The future appears in fragments. Fragments of my imagination come through in this attempt to divine an answer to the question I ask. What do I want? What do I really, really want? This year I cannot tell what is from what should be when it comes to setting resolutions. I only know and remember that all of my adult life I have approached the new year with a sense of optimism, hunger for change, drive to accomplish, passion for success and commitment to the pursuit of it.
The goals were always the same:
- lose weight
- get fit
- develop my musical talents
- write a book
- make more money (for the dream home, the travels, the early retirement, the life I yearned for).
Also on my to-do list were:
- be happy (practice meditation and contemplation)
- love others more (family, friends, sweetheart, colleagues, students)
- be an artist (recognising I am fundamentally that only if I am making art, so my intentions evolved around making time to do this)
- fulfil my purpose as a creator and entrepreneur
- yadda yadda.
Mixed together with the material cravings was a spiritual hunger the size of a gargantuan bowl still not big enough to hold it all.
In essence, what I thought I wanted was to be a successful artist, get rich and acquire a financial freedom which could then allow me to make a significant difference on the planet. I wanted, so I perceived, the privilege to be able to help others far more in need than I have ever been. It’s taken years for me to realise that this means helping others overcome extreme poverty and distress. An existentialist at the core and a Buddhist at heart, though I am not defined by this alone, I am all too aware of this thing called Suffering, and I have long wanted to eradicate the suffering of others.
I am riveted especially by the plight of the majority in this world who live in unjust, unliveable circumstances and who are further burdened by the miseries of human atrocities and dictatorships as well as natural disasters in the form of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.
But for most of my life, setting resolutions for the new year has been about me, me, me.
For several years, I spent New Year’s Eve with one of my best friends, Sunni, a light in the life of many, whom I had met at a personal growth seminar when I was sixteen. We survived the intensity of the EST like training and emerged as soul sisters. New Years Eve brought us together in that same space of reflection and contemplation which initially bonded us. Sunni’s husband cooked us a meal fit for queens while we spread out by the fire, armed with wine, scissors, magazines, glue and poster boards. We flipped pages, cut, chatted, mulled and let things sift into place. Sunni glued her vision board together while I took my pieces home and finished off the collage of words and images the next day. We emerged happily with inspiring works of art and stuck them to the walls of our homes. My year was set and I was imbued with a strong sense of mission and direction. It felt good.
The last time I did this was in 1996, the year before I left my home country, Canada, and moved to Saudi Arabia. Much has transpired in that time and the dreams and choices I have before me are changed by the 18 years I have spent, indeed, fulfilling dreams and accepting limitations, facing up to a simple fact: you don’t get everything you wish for in life.
In the expenditure of years, you realise, as I did when I once read a book called Transitions by William Bridges, that you spend your early twenties discovering who you really are and what you really want while your later twenties and thirties are devoted to actualising this in the form of career and personal accomplishments. Then for reasons inexplicable you grind to a psychic halt when you hit your forties and wonder what the race was for and what it’s all about. A spiritual crisis looms, seizes your heart and squeezes you. You think: it’s time for change. Again, again, it is time for change because as much as you accept there is a timelessness to living in the now, nearly half of your life has gone by. It’s hard not to ask: have I spent it well? What must I absolutely do with the time I have left, and why is this important?
2014 appears to me like a new dawn, when you cross time zones in a plane, the flight path unclear though you trust you are – and you are – guided by the competency of pilots who know the way. You lift the window cover and out of the darkness on a distant horizon is the circular crack of a new dawn and a new world. You’re zooming towards the light and will land soon in a concrete new wonderland, undiscovered and discoverable. It’s not just a figment of your imagination. The planet is reachable and anything on it is within reach in the 21st century.
My sights for 2014 are set on something different, and this will come into focus over the coming week or so as I reflect upon what it means to be alive. More tomorrow.