Sometimes it seems we live in a world of ‘isms’: workaholism, sexism, ageism, racism, idealism, cynicism, feminism, postmodernism, liberalism, absolutism, egalitarianism, fundamentalism, optimism, pessimism, pragmatism… the list marches on.
Yet what does it mean to live our lives around all these things?
Which ‘isms’ feature most strongly in your life?
(And how long is it since you’ve evaluated their place there?)
I bought a little blue leather-bound photo album at a flea market many years ago. It’s full of someone else’s memories, captured in the black and white of the 1930s. And it offers an imaginative, somewhat eerie experience as you flip through it and wonder at what these memories might have meant to their owner (who is probably long gone).
The first image in the album (above) is of a train wreck…
So what of your own memories? Especially the hard ones. The literal and metaphorical ‘train wrecks’ you might carry within you somewhere.
I read a great saying the other day, on Facebook. It was sent as a message from one friend to another, offered as a kind of reassuring salve for the sting of not feeling appreciated or acknowledged by other people:
“Do something good
and throw it into the ocean”*
I like it because at first it seems a little extreme. And then the sense it makes starts slowly dawning…
To just do the thing for its own sake.
To release any expectations or hopes for the way it might be received by others.
To just let go of whatever happens next…
It’s amazing where a sense of wisdom or insight can be found sometimes.
This sentence in the photograph above appears as the ‘fine print’ on a billboard advertising credit cards:
“Any advice given is general.
You should consider whether it is right for you.”
It sounds uncannily like it’s talking about more than just financial advice here…
So when it comes to you and your life, how are you with advice?
Do you seek it out or tend to reject it?
Do you follow that ad’s advice and ‘consider whether it’s right for you’ before taking it?
And what does it even mean to do that?
Sometimes therapy itself is thought to be an arena for advice. Somewhere along the lines, it seems to have been misconstrued with a hope for finding ‘the answer’ to our problems. (And wouldn’t it be great if it could deliver that?)
Have you ever caught yourself on autopilot? Doing things without really being there? Or just emptily going through the motions?
Maybe what gave it away was noticing the strange little glitches that can happen on autopilot: like putting your keys in the fridge or your notebook in the bin. Or forgetting what you walked into the room for. Or missing your turn-off, or even your destination altogether, because you were ‘lost’ in thought or just ‘elsewhere’ at the time.
(I just got on the wrong train home, so I know the feeling all too well right now).
If mindfulness is about consciously being exactly where you are, in the body that you are, moment by moment, then it seems that being on autopilot is pretty much its exact opposite. Almost mindless.
And maybe it’s worth getting mindful about that mindlessness. To find out where you are while your body’s making its own way through space and time sort of unaccompanied like this…
This photo was taken several years ago, and it’s always had a haunting quality about it for me. For having taken a stance many decades before, and not having the chance to change its position, this statue is gradually being overgrown. Subsumed. Lost.
It’s like some kind of fable, warning about what can happen if you stand still for too long…
And it reminds me of the many other ways we can perhaps stand too still or take a particular stance and refuse to change our position sometimes – intellectually, politically, emotionally, relationally.
The lure of becoming an ‘expert’ seems to fit here, too. You know the stuff I mean: inhabiting only a very small, very known (and very safe) part of our particular universe. Not exposing ourselves quite so much to the vulnerability of change or newness. Feeling we have more answers than questions; more facts than curiosity. Perhaps thinking that a certain way of doing things is the best one, or maybe even the only one – and that that one way just happens to be our own… (how handy).
Do you sometimes find yourself stuck in stuff like this? Caught in the vines that have grown at your feet? Unable to sense new movement in your life? Automatically only feeling or thinking or talking about the things you already know?
Have you lost your sense of wonder or curiosity about the world?
(And do you want it back?)
If so, how can you begin to change all that?
I’m on a plane as I write this, a small TV screen flickering in my face from the back of the seat in front of me. It’s almost impossible to ignore:
“Make time fly,” it implores. “Just plug in.”
It promises “time gobbling” live TV (just swipe your card to access). Which sounds quite appealing here on a plane.
But how much of your time – your limited lifetime – do you really want ‘gobbled’ like this?
And what else is being swiped when that happens?
How much of your time do you want to invest each week in live TV at the expense of live living?
And is it possible to bring therapy and mindfulness into this arena?
This sign in the photo is about the usual tar and asphalt kind of roads. But it reminded me of the metaphorical roads to recovery we all travel on as well, at times.
Sometimes life can take us to places of great desolation: grief, heartache, hopelessness, regret, loss. And sometimes the only proper response is to just dwell in those places for a while. To absorb the landscape. To sit in the solitude. To simply take stock of where you find yourself just now.
But, when it feels right to start the process of recovery, how can you find a path back to that? How can you make your way out of the pain and back to other parts of your life? How might you walk towards your future?
Let’s explore that together for a moment.
I’m feeling quite ‘busy’ at the moment. Balancing work and obligations and family and friendships and planning and life. I’m sure you know the feeling…
And some of that other stuff that often accompanies busyness – a sense of rushing, checking, efficiency, expedience – is becoming more pronounced. So busy’s getting bigger, taking up more space. And the space left over is shrinking.
Yet in between all of that, life continues on. For life doesn’t seem to stop for ‘busy;’ or let you catch up with it later, when it might be more convenient somehow.
No, it seems that this is it when it comes to life.
And if, as that old saying goes, all we have is the present moment, then where does that leave us when we’re either too ‘busy’ to attend to that moment; or if we’ve already skipped on ahead of it, projecting and planning the future at today’s expense?
Where does it leave you?