Enjoy! (Don't judge yourself) A long long text about a simple conclusion

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015

I was 20 I think when I was studying Cinema and my sister left her job as a lawyer in a Portuguese town's council and came to live in the capital too. She had just entered on one of the most competitive national study centers: I don't know the right term in English but is where people who studied law go to be trained to become judges. It's a hard field, really hard to get in and hard to finish. Two years of intense studies and a really conservative tough environment. One of the things I recall from those times are the career, self-worth crisis we all had. Well, not all. But I did, my best friend did, some colleagues did and my sister and some of her colleagues did. She is my older sister, our ages are apart from almost a decade. It became obvious to me that in any field and at any age people can question themselves until they feel like they are worth nothing and what they do, well, is also nothing. How could we all be so wrong?, I look back and question.

One of the other things I recall from those times is my long conversations with my friend João about how we probably should get a real job instead of studying Cinema. And one day at lunch I heard my sister and her colleagues and friends talking. “What are we doing? Who are we to judge people? We haven't done anything with our lives until now, it's just intellectual work, we should get a real job, like working at a coffee house or cleaning stairs.” Then I would look at the people working in the coffee house we used to go, and although some had an epiphany meditative alive glow on their faces of someone who is content with their lives, most of them, specially being in a city where apparently people should be pursuing and doing bigger things with their lives and taking advantage of the city opportunities, but most of them just looked sad and inferior, not proud of their work, maybe thinking “I should be a doctor no be serving a doctor, I should be someone”.
How crazy is this? Judges thinking they should be waiters, waiters thinking they should be doctors, doctors thinking they should be artists and artists thinking they should be farmers, farmers thinking they should travellers and travellers thinking they should be fathers. I completely support and admire people who realize they are not fulfilled with their lives and pursue better more aligned with themselves, but there is something in these memories that make me think this was not the case. Whatever one of us was doing we felt it was not enough. We should be doing another thing, the bottom line is that whatever each one of us was doing we felt it was not enough, we were not enough, we were not really contributing to the world and if we did another thing, oh that way we would be happy. We weren't enjoying ourselves and our experiences, we had our minds on the prize, on the value, we were putting ourselves on a scale that only exists in our heads. We were leaving life out of our lives. Kind of dramatic, hum? It is really is.

About enjoying, that word appears in this text because a couple of days ago I've watched a Neil Caiman's speech. I totally recommend it. Neil Caiman, who is a very talented writer among other things, talked about the impostor syndrome. He said that when the success started (and that the success can be even more daunting than failure) a voice in his head kept saying “they will discover you, you'll be caught”, like at any minute a man would knock at his door and say “It's over, sir. We've discovered you make things up and write them down, you can't write more from now on, go get a REAL job”. 

One of the first plays I've seen as a child was written by Neil Caiman, that memory of mine wouldn't exist if stopped writing. Me and my father loved to watched “Stardust” together, it was one of our things (most of our family is a little more grown up than us, but just a little bit). I wouldn't have that precious memory, and I'm crying writing this since my father is no longer here with us, if Neil Caiman stopped writing.

So I think of all my beautiful loved life and all the roles people played in it. Even the anonymous persons. The ones I will never get to know the name. The ones that made me feel good when I was miserable just because they were feeling good and I could feel it too. They made a huge service to me, they were enjoying themselves. On his speech, Neil Caiman, said he spent too much time worrying and not enjoying himself. I know the feeling. And suddenly, life goes by, and when I look back I think is it really important the list of things I did or if I was enjoying myself and all that I was doing and learning and trying and finding and living? The last one. The memories I like to recall are the ones I was happy, I was light, I was alive and not thinking I wasn't enough and I should be doing better. There is not better, there will never be, if I go up that ladder I'll discover the infinite burden of the next thing that will really prove that I deserve a place in the world and that I'm worthy.
I saw an interview of Elis Regina, the brilliant Brazilian singer. When asked what did she wished for her (at the time a little baby) daughter Maria Rita, she replied “I wish her to be light”. So simple and so true, right? She did become a talented singer too, but that's not what a mother wishes. I don't wish my beloved ones to become this or that, I don't want my mother to win the Nobel Prize, I want her to be happy. This is what we wish when we love someone. Sometimes, life needs a twist, and we should do it, but not because we will be more worthy then, but because we will be ourselves. We wish happiness to our beloved ones because we know that's the only thing that matters. We are already worthy. Most of the time, the important things we do, we will never know. They are small gestures that change people's life. We shouldn't think “I should be saving lives at a hospital” unless that is our call. The other day, a couple of weeks ago, a man gave my mother and me his place at the parking near the beach. It was totally full and after many rounds my mother told me she was feeling bad and tired, so did I. Suddenly a man waves from his big car and says he was going to be waiting in the car for someone anyway that was no need for him to be in that spot. We had a great time at the beach and those hours there are my favourite memory from this Summer. A real life changer when I was feeling lost.
One day, years ago, while playing I hit my head on the bed wood headboard, in the area of my eyebrow there was this big wound and a lot of blood. In the hospital I was received by this kind doctor who seemed very proud of her work. She did a huge work calming down, not by saying something but just by looking proud of herself. Don't appolozige who you are and what you are doing at a moment (unless you belong to the mafia or any other criminal group!). You are living your life by living it!
I don't want to waste my life thinking I should be doing something else, living other life, because in the end, unless I accept I'm really important, as we all are, that life will not be important. There are no better things to do. What we want to do, what we do, is always a response to other's people needs. By living our lives, by enjoying are lives we are doing a service. Do what makes you happy, feel that you are enough and trust that you are doing others a service just by being you. So many things change lives. One day is a perfume, the other day is that lawyer consultation, the other day is the fact that the gas man helped you to get hot water. There is nothing better or bigger. Life is not that way. There are no “real jobs”. Or, let me put it this way, they are all real jobs. Not jobs, really. Real lives. Important lives. The monk who lives alone at the top of the mountain, the mother who stays at home, the cashier at the drugstore, the cable technician, the fashion blogger, the dentist, the teacher, the nurse, the child who plays, the old man who stares at the trees, the rose that blooms, the palm tree that rests, the dog who sleeps, the cat that plays with the carpet. I don't think my beloved cat should be catching ten birds a day to prove his existence as a cat. I just want him to be happy, with what makes him happy.
That something I wrote years ago, it was a profound moment for me. I had just discovered, when questioning what made me happy “I'm happy with what makes me happy”. Seems so simple, and it is. But it was really hard for me to understand this: I'm happy with what makes me happy.

Ti chillin with Lao Tse
Last night I was reading a Lao Tse's poem and the part (my translation) Seal all openings / Close all doors / And you'll arrive unscathed to the end of your life. / Open all openings / Multiply your tasks /And you'll end without nothing in the end of your life.” spoke to me about not searching for more than it is. It's not about stop doing things, but not constantly be thinking about other things we SHOULD be doing with our lives. That way we lived, and we'll arrive to end of life full. If we lost ourselves in all that we could and should do, we won't feel good. Should and ifs are so draining. We are here to feel good about ourselves. There is nothing needed for us to be content with ourselves. We just are. The pain and the actions that come from we thinking that we are not enough, that we should be bigger and better are usually what causes pain to us and the humanity. We are enough. 

They say we teach what we need to learn. I'm writing all this, just because this is a lesson for me. Why shouldn't I be proud of myself? Why am I not proud? Why do a compliment stays one minute in my head and then fades to this feeling that someone will knock on my door, or find me on the street, or call me and say it's over, they found me: I haven't done anything with my life! I should do more, prove more, never enough!

This is not how I think, this is not what I believe, but this is what the little voice inside me tells me. Like Benjamin Zander, the author of the Art of Possibility, says, it's the voice that says to the cello player “The difficult part is coming up, you are going to fail, there are so many people that play better than you, what are you doing here?” and prevents him to enjoy while playing.

I don't want to keep proving anything. It won't be enough. I want to enjoy what I do. Will you be a dear and help me in that...just by enjoying who you are, what you do and what you like. Life is meant to be lived. Not proved. So don't let your dreams become obligations and don't mistake your obligations with dreams. I've read (we all probably did) this phrase in so many places but it never sounded so true to me: You are enough!

I think I have the same questions and similar conclusions from time to time, maybe because I haven't fully perceived what I've concluded and what life was trying to teach me or maybe because it's natural that we find ourselves in the same crossroads in different times of our lives. Because as I once read “Today enlightened, tomorrow an idiot” (can't remember the precise source) which is one of my favourite quotes from all time. And always makes me smile. Maybe we need to keep remembering the conclusions we came to. So today I've remembered when I had just entered my adult life and everything seemed scary, difficult, confused, so many choices, so many obligations, so many things I thought I was supposed to be, I've discovered:

“I don't want to be perfect, I want to be authentic.”

And today, these words still fit me perfectly.

All pictures by me.

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