Three years ago I discovered the secret to life. I was elated and on a high. Nothing could bother me. I felt free and as light as Dandelion seeds completely absent any resistance and taking flight easily whichever way the wind blew. Things that used to infuriate me just didn’t anymore. It simply wasn’t worth my energy to feel rotten and miserable. The secret I learned is that our energy is a precious commodity, even more precious than gems and diamonds.
The euphoria came because it wasn’t just a theory. It was knowledge infused into the very cells of my body. I was a superhero who went out into the world unable to spend my precious energy in any way that was wasteful. I could be sitting in dead stop traffic on a hot day and I was literally thinking, “Oh well, what’s on the radio?” When I found a song I liked, I sang gaily in my own little content, Buddha-on-the-mountain-top, nothing-can-bother me world. Complete strangers could be rude to me and I could react without a sliver of defense, offering a compassionate smile even, and forgiving them for not knowing the secret. With my smile I wished and hoped for them, they would one day come upon it just as I did. In the meantime I could still love them. I could love everybody, even my enemies.
I’m not exactly sure how long the euphoria and perfect execution of this secret lasted. I just know today, some three years later, it’s not so easy anymore. I’m no superhero with special powers. I am normal. Even with the secret to life, three years of traffic is enough to wear anyone down with a job and chores to do and people to take care of and deal with. I find myself reacting quickly these days and cursing as I wonder out loud why the other driver is going so damn slow.
And I’ll tell you what’s harder about the day after enlightenment than before. Now, I have no excuses. Now, I know better. Now I get it. I get why people say that knowledge is power. When you know better, it forces you to do better, even if it requires more effort and you feel tired.
Three years later, people say rude things to me and it’s definitely not automatic that I react with compassion and enlightenment. I’m just another person with all the same issues, only now I know better. What’s automatic to me is to sarcastically put rude people in their place by being smarter than them. But as soon as I rely on my old defense something slaps the back of my hand and says “Tsk, tsk, tsk. This is not a good use of your intellect.” And I have to breathe deeply and give myself a mini time-out. Imagine that. Internalized knowledge forces me to self-inflict time-outs as many times a day as necessary.
Growing up my mother expected me to be the better person because I knew better than my twin brother. I knew better than to engage in childish spats over attention or achievement. I distinctly remember replying to her that it wasn’t fair to expect me to do better just because I could. I’m just a kid I told her.
Well I am definitely not a kid anymore. That excuse just doesn’t cut it. The day after enlightenment is not a ticket to bliss. It is an everyday effort, sometimes struggle to do better because now with every cell of my being I know better. So I trade laughs with a like-minded co-worker.
Along with our day job we share stories of the real work in our lives. We talk about the things that irritate us like dishes in the sink, step-children who we don’t quite know how to discipline, partners who take us for granted, co-workers who insist we owe them more of our time. We ask ourselves and a higher power to please help us find more patience. And we laugh with compassion when we utterly fail at being kind or understanding as we try to discern the path to ever more patience. It’s very humbling and not so euphoric, but here it is today’s concentrated effort to be better, simply because I know better. I find if I take a time-out as the day begins to remember the secret to life, I find a glimmer of the superhero I was on the day I discovered it.