Thursday, March 24, 2011


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


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.
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