Saturday, November 12, 2011

Autumn Blur

It makes me sad to realize that more and more often joy leaks out of my eyes leaving hollow space. Over-worked, ever-busy woman that needs to squeeze an unimaginable amount of to-do volume into each given week to feel good about herself. I am afraid to seize the regular flapping motion because then I am in the power of a stream. By checking things off my list, I can maintain the illusion that it's me who is in control.

But being busy can be such a bliss, it helps you ignore the screaming gaps in your happiness. Occasionally these moments of realization and acknowledgment hit me hard as if knocking all breath out of my lungs. Some things are so pathetic you want to laugh out loud if only it was not you they were happening to. The same wall I always hit because somehow I always manage to forget it's there. And I have to turn around and go back to being humble. Because if nothing has changed in that many years maybe the wall is my life-long "award".

It's green light elsewhere, but for some reason this particular road is closed to me. There are endless opportunities to explore in numerous other directions, yet deep power, painful longing brings me back to the same spot, every time with various amounts of hope.

Have I done enough? Have I earned the right to cross over? Will the light ever turn to green for me?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random


There are thin invisible layers in our life. Living within. Reading signs. Interpreting coincidences. Knowing without proper understanding how you know…


I tend to overwhelm myself with these mysterious elusive layers, incorporating them into my daily reality as very legitimate components. Thinking thoughts I should not be thinking, persuading myself that as long as they are just thoughts, which would never leave the premises of my head, no harm is done to anyone. But do those secret thoughts really stay secret? You lose control over yourself for half a second and they come streaming out of your eyes, or as this big warmth radiating from your whole body.


If I put a restraint on myself I feel dead. A dried-up well. If I cut myself loose, I do lots of damage. I promise slip-ups won’t happen again. Yet they do. Because most of it is unintentional. Or sub-conscious, which is the same thing.


As I manage to get a tight grip on my way of thinking and acting, as I correct my ways to being 100% proper, I suddenly feel the attack of such an immense feeling of boredom that for a moment I fear I will never be able to breathe. So I let myself have these little moments of excitement, this genuine joy that I disguise as something situation-appropriate. I indulge in just the right portion of inappropriate thinking, like a former chain-smoker indulging in one cigarette at the end of the day. The hard part is to maintain the smallness, to contain it before it grows out of proportion. When it concerns other people, their thoughts and actions count too. So as long as you can tell yourself I wasn’t the one to cross this line first…


Living with this load of reality, desires, principles and random acts that don’t match, don’t exist in the same plateau, is like trying to make a picture using pieces from different puzzles. There will always be parts that don’t belong here, that disrupt your perception of a picture, that capture all your attention by the way they stand out.


I mostly know what doing the right thing is, but how about feeling the right thing? What are the rules there? Do we even have control of how we feel? Because if not, then the guilt is not justified and can be “set free” as an atavism. I’m just tired of censoring my feelings, the way I am just because it’s in conflict with my lifetime principles. I want to feel what I feel. And sometimes I want to act upon it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I Couldn't See


It surprises me to snap out of my acceptance when I least expect it. And I’ve been accepting a lot lately. So be it, it is what it is, these are the cards I’ve been dealt. And then out of the blue comes the crushing thought – I can no longer put up with it. Acceptance provides comfort but also drugs you into oblivion: there was something I aspired for, some kind of aim and purpose; if only I could shake up my mind, dust if off, I would certainly recall what the ultimate purpose was. I’m afraid to forget. I let circumstances shape me into something I wouldn’t expect I would turn to. I should be able to rise above and stay true to myself. Evolve – yes, but not dissolve into this nebula of human activity.

I begin to realize that every post here is a shout-out to my true self, like when you rummage in the dark looking for something and feel so much relief when your hand finally reaches for it, so you know it’s still there, waiting to be pulled back to light. Why do I complain every day? You can either change the circumstances that fail to satisfy you or do the best of your current situation. It’s important to stay up-beat no matter how forced it is. Else you will lose yourself to the grudge virus and nothing will ever be good enough. But I forget to program myself, do the mental work that is required to stay happy and keep your face: I slip into the trench of grumpiness and judgment. I have my high standards and everyone who fails to live up to them deserves my harsh criticism. And I, myself, often fall into this category of unworthy.


So I forget, I accept this side of me and even let it take the dominating place and dictate the rules. I follow my immediate impulse: it’s always easy to go with the stream, isn’t it? If I feel like complaining, I will not deprive myself of the pleasure. Moody, grumpy, somewhat arrogant. I even started cursing again, which was so against my principles not so long ago. Who is this person? Why do I want to stick with it? Because I’ve been too busy lately to read any inspirational stuff to fuel me and send me moving in the right direction? I’ve been restless and I thought I knew the source of this restlessness, but I was wrong. Being busy fills up your life but often shuts down your mindfulness. That’s when you accept, forget and move blindly until you realize that you’re lost.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why is Stupidity so Hard to Bear?


No mind, however loving, could bear to see plainly into all the recess of another mind. - Thomas A. Benett


Thank god for smart people. Even though I haven’t dealt with any for a while, for what seems like a really long time. I’ve been surrounded by or bumped into rare idiots that by now not as much as annoy but rather amuse me with their level of stupidity. It’s bad to be judgmental and we should all practice forgiveness, be lenient on others weaknesses and shortcomings. But stupidity in high concentration can throw anyone off balance especially since in most cases it tags arrogance along. If you deal with people who lack brain power you cannot remain calm, or play along, or descend to their level – the annoyance in you will keep building up till it explodes. No amount of training can prepare you enough to deal with stupidity. It will always take you off guard and bring the most impulsive negative reaction.


You can try to shut them out, ignore them entirely, turn them into your enemy so that hostility is always present to protect you from direct involvement. But those stupid comments will find a way to sneak to your head and get stuck there because you’ll keep coming back to the place they hit, as if hypnotized by the mere fact such non-sense is possible.


I look at my life in disbelief – where are you, smart people, why all of a sudden you evade me? What have I done to scare away Lady Wisdom and attract the under-thinking rabble? Why am I being forced to fence off their “genius” ideas before they contaminated my already-deteriorating mindset and turned me into an equally arrogant fool? Maybe it’s time to hear some smart people talk – to restore resilience and fight the stupidity virus off.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Deep Waters

Day-to-day activities. Small whirlpools that keep spinning fast yet barely leave any traces behind. Once the water dries - it’s like the spot was never wet. But we often let ourselves get caught up in these daily routines, award them more meaning than they are or deserve. We forget what’s important, pushing it back in our consciousness, confident that the day will come when things will slow down and we’ll have time to ponder. But on slow days we feel uncomfortable without the addictive routine to fill up space and time. When all this postponed thinking comes crashing – we panic. Too much to process, life that is too big to comprehend. It’s easier to shut the mind and keep all the noise out. Small life, small deeds, small thoughts…


Some days I succumb to the comfort of non-thinking, give myself completely to the busyness of the modern world. I push my limits and find myself on new levels: I think I evolve by letting the ever-evolving stream of life suck me in and push me forward. But there’s THE meaning that is above it all, the eternal truth that has nothing to do with where I am today or where I will be tomorrow. I always find it when I make an effort to stop. Because it’s always there, right in front of us, readily available whenever we cease playing games and drop all pretense.


It’s usually the big events that bring us back to truth: we unlearn to ignore it and open our eyes to see it, to face it. But once the emotions calm down, the catharsis is over, - we avoid the “eye-contact” again. We look but don’t really see, think but make no conclusions. I remind myself to pause and reconnect with my true inner-self, then I forget my own reminders and stay in shallow waters for months, avoiding depth. I forget that I can look with dignity, proceed with determination and speak with honesty and meaning: I forget to be myself...all the way...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Choice or Feeling?

Does non-stop moving take you away from sad thoughts or yourself? Does chasing goals fill your life with meaning or simply helps days end faster? Is anything real because it’s meant to be or do you make up your own reality? The answer is always BOTH. There isn’t one thing in life that is absolute, it’s a unity of the opposite poles – hence, never-ending fight of what should be mutually-exclusive ideas; ever-present paradox. You just need to lean towards one pole more than the other, yet keeping both in mind as possible. It’s like choosing to be good yet acknowledging that there will always be room for mistakes.

Can your true personality be tested by an impulse? When a neighbor’s girl came to our house bleeding because she cut herself badly on the glass, my husband mumbled “why don’t you call 911” and I screamed “let’s go, we are taking you to the hospital”. Does that make him bad (well, he was extremely tired) and me good because I didn’t question my decision for a second? We spent three hours in the emergency room and my sister, upon hearing the story, said that maybe one day someone will help me too because I need it, this will compensate for all the inconvenience we went through. But that’s not how I was thinking! I wasn’t earning points maybe for once in my life. It did feel absolute. There are many decisions I make out of duty whereas emotionally I’m out of it: I force myself to be good and to care whereas my true self doesn’t give a damn. And it upsets me because I am a supporter of goodness. So it makes me feel relieved to care for real, as if I surprise myself with my own capabilities, with the grandness of my heart I didn’t know was there.


And what does really count? Being good because that’s the way to be or being genuinely good because your heart is in it? Or be honestly indifferent? Or cultivate goodness in the place of indifference and thus slowly push it out? Will the law of the transformation of quantity into quality apply here?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy, Passive, Lazy


I want to challenge myself but I’ve had too much long-sought comfort lately to rush and disrupt it. I cherish this comfort, I cherish sleeping through the night because no anxiety chases the sleep away. But I also feel like I’m getting too inert, too sleepy, too lazy…. This recent inactivity after a chain of my previous battles has slowly been turning from a getaway to a burden. You want to avoid any kind of extremes in life, even the positive ones, since they soften you up, turn your brain into a mushy jelly, opiate the acuteness of feeling.

I made it easier for myself to give up, to accept that “it is what it is”, to postpone making decisions till some indefinite future moment when “the opportunity presents itself”. I feel being dragged by days that come and go, only occasionally rebelling and briefly taking control back. But once I get really angry because my passiveness resulted in the undesirable deviation in the course of things, my determination and will resurface with long-forgotten strength. Then I begin fixing what went wrong, amazed by a number of options I failed to see or consider before.

This mind slumber is dangerous. Even once you snap yourself out of trance and successfully implement all your life-changing reforms, it’s painful to look back, to feel regret for time lost. Apparently staying alert takes effort: even if it means challenging yourself on a daily basis to achieve simple tasks that are not crucial for your well-being yet essential for self-discipline. Staying open-minded and flexible will help you notice sooner the dead-end ahead and promptly change direction.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Cure


Lately I’ve been obsessed with everything books. Goodreads.com has been my guilty pleasure and secret getaway for a few months now. I like to read books, and I like to read about what others like to read. I enjoy book reviews even for books I haven’t read; scanning through the “most popular” and “most read” lists, checking out upcoming book releases, admiring fancy book covers.

I read through my childhood simply because there was nothing else to fill up huge chunks of free time with. But as I was growing up, I read less, and less, and less… First it was the excessive demand of school and the need to keep up with my studies. Then more and more fun TV shows were emerging, leaving little time for books. Then came the era of adolescence, partying, relationships, networking…. Next came those first challenging years in New York. Then having my baby. I read throughout it sporadically but it was nothing like compulsive reading I did as a child, reading that transferred me to the dreamy non-existent but nonetheless so real world, that stretched far beyond the gate of the book cover.

About a year ago I decided to make a comeback to the book paradise, which was once my refuge. First I didn’t know what to read and was asking everyone for suggestions. Now my to-read list is so long yet I keep adding more titles. I once read about bibliotherapy – “prescribing” certain kind of books to depressed people to elevate their pain. And I’ve been practicing this “alternative medicine” method ever since, self-prescribing fantasy, adventure-books or melancholic prose, depending on what my emotional state was at the time. What I noticed was the more I read, the shorter the bouts of darker mood would get. The random attacks of depression, melancholy or loneliness would get less aggressive and easier to endure. I simply couldn’t entirely focus on my problems anymore – there were other worlds, and characters, and story development that demanded my attention as well.

Oh, and how books were helping me with work related stress! I would replay the details of a business meeting over and over in my head, till I felt that my brain is about to boil. Emerging into a book put an instant end to work-thinking thoughts, relaxing those memory spasms that force you to jump back and think what could have been done differently. Some people go to a bar after work because they need help loosening the grip of stress - books are my universal cure.

No matter how things turn around – there are always books. To keep me company, to help me progress in my way of thinking, to teach something new or simply entertain me. With books I explore what I took for granted and see that there are more layers to everything. And I get to linger, hide comfortably in those layers. As long as there are books, I know I can handle life and what it throws at me, because I can recharge in the blissful world of intricately interwoven words.

Inspired by "A World Without Books"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Things That Make Me Sad: MONDAYS!



It’s a horrible Monday and I am free-falling into abyss. So maybe I got up on the wrong side of bed, but bad news kept coming throughout the day. I cannot describe the sharpness of my urge to quit trying just for one day, stop pretending that I can handle it because I can’t , I’m barely hanging by a thread. It’s just a rough day and on days like this people should be allowed to go home and sleep through it. Anyway, no one but myself can grant me this kind of freedom (and I won’t do that because dealing with the consequences is a sure way to prolong the pain). I will keep hanging in there for the next few hours, hoping that tomorrow will truly be a fresh start.

But I would so much rather be here now:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Next Stop


Imagine standing still on a platform of a train station. Everything is in commotion – people rushing, trains arriving and departing, workers sweating. The atmosphere is tense and mindlessly exciting. But you are not part of this big movement, you stepped aside and let everything pass you by. You are observing the crowd, trying to wrap your mind around one question: what’s the rush? Where are you guys running? Can I run with you? There is a barely comprehensible need to be with these people, to follow the stream of heads and bodies, that movement full of purpose and determination.

So you focus hard in order to find your own focus and determination in your head, where you believe they should be stored. You manage to pull out a couple of lazy forced goals, which will do for the moment, and happily join the crowd. Now you are running along with everybody else, wearing a proper expression of preoccupation on your face. You’re nervously checking the time because you are running late. You get annoyed by someone stepping on your foot, or by an accidental elbow jolt. But you already caught on the rhythm of the race: your thinking process becomes more shallow, your goal a blur, but as long as you follow the crowd you’ll get there…

And then you see a person standing aside, pensively observing the crowd. And you feel slightly annoyed that someone is wasting time on idleness. You are proud to be a member of the purposefully running crowd. But you are also jealous because by now you are out of breath and there are still 2 days till you reach the next weekend, which is your scheduled stop. And that person, standing there on the platform, seems to be having a good time. Of course, he doesn’t have my responsibilities, you think angrily. I could enjoy that kind of leisure instead of the crazy run.

This is you, ever anxious to join the race of life, not to miss out, always to make it on time. And this is you, dying to get out of the crowd, to break free and enjoy a still moment, to see life for what it is in its entirety, not bits and pieces you spot when running. And even as you steal those moments of quiet, in no time you crave to be back in the race. This is the paradox, the idea of freedom that you’ll never reach, because you are living in two different dimensions, which can never merge, become one. And you will always want both.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something New


Occasionally I feel this acute longing for changes. Once you reach some kind of stability in life, it won’t be long before it starts burdening you with its sense of predictability and boredom. And you are surprised at your own thoughts of how much you want to escape this trouble-free life and go explore wilderness, or do something equally crazy. Then your favorite word becomes N-E-W, and you search for new anything to satisfy the craving of novelty that threatens to overturn your stable world. I guess it’s the impact of spring as well in a way it sharpens and fortifies your desires, and makes you look so far away and almost see something big there. Something is coming for you. New. Big.

These thoughts equally excite and scare me. Sometimes I fear that holding back too much will only result in a leap forward, some radical act to quiet the itching once and for all. I had my share of crazy acts in the past. But then I pulled back and did what they call settling down. And my life felt smaller. Comfortable and safe, but small, almost invisible.

So I decided to partner with the N-E-W in a different way and explore life from that perspective. I hear people saying all the time – if only I had a new job, a new house, a new spouse, a new (fill in the blank), my life would improve in an instant. I can’t be fooled by this utopic thinking. Because new becomes old pretty quickly, and how many Big New changes can you incur in a lifetime? It’s not like you can buy a new house every two months (and even that will become old pretty soon).
And I figured I should stick with a small N-E-W and hope to compensate its overall lack of bigness by quantity and diversity. I looked for small new things every day: a new book added to my to-read list, a new idea fished from someone’s blog that gave me food for thought, a new word that I stumbled upon and lookup up in thesaurus. I bought new curtains for my bedroom that fully block the sun and create this awesome, inexperienced before darkness every morning. I cut my hair. I wrote to people I didn’t write to before. I paired items of closing it didn’t occur to me to wear together before. I tried new kind of ice-cream.

And if I still long for some newness, I write a new blog post because it’s a sure way to create something new, something that never existed before. It guarantees enough satisfaction and sense of achievement, and it helps me get a healthy dose of novelty, without overdoing it, or getting overemotional. Every day can be a source of N-E-W, but rather than waiting for it to knock on your front door, go and get it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When My Soul Flew Away


When we were on vacation we saw a terrific circus performance. In fact there were so many precious moments during our one week getaway that it’s almost terrifying how quickly the memories are fading away and how desperately I want to hold on to them because our next vacation is at least a year away. Yet that circus show was THE grand impression that out-shadowed everything else. There was this athlete on a flying trapeze who was doing crazy stunts, and we, the crowd, forgot to breathe, but would exhale with every safe landing, and applaud, and hold our breath again 20 seconds later. He was flying under the open starlit sky, following the rhythm of a soft melody of Enya’s song.

I still listen to the song and every time I see him flying, and remember the moment and what I felt. It’s not like I was flying with him, but I wasn’t on the ground either, I was in a different dimension altogether. I felt so free, so myself, so connected to life and detached from it completely at the same time. It’s the effect that various forms of art have upon us at times – they help us escape life by transferring us to a new place, which feels like home, so escape is more like a return to where we belong.

It was the brightness of the stars above us, the rustle of the palm trees, the warmth of the breeze after a long winter, a sense of novelty that you always get on your first day of vacation in a new place, new country – all of these clicked and made the moment that was absolute in its perfection, the kind of moment you never want to end because you know this is it. The rare highlight of life when you are on cloud number 9. There are happy moments in daily life if you pay attention,they persuade you that life is good and make you feel grateful. Yet there are also crazy happy moments that grab your attention, and captivate you, shake you up emotionally and transform you spiritually. Those are the moments you store away, like treasure, out of oblivion's reach. And now that I put this memory in words, I immortalized it into a private harbor, where my mind can rest on days it loses perspective.



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy: Choco-love for Chocolove



I decided that my blog needs a shakeup. Even though initially I resolved not to stick to any strict standards/protocol when it comes to updating the blog – just follow my heart and do what feels right at the moment. Yet it should be fun to start a series of posts on things that make me happy and things that make me sad. And I got to begin with something sweet, as in literary sweet, hence I will declare my love for chocolate. I developed choc-obsession after having a baby – I was pretty much indifferent to chocolate before. Now I love how it smells, looks, tastes and never fails to lift my spirit. And when my coworker came in wearing a short in a vivid chocolaty color, I felt good just from staring at his back...

My favorite brand is Chocolove, it takes me to a new level of chocohappiness.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rush


I’m getting tired of having issues with Time. For some reason it got worse the past couple of weeks: I constantly feel like time is slipping through my fingers, turns into smoke and evaporates before I made good use of it. I used to be able to squeeze so much into each day with proper planning, but somehow the tactic has been failing me. Or I would feel that my days get overstuffed and there isn’t a single minute left to hibernate, process and shelve my thoughts to vacate space for newcomers.

I hope it’s some sharp turn that the Universe is taking right now, which makes time contract. And maybe we will get back on track soon when time will feel like its old self again and grant us back our taken away pleasures. Maybe long summer days will bring relief too by adding an extra hour of day light, or maybe I will learn to get by on less sleep (oh, how I envy all those who can operate on 6 hours of it!)

For now I feel rushed; every day is a race to accomplish that bare minimum that will let me sleep peacefully knowing that I didn’t put it off till tomorrow, which would double my daily load, throw me behind. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today! Nothing turns me off more than seeing dirty dishes in the sink first thing in the morning – a rather unpleasant hello from yesterday. So I rush to avoid any half-forgotten surprises in the morning, I rush to finish, check things off the list, fulfill the plan and draw a new one. I rush to spend time with my son, because he is growing up so fast. I rush to read through each page of the book, because there are too many books I want to read. I rush to bed every night or next day will be lost to recovery from lack of sleep. And I rush to have some time to myself, to organize thoughts and recharge. I rush through cooking dinner because I can’t stand the process. And I rush through the walk on the beach because there’s a million things to do at home.

Maybe this weekend, just for one day, I will hide my watch, turn off my cell and computer, ignore the dust on the furniture, eat sandwiches for dinner and have all the time in the world to do …nothing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We Help Ourselves Through Helping Others


I chatted with a friend of mine today and she sounded so cranky, annoyed with meaningless little things that we normally let pass unnoticed. But when your life takes a downturn those tiny details of existence begin to enlarge, gain in significance. So I felt her mood, like I feel it in my son occasionally, when he takes it out on me though I know I am not the source of his sorrows. I started digging and there were the things people said and did that offended her deeply and I know exactly why: she is angry with herself, disappointed for not being where she thought she would be, taking the blame for her failure to conform, to meet expectations, both their and hers. And all those people just voice her concern, her self-inflicted wounds she’s been trying to bury deep inside. She was feeling down because, like most of us, women, she couldn’t accept the difference between the anticipated and the real. We are not always handed the exact lot we envisioned, sometimes we can’t help the sense of wonder at how our lives turn out. And not always knowing what’s the next turn or when to expect it doesn’t help the matter much either…

Anyway, I sensed her mood and jumped to the rescue. I dug for true reasons, untangled the cause-and-effect thread, thought of ways to turn the problem around or at least re-frame it. I asked her to try not to sink. Or not to be sinking for too long: occasional luxury of allowing yourself to brood for a day or two is okay, as long as you don’t linger, don’t get sucked into the black hole of the life-sucks attitude. I told her things I tell myself when I am going down, or I wish someone told me. It’s all we really need sometimes: a true friend to care, to say “don’t feel bad”, because we forget to switch gears: and when you are stuck for too long, you don’t really realize you are stuck. Thinking the same thoughts, coming to the same conclusions, failing to see alternatives.

Today I came across a quote by a Buddhist monk: “You’re not good; you’re not bad; you just are”. And that’s what we tend to forget: to just be, to just be ourselves. To cease the self-punishment for being not good enough, or not having the right life (or even the right moment). Somehow you see it clearly when trying to reach out to a sinking friend, when trying to help because you know exactly how she feels. And soon you know that she feels better, and so do you. Because if you saw that the light is there for her, then it’s there for you as well. You shared the pain, and you shared its release. There is always someone who feels worse than you, no matter how low-spirited you get. Helping them up does not only distract you from your own sorrows, it helps you see the direction in which you, the person giving advice, should also be moving.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Obligation


Lately I’ve felt resentment about the whole “to-do” check list. As much as it’s nice to have some kind of a life plan, a well-defined road-map to happiness, it gets frustrating when the expectations are not fulfilled. Maybe you didn’t get married in your 20-s like most of your friends, or your career came to a dead end, or you decided to renounce some delusive principles – there are unwelcome moments of doubts, when you realize that not everything goes as you planned and you are clueless what’s next. Sometimes there’s simply no backup plan, just white space that you can fill with any possibilities not considered before.

We don’t always know for sure whether it’s time to call the defeat or we can still go on hoping and waiting for some extended time. Will things happen on their own, or only if we put effort in, or they won’t happen at all no matter what simply because they were not destined to be? How are we to know it’s time to close this chapter because we are stuck or it’s time to double the efforts because we are almost there? A friend of mine sighed recently, “I am 30 now and there’s no light in sight…” meaning her personal life is as stagnant as it was 10 years ago. People tell her to go out more, and I want to suggest getting the best of what she has now (or doesn’t have), because if it’s not meant to happen for another couple of years, blaming yourself for lack of results can only drive you to despair and cast shadow on simple daily pleasures of the present.

But who can tell me that “it’s not meant to be” so that I stopped the self-eating reproach of “I am not doing enough”. Who can define “enough” for me? Maybe whatever I have today due to my aspirations, luck, destiny and randomness IS enough? It’s a major paradox of life that we seek a stopping point but it’s always beyond the reach, hence we are unable to stop, nor are we ever satisfied with the incessant motion. I haven’t heard “you have to” statements from anyone but myself for the past several years. They think I have it all, so why can’t I? Why can't I tear up the check list and embrace the blessed moment of being, whatever form or emotional color it’s presently taken?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chase


It's a rare man who is taken for what he truly is.
Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn


One of my most frequently repeating dreams is about encountering a tsunami: I see a slowly rising enormous wave, which I am struggling to escape but it sure gets me at some point. I've read one of the interpretations of the dream as dealing with fear of life. Hence this constant feeling of a never-ending chase: I run from hopelessness and despair, depression and apathy, disappointment and surrender. But when I am hit I am hit. I can’t pretend that there’s an easy fix, or “it’s all in my head”, or say bravely “shame on me for feeling this way!” It’s there, it’s been building up over time inside on the very deepest level; sometimes it takes an unexpected swift emotion to cause a stir, to move your inner planes so that the wave can no longer be stored within and it comes crashing out. Then you stop running and let it take over; but once it retreats the chase is resumed.

It’s not this constant running that bothers me so much, nor is the blow from the occasional despair that catches up with me and darkens my days. I’m mostly scared that one day I will forget where I am running to or from and accept the unacceptable. I will conform and persuade myself that it’s the best way and in this submission I will definitively lose myself. It often takes just one exception that you make, stepping on your principles just once and then the next exception follows, and the one after it. And before you know it your life is build upon exceptions even though you solemnly promise to go back to the old ways, to the truth that matters when it is time. And for a while you will know what that truth is, you will repeat it like mantra but without living it in real life it becomes blurry, till it’s gone. You don’t remember what it was. And then you don’t even remember that it WAS. Comfort, emptiness and longing for something that has no name are your daily drugs till someone wakes you up, reminds you of the lost road. If they ever will.

So I keep running, looking back with fear but also looking forward with hope. I disagree, I protest, I get defeated but get back on my feet in no time. As much as it hurts, I choose pain over forgetfulness, challenge over comfort. I may lose, and lose, and lose again, but as long as I remember my true face, I will always be the winner in this race of life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Up


Every day I need a reminder. Even with an incredible amount of mental engagement whereas I read, process and act upon a hefty amount of information, I still find myself slipping into the dark well time and again. It’s like going scuba diving: you are given the equipment to explore and enjoy the underwater world – just remember to keep breathing. But once you panic, the marine beauty dissolves from your view: all you know now is that you’re deep under water struggling to draw a breath and you may never come up to the surface.

Similarly in life, we have the “equipment” to discover and experience happiness but panic and fear, bad news and lack of hope throw us into a frantic struggle not to drown (forget about happiness). We build up a solid wall using bricks of positivity but should one brick crack, the whole structure comes tumbling down. And then it’s time to start the process all over.

People with unstable emotional world but vigorous survival instinct seek powerful motivators, which they can resort to in times of diminishing hope and extinguished enthusiasm. Our little tricks to stay afloat, to mislead others to believing in our upbeat personality and positive attitude. We, who were not born all smiley and positive, who take effort in becoming and staying so, who fight the pull-down force on a daily basis.

I’ve met people who found strange satisfaction in their hardships, who almost worshiped them with the feeling of triumph: see! we didn’t think much of life and were proven right! Take out their misfortunes and they will have nothing left for indulgent whimper has been their way of coping for too long, leaving no space for appreciation and gratitude when good things occur. I’ve also met people with the most effortless aptitude for happiness and bottomless well of optimism, radiating positive energy and contagious glee. But most of us are in the middle: neither too happy but anxiously wanting to be so, nor too miserable yet always in fear of things to take a downturn.

If there was a scale for happiness, every day we would point to a different mark. But the goal is not to reach the highest number and stick to it rigidly – that is utterly impossible. The goal should be to stay higher rather than lower. So every day I retrieve the familiar or newly acquired reminders why I can and should be happy this particular day, and the more reminders I have in store, the easier I find it to fight the emerging gloom and push myself up the scale.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Emotion Are You Wearing Today?


I often find my myself moving in a tight emotional circle: one day I feel happy, the next day sad or angry, then eventually the feeling of content finds its way back, just to be replaced by sadness shortly. Like waves in the ocean: rise, fall, rise, fall. But it’s got nothing to do with reality, it’s simply the shifts in the focus of our perception whereas we choose the strongest, dominating emotion and declare it the king of the moment. But do we always have the time and the eagerness to figure out what we truly feel? Someone could say - there’s nothing to figure out, you feel what you feel but I itch to disagree. I think we intentionally choose the most primitive emotional structure because it’s the most effortless approach. Something good happens – I’m happy, things start falling apart – I’m sad.

I was wondering if there’s a way to exercise alternating emotions, to expand the range, add variety and color to your daily moods. Is it possible to set up your mode like you choose the appropriate washing cycle on your washer by pressing the right buttons? Or maybe selecting the emotion "to wear" can be like picking out an item of closing: you rummage in your emotion-storing closet and choose what feels right, what will establish a barely perceptible emotional background that will impact how your day goes.

We usually wake up in the morning with our mind like tabula rasa – having zero feelings, or memories, or thoughts. It’s only a matter of seconds before all of it storms into your conscience, overwhelming you before you got even one foot from under the blanket. What if you tell yourself: today I want to feel adventurous. Visualize a shiny dashboard with soft buttons, various emotions imprinted on them all. You press the one that says “adventurous”. And let the day begin.

The next day you can choose “grateful” and feel how gratefulness saturates every small act of your daily routine. Even on what seems like dark days you may select “melancholy” over “sadness”: sense the difference of not saying “I’m so sad” but giving preference to “I’m rather melancholic” - some of the unwanted emotional weight will lift right away. On bright summer days you may feel childishly ecstatic, and on gray rainy mornings hit the “content laziness” button. Cancel out the unwanted "jealous" by hitting "blessed". Select "inamorata" and be crazy in love - with the sky, the trees, your life, everyone around you.

And when you feel like you’ve been wearing the same emotion for too long, maybe it’s time to toss it and go shopping for a fresh new feeling that would look better on you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Am I Afraid To See Within?


(I came across this not-so-simple and thought-provoking question on Corinne's blog EveryDayGyaan and absolutely had to answer it for myself)

I know exactly why I’m afraid to look too deep inside: I know for sure I will discover that I can do so much more with my life, that I have powerful resources to make tremendous progress and achieve success on so many levels. My huge potential – a sleeping giant that I’m so afraid to disturb. We all have those resources as well as our fears that come with the package: moving forward always means leaving the comfort zone, having to deal with often unforeseen consequences. Our ambitions and aspirations are encircled by the fear to FAIL, which frequently prompts us to hit the brake just as we are ready to take off and explore what's been waiting beyond the horizon. So we come back to the safety of comfort zone, which eventually turns into a confinement cell, because what’s not progress is regress.

But there is more in the dismal mix: sometimes we are afraid of the future victories for we can’t always know what price we have to pay and what gets lost along the way. As you sprint toward the finish line you anticipate excitement, delight from the upcoming celebration, but you end up feeling desolate, washed-out, indifferent to the prize. Was it worth burning yourself out like that?

Oh, and how much we are afraid to lose right after we win ( I may get a better job but what if I get laid off, whereas this current job of mine I hate so much provides enough security…) How frantically scared we are to expose ourselves to imminent pain we associate with risk taking. Isn’t it safer to secure your positions, to shrink, to become less visible, to keep to yourself, keep distance? But you should ask yourself if avoiding pain is the best way to pursue happiness…

I am afraid to look within because I am bound to find my suppressed inner voice that, once liberated, will scream: you need to change! You need to set upon the path of transformation, it’s time to take action, there’s so much work to do and life is so short!

I still find courage to look inside even if sometimes it’s more like momentary peeking. I learned by now that life is not about all or nothing, black or white. No one can transform overnight, or build a perfect living – it’s a continuous and scary process. But I can still take baby steps guided by those little hints I uncover from the quests within. I don’t have to see and absorb the whole picture right away, I am pretty sure I would get overwhelmed by the magnitude, bigness of what’s in there. I can explore the inner castle of thoughts, ideas, wishes, beliefs and feelings room by room, always on the go, always moving forward.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good Luck!


I got into the waiting trap. For the whole month I managed to live my life like nothing was coming. I pushed the fear of uncertainly to the outskirts of my mind and went on almost carefree on happy projections. One day before the big event is the worst time one could imagine. You can no longer pretend you are as bold as ever and eventually you succumb to panic that makes you lose gravity and pulls you into the cosmos of uncertainty. And uncertainty breeds worst-case scenarios any movie producer would be jealous of.

So time stretches into endless units; I tell myself – I will know in 24 hours, in 20 hours, 15… but somehow the event is as far away as ever and I am stuck in every minute that drags feet like a stubborn mule, who was running fine just days ago. I do bless those minutes that I succeed to spend without thinking, when I manage to get distracted enough to make a leap in time rather than pity steps.

My insides are squirming and I doubt I will appreciate dinner much tonight. But I know things will change once it’s time to enter through the door. I will be brave and focused, and praying for luck, and thinking positively. One day before the big event… what a shakeup… Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hold Together


If you ask me, I can give you 10 reasons why I can readily fall apart at any moment. Fear, anxiety, worries, horrific projections can easily become the unwelcome hosts of your mind if you let them. Last night I woke up and, unable to fall back asleep, I let my mind race forward to the what-if territory, envisioning one bad possibility after another. I thought, what if something happens to my husband, how are we to survive? Right after thinking that one up, I engaged in frantic calculations of how I will be paying bills if it’s just my income: I will have to cancel cable TV, try to find cheaper internet, use less heating at night… I approached the challenge like the situation was real and I had to deal with it so that to stay afloat, not to sink torpedoed by the life hardships. Till I told myself: Stop! This is not happening! Go back to sleep!

I read over and over about the importance of staying in the present moment: there are enough books, blogs, articles that break it down for you in detail. But to practice the concept is not as easy as reading about it. Your mind often gets pulled in all directions, harassed by the images that were depicted by uncontrolled emotions and vivid imagination. It’s what you set against this pointless cycle that matters. You need to draw the much needed support from powerful sources that can lull the monster and ease this suffocating grip on your brain.

My family is far and our weekly communication consists of delicate attempts not to upset one another, which implies withholding sad events, mood or feelings. My friends are concentrated on their own problems, which they are more eager to discuss than mine. This leaves me with books (oh, the ocean of wisdom), thought-provoking blogs, written by similar seekers, pray, when things get really bad, or the great oblivion of sleep, when staying awake is intolerable.

The most important thing I should remember is that we are never alone, even though at times we feel like an outcast on the edge of the earth, forgotten by everyone and utterly lonely. Help will be sent to us if we encounter a serious problem, we won’t be fighting alone. A necessary shift in circumstances will occur if you believe it will, if you ask for it. Looking back I realize how many times I drove myself insane with worries, anticipating the worst outcome for the situation, but somehow it always ended well. So I may choose to be falling apart every minute of my existence or decide against it, pull myself together and fight vigorously to replace any negative thought with a bright one, to spot light among the shadows and keep my eyes on it as long as I can.

I hope more wise positive-thinking people will be entering my life to inspire me to make progress and sustain upbeat attitude. And I want to hope that light and clarity will prevail over confusion and gloom on most of my days. But when something negative happens – for real or in my imagination, I want to deliberately choose not to fall apart, for when I’m whole I can achieve so much more, than when I’m broken to pieces.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Power of Giving


Living in New York means that you are constantly approached by beggars. They are strategically positioned at every subway station you enter, they wander through the train you are riding on, rattling their half empty cup in your face. They seem to have doubled their efforts during the holiday season, springing up from nowhere, leaving me bemused: what do I do to attract them so much? I never give them money. Strongly convinced that I work too hard, that building my way up from zero doesn’t entitle anyone to demand a share of my sweat-covered earnings, I simply look away from their bold eyes.

And then I had a conversation with my mom about all these panhandlers interfering with my daily commute. She seemed disheartened by my stubbornness: “don’t give much, but do give them a little”, she said. She didn’t lecture me, or gave any sensible explanation - it was more of her intuitive feeling, or maybe religious belief, that this act of kindness, this simple charity, should earn you extra points in the afterlife.

So I started carrying around some change that I could retrieve quickly out of my pocket and give to homeless people on the street, or “starving” singers on the subway. Almost immediately I felt empowered by the positive energy that seemed to be released into the air with every act of giving. It’s not about what it did for the beggar, I doubt my modest donation changed anybody’s life dramatically, but it did change me. The realization that sharing a little of what you have can contribute to the overall level of the good in the world. What you receive from giving is so much more than “the nominal value” of your donation, it brings to the surface the kindness of your heart you didn’t know was there.

I’ve been struggling with the concept of giving love for quite some time now. I know that I need to give it unconditionally to make it fully blossom in my heart, but possessiveness and distrust dictate that I should keep it under the lock. Well, maybe I can’t give much, but I could start with giving a little. Just breaking the habit of guarding my possessions, learning to give can set me on a path to liberation, when I am no longer pulled down by the weight of my unshared riches.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Before the Storm


We are going to get hit by yet another storm. It’s funny when it happens for the first time - you are as excited as you are scared in the face of the upcoming ordeal. The second time you are slightly annoyed but try to keep your plans moving along, the third time you are really pissed off and don’t even bother with the routine, or the plans, or your responsibilities – you are just waiting it out. It is a big deal, and the central topic of any conversation, so following other people’s steps you make a public announcement that this weather makes you utterly depressed and unhappy. And now, as you think that your resilience has been depleted and the remains of your patience have expired, it happens again, the new storm is approaching with the potential to become the most severe of all. And you get serious - no more a cry-baby: you suck it up and keep moving about your life, focusing on things that matter.

How many hardships does life have to dump on us so that we stopped hiding our head under the wing, crawled out of the mental hideout to deal with life even as it’s not all roses? The first blow makes us panic, the second activates the defense system, the third makes us fight back with unexpected courage and boldness. Rough treatment, one gruesome trial after another will retrieve the inner warrior that can shield our sensitive side and add thorns to the thin skin. We will see then that there are no limits to our internal resources: we can withstand any storm, recover after harsh winds beat us down. The strength we are able to extract from the shrunken heart in severe circumstances is staggering.

So don’t be fooled by my initial whining, I was just assessing the challenge and winning some time. But now that the stakes have been raised, and another destructive storm has formed, it’s time to summon my wild self, to wake up my inner warrior that will protect me from hostile weather and get me safely to the sunny spot.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Loved



Who, being loved, is poor? -Oscar Wilde


Our need to be loved is so vital, as if it’s the only thing that can void emptiness spreading around us like poisonous gas. They will tell you over and over that being loved doesn’t validate you but you still refuse to believe. Someone else’s feelings for you form enough weight to keep you on the ground, to prevent you from disappearing into the endless atmosphere, become part of the faceless crowd.

Being loved is such an empowering feeling, it enchants you in a way that everything about you suddenly changes, and you become someone else, this beautiful person you always strived to be and now it’s happening without a slightest effort on your side. Your eyes are now deep oceans that reflect that adoration and admiration that you proudly carry with you like a torch of magic fire. For who would want to give up this light and go back to the darkness of solitude and desolation? And even if you have every reason to say “don’t love me”, you will always know that deep inside you want to hold on to this hot volcano, you want it to keep erupting all the love and passion till it’s empty.

We depend on love like it’s a drug. We believe that if we have it in enough quantity, it can carry us through the days, add that meaning to our life that’s impossible to have otherwise. Once love enters the gate of our kingdom, we rush to embrace all of it, we won’t settle for less. And despair that creeps in as love fades away is so painful, that we hit the walls from so much hurting. We shake the now dormant volcano in hopes of scraping out some of that love lava.

Jumping from one love epicenter to the other is a route of despair. The only way to lock love in your life permanently is to be its source. To be love. But it’s easier said than done, because love will always find loopholes to leak out of your heart as you are too busy with negative emotions that are much easier to retain. Love is something you need to practice over and over, like religion, because life sucks us in and we forget what truly matters. We can choose any mantra that sets us up in the right wave frequency. Or we can make it up by combining words to form the meaning we want to carry as a halo from morning till night: I am love, I am beauty, I spread love and it always finds its way back to my heart.
 
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