There’s little worse you can tell an anxious person than “calm down,” or a depressed person to “cheer up” or “get over it.” These directive directions are simplistic – oversimple if you will. As though that basic thought hadn’t occurred to the one experiencing the emotion. Directions don’t help!
When we do experience situational anxiety or situational depression though, a good question to ask ourselves is, “Does how I feel right now actually help me or my ego?” Are we looking to stay with a feeling because it validates our behavior? Are we looking to stay with a feeling because it’s become a cozy blanket to us? Perhaps a shield?
If we are looking to help ourselves navigate a situation that stirs up some anxiousness, frustration, anger, sadness, rage, or fear, the situation my be outside of our control, so instead of asking ourselves to relax, calm down, get over it, or cheer up, maybe the question we should ask ourselves in these moments is, “Does this help?” Is our emotional reaction going to change an event that already happened?
The best direction is through. If we attempt to go up or down as a means of getting through, we are only adding obstacles to a past event we cannot change. Knowing better doesn’t mean much if we don’t do better as a result.
“Be” is one of those words when standing alone just seems awkward, as though it must be misspelled. It seems to need words to either precede or follow it in order for it to become normal. Let it be. Be careful! Or, that it is an incomplete word: Be – Be what? Behave? Beware? Before? Beehive? Spit it out!
It serves as a good analogy though for what we often feel about what it means to simply be. It’s not enough. There needs to be more. It’s incomplete. It’s not important enough to not be accompanied by something else to make the task more complicated. We’re all too busy to make time to just be. Even when we relax, it’s often while watching TV, listening to music, talking a walk, reading a book, drinking coffee, having an adult beverage, doing a Sudoku, or walking the dog. We have learned to reject the act of being because we are too wrapped up in appearances and how we are perceived. Who has time to just sit there and exist? It’s too simple a task, therefore, it cannot be important.
However, this perception is fear based. For it is far more complicated than we think to take a moment to just be. To turn off our thoughts and just exist in the moment. As Eckhart Tolle suggests, thoughts are the most addictive things we humans know. Try going ten seconds without a fix of thought. We avoid being because it’s too hard; not because it’s too easy. That’s the lie we tell ourselves to stay in the comfort of the busy trap. We fear what we don’t know, and what we don’t know is how to unapologetically give ourselves time to just be. To appreciate stillness so that we may have more appreciation and perspective about the chaos that surrounds us. We always have the choice to go there, and for most of us, it won’t be a long stay. It will be seconds at a time.
We can all learn to steal a few moments; simply pause to steal the breath of day. It’s an innocent theft.
Imagine you’re taking a Sunday stroll. You pass a ball field where there is a group of children playing football. A few blocks later you pass a house where two children are playing catch. Then, a few houses down you spot a child on the front lawn, alone tossing a ball in the air: both quarterback and receiver.
Our first impression here might be sympathy; feeling bad for the child with no one else to play with. We might want to stop and offer to play catch. This would give us the chance to feel good about ourselves while also helping a lonely child. And, it would in fact be a touching thing to witness. A genuine act of kindness.
Let’s now consider something beyond our usual perception. Of all the aforementioned scenarios, the child playing alone is the only example of ownership and accountability. The child as both quarterback and receiver has no one else to blame for dropping the ball. The child is solely responsible. If the child chooses to toss the ball only a few feet up, there’s safety in that choice. The likelihood of dropping the ball is low. Conversely, if the child repeatedly attempts Hail Mary passes across the yard, requiring the need to sprint and dive for the ball, the risk of failure is high, as is the risk of injury, and it’s physically exhausting. The child is in control of the difficulty. The child is in control of the pace. The child is in control of the risk. The child is in control of every choice. If motivated by boredom, a simple toss may amplify the boredom and loneliness. If motivated by the desire to improve in preparation for competition, the risks of sprinting and diving don’t outweigh the rewards of getting better. Who feels sympathy for those who strive to be better? Perhaps the child is alone in a league of one’s own.
Entitlement is defined as “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” It’s a word that gets tossed around quite a bit these days.
Exempt is defined as “being free from an obligation or liability imposed on others.”
Perhaps some people may feel deserving of special treatment due to perceived status, and that their entitlement excuses them from being exposed to things they deem beneath their worth.
Here’s the rub: No one is exempt from flux. No one is entitled enough to control the ebb and flow of life.
Here’s a prediction: If the previous statement got one’s hackles up, chances are one’s self-opinion is currently greater than one’s self-awareness.
The only reason it may be easy to find worth in everything you have is because you don’t know the value of giving a damn. The purpose of self-care is feeling well enough to take care of others – not feeling better by only taking care of yourself.
Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” has a beautiful lyric: “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?” There’s powerful lesson in these poetic words. How often do we strive for the spotlight, whilst failing to look at the conditions surrounding such success?
Consider what it means to be a “Rock Star.” Perhaps what I’m about to say may seem like a dated notion compared to the current music trends embedded in pop culture, and I accept that criticism. And to qualify what I mean by “Rock Star,” I mean our stereotypical perception of being famous. For those of us that attend concerts, we see glamour of an adoring crowd and see the glory of the limelight through the eyes of a spectator. From a distance, it seems like the greatest job in the world. Who doesn’t want a job where they get to do what they love, be idolized for it, get catered to everywhere you go, and get paid millions of dollars? Well, if that is one’s perception of what it means to be in a touring professional band, the perception may be skewed. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but here’s the reality for the majority (and I admittedly am overlooking a great deal more and I apologize in advance).
A band works tirelessly writing songs together • then they enter the studio to record their vision • then they rehearse tirelessly to put together a great performance that will hopefully please old fans and new fans alike • then they go on a press tour to promote the record • then they go on tour and are on buses (tour bus bunks on even the swankiest of tour buses are glorified coffins and the reality for most bands today is still a van with a trailer) and planes (typically flying coach and not on private jets or even in first class) for months on end • living out of hotel rooms (budget hotels mostly) • travelling the world, but rarely having the time to take in the sights • doing press junkets in each city answering the same questions over and over being professionally-minded enough to act as though they’ve never heard those questions before • being away from friends and family • eating a large majority of “meals” at truck stops • not sleeping well • getting sick often • wearing the same clothes often. All of this for the love of being on stage and performing for 45-minutes to an 1.5 hours a night, a few months out of every other year or so.
It’s suddenly not so glamorous, and for these musicians, it is the best job in the world. They will gladly exchange all the mundane and uncomfortable aspects of this nomadic lifestyle for their love of performing their music with no guarantee of being loved in return. It’s not all sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It’s work! And if on the surface a band seems to be living the dream in luxury, the record labels are billing them for all of it. They are typically neither gifts nor acts of generosity and appreciation.
Long-winded perhaps, but the point is that perception affords the luxury of imagination. Reality lacks imagination! It’s an austere slap in the face. When we consider our daily lives, of course embellishments of our own realities or perceptions of the realities we wish for miss the mark. It’s better to choose to be a star in whatever life you have than wish upon any star. For when we wish, we only wish for the time on stage; we don’t wish for all the work that comes with getting us there.
Desire is defined as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Needless is defined as being unnecessary or avoidable. When we desire, we often overlook what we actually need. We get caught up and driven by a motivation for something more, usually for the sake of material or egoic acquisition.
Rare is the desire to need less. But what could be more unnecessary than the want of things beyond our control? True power comes from self-control. When everyone else is caught up in getting more, the person who has the most is not the one that gets the most, but the one that needs the least. They are the least burdened by desire and therefore the most powerful.
When power is perceived as one’s external control over others and/or over things other than oneself, in how more fragile a state can one actually be?
Here’s a challenge. For one week, keep a log of all your daily events and interactions from the time you wake up until you fall sleep. Label these experiences as either Positive, Negative, or Neutral. At the end of each day, tally them up. Then, at the end of the week, do a grand total.
What does the data show?
Does the data change how you felt throughout the week?
Does the data change how you currently feel upon reflection?
Does the data predict how next week will be?
Does the data predict how you will be next week?
Does the data change your perspective about how you will respond the events of the following week?
Does optimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?
Does pessimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?
Does neutrality help what has happened, what is happening or what will be?