By: Caroline Klidonas
Here’s a story for you: Over fall break, I ventured to the food and wine festival at Epcot with a friend. There, I purchased a puzzle. It is of a painting by Thomas Kinkade and depicts a beautiful scene from The Beauty and the Beast. The puzzle called to me in the store. I had to have it, and so I bought it and my friend and I worked on it during our down time over fall break.
We were unable to finish the puzzle before returning home, so we rolled it in a towel and brought it with us for the 12-hour journey back to Elon. After a couple days of getting back into the grind of schoolwork and due dates, we decided to have a wine and puzzle night after all of our work was done. This was a big deal for us. The puzzle became a sort of symbol of peace and relaxation, of quiet concentration, contentedness and presence.
We looked forward to working on that puzzle for two whole days.
When we finally sat down to do it, we were all smiles and centered breathing. Several times we would look up at one another and say, “I’m so happy right now.” Only fifteen minutes into our sacred puzzle time, a glass of wine was accidentally spilled all over it. For intricately cut puzzle pieces made of cardboard—this is doom. Disaster. Dozens of the pieces swelled with moisture and disintegrated into limp layers of cardboard in front of our eyes.
Immediately, our problem-solving instincts kicked in. We desperately tried to dry them with hair dryers and glue the individual layers back together with super glue. But pieces blew onto the floor, super glue sealed fingers together, layers were mismatched. We watched as the pieces essential to the beauty of the puzzle grew hopeless in our eyes, and all of our hard work ground to a screeching halt.
We were devastated.
It was amazing to feel the energy drain out of the room. Gone was the happiness, contentedness. Anger, disappointment crept in and stole over us like a fog. After sitting at the table in silence for several minutes, the massacre of puzzle pieces spread before us, all either of us could think to do was trudge off to bed, defeated and listless.
How unfair. The tiniest blip of happiness stolen away from us by the unlucky movement of an arm and placement of a wine glass. How utterly, ridiculously, outrageously unfair. It’s moments like that when we just want to say, “What the EFF, Universe!?!?”
Excuse me while I make this giant leap, but it’s also the moments when I see photos of genocide, read emails about hate crimes, or learn about the mistreatment of women that I want to scream that.
And we’re back to the age-old question: Why do terrible things happen? What “god” could ever want that for us? What all-encompassing, all-powerful being could ever say, “You know what I’m gonna do….yeah, THIS. THIS will make them suffer.” And if not a god of some sort, than who is responsible? Who can we get MAD at? Who is to blame?
During the government shutdown, whom did everyone rant about in statuses and wall posts?
Who was responsible for 9/11?
When a lover chooses someone else over you, whose fault is it?
When you have a bad morning, and spill coffee all over your shirt (or your puzzle), at whom do you curse and shake your fist?
The answers vary far and wide. It’s that girl, our government, fate, god, Satan, our mom, our dad, our past, ourselves. And still—even when we have decided and pinned the blame, even when we have played the role of “victim” to its fullest— we are dissatisfied; still we cannot answer the question.
Why do bad things happen?
And here is the answer. They don’t.
Imagine experiencing a situation without labeling it as good or bad, positive or negative. Imagine just experiencing it, observing it, letting each moment pass through you like a breath. You take it in, it lives in you for a second, you release it, and it is gone.
You still feel compassion; you are a human, after all. You hold space for the people suffering. You donate to a charity, spread awareness. This isn’t a call for apathy. You send prayers, loving thoughts, good energy, whatever it may be, but you remain centered and at peace.
Imagine experiencing a bad test grade in that manner.
Imagine viewing a news report on a natural disaster in that way.
Imagine maintaining that mindset while you are rejected, criticized, or scorned for your beliefs, opinions, or creative expression.
Imagining staying connected to that centeredness while experiencing extreme loss.
Your emotions and circumstances flow through you, but they do not define your happiness. Imagine how freeing that would be. Imagine taking control of your inner life, first, instead of seeking blame in the external world.
Consider these affirmations, compliments of Gabby Bernstein:
- “The outside world reflects my internal state.”
- “Nothing stands in the way of my peace. I can choose peace now.”
- “Engaging in negativity creates more of it. Instead I say, ‘In my defenselessness my safety lies.’”
In order to live in a peaceful world, we have to find a peaceful world within ourselves. Only when we have found this will what we see around us reflect the peace that we crave.
That is our work. That is the piece that each of us offers to the landscape of humanity. The end to war, hunger, discrimination, hate, violence, greed, debt, poverty…?
It begins inside you.
It begins with finding the calm in the middle of the storm of negative news stories, heartbreaking losses, and enraging injustice that we are bombarded with every day. What we are, we see.
And we are headed there. We are. I feel it. You feel it. The existence of this blog is proof that we are waking up; we are being called to do the work. It is a movement. It pulses underneath each of us; it is the humming beneath our heartbeats. It is what draws us to certain people, certain conversations, classes, majors, projects. We are literally on a march (difficult as it may be) for happiness, fulfillment, and love.
Today, I encourage you, instead of dwelling in the anger or disappointment surrounding a situation, to observe it instead. Turn on that light of curiosity and awareness. Ask yourself, how did the state of my inner life contribute to this? How am I manifesting this chaos?
As a hardworking honors student who has defined a lot of my value by grades and academic accomplishments, I have deep-rooted beliefs about what I “deserve.” they go something like this:
Breaks and relaxation have to be earned by working myself to death. They don’t come easy. I am not as valuable sitting in a room, relaxing, as I am working on a big project and getting the “A.”
And so, those old beliefs, which were creating a mixture of guilt and self-battering inside me, were brought to the table when I sat down to do that puzzle. And what happened? I was punished, as my silly belief system told me that I should be, for enjoying a moment of happiness and peace instead of working and “being productive.” The wine spilled, and I sauntered like a whipped puppy dog back to bed.
Need another example?
Almost every day I catch myself worrying about money, about financial security. I have complained, “I don’t have any money.” I have said, “I can’t afford that.” And the nation I live in is up to its eyeballs in debt. Hmm…? I can’t do much about those trillions of dollars of debt, but I can change my belief system surrounding financial security and wealth. I can stop contributing to an attitude of lack in my own life. That way, my belief system, my puzzle piece, contributes to a positive picture—one of wealth, fulfillment, and abundance.
Instead of posting an angry status, of pointing fingers, of shaking a fist at the universe, that’s what I try to do. The puzzle disaster got the better of me the other night. There are days when I lose sight of this guidance. There are days when I get mad, when I look for someone to blame for the small injustices and the big ones.
But let’s fight against that habit. Let’s break through and embrace a new perspective.
What are your limiting beliefs? What events in the world or your personal life (big or small) do they line up with? Scrutinize them. Get curious about them. Don’t judge. Just notice, and then do your work. Move through them and evolve. Choose love and abundance, not fear and lack. This is your contribution to the world you so desperately want to see. This is the urge for a “better world” that you feel in your heart. It’s in you, not out there. Look inside, and answer it.