A Wordless but Excruciating Battle

 

Marilyn in thought 1960s

Whatever is good to know is difficult to learnGreek Proverb

Thinking deeply about what this quote means to me is actually painful because it brings up memories of some awful times, from my childhood onwards. I don’t think ‘good’ is the right word in this proverb. Maybe it got lost in translation from the Greek. ‘Whatever is essential, life changing, character forming is excruciating to learn.’ Yes that’s better.

The kind of situation I think this most applies to is, for example,  when you have had a hideous argument with someone. You might be fuming, full of adrenalin and thinking things like ‘if only I’d said that’ or ‘and yes I really am right because of this and this’, or ‘they hate me, I am useless, I will always be useless’ or ‘they are awful, I don’t want to ever be friends again, just think of all the rotten things they have done to me in the past’.

All sorts of nasties can creep in whispered by the gremlins, or ‘pain body’ (Eckhart Tolle) or the devil, if you will. As your mind tries to work out the solution to ease the discomfort you are feeling, and find a way to dissipate this anger, you don’t realise that you may be using the wrong tools to solve your dilemma; like using your elbow to clean out your ear.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them – Albert Einstein

As a child, you are likely to continue on this path, storing hurts and painful memories. You might avoid the other person until you’ve forgotten what you were arguing about and eventually sweep the hurt under the carpet. Or the fight escalates and others get involved until so much damage is done that you fall out permanently. The worst outcome is that you decide you really must be useless.  You create this opinion about yourself (which you are sure is based in reality), thanks to all the information you have gathered in this terrible hyped up state. You condemn yourself and slowly slip into the habit of depression, imprinting your brain until it’s in your neural pathways and hard to fight off, useful as a reliance mechanism; a mental way out that’s like a stinky but familiar old blanket.

But, with maturity and a lot of difficult soul searching, I learned what was ‘good to know’, namely that it can all change in an instant. The path is not set; it is created by you as you take each step. For it is you and only you treading the path and creating your own consequences. I later learned how to effect that change in myself and learned what needs to happen internally and externally.  These kinds of situations will be offered to you again and again until you learn the lesson, so you might as well learn it sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the ways this situation can be resolved, either by our own hand which has longer lasting effects or by others;

– The other person comes to apologise and all those destructive thoughts you were having evaporate, until perhaps the next time.

– You gather yourself (it comes with practice, but try focusing on your breathing for a start) and look at the situation more objectively until you calm down and start to see the other person’s side also.

– You realise you might actually be wrong if you would only admit it, and that it’s OK to make horrible mistakes.  You will live and survive, head held high. Perfectionism be damned!

– You reach out and say a simple sorry to the other person, whether you feel sorry or not (everyone always thinks they are right, but really there is often no such thing; it’s too subjective).

It’s best if you do feel sorry of course, having recognised the nonsense of the argument, your part in it (why don’t we dare admit to ourselves that we are far from perfect?) and remembering why you have a relationship with that person in the first place.  Even ‘faking it till you make it’, nips the destructive and out of control feelings in the bud.

To me the most important lesson is to not give yourself time to wallow if you are running down this thorn-filled path. Tell yourself you are not listening to this rubbish and won’t make any decisions about anything until you are calmer. Hop off this runaway thought train this instant.

I guess that’s why they say ‘don’t let the sun set on an argument’; so that you don’t have time to create mountains out of mole hills in your head. This can be sturdy advice but here’s another way of looking at it;

My ex (still good friends) and I agreed to never argue at night, when somehow things seemed worse because of being tired or due to the darkness. The sun coming up the next morning makes a huge difference to one’s psyche. It’s just biology. If you are calm and fully able to sleep, knowing the other person is OK too, go for it! You might agree to continue the talk later; at least forging some kind of agreement between you amidst the discord.

If you are centred enough to mend bridges now, do that. But if the person who is battling the strongest emotions needs time to settle down and has the capacity to calm themselves, then distance is good. This process of learning to calm yourself may take years to acquire; or if you are a mature soul, you may be born with it. But it is difficult to learn, it is good to know and so essential to finding happiness. The reward is trust in yourself and your ability to endure and enjoy living as a flawed human being, when life’s inevitable changes are thrown at you or you let yourself down.

And why is it so difficult to learn to change our thoughts instead of be ruled by them, with the accompanying emotions and dramas; to try a completely different path; to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable, especially to ourselves?  Why protect our egos?

I guess it’s difficult because we have to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation where we don’t know the outcomes.  We are afraid of ourselves, not of the other person.  This new thinking will change the dynamic of the relationship with the other person of course, but most importantly with our story about who we think we are.

So we dither. Why we dither and how to get around it is one of those ‘good to know’ things to which this Greek Proverb alludes. It’s probably one of the hardest things in life to learn to know and accept yourself, warts and all and then test it out on other people.

Anyway I digress.  I believe if you practise learning to center yourself, calm down and forgive yourself it becomes easier with time. Say sorry to people. See how they react! Are you nervous of their response, of making them feel uncomfortable or of your being rejected? If so, a hug goes a long way and does just the same as words, without any need for eye contact.

Marilyn Hugging

And if they push you away, you will still feel good for trying. You haven’t pushed you away.  You are now a stronger person. Their response has nothing to do with you. It is their journey; only they can mend their inner world. You can only work on your own inner peace and happiness, but I bet you will have left your mark.

Marilyn and Joan Copeland 1957

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The Insatiable Question

Can you see friday yetWe yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

What is it about the future that’s so appealing and interesting? Eckhart Tolle says we think we need the future to ‘complete us’ but that we actually don’t. Albert Einstein says that physics proves that time is not linear and that we can affect the past by what we do now. I certainly believe we can affect our understanding of the past with a healthier mind and therefore can affect the amount of ‘suffering‘ which we let the past inflict on us. Buddha says all suffering is self-suffering. That often comes to my mind and is now held true in my personal belief system.

Anyway I digress. What importance do we give the future? When I was sad as a child, I cheered myself up with the thought that one day I would be married with kids and all the love in the world. It helped because I was seeing the essence of it; the anticipation of what that love meant to me. Loads and loads of just love. Do we always see the future in such black and white terms? I think so, purely because life bombards us with detail and we can’t even comprehend the detail of what’s to come, so we generalise. We look forward to a warm feeling we think we are going to have, from whatever objects or experiences we think we are going to have.

Of course it can go the other way and we could see the future as nothing but misery if we are depressed now, in the very same way; a hunch, a feeling, an overall concept. Very little detail.

But you can’t forget the detail of the ‘future’. The detail confuses things but also gives rise to potential to create what we want out of it. Life is like a soup. If you are swimming around in the soup, thinking it’s chicken soup, then every time you come across a shred of chicken your beliefs are confirmed. If you think it’s sweetcorn soup, you will notice all the chunks of corn instead. But you may assume your future is just going to be an all good or bad soup, and you forget all the flavours, variety and experiences coming to you which you will be ‘manipulating’ with your current belief system to create more of what you actually already have.

So the future is just more of what you have now. It’s not so different. It can’t complete us. It can only try to complete the ego which is the insatiable part. Insatiable needs to satisfy an insatiable ego. Futile really.

The future starts today, not tomorrow.” 

Pope John Paul II

So I am back to the realising the Power of Now. It’s all there is and it’s very comforting knowing that I already have everything I need. I can see Friday quite clearly and it looks good to me.

 

 

From A to B via X, Y and Z

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere – Albert Einstein

I discounted this one a couple of times. Yes, nice enough but not much to write about. But I love a challenge and in fact he sums up everything that my posts (which involve the exploration of my mind to access experiences, learnings and beliefs in order to come to new insights) are all about.

First I notice that he says logic will ‘get’ you from A to B but then says imagination will ‘take’. Subtle difference and I am sure the words were chosen carefully. All the best quotes are chosen carefully. Usually a few choice words, probably edited and rewritten many times to explain exactly what the author is trying to get across. The complete opposite of my blog posts, much as I always think I will go back and edit them one day in order to come across as less ‘out there’ and more intelligent.

Anyway I digress. This quote brings up some images for me. Imagine crossing a ravine. You are starting very high up and you need to get to another point very high up. Logic says use the bridge. It will be straight, secure, the shortest distance and get you easily from A to B. But imagine there is no bridge but you still want to get to B. You would have to make your way down into the wild bush and find a way to cross the river at the bottom maybe and climb back up the other side. This is where you have to use your imagination, and I use mine! On your way down you come across beautiful creatures, incredible plants clinging to a steep hill and maybe even people to meet and connect with. Getting across the water might involve having those people help you out, or swimming past more amazing creatures and plants, or learning to construct a boat or raft from fallen branches etc. Climbing up the other side you might discover more wondrous sights and maybe even another direction which you would like to explore, such that you never even get to where you thought you wanted to go, to B. Using your imagination was forced on you in this case, because you couldn’t just take the logic bridge but maybe there are other places in your life where you could choose your imagination over logic. It won’t always be met with approval as my friend discovered when she wove a fantastic tale as an answer to a question on a biology field trip when I was 16. Amanda was met with incredulity by the rest of the class, because she dared to go completely off the beaten track (but I was so thrilled) and unfortunately she ignited the ire of the teacher who interpreted it as disrespect and not imagination! She has now become a BBC producer and it all makes perfect sense now. Why on earth each of us picked Biology as A level, where you only get to pick 3 subjects with which to compete to get into university, I will never know!! To me it seemed interesting enough and easy as it just involved rote learning, but with my digressing ways I didn’t do very well!

Oops, digressing again. By my digressing, I suppose I am using imagination to get from A to B. I could look at the quotes, go Oh yes, that means that and be done with it, taking in very little along the way, or I can use my imagination and build on what is secretly stored within me (and each of us) to learn something. I figure these quoters/masters must know what they are talking about! And I love when my imagination and digressing leads me to insights or a slightly different understanding of the quote itself. I may think I agree with it and then completely disagree. Or I might change my mind tomorrow. Either way, I am forming my own beliefs, working out what’s right for me to believe in order to navigate this world of being human and I am enjoying the journey of life so far!

Another image that comes to mind is a piece of rubber, like a piece of balloon. You can pull it taut because it stretches and it will be very straight, from A to B, shortest distance. OR you can put your mouth to it and blow as hard as you can and hopefully it will expand into another shape, create something larger that wasn’t there a minute ago, out of something that seemed to be a straight piece of rubber. I guess the difference is the potential of the rubber to do that, to grow and expand with the same ingredients – air and rubber. In a way I am ‘blowing up’ these quotes.

So what else has potential in our lives, to be ‘blown up’? I am sure there are many more plants out there with secret properties for cures etc that we have not discovered yet. If we could use all our brains, we might see auras and energies or things that affect us which we only know about subconsciously and maybe only act on ‘by intuition’.

Back to Einstein. I love that this quote is by him because I ignorantly thought of him as some narrow minded geek scientist working on paper with numbers etc and going exactly from A to B. I say geek fondly because maths was my favourite subject at school and together with my thick glasses I was also the class geek. I didn’t think Albert would be taking in X, Y and Z as he used his imagination. You hear of Nobel prize winners finding their aha moment in something as random as those people who spin/wobble plates on sticks. I like to think that I might have something to contribute to curing cancer due to my imagination if only they let me at some part of it that I could understand. I would go ‘Ah yes, that reminds me of a small child I once saw drawing in an unusual way and perhaps you could apply this to that?’ Who knows? We will never find out. How can we use the imagination of the world to solve all these things? Think of the potential out there. I am convinced there is many a rickshaw driver in India who could probably cure cancer or solve world hunger.

Back to getting and taking. Get means nothing really in fact it’s a word I think writers are supposed to avoid. Not very descriptive. I need to get there. It is just a means to an end. But imagination takes you, like taking you on a journey, far more exciting. And in this case imagination is leading you like you have to follow it. How often do we let ourselves do that? Follow our imagination, day dream, make up fantastical stories and outcomes, find our dreams?

I’ve had another idea. The 7% of the brain that we use is that taut piece of rubber and the 93% is what we use when we blow that piece of rubber into a big circle. How flexible you can allow your piece of rubber to be will determine how much of your mind you can use and explore. Sounds fun. Albert was definitely onto something. Thanks for the unexpected quote Albert. I might need to go and learn some more about you!