My friends share their wins and woes with me, and I listen. And every time they do, I see the precariousness of the decisions we make. I imagine us on the 7th step of a ladder, one more step and we’re either on the 8th or we find ourselves on the floor with a cracked spine. Once, a friend called me, sounding embittered. His life has taken a turn for the worse last year and he’s not been able to pull himself out of it. Instead, he’s sinking deeper into debt and depression. His debtors were threatening him day and night and he was tired. That night I listened.
He said, “Everything I do, every step I take seems to be sinking me deeper. I’m working hard, I want to get out of this well but it looks like I’m digging deeper. If only there was someone that could tell me, ‘Don’t do that, do this instead.’”
No one has come to this world before or traversed this path to see how it works. We’re just humans; we’re born, we’re taught and told what to do, we’re left on our own and we have to make certain decisions and choices. We live life and get one chance to make the most of it before we become dust. We may be lucky to be in the right place at the right time or be born in the right home. We may be lucky to have mentors and people guiding us. Or we may be lucky to have our decisions work for us. But nothing is guaranteed; that option that looked right at the moment we selected it could be the beginning of our downfall. And that is the enigmatic part of life.
That night, my friend’s debt was due and his creditors were blowing up his phone. He reached out to me and said, ‘I have someone I can ask for money, we’re not close or anything but do you think I should go ahead?’ ‘Do what you have to do,’ I said, ‘you have nothing to lose.’ It didn’t work out; the person had no money to give him. The next time he called me, he was crushed, shame thick in his quivering voice as he muttered, ‘He said he has no money. I really wish I hadn’t asked him.’ We spent many minutes in utter silence, hearing each other breathe before I eventually said, ‘Never be ashamed of doing what you felt you had to do to pull yourself up, to survive or to live. You did your best, it didn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up over it.’
I had to take my own advice recently when I saw something I liked from one of my favourite vendors. I wanted to buy it but it wasn’t a need so I sent her messages, asking if I could pay for it twice. She aired me. She read the messages, responded to the rest and ignored that particular one. I remember wishing I hadn’t asked her. I’d patronised her so often that I assumed we had a relationship. I was wrong. I was about to blame myself for asking in the first place – I mean, it wasn’t even a need, it was a want, I could easily do without it – when I told myself I did what I had to do at that particular moment. And that is that.
We live life by faith, dancing to the melodies of the world, capitulating to forces outside our control. We’re navigating this world with so much uncertainty but we move nonetheless, and that’s what makes our journey a beautiful blend of trust, wonder, and surrender.
Even as religious people, we serve God by faith. In trust that He exists and our supplications and givings will be accepted. We send out job applications in faith, trusting that the HR would find us worthy of being a part of the team. We apply for opportunities in faith, checking our emails to see a congratulatory message. Even our tiny little daily decisions are taken in faith, fingers twiddling, tension in the air, anxiety colouring our steps all the way. We hope we’re saying the right thing at the right time, doing the right things, or bringing the right suggestions. We plan for the future in faith. We have a myriad of options and we decide on the route we take, wondering if we’ve followed the right path or if the road not taken holds greater promises. And in moments when failure looms and we stumble, or when things don’t go as planned, we beat ourselves up, wondering why we lacked foresight, wishing we had been less desperate, hadn’t begged certain people for help or told certain people our story.
But it is what it is. There is no template as to how we should live, the right steps we should take, or a guaranteed formula for success. Everything we do is a gamble.
We shouldn’t be ashamed of the decisions we took when we needed help or when we were down. We shouldn’t feel shame that we had to grovel to get through/past certain things or that we sought help that never came. Do what you have to do when push comes to shove, and if doesn’t work out, console yourself with the knowledge that you did your best.
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