I have realized that the things I can’t do are usually wants. They aren’t needs. Today, the rest of the foreign teachers are going up to some holy place—there are lots of them. I wasn’t going, so I didn’t pay attention to the name. Anyway, it would have been nice to go.

But yesterday was a really full day. Life in this kind of setting proceeds at a pace I can’t keep up with. I can’t keep up when I don’t eat alone, I don’t sleep alone. I can’t settle into that space of feeling very safe and relaxed maybe really at all, and meanwhile everything I do gives me more to think about. So I need some downtime. The downtime is not a want. I won’t be able to manage without. Life will appear to go on, but I will become less and less able to keep myself integrated and connected, which comes down to experiencing life in a depleted, blank kind of way.

Life is good if you have a rich internal landscape and if you are connected to others. If you can engage with life, then life is interesting and you feel, if not happy, at least curious about the whole business of it.

You need that.

You don’t need to get out and do things. You don’t need to meet new people or have new experiences. You might want those things-I wanted to do something today too.

I think some of this process has been realizing this. I don’t get everything I want. Well, okay. Who does? And then my needs are different than average. What allows me to be engaged and connected is not what might make someone else able to do that. It is, in fact, probably radically different. Everybody is different but I am more different than average. And I need a lot of time to process what has already happened—not more stuff to process. There is already enough.

It’s been interesting to me that, at school, VP Ma’am has kept saying how happy and healthy I look. It’s usually following a 2-hour crying jag at home. But taking the time to process does, actually, make it easier for me to be present in the world and connected to myself and others for at least part of the day before something overwhelms me and I start shutting down again.

When I just did all the stuff I wanted, I wasn’t happy. I do stuff now I don’t want to do—I don’t want to spend hours a day meditating on murder and trauma and horror. But I am happier doing that, because my needs are met. The result is a richer internal emotional landscape. It’s the internal landscape that is the difference between happiness and discontent.

Not whether I hike up to a monastery or not. Not how many people I talk to in a day. Not even whether I do hobbies I enjoy. Whatever gets you to a place of having that rich internal landscape is what you need. Everything else is a want.