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  • Writer's picturecarrie berry

The road to ZEN

I've always knew that there was something wrong in my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I had a sense of dissatisfaction. Like boredom, disappointment and restlessness mixed together. I don't recall feeling total joy in my present moment, which is such a sad thing for a little girl. I remember lying in bed telling myself that things will change, it'll be fabulous when i'm an adult. I'll have boyfriends, a stunning body, a cool job, and I will do big crazy outrageous things that my little body trapped in my small existence actually deserved. I didn't know exactly what those things were, only that I didn't have them yet and the lack of it makes me empty. Looking back I realise I was probably a depressed teenager suffering from anxiety and low self esteem, who was also deeply unable to live in the present moment. Everything i dreamed of was external. My pre-social media mind was already frequently wandering off to ruminating on the embarrassments of the past or the possibilities of the future. Did I ever enjoy a sunset? Look at the trees? Be in awe of my strong legs when walking? Think about why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling? I remember vividly once looking out into the rain and wishing I could go out there and be in it, but instead i stayed inside because standing in the rain is nuts. I remember swimming at the pool and feeling worried about how my flat prepubescent body would be judged. I remember holding hands at a friends house and being laughed at for having sweaty hands, I felt so ashamed of myself rather than those horrible friends. I also remember attending many piano recitals where I was suffering a lot from stage fright and anxiety, but I recall not telling my mother this, instead I would suck it up and nearly die of fright through the performance, then return to my seat not having any clue at all what the point of it was. To this day, piano is something i still have no connection to and would never wish my daughter learn. A lot of my childhood life involved things happening that I didn't understand. I don't remember what I ever talked to my mother about, but i remember that I didn't say much more than necessary and that my true feelings of lack were not conveyed because I didn't know the words to these feelings at the time. I don't think I was very intuitive about the purpose of my life and feelings, and from very early on I seemed to already believe that pain (mental and physical) is normal and to be endured. Sometimes i close my eyes and I go back to that little tamed girl and grab her by the shoulders and tell her, "that ache you feel right now is called loneliness. Go and make a friend, then let her know you are vulnerable. You don't always have to be cool or fun, you can just be yourself". I wish I knew the beauty of the world back then when I had the world in the palm of my hand. I wish I knew that there were people like me all around, and external factors were not a priority, everyone just wanted connection, just like I did. I wish I knew that people would understand me if I just told them how i felt, that I didn't need to pretend or hide, my authentic self was worthy of so much love.

Now, I know and yearn for the beauty of the world but I always sense it slipping away. Don't get sick, don't feel under the weather, don't sleep in...if you close your eyes for too long you might just miss it all, you don't have too much time left. I'm always grasping and gasping and grasping. I'm so hungry for life like I'm almost compensating for what I missed when I was busy sitting at home feeling lonely. It's been one year since my stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis and I have been forced to dive into the deep end of my own psyche, introspecting everyday on why I am just so fucking complicated. Mindfulness is so simple, you open your eyes and you enjoy every moment, each breath at a time, but somehow in between screen sickness and sugar sickness and comparison, envy, guilt, judgement, something so natural and elegant and simple has become something you need to learn again. Like I need to take a series of 12 online courses to learn breathing. My bookshelf is almost ironically filled with books on how to live (what have I been doing all these years?).

I swear I'm getting there. Some days I wake up and find genuine contentment in my morbid yet comical situation, which is the way everyone should live. Other days it's still a shit show, often filled with contempt for my daughter and my inability to understand and accept why all my nice things are destroyed by her (ie. clothes, bedsheets, breasts and abdominal skin). Some days it's filled with miseries of post menopausal drama, like why is my head shedding like dog? Why is the moisture content of my vagina comparable to ash? Why do my legs hurt and I'm so thirsty all the time? I am educated enough that I know how to get there, but they say it takes an equivalent amount of time to revert back to your original state (10 months to get back to your prenatal body). So, I guess we can expect that i'll be advanced zen in about 37 years. Life is a journey. Or a box of chocolates,

which is hilarious because one thing I will never ever do in life, is eat a chocolate without knowing what's inside of it.

I'm just stuck outside the box of life not willing to dig in or move forward because not knowing the outcome is just so scary. Tara Brach says the first step to letting go (ie. zen) is to unclench your fists of control. This image appears in my mind at least 10x a day, I'm considering framing it on the wall. She says that when you clench really hard, you are subconsciously holding your breath. I can also point out that when you clench hard, you are unable to take a shit, pee, blow your nose, ie. expel physical toxins from your being. Hence the only way to liberate, cleanse, detoxify, empty negative energy, physically, mentally and spiritually, is to simply, unclench. Like the little baby you had once been, simply relinquish your control over everything and you will live freely once again. 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, i dream of these numbers all the time. But until i learn how unlock the pathway to joy, to simple living, to being present, to love oneself entirely and deeply, it doesn't matter how much time I have, to live is only to suffer.

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Esther Cheng
Esther Cheng
Sep 22, 2023

Have read this post twice. Thanks for sharing your struggles as a teenager and what you’ve been through. I just felt there are probably many teens who share the same feelings but are unable to articulate, and would feel being understood and find comfort after reading your genuine sharing. ❤️❤️❤️ I hope life treats you kind.

carrie berry
carrie berry
Feb 12
Replying to

Thank you Esther. These are deep feelings that I have not been able to acknowledge or discover until illness forced me to look within. I also wish I had struggles to model my own life after when i was a teen, life is so much easier when you walk through problems togethers with others. Thanks for writing to me.

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