Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The plus / minus columns and a self-exploratory ramble

I've been spending some time trying to pinpoint what the triggers are that can sometimes blindside me when I'm having an otherwise exhilarating (or even just contentedly happy) day, as well as the things that do the opposite. Trying to stay on an even keel can be hard when balancing time and energy devoted to meaningless work, family, aging cats, friends' anxieties and stumblings, my own anxieties and stumblings, trying to figure out what I ultimately want to do when I grow up while trying hard to challenge myself to learn new things -- relevant and meaningful things.

It seems that once you let yourself lean towards the negative (e.g. fall into a snit or some sort of bad mood), the triggers that can unbalance you further get smaller and smaller. So in identifying some of the things that get under my skin, I guess that I can learn to shuffle them into one of two piles: I can either address the issues, or, if they're things that are silly or about which I can't really do anything, I need to learn to take a deep breath and walk away from them. Some things just are what they are and it doesn't matter how much time I spend grumbling over them -- at the end of the day, they're still going to be what they are. Unfortunately, at the end of that day, I could end up being broody and off-track thanks to having spent a ridiculous amount of energy resenting the great "Unchangeables". And that's when little irritants start to become big distractions.

So rather than let said things get under my skin and then let smaller things tack themselves on to an established bad mood, I'm going to try to be a bit more pro-active. No more dwelling on things I can't change, and if I can change them, I will. I think that sometimes ranting about the things I feel I can't change (e.g. animal suffering that takes place on a wider scale in factory farming) feels pointless, but in terms of blogging about them publicly, I can't help but at least hope that bringing them to enough people's attention might in fact trigger some sort of incremental change.

In identifying some of the things that often make me most happy, I can learn to focus on them or seek them out. (I get a kick out of this website, thesatisfied.com, where readers submit posts of 250 words or less of things that make them happy.) I'm not into self-help or self-improvement gurus, but sometimes glean a bit of good from them. Some of it ends up being fairly self-evident in theory, if not in practice. For instance, this. There's much to be said about learning to identify your own values and then being true to yourself -- it's living an authentic life. It gets the Jean-Paul Sartre thumbs up of approval, for sure. Inner peace and a renewed sense of vitality can come from accepting unchangeables as unchangeable and moving on from them.

By learning to identify what's meaningful in your life and being true to it, and not letting things you simply cannot change sap your time and energy, you learn more about yourself. You become more certain about who it is your are -- more confident about who you are. You can free up more time and energy to enjoy the things that make you happy and to share that happiness with others. Sometimes negative energy ends up being an unwelcome gift we hand off to strangers and loved ones. We project it on them, sometimes inadvertently. Awareness of this and conscious attempts to alter that mindset and behaviour are the sorts of things that lead us to becoming more compassionate and more emotionally available -- more giving.

(Now why is it I feel that I should be wearing a flower wreath and dancing barefoot around the perimeter of a fairy ring?)

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