Like a bird released from its cage, it felt so good to be out and about again at the start of the week.
At lunch with Marina, we were talking about plans and the good things we were hoping for in the future.
“If I meet someone worth my time,” she said “Then obviously I want a marriage and kids and all that. But if it doesn’t happen? Then I can be satisfied without. I have enough. Enough in here,” she gestured towards her heart, “To feel satisfied. And I think you have to. You have to get enough satisfaction just from yourself to go through life.”
I thought about all the tragic singles, myself included, and all the tragic single stories of love conquering all. Somehow, it was with much more quiet satisfaction that I considered Marina’s version. In the modern world of London, we’re surrounded by external factors which people try to fill the void of life with. Hell, just look around the tube in the morning and you can see it – people plugged more into their phones than they are to each other.
I confessed that I’d had a strong ambition since university. That, one day, I wanted the 300k a year job. The job that replaces kids or other big responsibilities in life. Marina argued that, to reach that level, required the sacrifice of everything. Something she would never be prepared to give. But it made me wonder. Many successful heads of corporations have (or appear to have) happy home lives along with wildly successful careers. Is it possible to have both?
We can’t be motivated just by jobs or friends or fashion or travel or anything else. The moment that happens, I said, you need to stake a step back and re-consider. A part of our happiness comes from the world around us – surely it has to. Otherwise, we’d just sit in cells all day by ourselves (I guess there’s an argument that we already do). I think it’s fair to say we need human connection, satisfying work, good clothes, a nice place to come home each night and other material considerations for us to be happy. But a part of that happiness, surely, has to come simply from our own state of being. From just that place inside ourselves we can retreat to; a chamber hidden deep inside us to which nobody else has access. The last retreat of our minds. I agreed wholeheartedly with that.
Marina called finding the balance between the two the “Golden Balance”.
I thought about trying to be happy with just me. Truthfully, the concept frightens me. When I think about my dreams for the future, there’s someone else there, sharing those dreams and life with me. I don’t know who or where he is, I don’t even know if I’m ready to meet him. But I do know I don’t want to go through life alone.
Then I look back at three years of being single on Valentine’s Day and wonder. I wonder. I wonder if there’s something wrong with me that my relationships don’t last. I wonder how I could possibly meet someone when the number of times I’m interested, truly interested, are once in a very rare blue moon. And even when I am, he usually isn’t. I wonder if, in my destiny, I really am doomed to be alone. I wonder if that is truly a ‘doom’ or if that is just a juxtaposition we impose upon ourselves. I want to be successful in work I love, but to have that as your life? What a hollow existence. When you get to the end, I don’t think that could be called a life well lived, no matter how successful you may have become.
The irony I find is that when I fill my life with external stimulus, I simply don’t sit around and feel sorry for myself. Why? Because I don’t have the time. I adore being rushed off my feet busy. Perhaps that is the secret to The Golden Balance – we find out own happiness by ourselves, and let the other person, that external stimulus, find us. I don’t want to pack everything in and travel the world, like the people in those ridiculous viral articles. What kind of existence is that? At the same time, I don’t think I’m as strong a person as Marina. I don’t have her self-discipline. Her self-satisfaction. I don’t think I have her intelligence or her beauty, come to that. Perhaps the truth is I’m a little jealous of her. At 2 years older, and a whiz star of digital marketing, she is the superior older sister I never had. The one we admire, the one we respect, the one we want desperately to emulate. At the same time, the one who can’t help but ignite a spike of jealousy, however unwelcome such a feeling is. However much we love them. And I do love her. I don’t think I’ve ever been so influenced professionally, with such respect for who they are, what they do and how they do it, as I am by her.
I see most people I know skirt through life. They may make some effort, but largely I think mine is a passive generation. We expect things to come to us, or to be available at the click of a button. Yet Marina is more active in making her career happen than anyone I’ve ever met. just when I think I’m at a good step, she’s three steps ahead.
When you’re that brilliant, is it any wonder you’ve already found the Golden Balance?
I just wish I knew how to find mine. I’m not sure it’s through meditation, or writing, or spiritual development or any of the other things I find help my own mental state.
Perhaps it’s just deciding to find it? These days half our external stimulus comes from things making our decisions for us. Apps and programs decide what we eat, when we should sleep, who we should sleep with. Perhaps when you through all of that out, find the simplicity on yourself again, then we can start finding some sort of balance in our lives. Balance we have made for ourselves.
And when we’ve found our balance, I suspect that’s when someone else can come along and stand with us.