In Praise of Melancholy

As a species and a society, we have grown to over romanticize and popularize happiness and have exiled all feelings of the contrary to the unpopular and unwanted crevices of human emotion.

We strive only to increase those things that make us happy or that bring happiness to us, and at the slightest surfacing of alternate emotions we do everything we possibly can to “cheer” ourselves up and those around us. We forcibly excise sadness and inflate happiness.

We forget, or at least we do not realize, that what makes us complete individuals is our ability to access the full spectrum of human experience as well as the whole psycho-emotional range – low and high – enabling us to create rich, multi-dimensional, and meaningful lives. Continue reading “In Praise of Melancholy”

An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Leo,

Its me, you.

You and I have been on quite a journey together. We have been through it all; side-by-side. We have cried on our knees at 3am, on the shower floor, we have laughed on mountain tops, and smiled at sunrises. You and I, together, always.

You have been on quite the journey this past year.

I have seen you enter this year at what some might say was the highest you have ever been. I have watched you fall, plummet even, to the very depths of despair.

I have seen you have everything your heart ever wanted.
I have seen you lose it all, slowly, suddenly, cruelly, repeatedly.

I have seen you ecstatically plan for the future.
I have seen you feel each passing moment to be one moment too long lived.

Through it all, side-by-side, we have learned some important lessons.

One of the most important lessons learned:

I should have been the one to love you, to encourage you, to hold you up, to hug you, and to appreciate you.

Instead, I left you to watch those you loved, leave; and thus allowed you to feel unworthy of love, of care, of appreciation, even my own.

I allowed you to listen to the judgements of others.
I made you feel like you needed to defend yourself.
The judgements of others have nothing to do with you, they fear in you what they cannot bare within themselves; it is not your burden to carry, I am sorry I put it on your shoulders.

I am sorry, so sorry.
You are enough.

I know you are going through hard times right now. That life hasn’t given you what you hoped and hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. I know you are disappointed and sometimes feel like a failure or that it is all your fault.

Together, we have learned that life is short, happy moments are rare, nothing lasts forever, and not everyone’s love is unconditional. These difficult insights are not as sad as they seem; they have given you gifts of wisdom that will prove to make you a far better man for it.

Often, the happiest moments of our lives are viewed in hindsight. Therefore, when life gives you a perfect moment, a beautiful sunny day, a deep and wonderful conversation, you need to drop everything and seize it. A good life is made up of a collection of these moments.

As Morgan Matson, an American novelist, said: “A thousand moments that I had just taken for granted — mostly because I had assumed there would be a thousand more.”

One of the key problems of life: we reject difficult but important knowledge because it comes wrapped the wrong way. The hardships we oft may face are, in hindsight, the greatest blessings/lessons we could ever wish upon ourselves.

Our hardships force us into new versions of ourselves that we may have never become without its cruel but necessary nudging.

“The most important thing to remember is this:
to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
— W. E. B. Du Bois

Every new level of being will require a different you to conquer it.

It is how one responds to life that determines where the next step of living is placed. Most importantly, we should no longer be surprised by what life throws at us: good or bad; when Seneca wrote that “nothing happens to the wise man contrary to his expectation,” this is partly what he meant.

The reason that so many failures are devastating to us is that we never consider that things could happen any other way but the way we wanted them to.

Marcus Aurelius, another stoic, wrote:
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Time is limited. Failures are inevitable. Action is unavoidable.
If we realize this to the point of practice, we will no longer spend time on that which is not worthy of it, we will fail quickly and intelligently, and understand that practice makes possible and permanent, not perfect.

Just after your darkest hour the sun will rise. When you were in your darkest hours, feeling it pointless holding on, you held on anyway and the sun rose and shorn its light once again.

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass.”

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

If there are more moments in your future, expect times worse than this, but also know that there will be brighter ones too.

Do not stop loving, Do not stop caring, Do not stop being you.

Above all else, be true to yourself.
Its gotten you this far.

I love you,
You, me.

My Talk on Mental Wellness at WordCamp Cape Town 2016

At WordCamp Cape Town this year, I gave talk on Mental Wellness, the WordPress Community, and You. An unusual talk for a tech conference, but one which needed to be spoken about – and I had no idea how it would go down.



Watch on WordPress.tv

Summary:

The main point of this talk was to raise awareness at the intensity, the struggle, and the seriousness of various Mental Wellness issues within our current space.

To raise the awareness of Employers who have Employees with issues, for Employees to understand their colleagues and employers better, for people to change the way they think about mental health in general.

To remove the stigma that mental wellness issues have, especially in the working environment, and even more so in our daily lives for those who live with it.

During my talk, I told my story. Maybe one day I will talk about it more here, but here are the main points I touched on:

  • We have too many people living in our midst who need help, but do not get it, and who are too afraid by the stigma to seek it and talk out.
  • I was one of them, I said the three hardest words during my talk: I have depression.
  • As a society, when someone breaks their arm, we run to sign their casts, but when someone has a mental issue we run the other way. We are okay with any body part breaking down, except our brains, our minds. This needs to change.
  • When you have a broken leg, you cannot leave it outside the office doors when you walk in in the morning – why do we expect this too of people who have mental health issues?
  • People should be as okay with speaking to someone on a regular basis, like a therapist, life coach, psychologist or psychiatrist. We should have subscriptions to these just as we have gyms subscriptions for our physical wellness.
  • Employers need to be more open and understanding, currently we are very far away from this.
  • Employees need to be more open with helping themselves, and seeking the help they need, or being supportive of their peers who need it.
  • We all need to be more open and understanding of the current state of Mental Wellness in the world.
  • When we ask people “How are you?” we need to starting caring about their truthful reply. When we are asked “How are you?” we need to start being more open and brave to give an honest reply. On the day of WordCamp, before my talk, I was asked sixteen times how I was, I lied sixteen times.
  • Started the WordPress Hashtag called #WPHugs, a way of sharing, appreciating and caring within the community.
  • I need you, you need us, we need each other. People need people.
  • When someone has an issue, in my case depression, people believe that its simply because of the things going on in their lives that are not going well. This is often furthest from the truth. In my case, life was at its best and I was depressed, absent, and in that time I started losing hold of life: Been through break-ups, losing friends, losing a home, feeling more hopeless, work performance dropped, and not being able to have any say or control of any of it. Those around me thought I was depressed, because these things happened. No, because I was depressed these things happened.
  • Depression is something that we know to be so common, yet know and speak the least about, as with all mental wellness issues. Its time this ended, I began the end of silence by telling the world my story, maybe you would be brave enough to tell yours? Or open enough to listen to anothers?
  • As an open source community that relies on the work of the people behind the scenes that make this possible, we need to also spread the idea of 5 for the future for ourselves, you cannot pour from an empty cup so before giving back, start giving within.
  • Stop the Silence, Remove the Stigma, Care.

After my talk, so many people opened their hearts out to me and for that I am extremely grateful. I was more than surprised at how well this was received and about how many people had been suffering in silence and are now brave enough to speak out.

Cory Miller, a very brave man told his story which inspired me to tell mine, will you tell yours? You can leave a comment or send me a link (Totally open to coffee too.)

Lessons learned from an examined life – Part 1

In Plato’s Apology, which is a recollection of speeches of Socrates at his trial, he quotes Socrates for having said:

ὁ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ
Vita nec scrutata vita nequam est.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Socrates would have much rather given up his life than given up philosophy – and his wish was granted. While I still live, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the greatest lessons that have helped me live a fuller life – this will be written in parts. Lets begin.

1. Slow down to go further.

This is something I learned in practice whilst running, which can be applied to the rest of life, and has been for me. The world is working so hard to get more things done in less time, everything wants to be sped up. We have so many tools for alarms, for reminders, for time keeping. There is never enough time in a day.

Whilst running I learned this important lesson that if I wanted to go further the best way to do that was to slow down… you do this often enough, consistent enough, and you will find that your body learns and adapts and you can go further and further every time. Haste makes waste, as the old adage says.

I used to put a lot of effort into running a certain amount of kilometres in a certain amount of time. I was quite consistent and it quite consistently took a lot of the energy out of me. One day I decided that I would just listen to music and run slower instead of trying to make ‘time’. It was the best run I had. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I got to take in the sights around me, the dogs playing, the kids in the park, the beautiful blue sky and the setting sun. When I was done and checked my time, I was only 6 minutes longer than my previous consistent time – 6 minutes extra that gave me joy and I was barely tired. Slow down to go further.

2. Postponement is the greatest waste of life.

The things we regret the most in life are not the things we have done but the things we haven’t. While I am in my early-mid twenties, I look upon teenagers and little kids and wish that I did more when I was their age and had more time, less responsibilities, and higher energy levels. The trouble with doing this is that someone older is looking at me and wishing they did more when they were in their twenties.

Not doing the things that would bring us joy while we still have the ability to do it is the greatest waste of life, not doing the things we wanted to when we could is the greatest regret of the dying.

Do the things you love, do them often.

3. This above all: to thine own self be true.

These immortal words as said by Polonius in Hamlet have been part of my greatest source of contentment – my Eudaimonia as described by the greeks. We so often go through life trying to sacrifice who we are to please others, to keep the peace, or to be liked – all this ever brings us is suffering or displeasure.

What is the point pleasing someone else by causing suffering to oneself? What is the point in ‘keeping the peace’ when doing so creates an inner battle? What is the point being someone that others would like when we don’t love who that makes us?

Deathbeds and graves are built for one – let that be a place you go to having lived a life you are proud of. There is no one that its worth being untrue to yourself for – not your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your lover, your kids, or your friends. You alone will live with who you are, you alone will die with who you’ve been.

For many years I was false to myself in order to be accepted by others, and to be liked. Changing this and being true to myself has costed me most of the people I believed were my friends. It hurt, but it is amongst some of the best things I did for myself. These people who left my life simply vacated a position that would be better filled by someone who would love and appreciate who I really am not whom they wish me to be.

4. Question Everything.

Everyone has their own version of the world. Each version is made up of each persons own perceptual biases and self-inflicted limits. When presented with something in life that should be seen as an accepted truth, ask yourself if there is sufficient evidence to believe it before you make it part of your own reality (this does not apply to the laws of the universe though, the universe is how it is whether or not you believe it).

Questioning everything has allowed me the freedom to be true to myself and to actually know who I am. It has freed me from the shackles of other peoples limiting beliefs and ideas about the world. It has free me from indoctrination and allowed me to lose my religion. It has allowed me to judge what is right and wrong for myself without the delusions of others offering their own flavours into the mix.

5. This too shall pass.

The Romans would say this in good times and in bad. Everything is temporary. Understanding this allows us to not get too attached to good times and to happiness as well as to not be too affected by bad times – This too shall pass.

When I was younger and something would bother me, my brother would tell me:

“If you worry, you die. If you don’t worry, you still die. Why worry?”

In the grand scheme of things, whatever is getting you down today will not affect you in a week, month, or a year from now. In fact, it will grow you. This is an exciting way to view adversity, each new turmoil of today is shaping the beautiful you of tomorrow.

6. Let go of expectation.

Expectations are limits you set to life.

Letting go of expectations opens you are to fuller version of life without the limits you set on it. If you give someone a gift and expect reciprocity, you may get joy from the giving of the gift but will be disappointed if it is not returned – remove the expectation and all you have is the joy of your gifting. In relationships, if we remove all expectations from the beloved to behave in a certain way in relation to us we will have no disappointment if they act differently – we are left with all their little acts and gestures of kindness giving us immense joy.

Most disappointment arises from expectations that are not met. Little happiness is gained from matched expectations.

 

On Love

“If you love a flower, don’t pick it up.
Because if you pick it up it dies and it ceases to be what you love.
So if you love a flower, let it be.
Love is not about possession.
Love is about appreciation.”
― Osho

Love has been the topic of poets, philosophers, and writers since time immemorial. I do not claim to have the answer to one of the oldest questions – but, I do have some thoughts on it which I will share. Continue reading “On Love”