“Is it wrong to have kept quiet, when I felt wronged? This was the more peaceful approach.
Is it wrong to bury my desires because you feel that “do these things really matter in the larger picture”?
Is it wrong to have ignored personal ambitions because the family may be neglected?
Is it wrong to have forgotten “Me” because everyone else comes before? Duty.”
Were you wrong? No, you were were not.
No, you were not wrong when you kept quiet neither were you wrong when you buried your desires. To choose family over personal ambition was not wrong; nor were you wrong to choose duty over self. You did what you had to do and what you thought was the best at that moment.
Life, I have come to feel, is like a trek in the jungle or a trip through a busy city. There are more than one ways to reach your destination. And as you make your way, every now and then, you are faced with choices – do you go left or right? Do you walk or run? Do you stay or leave? Do you act or stay motionless? And so many more. Based on our unique conditioning, circumstances, personality, thought process and many other factors that we do not yet understand or know, we choose. Those choices have results that sometimes bring us immense happiness and sometimes pain. Irrespective of the result, the important thing to realise and accept is that we made choices. And those choices were the best that we could have done at that moment, given our unique circumstances at that moment.
I have heard Swamiji quote that “you cannot step into the same river twice.” Life is the same. You are the same. You are not the same person today that you were yesterday, even if it feels like it. Slowly but inexorably, life draws us, moulds us, changes us. Choices that may seem wrong now were the best ones then. They may have been made out of fear, anger, sympathy, sense of responsibility, social norms etc., but they were choices made by the then us.
Who knows that a different choice would have been better? Yes, it might have led to a different result, but whether that would have brought you happiness or not, can not be ascertained; it could have gone either ways. I am sure there are many of us who wish we had not spoken and kept quiet at a certain juncture; many who wish that we had the liberty to take time off to raise our kids, and many who would choose differently this time around. Just as there are many who would do the same things all over again.
A long time ago, I read a book (Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers) which opened my eyes to the fact that every choice we make involves a trade off. You trade something to get something. When the trade off is good in your eyes, you go ahead and do it. When the trade off demands more than you can or want to give at that time, you refuse to partake of it. So, you trade your time and energy, and study in the hope of a good life and career; you trade your personal ambition and time to care for your family because it satisfies the mother and wife in you; you trade job security and a fixed salary to start a new venture because the pain of not starting is too much to bear and so on. Who is to say that these trade offs are made in vain? They have got you here, haven’t they? They have taught you lessons you needed to learn. How else would you have known the value of speaking your mind or having a career or paying heed to your needs.
I have always subscribed to the saying that charity begins at home. So taking care of your family, choosing to keep quiet, burying your desires – these were not wrong. They were acts of service that you chose to do in those moments. If more of us would choose to serve our families and near and dear ones, the world would be a better place. In fact, it is a better place for the choices you made. I am sure your family would agree.
Amidst all of this, the only wrong I see is the heartache you feel. Your heartache, I suspect is not regret for the choices you made (I could be wrong, but you would probably make the same choices all over again). The heartache you feel is the lack of validation; the validation that we women refuse to give ourselves. As a society, we do not give enough (rather we hardly give any) recognition to the efforts of our mothers and women in general. As mothers, we fall into the trap of judging ourselves by the standards set by a society that monetises everything. But how can you monetise the availability of a mother to clean her child’s bruises or the attention of a daughter in law who cancels a plan with friends because her mother in law is unwell? You cannot monetise these.
Unfortunately, we compare ourselves to working women and men and wonder if we should have opted for a career; we compare ourselves to nuclear families and wonder if we should have demanded a home separate from in laws, we look at the social life of others and wonder why we didn’t stay in touch with our friends. The reason you didn’t do any of those is, because at that moment, the then you, thought those were the best decisions. And somewhere, they were decisions that aligned with your values at that time.
Not all flowers bloom at the same time. Some take a season, some a year and some many years. Does that make their life trajectory wrong? No, just different. So perhaps those earlier years were your time of service and now it’s time for self care. Different seasons for different choices. As James Clear writes, “the surefire way to end up worse off is to agonize over unchosen options and fail to make the most of the one you selected. Every minute spent yearning for your unlived lives is a moment you can’t invest in the one you actually have. Choices matter, but so does your level of commitment.”
So please don’t punish yourself by thinking of your past choices. At every stage of life we do the best we can. Accept that and move on. Here’s a beautiful post by Swamiji to lift up your spirits – https://os.me/one-life-many-lives/
Wishing you much light, peace and joy.
Image courtesy: Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov on Unsplash