Life is weird. Full of dichotomy. Full of change.
How to cope?
Well, flexibility is key, methinks. Flexibility and… (wait for it)… focus on the present moment. I know from experience and from practically all the “good books” that receiving the present moment with an open heart is the path to freedom, and yet…
Me. Unloading the dishwasher. Trying to figure out how to be more Zen/compassionate/less “me” in a tender situation in my birth family. Trying out all kinds of different approaches, possible conversations, strategies of containment.
Until I realize that the imaginary conversation in my head *is* the problem. That conversation is fully and completely past and future exclusive. It’s the churn. I am prolonging the difficulty AND my experience of it because of this tendency.
Unloading the dishwasher with my full attention is a better idea. Noticing the shine (or, in the case of my dishwasher, often lack thereof) of the glasses, plates and silverware. Appreciating the time this device saved me, imperfect though it is. Recognizing the imperfection without feeling affronted by it.
This is a far better use of my time, my energy, my focus and my consciousness.
And yet I catch myself in these loops dozens of times per day. Worse yet, I try to validate my imaginary conversations. I can say with some certainty that there is a time and place for contemplation and ‘processing of emotions’ but it is not in the mental chatter stream that seems hell-bent on fixing things, assigning culpability and developing strategies. When I take my struggles into a preliminary meditation, or onto the page of a journal, or into a conversation with a trusted friend, progress ensues. This solo mind-trip is just causing trouble.
Today, that struggle comes from realizing how wrong I am about something, but most days it’s about how right I am. Funny thing is, both feelings suck. And so now the objective becomes working to undo this habit of classifying.
One of my favorite stories is that of a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away.
“Oh! So unlucky!” his friends and neighbors cried.
“Maybe,” replied the farmer.
A few days later, the horse came back, trailing a few wild mares behind it.
“Wow! So lucky!” his friends and neighbors believed this time.
“Maybe,” was the farmer’s response.
While attempting to train the horse, his son broke his leg. “So unlucky!” chorused the peanut gallery. “Maybe,” replies the farmer.
Next day, army conscription shows up to gather the able-bodied young men for an upcoming battle. The farmer’s son’s injury disqualified him. “So lucky!” from the friends and neighbors. “Maybe” from the farmer.
While I am grateful there are a few exceptions in my life, there are huge, broad swaths of my life where I am that “every moment jumping to conclusions” peanut gallery.
I’m going to become the farmer.