“Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints–
all that glorious, temporary stuff.”
– Mary Oliver (ON MEDITATING, SORT OF)
Hello world. I hope Sunday is treating you well. The weekend is coming to an end, and I find myself in an aligned place. As we all know, everything is an illusion, including me and you so who knows how long this harmony is going to last. Thinking of transiency, I am reminded of a quote I heard this week: “Happiness is a sensation.” I believe the quote originated from the writer Fran Lebowitz. At first, I was not sure what to make of this claim. To me, happiness is a condition but then I wonder if I have been conditioned to think that way. Conditioned by upbringing or society, I suppose. But assume for a moment that happiness is a sensation, which in many ways it truly is, then just like being cold or hot or pain or tingling, we would expect the feeling of joy to be temporary. There will be no added disappointment when we no longer feel “happy”. This to me was quite a revolutionary concept. Haven’t I always let the feeling of disappointment creep in whenever I feel my temporary state of being happy disappeared? “We used to be so happy,” “Whatever happened to that feeling of being euphorically in love?” “Those are the good old days.” All the lamenting we do when we realize our transient pleasurable moments are gone would not pop in our minds. Being happy is a sensation and therefore, it will not last, just like any sensory stimulus we are subjected to.
This leads to another thought today. Framing. How we frame and re-frame our thoughts and perception alter our interpretation of the world and our lives as we try to make sense of things by telling stories. I do this quite often, i.e., story-telling which feels true but not the truth. And that gets me into trouble with a lot of my relationships and friendships as well as stirring up troubling thoughts.
Then I discovered this tool: Asking a better question to self.
First I state this as a fact: “There are far bigger and more interesting issues/questions/themes to explore or to solve than this particular vexing issue that is keeping me up at night.” The minute I state this to myself, the whole universe full of colors open up to me. The sun is brighter, the sky bluer, the birds sing choruses, flowers bare their marvelous bodies to the wind. I can immediately think of 1,2,3,4, many numerous things that I rather be doing, pondering, tackling, tinkering, solving or learning than the little tiny stress-evoking thoughts that I have been unable to let go.
Like for examples, “Are my children safe?” “Are they doing well?” “Was the boss unhappy with me?” “Was the email I just read implying something nasty about me?” or “OMG I can’t believe I wrote that email”, “Are they going take me for a fool?” or classic “Holy crap, there is a huge typo or grammatical error in the email/blog post I just sent/published.”
All of these trivial issues that linger on my mind, which usually amount to nothing, (because ultimately, no one, including myself, really truly cares) will instantly become uninteresting the minute I say to myself, “I know for a fact there are much more interesting things to solve or learn or do in the world than worrying about X,Y,Z. What would I rather be solving, creating, doing if I am not obsessing over this?”
I am much happier, calmer, centered, aligned when I zoom out my lens and find the real problems I can solve. Or at the very least, reframing help me get into more engaging liberating hobbies such as writing poetry; I can ponder about one word all day long and won’t get me down. Heck, there is legitimacy in analyzing words which seems almost silly in other fields but necessary in this craft. I couldn’t agree more with Oscar Wilde who said, I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. Similar scenario in visualizing data– I can spend two hours debating on which graph tells the story better and no one would call me crazy.
So you see, by asking myself this question my overly analytic mind is finally finding real issues that beg/need to be analyzed instead of keeping me small in a self-made cell. For once, I don’t feel a bit defensive, when someone says to me “You’re overthinking this.”