Posts tagged ‘struggle’

September 5, 2016

Enough? Right? Wrong?

Last summer I went on a little trip to Austria with Remco. As we drove through Germany, there were stops for toilet breaks and food. At one of those stops, I saw a man fishing plastic bottles out of the trash cans. Remco and I started talking about what might be the reason behind this. Somehow we could not figure out if this was an act of a man who was trying to collect his food for the day, someone who was doing something for a better environment or a worker at the parking place. What I did observe was the looks on people’s faces as they passed by and it made me feel bad. Very bad. I had the feeling people looked at this person disparagingly.

I had to walk back to the car and as I passed the man a second time, I was trying to figure out a way to acknowledge him as a human being, his value as a human being, and hopefully give him some joy for this day. I remembered I still had some toilet discount tickets and so did Remco. I collected his as well and walked up to the man. “Can I offer you these?” I asked him, waving the tickets. He smiled. He said thanks. He straightened his back. I wished him a good day and walked off, back to the shop, to get coffee. All I could think on my way back to the shop, was: “I have not done enough”, “I should have invited him for coffee”, “I should’ve listened to his story if he would have been willing to share it with me”. And then I hated myself for these thoughts. Who said this man needed my help? Was my help pitying him, dehumanizing him just as much as the looks on the other people’s faces? As I sat down at the restaurant I cried.

As a person who always wants to do the right thing, always wants to help out others, always searches for ways to make the world a better place, I often get stuck. I never have the feeling that it is enough. I never have the feeling that I am doing enough, giving away enough, caring enough. I wonder if I do the right things and if it is not just my arrogance to think I can actually make a change in a person’s life. I struggle with the question if I should even blog about things I do. Yes. Doing good makes me feel better, but to be honest, most of the time it makes me feel desperate or sad just as much.

I believe that if I act from the heart, at least I should have some peace of mind; Maybe I am actually helping someone out. Maybe I am actually doing something good for this world or giving an animal a chance to live by my actions. I do not know the answer to a very substantial question: What is good and what is bad at the end of the day? Is it even possible to answer this question at all? How can we know the way our actions influence the future? How can we really know what is important in life beside our own values, beside the things others teach us to value?

How can I judge someone with an entirely different childhood, who grew up in a different culture, with different values? How would my values be any better than anyone else’s? This question is obviously not new. I am just writing down my personal struggle, not a new discovery of any kind.

I did learn one important lesson that day. During the conversation with Remco, he convinced me that sometimes paying attention to someone is enough, and paying attention can be positive, no matter what the situation or background of the situation. That, however big someone’s problems are, another person cannot always be, nor doesn’t have to necessarily be, the solution. Treating people as you would like to be treated yourself, trying to treat people as human beings, respect nature, our planet and try to avoid damaging it, that is what I can do. I hope that one day I can learn to have peace with the actions I take. I hope one day I will think to myself: I did enough this time. Even if it is mere ignorance. Even if it is the truth. One day I hope I will have the feeling that I did enough. That I actually helped someone along his or her path in a meaningful way. But you can never really know, can you?

In the meantime, I will just follow my heart. Do what I can in the hope that I will help some people along their paths and in the hope it means something.

December 16, 2015

The silent assassin

Those moments in life you start evaluating the big picture and you just can’t think. You wish you could say you feel good and bad about certain things, but all you feel is a weary kind of melancholy. You wish you could feel sorry or angry or excited about things. Feelings you know you would feel if you were able to feel anything else at all.

The lonely sadness takes over and your life just doesn’t seem worth it. You start making a list of pros and cons of living and the list of cons just keeps growing bigger and bigger. That list feels true, while the short list of pros consists of rationalized things you have taught yourself to value in times like this. You really try. You give it all you have left, to survive. You know you want to live.

This too shall end and at that moment you will be proud that you once again beat it. That too is something you taught yourself. There will be no one there to pat you on the back. There will be no one there to tell you you did good. No one will celebrate this victory with you, because no one knows how hard this struggle is. Because you tell no one about this struggle. No one knows what it is not getting any easier over time. This is not the kind of thing that you get used to. This is the kind of thing that hurts more, every time it hits you in the face: It is still there and it will remind you of your pain and fears. It will. Year after year.

When you survive, it will give you some time to recover. It lingers in the back of your mind and at some points during your life you even forget it is there. You start hoping that this time you beat it forever. And then it hits. That moment you start hoping, it hits. The timing is impeccable and the damage it can do has a maximum impact. You were foolish and naive, but that really is the only way you know to survive. You need your hope to be strong enough once again.

You reside in your head and you regroup your troops, your coping mechanisms. One by one you use them. If it doesn’t work, you move on to the next, and the next, and the next… reminding yourself that you do want that chance at one more happy moment. Sometimes the battle is short, but most of the time it takes weeks, sometimes months.

You have so many blank spots in your memory, that were occupied by the fight, instead of by actually living, that it is hard to find actual memories of those happy moments, of you actually living life. The flat line your life becomes during those battles starts to feel comfortable. You can just act out your routines, go to your work, go to your friends… all the feelings are gone and you do not really notice what is going on around you.

You wish there was a place where you could hide from it all, but the only solution you know is to fight or end it all because no matter how far you run, it finds you. Even the safe spot in your mind slowly gets infected if you go there too often in the heat of the battle. You can create new safe spots. There is no end to this story. You can repeat all the steps.

And then, all of a sudden, there is this spark. A sign of beauty that fills your heart. You survived. Once again. You do not know how many times you will be able to pull this off, but this time you did. And you celebrate. Alone. But you celebrate. And no matter who you are.


***No matter what your battle is. I am proud you survived. I am proud you did not give up. You are not alone in this. Share your story with the ones you trust. If you do not have ones you trust, share it with the ones you do not know. Together we are strong.***