- Mental Health
Let's Simplify Life
"Good, Old Times"
Let's face it, stress is the sign of our times, which is nothing new - except that it's also one of the biggest paradoxes of our times. Said in a nutshell : these are the best times ever in the whole long history of the mankind, and aside of our peculiar passion for complicating our lives, we don't have much of an objective excuse for being stressed out.
In my childhood, and we are talking the time right after the WW2 in the devastated Europe, horses and carts were still a regular feature on roads. Nothing except for the light-switch was a push-button advantage in households. To cook your meals, wash yourself, and have some heat in the house you had to first go chop some firewood and smash off some chunks of coal for your furnace.
Laundry was done manually, clothes and bed sheets were boiled in a huge container for disinfection. TV was unheard of, and families of an average income could not afford a radio , and of course, forget about something like a turntable. Speaking for myself - these days I am living a "science fiction" with all these gadgets that make life so much easier - while leaving the rest up to me to also make it simple.
Youth Was Painting It All in Pink
And yet, every so often I hear people of my baby-boomer generation mention those "good, old times". I don't share their nostalgic reminiscing, and with a simple, meant to be eye-opening statement I remind them how the only good thing about those times was the fact that we were all young then, and youth has a way of painting everything in rosy colors.
Indeed, depending on your age now, these days we are running our engine on less than half of those hormones that used to give us that extra spark of vitality, the sexual energy being that secret motoric behind most of our dreams, ambitions, and activities.
Like a Trend of Modern Living
Now, is it really our declining hormones to be blamed? Well, you don't have to take seriously my amateurish theorizing, but I think this new hormone situation was merely the result of all layers of accumulated stress over the years.
Yes, I am contending that most of that stress was completely unnecessary and mainly due to our collective consciousness which took the attitude of complicating as a norm of living. Man, we are like that dude in my favorite definition of a hypochondriac who is "only feeling good when he is feeling bad".
Seemingly it's a sort of a compulsion to think, feel and act like everybody else, and who knows why. Maybe out of the need to "belong" to the herd of the same mode of functioning - to be recognizable, accepted as "one of them". But, whatever the underlying motivation may be, it's silly and unnecessary, and self-destructive in a final analysis.
Thus, it's a small wonder that we can't recognize these times as the best ever. For a moment seeing our minds as instruments for processing our reality, a metaphor with musical instruments seems appropriate : give an out-of-tune guitar to Eric Clapton and he won't make any music on it. Likewise, give ourselves all advantages of the modern living, and our minds will still be producing only "noise, not music".
Different Yes - but Happy
In my working days I would come in on a typical Monday softly whistling or humming a happy tune, and having a nice word for everyone, especially female co-workers. Well, I was not flirting in a sense of making a pass at any of them, but I always liked giving them compliments, and they knew that was it.
My happy disposition became contagious over a time, and yet there was always a long face or two that were insisting on being miserable. My boss being one of them would go a step further while mumbling something like : "Man, you are not supposed to be happy on Mondays". Call it insubordination, but I wouldn't follow that instruction.
Well, to borrow my expression from above, I didn't care much to be "recognizable as one of the crowd." Being an oddball was not making me feel either lonely or misunderstood. And it still doesn't.
Happiness that Was Not Meant to Be
Now and then people tell me how "lucky I was to be born with such an easy going nature". Then I tell them how mistaken they are. I was raised beside a polio stricken aunt and grandma, neither of them able to run after me, so I had to spend most of the time around them where they could keep an eye on me.
No playing with other kids. Then, I was constantly sick with something and a notorious cry-baby due to my then undiagnosed subclinical hypoglycemia, which was not helped one bit with my regular heavily sugared morning coffee. I was shy, withdrawn, scared of strangers, of the dark, tiring fast, and with an awful muscular coordination which made me often trip over my own feet.
On top of it, my beloved family, with nerves shattered during the war didn't have much patience for such a "monster of a kid", and I got often punished for being clumsy. Now, how is that for the history of my happy disposition?
The Times of Unfoldment
So, how did all that change, after witnessing my parents' divorce at the age of nine, living with a depressed mother, and twice getting seriously sick on lungs due to undernourishment? Was that really me?
Of course, but after deserting of my very strict father I got all the freedom in the world to start unfolding into something the seed of which I carried in my young soul. At the age of ten I read my first book on psychology, and when thirteen, in order to get rid of my fear of dark, I visited our huge city cemetery by myself - around midnight.
I just sat on a bench in front of someone's grave, sweated bullets in an agony of fear until it was gone. Long before my thousand books on human nature were read, and long before I was a devoted meditator, I simply quit the nonsense of complicating my life, somewhat disgusted with that crappy habit.
Well, why did I just volunteer to share this unfavorable first chapter of my never to be written autobiography? To show off or something? Not really. My intention was to show how even as kids we could start defying every prognosis in textbooks in psychology about some "inevitable outcome of less than happy childhoods". Some folks may relate to it and find an inspiration in it.
Indulgence in Lousy Feelings
Now, everybody including myself gets that initial spike of displeasure when things go wrong. However, not inclined to complicate my life, I trained myself to manage its intensity and what's even more important - its duration.
Namely, why do we need to go on and on over the same mishap, as if we didn't do it right in the first minute or two, so now we have to make it better? Not adding anything new to the situation or even less to its solution, we just keep it on until it snowballs into something that may stay with us for the rest of the day like a dark shadow that we can't shake off.
Literally, it "makes our day", and for a long while I can't understand why we are doing it to ourselves. Why complicate things so much? Then we also have to tell everyone about it to make them "feel better". You see what I mean?
Selective Ability to Relax
When someone tells me they can't relax, I ask them : "How do you manage to fall asleep at night?" Really, what exactly do we do with all those worries, frustrations, grudges, impatience, and all other pearls of stress at our bed time?
How do we succeed to loosen down all muscles and nerves to be able to sink into that oblivion where none of that emotional crap seems to matter anymore? How is the mechanism of falling asleep different from relaxing during the day, other than we don't overdo it like in sleep?
It's truly amazing how we reserve that ability only for our bed time, ably sweeping it all under the rug - until the next morning when we sweep it out again to continue tormenting ourselves with that same old passion of complicating our lives.
With an Awakened Spirit
All it really takes is awakening of our spirit enough to realize that it's all of our own make - all our responsiveness to life. No one is pissing us off, trust me, we choose it - consciously or unconsciously, and with some of that spirit awakened we may choose to stop doing it to ourselves.
The world is not about terrorists, bad politicians, high cost of medical insurance, climate change, and a nagging spouse - it's about our response to all that.
We are not helpless automatons waiting to see what kind of emotions will happen to us. They are our constructs, together with our attitude, our beliefs, and our dominant thoughts during the day.
So, let's wake up and stop complicating this life, we don't know if we'll get another one to make it better. Everybody knows on their gut level how they are making things complicated for themselves, and there is no magic bullet to undo it - other than befriending ourselves enough not to do it anymore. Let's face it, folks, if we were doing to our friends what we sometimes intimately do to ourselves, we wouldn't have many friends. Agree?