myself in their pain.
I have worked hard to change many of my beliefs that limited me and to make my life what I want it to be, but nothing makes things easy. It’s a terrible realization, but there is some strange freedom in truly knowing that. I no longer live with the illusion that once I achieve x, y, or z, then my life will magically be better. Nothing can change the fact that life is short and scary and mysterious for everybody, and we lose the things we love the most no matter how fortunate we are.
So I just do what I know to do, I keep going. I feel grateful for all that does work. I see the beautiful green trees through my window, the shapes of the leaves, the chipmunk playing in my backyard. I go to dance practice or the gym and get lost in the moment for just a moment. I try to have fun, forget about myself and hold on to perspective by listening to people who are struggling so much more than me. I remember to be kind, to help in the small ways I can, to treat people well. I write about me as truthfully as I can. It may not be enough but I guess it’s a start.