A previous version of me would have perceived surrender as weakness, pure and simple. But then again, the concept of being humble was once mostly an alien concept to me. Gloating, an inflated sense of self-importance, pushing people’s buttons/triggers (mostly for my own amusement), and being overly outspoken about my thoughts and opinions was once a norm in my life. I operated from an almost purely logical mind-frame and often completely disregarded the feelings of others because deep down I felt strongly that the only way to prove my worth was through my intellect and “being right.”
I spent the majority of my time talking in social situations because I struggled a ton with actually listening to what others were trying to say to me. Often in conversation, I would brush off, downplay, or outright reject other people’s comments in combination with head nodding in rapid succession and saying “mmhmm” over and over, just itching for the moment when they would stop talking so I could open my mouth and spew out some more words. I believed my words at the time were vastly more important than actually listening to and respecting what the other person was saying and then responding intelligently back. Essentially I perceived other people as nothing more than soundboards to me where I could vocalize my opinions and further receive validation or use disagreements as a platform for judgement. It would take me years and a lot of honesty with myself to realize that this way of thinking was false, and I was just truly lonely and desperately in need of genuine human connection with others. My outbursts and desire to be admired for my ‘superior intellect’ was actually just a cry for attention based out of neediness and a deep feeling of emptiness I harbored inside of me for a great deal of my life that I was projecting onto others. I had to teach myself how to connect with others through a major humbling process of surrender.
It wasn’t until I moved for my job at the time and lived alone in Edmonton, a city where I knew almost no one that I began to realize that I didn’t have a lot of friends that I could trust and rely on in times of need. I also learned that due to my pompous attitude, it was really difficult for me to establish and maintain new friendships. I spent many nights alone, including many weekend nights. I often pondered how people make friends in the first place. I felt like a child all over again learning how to make my first friends in grade school. It was a truly eye-opening experience living alone in a new city because I learned a lot about the more grating aspects of my personality and learned to soften a little bit as a result. Simply, I had to surrender some of my ego because I was alienating myself from genuinely connecting with others.
I later moved to Calgary for a new job and again lived by myself for another two years. I had just started a new engineering job in the oil and gas industry and again did not know a lot of people in the city. Shortly after starting my new job, my new company only had high-level work for roughly a three month period. During this time I went to work consistently but ended up sitting in my office, being disruptive to co-workers, and basically doing anything I could to pass time because they had no work for a junior engineer at that point. During this period of my life, I experienced the most intense depression of my life. To describe the experience, I became completely apathetic and my ability to see colours around me disappeared. What replaced colours was various shades of grey; I’m not certain if it was exactly 50 shades or not.. haha. Jokes aside, it was an excruciating experience that had me couch-locked and barely able to wake up and take care of myself, let alone build my social network. I felt so isolated and numb and felt like there was no reason for me to exist anymore. However, there was a tiny spark inside of me that clung to life through the depression. I came out the other side much softer than I was previous and a lot more open to life in general. The depression forced me into a state of surrender where I had no choice but to reflect deeply on my turbulent emotional state and ask myself why that was happening.
After my depression, I began to slowly start being receptive to listening, sharing, and connecting with more people around me, both at work and in my personal life. Previous to working at the engineering company I was working for at the time, I saw no value in creating friendships and real human connection in the workplace. I viewed work as a place of seriousness where there was no time to connect with others because there was a job to be done that’s all that mattered. However, due to my new state of being, I finally started gaining some good friends and important connections at work. When I got laid off in September of 2015, it felt like I had part of my family ripped away from me which was devastating. From this point on, I went through another deep period of reflection on my true character and my ability to genuinely connect with others.
Through the period following my lay-off, I learned about one of the most important things in my life that I was lacking; this was trust. I learned I never really trusted myself and therefore others never really knew if they could trust me. Through another extremely honest look at myself, I began a process of getting to know and truly trust myself, my judgement, and what I wanted for myself out of life. In other words, I learned how to surrender to trust. I used to believe that I was such a hardened individual, incapable of expressing my emotions. However, this period of my life taught me that I was in fact quite the opposite; the truth being that I was always an extremely sensitive man, who needed acceptance and trust within himself. Only then could I feel genuine love for myself and allow others to see my inner-beauty so they could truly connect with me.
I have spent a great deal of my life worrying about almost everything. As a result, I’ve dealt with anxiety and insomnia all through my adult life and often still have racing thoughts in my head that are hard to quieten. I believe anxiety to be a fear of the unknown future that lies ahead of me. Because I have no way of actually knowing what is going to happen tomorrow (or in 1 minute from now for that matter), this can easily cause me anxiety since I have a tendency to be hard on myself. Typically I worry “I’m not doing as much as I should have done,” or I find myself incessantly trying to figure out a way to solve all of my problems immediately, and taking way too much responsibility on my shoulders, thinking there is a way to “cleanse myself of problems” in order to make life easier. Once I eventually remember to take a few deep breaths, I begin to return to reality and realize that there will always be new problems to solve in my life as long as I am living. By trying my best with what I already have and accepting what unfolds, I’ve done all I need to do. The rest is out of my hands. I often visualize the classic Chinese philosophy yin-yang symbol 1 to remind myself of balance between surrender/acceptance (yin) and energy/change (yang), which I find helpful.
My most recent catalyst for surrendering to trust in the journey of my life, bringing healing to my emotional state, came to me about a week ago during work. I was doing what I felt at the time to be a lot of random menial tasks. One day while moving heavy beer kegs around at work I was thinking “fuck this sucks, I’m going to throw out my back, why do I have to do this, this isn’t normally part of my job, etc.” The next day I was washing black scuff marks off of the hallway walls and I was thinking “wow, what has my life been reduced to.. Engineering to this?” But then an insight hit me. I realized that my thoughts become my reality. By complaining that I had to move kegs, I realized I was becoming weaker as a result by creating an opportunity to hurt my back because I was thinking about it. Instead I thought lets look at the reality; this is your job and you are thankful for your job, so do the job that was given to you. Moving kegs right now in your life means you have to focus more and really be mindful how you’re lifting. The fact that the kegs are heavy right now is just motivation for you to get stronger to be able to move the kegs more easily. Simply, this is my current reality right now and this job is what I need to prepare myself mentally and physically for; this is my lesson here. Washing the scuff marks off the wall taught me more lessons. It taught me that sometimes I have to slow down and do my work with quality and care because often I rush through things due to impatience. It also taught me that I can use this time to strengthen my non-dominant thumb, which I damaged the previous summer through jamming the joint catching a football.
I now strongly believe that there is a lesson in every experience of my life. It is just a matter of how open am I to listening (to both myself and others) and learning from each experience. Furthermore, how willing am I to humble my head and surrender to the experience, even if it brings me some pain and/or discomfort. I know now that when I open myself to life, life opens itself up to me, and it never fails to bring me exactly what I need at the time, nothing more and nothing less. There is a sense of mutual trust and respect that starts within me, extends out to my relationships between myself and others, and is reflected between myself and the process of life.