"...only those who embrace life wholeheartedly: without fear, without self-pity, without being afraid of being hurt, follow a very important spiritual law. Only those who do so are capable of experiencing real happiness"
It took me a long time to completely grasp each of those concepts; putting them into practice was another huge step, but I am still making small progress each day.
It is impossible to live completely without fear, as there will always be some issue, incident or object that triggers the fear response. Controlling how you respond to those triggers, as well as sorting out what is truly worth fearing is what makes the difference between living your life, and merely surviving. My biggest fears currently are homelessness (having already experienced it once), and the myriad number of things that could happen to my children. A fear response would have me doing things I probably shouldn't to make sure the first would happen, and becoming overprotective to avoid the second. Living life without fear, has for me anyway, meant knowing in the back of my mind that homelessness is a real possibility, while continually working to improve my financial situation while not jeopardizing my job or my legal status. It has meant not embracing a fear based parenting model, that allows me to teach my children about the dangers they will face in a way that is closer to "Be aware of what's going on around you", than "Be afraid of everyone that is different from you". Living in control of my fears has led to to take chances in education (multiple tries at finishing a degree), relationships (Yes, I do flirt "out of my league". Why not? It's fun for me, and an ego boost for them. No harm, no foul.), and career (moving from Clerical to Technology). I've had as many successes as I've had had things crash and burn, but even with the failures, I've learned lessons I would not have learned had I not at least tried to make some change in the way I was already living.
Living without self-pity is harder than it sounds, especially if things tend to not go well as a series, rather than one at a time, spread far enough apart where you have the emotional time and energy to deal with each item as it comes up. In my world, when it rains, it really does tend to pour. Usually, as soon as I cut one branch off some thorny issue, another entire bush grows in it's place. That stiff upper lip hurts when you hold it for too long, and the self-pity party group at least puts you in some sort of company, especially when you begin to feel like you are going through a lot of this alone. A lifetime of dealing with migraines has taught me that while bottling my feelings of sadness, anger and occasional helplessness might look cool on the outside, I was paying a helluva price for it, health-wise, on the inside. Giving myself permission to feel whatever it was I was feeling, with the caveat that I had to be prepared to put everything in perspective, and sort through what could be done, versus those issues I couldn't do anything about, saved my sanity more often than I care to admit.
I have never met anyone, in my entire life, that was not afraid of being hurt, be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, or in any other way. I am no exception to this phenomenon of guarding certain parts of myself from those who might see my vulnerabilities as an opportunity to inflict damage for their own amusement, or the entertainment of others. As someone who strives to live as authentically as possible, I have to live with the knowledge that there are people in this world that are only too happy to abuse anybody they consider fair game, and as such it is best to hone at least a minimal level of discernment. The enduring lessons of a culture that devalues minority women, especially those with obviously ethnic features, has ensured that there are multiple generations of minority women that treat every interaction in life as a direct threat, viewing all through the lens of their emotional guard, always ready to protect the most delicate parts of themselves. They will survive in this life, most of us will, but if you dig down deep enough, you will realize that most of them never really get a chance to live.
Mostly, I strive to be happy. To have that sort of internal peace that helps me realize that I've done what I can, weathered whatever storms came up, and am okay with how things are now, even if they are not perfect, or even particularly good. That is how I define Real Happiness. I know there are those who would focus on financial freedom as an indicator of happiness, and I don't deny that taking away money worries would free up a great deal of mental and emotional space for spiritual development, but, the steps mentioned here are all free. Getting one's head right, as it were, can be done no matter what stage of life you're in, your financial status, or your current circumstances. Well worth doing, I think, no matter who you are.
As I look at the plain white sheet of paper currently hanging over my desk, re-typed in the only version of the quote I could find, I am reminded of my ongoing goal. Being present. Living kindly, gently, and well. And striving for real happiness.