It usually starts like an itch, only you cannot trace the sensation to an exact spot, so the idea – of the itch that is — hovers in your thoughts, grating, almost desperate. You think at first that you are forgetting something, so you go on a wild chase through memory, seeking lost things, finding nothing. Then you sink helplessly into a familiar anxiety, a haunting absence of peace. After many nights being tossed here and there, you learn that a rested consciousness, or like they say, peace of mind, is not a thing you can summon, like a man on his death bed requests for his children. And it is not a thing you can eyes-closed, breathe-deeply, conjure into existence. It is not a quick fix. It comes by an accumulation of consistent small changes, first in your mind, then in your life. Because peace, almost as if having a mind of its own, enacts itself in the right environment.
And so, this is for people like me who are ready to make the small changes, or more demanding compromises. People who will do whatever it takes to arrive at the end of each day, and be able to breathe without heart falling to pieces. Here, in my own constant stumbles, is how I am learning to reclaim my peace.
First, I teach myself about the loss of control. I am learning that to gather all of life in one palm is impossible. So I let go, let things fall apart, in the event that maybe they might fall back together. Because at the end of the day, we are the sum of all our good intentions, but without the ability to make plans work or force things into form. And this is unimaginably freeing, for the sheer beauty that comes from knowing at least you did your best, even when things do not follow a prescribed outcome.
Also, nobody is perfect. Wince inducing cliché, I know. But worth remembering on days when misery visits and the negative voices crowd in. It’s okay to fall out of your own standards. It’s okay to travel through life in pieces, because no one out there is really whole, not by generally acceptable standards. So free yourself from the constant need to become, and just be. Follow this path of peace.
Protect your space. Reclaim every space that has been invaded. Cut out relationships that are serviced by manipulation, the ones where conversations return to haunt you, where every thought is a prospective accusation. Don’t be afraid to choose differently, to love from a distance, to insist on sanity. There is no nobility in holding a building that is falling apart. You cannot save anyone from beneath the debris. Choose yourself and your peace.
Forgive people, with or without their participation. It sounds like the words of a preacher, like a thing to discard, until offence becomes a fanged monster lurking behind the shadows, waiting to devour. Why let people’s actions regulate your emotions? Better to let go. Forgive yourself too. You are worthy of your own kindness. Do not wait for midnight to reacquaint yourself with the failures of the day. Let go of your mistakes, do it urgently and generously. Its always best to gift people what you have first gifted yourself.
Practice the pause. Rest! Even if it’s something you have to snatch violently from the world, even if it takes a missed deadline or a failed appointment. Catch up on sleep, and water and a good TV series. Get off social media if that’s your thing. Stay away from activities that disrespect your time. There’s a certain peace that comes from being left to nothing, a healing that comes from such social escapes.
Be grateful, especially for the seeming small and inanimate things. It’s so easy to live life as a prayer, always seeking and striving, always waiting for an intervention of grace, but what about today? What about the fires you have walked through? What about the past you did not think you’d escape, the things you survived? near misses, small breakthroughs, the gift of having someone to laugh with? I like to think that staying focused on these present miracles is a great way to expand your peace.
Most importantly, understand that peace is an ongoing journey, a daily devotion. Wake each morning and commit to it. Filter your decisions through the lens of things that add to your peace or take away from it. Your life may not be all that you want, but with peace in your heart, it will come dangerously close.