The Tao of Choice

I’m about a month out from a breakup. It didn’t end well. I’m also a good month out from failing a national martial arts exam. The results of the exam were subjective at best, but it still stings. My expectations, hopes, or ideals for both circumstances were shut down and it sucks. I handled it well at first, but I was simply in a kind of denial.

I’ve had horrible gut-wrenching spells of missing that person. I kept thinking, as the brain does, about all the positive things that we experienced leaving little room for the “reasons” behind us splitting up. I’ve been battling loneliness like never before. Compounded with this failed-test experience, I’m just asking to be buried under layers of sand.

I’ve been suspended in lethargy. It’s not quite depression. It’s not quite anxiety. It’s numbness. It’s indifference mixed a shot of self-deprecating ambivalence. In this state you feel more like you’re just existing and not living. Everything feels incidental and without purpose. You’re plagued with onset short-sightedness, reduced to only meet your base creature needs.

And I know, I’m grateful. I get it. I live in one of the most leveraged societies in the world. I can sit in this coffee shop and sip and type without the fear of bombs. From a practical perspective, I am privileged to have grown up int he Western world. I’m aware of this. Does knowing this aid to lessen the impact of my recent circumstance? Not really. Pain is pain regardless of context.

Sometimes we choose the pain, and sometimes the pain chooses us. If you distill this idea, then you’ve reduced it to choice. How appropriate an idea for autonomous free-willed humans? Stay with me.   

If happiness is a choice, then so is misery and vice-versa. Plain and simple. Yes, start to internalize that notion. Scrutinize it. Turn it on its own head. Any way you look at it, approaching it with a kind of with practical dualism (the unity of opposites) is likely the best way to understand it — and is therefore the quickest path to find resolve on the matter.

Drop a stone into a still pond. We see the ripples, but are often ignorant as to why we see them. It is the space between the ripples: the troughs, the rifts, the indented voids that makes the miniature waves possible. This is Yin and Yang in its true essence and application. But don’t be mistaken, these dark and light forces aren’t perpetually opposed to one another; there interrelated, interdependent, and complimentary.

If both of these circumstances had hands, then I’ve allowed them to press my head below water. Without knowing it, I’ve allowed them to control me. They are Yang, advancing and pushing. All I need to do is decide to be Yin, to accept, yield, and redirect their force. My head will get above water. I will breathe in life again.

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