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15 February 2024

Learning to Smile Again

Esmeralda Aguirre

Stressed and Tired - All the time!

The field of education is a stressful one. I had been a teacher for a few years when I understood that I added stress to it all on my own. After a particularly busy Friday at work, I found myself at a gas station, just waiting for my husband to fill the tank in our car, when I noticed the gas station clerk changing a poster on a window. All I could think of was: “he didn’t clean the window, he didn’t measure it to make sure it would be centred, he just took one down, placed the new one up”; and that’s when I realised that I was stressed and that was fine…except that it wasn’t, because I was tired and miserable all the time.

Some years after that, I stopped teaching and became a coach for teachers; I just couldn’t teach anymore. I thought a change of jobs would help me, and it did for a few months. I was still the same me, a little stressed, tired and miserable. You couldn’t hold a conversation with me that didn’t include complaining about how tired and stressed I was. If you have a friend that complains all the time, that was me. Hi, nice to meet you. Stress was gettIng worse, and it was then that I found my new best friend: Xanax. Oh, I could sleep again! If I had a particularly stressful day ahead of me, Xanax was there to help me. However, I have to say the complaining and the tiredness never went away since I was still living just for work. It was important that I did an excellent job and that everyone saw that I did.

Hands holding a blue coffee cup with happy face to counter Blue Monday concept image

A wake up call to self-care

And then my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Needless to say, my view of the world was altered. Less time at work, and more time taking care of my mother and also taking care of myself. I started working out and eating healthier. I needed to be healthy to be able to take care of my mother through her chemo and for the tougher times that were coming. She passed away only 4 months after her diagnosis.

A few months later I got a promotion at work and all the self-care was gone. But this time was different; I realised that I couldn’t spend all my energy and time at work, ignoring all the important people and aspects of my life. I quit my job and started looking for a way to be happy again.

Why is it so hard for us to believe that we deserve to be happy? Or why is it that we look for happiness in the wrong places? I guess that we don’t have a clear picture of what happiness is. When I was tired, I always thought “I deserve an extra cup of coffee” and “I have done such a great job that I deserve an extra piece of chocolate cake”. What we all truly deserve is to find what nourishes us (body, mind, and soul). But we keep telling ourselves that coffee, chocolate, and expensive things are the answer.

Finding peace amidst the birdsong

In March 2020 I found a lifeline at Kadampa Meditation Center Dallas. I went to a meditation class and found peace for a few minutes! Even with all the birds singing (the Center is next to The Dallas World Aquarium which contains all kinds of fauna. You can hear the birds in the meditation room, so they become part of the meditations). I hadn’t felt peace in so long! Even my body felt like it had just had a massage. As I was walking to my car after that first class, one of my closest friends called me. He asked what I was doing, and when I told him he laughed. He is not a mean person, he actually thought I was joking. He then asked me “Why?” My answer was “I just want to be happy” and that was that. I decided to go back, and the lockdown happened. Online classes started, allowing me to take part in most of them.

Dallas meditators

Happiness through helping others

After a few months, I noticed that reading Dharma books before going to bed made for a great night's sleep, so I said goodbye to my friend Xanax. I started to have actual conversations with people that did not include complaining. I smiled again and most importantly I was able to find peace and happiness more often than not because life being imperfect is ok and learning is a long road that I look forward to travelling. Since then, we have moved states in order to be closer to family and work is something I do, not who I am. Of course I still get a little stressed sometimes but I now try to meditate every day. I am part of the Foundation Program with amazing teachers and friends, and I guide a meditation class once a month at KMC Arizona, Tuscon. Life is so different and much better when you realise that you are not the only person that matters, that we are all looking for happiness and that helping others is the path to your own fulfilment.

Esmeralda Aguirre

Esmeralda attends KMC Arizona

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Share Your Dharma Journey

If you have a personal story about the positive impact of Dharma in your life and would like to share it with the community, please feel free to reach out to us. You can submit your story by emailing it to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing your inspiring journey with others.