Prestidigitation – sleight of hand. When performed well, our most rational and logical minds are beyond amazed. We know it’s deception, but we don’t know how. Not knowing how is what makes it magic. It seems impossible.
In life, when things are going well, it’s easy to maintain a good mood. There’s no real deception needed, since our demeanor is merely a reflection of what’s happening in our lives. This is not where one’s true character is revealed. What sometime feels impossible in life is being able to show up and be present when our lives are in throes of conflict and struggle. This is where one’s true character is revealed. The people we tend to admire most are the ones that remain steadfast regardless of whether situational life has them up or down. Their emotions are not tied to these events. Events do not determine their demeanor; their choices do. This is not deception – this is character. They are wizards!
We know this because we all know what it looks like when people try, and fail, to put up a facade to mask turmoil. It’s a poorly executed magic trick, where nobody is fooled except for the magician that believes they fooled the audience. This is self-deception. It’s akin to a 5-year old getting a magic set and clumsily performing a simply trick for family members. Proper etiquette dictates that you don’t call bullshit on a 5-year doing a magic trick. We pretend to be mystified.
The dilemma here is twofold. First, we must actively work to not let everything going on around us determine how we show up. Our will must be stronger than the breeze at its worst and able to withstand gale force winds at its best. Secondly, we help others through displays of compassion and empathy. True displays or compassion and empathy do not involve letting people off the hook. Nobody wins when we knowingly allow ourselves to be deceived by someone else’s poor sleight of hand. The prestige of life is a resolute pursuit of truth.
Easy offers up a sigh of relief when something doesn’t meet our expectations in a positive way. On occasion, it’s welcomed with opened arms. However, if easy is the expectation, that begs the question, “what does easy do for me?” Not much, as easy doesn’t help you grow.
Look to nature for examples of this axiom. Take two patches of dirt. In one, you sprinkle grass seed, and then leave it unattended with the expectation that nature will simply do its thing. In the other, you till the soil, plant the seeds, add fertilizer and water it each day, being mindful not to under water or over water. You still have the expectation that nature will do its thing, but this expectation is supported by fact that you put the effort to help influence the results. In two week’s time, what are the results?
The results may seem obvious, however, what’s commonly overlooked is the simple lesson that in order for anything to grow to its fullest potential, it had to literally go through shit to get there. Effort is the fertilizer of life.
Furthermore, if during that two-week period there are unexpected non-stop torrential rains, there’s a good chance that both plots will be ruined. But, that’s beyond your control, as nature always is. You can still rest assured that your efforts, although wasted in this case, were still the right approach to getting the results you desired. When life shits on you, it’s easy to seek sympathy. But, easy doesn’t. So instead, when life shits on you, consider for a moment what it’s fertilizing?
If you’ve never juggled before, giving it a go for the first time whilst using chainsaws bodes ill. In cases like this, doing something just once is enough to give you the empirical evidence to know better. In life, more often that not, doing something more than once is what affords us the perspective to test and retest hypotheses that follow experiences. We are able to make comparisons that help inform future situations that in some way mirror the things we’ve done before.
But what if you’re stuck with once? With only one experience and nothing else to compare it to from your own life. Where do you go from there? It’s typical to look to the experience of others in order to draw comparisons. However, it’s impossible to accurately assess how you would actually experience the situation. The reason is because it’s not just one variable that informs experience. It’s all your unique prior experiences that shape how you experience something new. We can benefit from emotional intelligence and empathetic understanding, but we are often still at the mercy of our own feelings…even when we know better. We know that feeling bad about an outcome, won’t at all change the outcome. We know that we are in control of our choices, even when we feel stuck. Not even in an actual prison can someone be imprisoned if we are controlled by our reason choice. This is a stoic view. This view holds truth. We can accept this truth and yet still struggle to get past our own emotional walls. Walls of our own construction. Walls that are fortified with barbed wire from painful experiences past that we fool ourselves into believing are built for own protection, to protect us from external harm, when, like prisons, they are designed to keep us in.
Once. Once provides us with enough rope to scale any wall of our own design. Once provides us with enough rope to pull ourselves up from the lowest depths, because it’s impossible to fall any deeper into anything than what we already know.
How do you know if the feeling love is redefined over time, or if you come to accept the reality of what love is? Is true love getting over the ideas and expectations you’ve had of love, and still loving what’s left? What is it to know that you are still in love versus the idea of being in love?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’re numb to feeling joy, or if joy is something that is simply a rarity to feel during adulthood, as the innocence of youth gets increasingly out of focus in our rear view mirrors. As Brené Brown suggests, we cannot selectively numb emotions. That was said in regards to medicating, or using destructive behaviors as a numbing agent. Is suppression what we call depression when we selectively prevent certain feelings from surfacing, opposed to feeling deflated by the allowance of their surfacing and feeling too weak to deal with them?
These existential questions arise reactionary. They are tough questions because they are rooted in shame, doubt and/or guilt. However, they are important questions to challenge yourself with. For if you can answer them with positive certainty, you may discover or perhaps uncover a truth about being in love. If you can answer only with uncertainty, or find yourself down the path of philosophy in only asking questions opposed to the scientific path to seeking answers: You are not in love – You are in convenience. Being in convenience is the ultimate inconvenience.
We’ve all been told not the judge books by their covers. We know this, but we often don’t live this. We get tempted by clever marketing, we get fooled by silver tongues, we ignore internal hideousness because of our physical attraction to external beauty, we convince ourselves that the substance of something is to equal to or greater than the quality of the packaging.
Our senses betray us daily. They are barriers to seeing beyond the surface of an experience to justify the beliefs we hold based on experiences we’ve had. However, it’s far easier to live this way. It’s easier to accept a first impression and fill the gaps with assumptions based on past experiences. Deep down, we know this is an avoidance tactic. We know this prevents us from making deeper connections. Yet, we also know that connection is a basic human need.
We spend our lives trying to please and impress others, believing that this is a form of connection. “These ‘others’ either like me because of what I do for them, or are envious of me because I have what they don’t.” If we live by this idea, we may end up taking up a lot of surface area, however, we’re as deep as a puddle. Who wants to be a puddle? There’s no future for puddles. Shallow and always at high risk: High risk of having our supposed value evaporate, high risk of sitting stagnant, high risk of someone/something splashing about and displacing us. The risk is high because there’s no depth.
Wells have it right. Live to be a well. Depth is a source for wellness.
Euphobia is the fear of good news. There really is a word for everything! I remember learning the word defenestration in college – the act of throwing someone or something out of a window – and thinking, “At what point in history were so many people or things being tossed out of windows that it was decided this action required its own word?!” But I digress. Euphobia may seem like a ridiculous notion, however, it’s probably one of the more rational of our irrational thoughts. How often does our shame prevent us from enjoying the good things in life that come our way? Why is it often so hard to simply embrace a streak of positive events without also quietly (or not so quietly) acknowledging how we’re waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under us? Is that a desire for balance or simply self-sabotage? Is it possible to bask in the present goodness of life without it coming across as entitlement, as though it’s deserved due to our mere awesomeness? This is a struggle for most – to remain so present that we become the embodiment of confidence and humility converged. To actively practice the art of appreciation and gratitude for all we have, without feeling as though it will come at the expense of a future tragedy, is the heart of the constant state of getting there.
Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same goes for the actions of life and our emotional reactions to these situations. Our initial reactions are likely the ones with which we’re most comfortable or familiar. Why? Because they are the easiest reactions, and after enough experiences, they are also predictable. What if, we took a pause in these scenarios to consider what the equal and opposite reaction would be? Even if that equal and opposite reaction doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response given the circumstance, perhaps it succeeds in creating a little bit of space between you and the emotion being felt so intensely. Perhaps neither extreme, the intensity of your initial reaction and the consideration of its equal and opposite, would be a rational response. Perhaps somewhere in the grey, where the vast majority of our rational emotional real estate resides, is the appropriate response. How many interactions on a given day could benefit from this small consideration? If only we pause to steal a breath.