Friday, December 26, 2014

Are YOU a Glass Half Full..?

I've been thinking a lot about mindset lately. The one I have hasn't been serving me and I wanted a new one. It is hard thinking about the mind. It's possible to have a great thought and then a doubting thought about that thought, and then another doubting thought about that thought, and so forth until the mind short-circuits. The mind is doing all the thinking and it's only capable of so much. And still, it usually out-smarts us. I've been reading Eckard Tolle, hoping to find my "true self". I've also been listening to Tara Brach's guided meditations, to calm my mind and connect to my Being. I've been driven to fix myself, fix myself, fix myself for so long, all the while a little confused by which "myself" needs fixing.

I'm going to pause right here and confess that I've become totally confused again while writing this. There are too many "minds", too many ideas of what "I" actually is, and can I know what that actually is while I'm inside my mind anyway? I'm going to back all the way up and say that what I know for certain, is that for one who claims to be an optimist, lately something feels half empty and I'm pissed about it.

"Do you see the world as a glass half empty, or half full?" 

I hate this question. I'm hurt by it. It's usually asked by someone, who - lest we should ever doubt his proud prosturing - first confirms loudly that he is in fact a Glass Half Full Person, then leans in with his barrel-chested ego and asks, "What kind of a person are you?" It's manipulative, condescending, not to mention a little creepy. The question is engineered so that the asker leeches what small confidence is glowing in the other person to elevate himself. The implication of the question, "half full or half empty?", is that we're supposed to choose one perspective or the other. Already this is ridiculous! No person would choose to be a glass half empty, and if he did, wouldn't he be happy with the decision he choose and therefore be a glass half full person? (I feel like there's a mathematical method of explaining this impossible thought. Like the square root of -1 or something. Just call it out if you've got the answer.)

What sticks with me is the impossibility of maintaining one or the other perspective on life. I so badly want to be as positive a half full person as I know I can be. Positivity for me means ease, joy flowing, connecting, it means breathing deeply, it means feeling secure in my own abilities to survive whatever madness life decides to throw at me. But dammit if I can't stop myself from feeling half empty sometimes. You know, emptiness is one type of discomfort, and it's manageable enough. For a striving optimist, a passing pessimistic outlook is never as bad as the guilt that follows for having failed at optimism.

My dad says that all of our strengths have their equal and opposite shadow sides. A firefighter, for example, who is incredibly brave and will risk his life to save others' lives might have difficulty telling his wife he is hurting. A free-spirited woman who is in touch with her creativity may be easily hurt by her coworkers' teasing. And this is life. This is how it goes. We can't be perfect at everything. Believe me. I've tried. In fact, the harder we try, the harder we fall into a glass half empty mind set. Striving for only perfection - in this case, only optimism - denies ourselves the shadow side of our optimism, the vulnerability we feel when faced with a bit of madness.

I am going to try to let myself be a glass half full and a glass half empty. I don't want to be mad at myself any more. I'll move gently. What matters more than perfection is that I am sincerely living and striving for connection to those around me.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fie, boredom! En garde!

“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?” 
Friedrich Nietzsche

I like to think of myself as an adventurous person. Much of the time I feel a pretty mean mischievous streak running through me. The kind that shoots up from the ground, through your toes, and out your eye balls. Adventure. Mystery. The Great Unknown. It's pretty sexy actually. And boy, do I have stories! When I lived in Juneau, Alaska I helicoptered onto a glacier, drove by a bear on the side of the road, and counted 18 bald eagles in a single tree. In the Dead Sea in Israel I stripped naked with 1200 other people from around the world to be photographed by a famous photographer as the sun rose. I ate a lot of "street meat" in Shanghai. Last year I went sky diving. This last September I produced a TEDxTalk with over 900 people in attendance.

All this have I done, but nowadays I feel my mischievous streak running dry. I feel the adventurer in me shriveling from neglect. I spend a disproportion amount of time in the morning curled in bed and glued to my phone. I suddenly find myself leading . . . <gulp> . . . a boring life.

A boring life is predictable, it's measurable. Living the boring life, I wake up as usual, barely get out of bed as has become habit, let the hours pass by and then it's nighttime, which means it's bedtime and I've read all of Facebook twice or more and I haven't showered, just like the day before. Sometimes the biggest challenge is not enough milk for my coffee. This sort of boring life is scared of the risks that come with even the smallest adventure. Risks, as you know, can be very scary. A boring life is really just a safe life - and an empty one.

Sometimes it can be a hell of a challenge to break my boredom spell. So I asked y'all, How do you make your life more interesting? Here's what I got:

...when I was a child, at the dinner table, my father would ask me, "What did you accomplish today?" And I had to have an answer. So, each day, I found new things to see, do read, etc. - and new people to get to know. It got to be a habit, which has led to a very interesting life. 
If you open your heart, your eyes. Your mind and are curious, you will live an interesting life. Most of what makes life interesting is below the surface and must be mined with the above attributes. 
Think less, do more. 
By actually doing the things your heart tells you to. 
Embrace everything. 

At the center of this boredom question lies that pesky issue of self worth. Add enough self doubt to any scenario and I watch even my greatest passions go completely limp. (More on limp passions another day.) But I'm finally beginning to outsmart myself! I believe that doubts and other emotions are real, I also believe that they are self-made. You know the saying "there are two sides to every story"? Well there is more than one way to view a day. Victim or conquerer, beloved or not, curious or numbed. Staying adventurous is about perspective. In the end I believe that we are responsible for giving ourselves interesting lives. It is how we see, not what we see. Then, if we choose to seek more outside the rooms we are in, or the beds we are in, we shall go to them. I think the solution is "Think more, do more. Be more." Be kind to yourself. And for godssakes, doubt less!

So En Garde, Boredom! Fie, fie! I no longer have any use for you!

Oh and by the way, when you find that Dead Sea picture, look for me. I'm front and center ;)