Sunday, September 15, 2013

You Are More

I recently finished a book by Rohinton Mistry entitled, "A Fine Balance".  The book blew me away.  The writing was beautiful, compassionate.  I couldn't put it down.  Taking place in India, the stories of the different characters' lives are interweaved together.  They all come from different castes, different religions.  A world that I have no idea about, but still exists today.  Even after reading a novel about it, I can not even begin to fathom how different life is there, compared to where I live.

Anyway, after reading this book, I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of lost hope.  The feeling that sometimes life gets worse, not better.  The oppressive reminder of how hard life can be to certain individuals, to good people, and how sometimes life just does not seem fair.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you.  This has happened to me a few times before.  I'd be depressed and unmotivated for a few weeks at a time.  I knew this wasn't healthy, but I wasn't sure how to get out of it.  To live my normal life, knowing how much unimaginable hardship was going on in other parts of the world.  And then my head starts spiraling about the decline of our planet earth, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we waste.  Ah!!!!

The other night, I listened to Thich Nhat Hanh's "Classic Dharma Talks - Part 1", as I folded laundry.  He was reminding his listeners to smile.  To smile is one of the most important and loving things we can do for ourselves, for our family, for strangers.  Just the simple of act of smiling is known to release endorphins and calm our bodies.  Even if it's fake smiling by putting a pencil in between our teeth!

In his talk, he mentioned how someone approached him and said, "But I am so full of sorrow.  How can I smile when I have so much sorrow?"  I sat up straight, and stopped folding socks to listen carefully.  Thich Nhat Hanh replied, "You can smile to your sorrow....because you are more than your sorrow,".

This was an immediate game changer for me.  I felt released from my depression, and released from my quicksand of worry.  This doesn't mean I'll ignore what's happening in the world to be stress free.  I can acknowledge the pain and suffering I hear about and see, and try to help as much as I can everyday.  I can only do my best on this earth, for the time that I have.  I can give love.  I can smile.

p. a.


  1. Beautiful post...I'll have to check out this book sometime :)

  2. Thank you so much for your beautiful words, Priscilla. This couldn't have come at a better time for me. - Katie

  3. This made me tear up. You are incredible, Priscilla. Such a huge inspirations to me for years now.

  4. Hey there Priscilla!

    What you felt whilst reading the book was a feeling for which there is no real world in English, and is called in German 'Weltschmerz', which means that you seem to feel the world's pain and sadness burdening your shoulders.

    The more one thinks about it (regarding every single family can have its very own tragedy at any time of the day), the heavier it gets, and it is quite difficult for every individual to find the right balance between overcaring and simply being ignorant. It seems, considering the last paragraph of your text, you have found a way out of the misery state and gained new strength at this time.

    I have recently found a song that matches the upper text and its ending quite well, it cheered me up immediatly after I found it, it is called 'Stop, Look, Lie' ;)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and keep doing what you do, as you can't go wrong that way :)

  5. This made me feel so much better. I have experienced myself the pain that causes to know these things about the world. Feeling so little cause I cannot do much. Maybe its just trying to stay positive, spread it as much as we can, along with the help we can provide to people. Not everything is ruined and bad and shitty. We just need to smile more often.

  6. It was lovely :)
    I also feel quite a bit depressed recently, because of many little tiny things piling up. And today a friend I hadn't seen in a long time made me laugh so much all my sorrow disappeared. I'll try to remember the advice :)

  7. Thank you for posting this Priscilla.

  8. So inspiring! Definitely going to give Thich Nhat Hanh a listen now!

  9. That is a wonderful book that I'd love to revisit. I read that for fun in high school and remember it being heavy (in weight and material). I'm fairly certain I felt dejected after reading the book as well, but your insight about smiling in spite of the hopelessness of it all is very true.

    And I think Charlie Chaplin's song, "smile" best reiterates what you shared in this post:

    janelle monae sings smile

  10. I'll fold your socks! And other counterweights to your burdens. Filtering your reading along with the horrors of the world, however, is off the list.

    Take care P. You are way broader than your sorrow :)

  11. Those who should care don't, those who care often do so too much.
    It's very easy to hurt yourself and there is in basic, only ourselves to turn to.
    Depression is a big home of the arts and productive thought. I write and the pen flows in depression. Contemplation. Many songs and poems are born there. The positive is needed in music life and depression is the greater well and inspirer. From the pits. Many muso's and persons of the arts walk a balance . Heart singers drain . The black dog waits.
    The eyes are the windows to the soul, and we swim in others pools. I always fall , susceptible, contemplating from heart and soul and the black dogs temptations and voodoo.
    A smile is the offer of life and strength and inspiration to it. Yes it needs to be learnt to smile and as defence. We all have the child inside. Protect the child from the black dog and its tricks if you cant or dont want to do it for yourself. The child is life , easy to defend as undeserving of the black dogs attentions.
    Nature has protections for the goodwill and learning of the child.
    When I vist my souls pool or someone elses, I always take a rubber duck. Oy am the Glasshopper of childishness. So some say.

  12. I listened to Nhat Hahn and really liked it. I could understand every idea, he kept it so simple but at the same time so deep. It's the first time I saw your blog. Hugs from Mexico I love your music :)

  13. Hi Priscilla, I am reading a book right now about India called, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. I also am deeply challenged by the reality of poverty and this deep sense of a loss of hope in that country. It is my dream to go there on missions or to adopt someday. I highly recommend this book if you still feel discouraged about India, I haven't finished reading it yet and if you read it you will have to let me know what you think! I really want to read this book you talked about after I am done with behind the beautiful forevers. Peace to you.

  14. P, this resonated with me..and reminded me of my favorite poem by Rachel Corrie. She was a fierce young woman, who was taken from us way too early. Anyway, here it is:

    We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone. What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

    If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

    And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

    This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

    I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

    I can wash dishes.

    Hope it makes you smile :)

  15. Hi Priscilla I am reading a book right now that is set in India called, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers." I was very discouraged and felt a sense of a loss of hope too while I am reading this book that sets a very realistic picture of the poverty in India. I really want to read the book you were talking about after I am done with this one. It is my dream to go to India someday whether in missions or to adopt kids. Let me know what you think if you end up reading, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers,"

  16. Dear Priscilla

    I totally get how you feel. In fact, I'm pretty sure everybody in the world knows and has experienced what you are feeling right now. I've felt it on occasion in the past and even a little bit now as I sit and type and wonder about how my life is going to turn out, but I know that whatever I'm feeling now pales in comparison to my experiences in my junior year of high school last year.

    Last year was complete hell for me. I was essentially a loner for that entire school year; half of my best friends were upperclassmen that graduated and moved on to colleges far away. My other half of friends all had different classes. Being the severe introvert I am, reaching out to others was extremely difficult. Even trying to reestablish base with my close friends was tough for me, since they now spent most of their time studying for classes I didn't have and vice versa. I became depressed. I got sick a lot. I let my studies slip. Once in a while, I would rebound and say "Now, this is the time for change!" and something would happen and I would get depressed again. I was never close with my older sister or with my parents. Junior year didn't exactly help me build those bonds either.

    Things just kept stacking up. Shitty grades. Financial issues. Family tension. Isolation. Loneliness.

    Then, in April, my best friend from elementary committed suicide and changed my whole life. Though we fell out of constant contact over our middle school and high school years because of different schools, we would still hang out occasionally. His death was something so unexpected, so completely out of the blue, that it derailed me for a good two weeks. I alternated between obsessive eating and not eating at all. I lost focus in class. Life seemed pretty bleak.

    As the AP exams started to roll around the corner, I threw myself into my studies to try and escape it all. My grades went up and I passed my exams, though my success was a bittersweet one.

    All in all, it was a really rough patch in my life, but as time went by and the school year ended, I really had a lot of time to think and reflect on who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I changed this summer. Though I’m still an introvert, I make a bigger effort in my studies and with maintaining my friendships, because I didn’t get to fully appreciate the value of having people around me that I cared about and cared about me until I lost one of them.

    Through this rough time, four things kept me sane; writing, guitar, nature walks, and music. Your music really helped me through this and I really, really appreciate it.

    Now, even though I do have my occasional ups and downs, life is looking better. :)I learned a lot of tough lessons about happiness, but if it wasn't for that moment of crisis, I don't think I would have grown into the person I am now. Senior year is looking great, full steam ahead!

    I hope that in your moments of down, you have something to fall back onto. You are more than your sorrow :)


  17. Dear T.S.P.,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are a beautiful inspiration. I'm sorry for all the tragedy and hardships you've suffered in your life. But I'm even happier for your new outlook and continuing personal growth! I was moved to tears. Thank you.

    Priscilla :)

  18. Priscilla,

    I volunteer as a team leader for an ongoing effort that helps combat-wounded U.S. Marines transition from the service to their "new normal" lives, as we put it. We attempt to get them to look beyond themselves, focus on what they can change and actively seek whatever dream they may have. Your words have provided me another avenue of approach for dealing with their sorrow and hardship.

    I will investigate the talks you mention for further inspiration.

    Stay well,


    1. Wow. I can't imagine how difficult that transition might be. I've only just recently discovered Thich Nhat Hanh, but his talks have greatly benefited my life and my perspective. He was right there in the middle of everything during the Vietnam War, so he's seen and experienced a lot himself. I'm sure his words can help heal and comfort many of those returning or (like myself) searching for their "home".

  19. Hi Priscilla,

    I'd like to share this beautiful song with you:

    Life is Hard - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

    Keep smiling. Life is hard (but beautiful) :-)


  20. Dear Priscilla,

    I'm Caroline and I come from Poland. I love your music. I found out lately song called Thank God. This song is beautiful! From which CD is this song?? How can i get this song?

    Greetings from Poland! Come to Poland! :)))

  21. Hi Priscilla!
    I have loved your music for a long time! You are so talented and the way you used the recorder in the "Dream" video was so innovative! Anyways, I had to read A Fine Balance for my 12th grade English class last year. I also was in a weird funk after I read it. I felt so depressed, and the worst part was no one knew how I felt. I was at home when I finished it, and my parents obviously weren't reading it and probably would never read it (they hate reading). I wanted to talk to them about the book but they didn't understand how it affected me so much. Luckily, I had the class the next day, so we were able to discuss it and eventually the sadness went away. It definitely encouraged me to understand and know before I judge. And of course, taught me about the balance of good and bad in life (although it seemed heavily imbalanced at the end!) It is probably the book that has impacted me the most.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  22. oh i all but squealed when i saw you had a blog! thank you for this beautiful post.

  23. Your music helps me as you said that speaker helped you. I was listening to your new song for When Marnie Was there and ready to go to sleep. I've been feeling quite down lately and I'm glad I got to read this words, seems like a good place to start to change. My first language is spanish so I'm sorry if there is something not well said. Love from Argentina, I hope you come here one day :) Cami