The Power of Subtraction

In our society, people are often obsessed with what they want to gain in life. Gaining power, gaining money, acquiring status and wealth and possessions. But what people often fail to see is that the seemingly simple arithmetic concept of addition may be where they are missing the boat. Subtraction needs its props, too.

I never really thought of this much until the last four years. As I went through the pains of divorce, recognizing that most of the pain I was experiencing was self-induced only made the pain that much worse. Pain of the realization I made a wrong choice to begin with, then failed to listen to myself and my body as it violently protested to my choice, then failed to keep the commitment I made to the wrong choice. A series of bad choices and failures, and voila! I had lost everything I never wanted to begin with but didn’t quite know how to live without.

But as the gaping wounds of shame, loneliness and guilt began to heal, I came upon a stunning revelation. By subtracting something from my life, I actually gained. I gained true happiness and bliss for the first time. I gained passion and peace and serenity and self-assuredness. I gained recognition that indeed, I can be enough if that is how it needs to be. And I gained a comfort that I now know myself well enough to avoid repeating my mistakes. Next time, at the very least, I knew that I would listen to me.

The very definition of subtraction is that you are removing a part from the whole. But this implies that the “whole” was verifiably true and understood at the outset. Perhaps, as human beings, we fail to recognize that in order to be whole, we have to have some pieces missing in the first place. The pieces that will magnetize us to the others who can gently and lovingly fill those voids for us, thus creating a bond that is sanctified by the cosmos. Maybe, just maybe, the quest is not to keep adding to our lives in an effort to make ourselves whole, but rather it is to subtract from our lives until we can really see and focus upon our purest selves. Perhaps then, and only then, are we ready for all that awaits us and all that we are meant to be.

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