I am – and have always been – my own worst enemy.
Until literally this second, I always saw that statement as an indication of how bad I was and of all the things I should be doing better.
This morning, I was listening to a monk answer the question, “How do you stay present in this moment when it feels unbearable?”. He explained that all moments hold within them something beautiful, something for which we can be grateful. I wondered if this is true for everyone…a woman in a situation of domestic violence or a child living in slavery, a family split apart by acts of war…It seems hard to imagine finding things to be grateful of joyful for in those situations but I am aware of people who have done just that.
I think perhaps this level of gratitude and joy is something that must be reached through some connection with the spiritual, and having read Edith Eger’s book, “The Choice” and Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, where they talk about their experiences in Nazi concentration camps, they certainly seemed to touch the spiritual as they sought to find peace within themselves after the horror they endured.
And here is where I circle back to my point.
I am my own worst enemy. I. Me. No concentration camps, no slavery, no domestic violence. Me. Any prison in which I find myself is always one of my own making – with my actions, my thoughts, my beliefs and my perceived limitations.
But, if I am the creator of any prison in which I find myself, I must also be the creator of the keys.
What does this have to do with joy?
Although I’ve known for a while that my thoughts are merely choices about how to interpret the world, I’m finally beginning to see what it’s going to take to train my focus towards the beauty, grace and generosity that exists within every moment rather than repeatedly creating little prisons for myself.
People like Edith Eger and Viktor Frankl had to find this strength and grace within themselves as a matter of survival, but when life is “fine”, there’s less need for us to do that. We’re often not in enough pain to make it worth the effort.
I’m not a particularly dangerous enemy to myself these days but I’m aware that I limit myself by repeatedly training my focus on things I find unsatisfying and wish I could change. In terms of my quest to make a more joyful contribution to the world, I think I am still opposing myself.
But perhaps joy must be found even in this little conundrum and the fun of figuring it out.
After all, it’s not a bad problem to have!