I fell over a lot as a kid. I think it’s pretty common when you’re little – sometimes your top half moves more quickly than your bottom half, you seem to slip on everything, or you just simply tip over all the time. It’s as if you haven’t quite figured out the whole “leg” thing yet. Here is what went through my mind when I fell over:
1. I am walking, enjoying being five, gee this is great!
2. Woh, that’s slippery, I think I will flail in all directions to keep this from happening.
3. I am suddenly on the ground and I do not like this! I have no idea if anything is broken or god forbid, my knee is scraped.
4. I think I’ll cry now. Someone else should asses the situation.
This was pretty standard. But one day in the school hallway, I want to say in about 1st grade, I was walking to the bathroom by myself when I slipped on some water. I totally wiped out and landed on my back on the linoleum floor, leaving me laying there by myself. I remember revving up to cry, but then realizing that because no one was around, it wouldn’t make a difference if I cried or not. So I took a big-girl-deep-breath, got up, and carried on with my day. From then on, tipping over was not the end of world.
The image of staring at the empty hallway as I sat on the floor, terribly confused, has been popping into my head a lot recently. Across the board, I have been trying to reassess the way I react to things. I’ve never enjoyed the phrase, “Choose to have a good day.” I think it’s crap, unrealistic, and clearly whoever made it up never dealt with anxiety. But about a month ago, I happened to come across a book called The Diamond Cutter, which delves into one of the oldest-known printed texts on Earth (which I think is pretty nifty), the Diamond Sutra. The text outlines a Buddhist approach to business and living your life as a generous, compassionate person. My biggest takeaway from the book is the concept of “mental imprints”, or essentially, the way we choose to code our view of the world.
Think about a rainstorm. My parents had an outdoor theatre company when I was in high school, and each summer we would obsessively stare at the radar to track any possible storms before the show. My teenage happiness was often contingent on being a part of these productions, and to me, a rainstorm was a complete tragedy. I was also 16, so things were very serious ALL THE TIME. I loved having all the feelings. I once sobbed to my dad when he cancelled the final performance of a show as a monsoon-strength storm rolled in over the stage. I still felt like was doing it to spite me.
On the other hand, the storm we got here last night practically sent me out dancing into the streets. The whole town was waiting for this storm to break the heat.
The point is, that at the end of the day, a rainstorm is just a rainstorm. It isn’t good or bad. It is really…just a damn rainstorm. An event is only colored by an emotion when someone assigns it one. Now this is not saying that either reaction, or an extreme emotion is wrong. There seems to be a lot of confusion about this when people are trying to understand the cause and effect portions of Buddhism. If someone is getting hurt in the process, the emotions we project on this happening are very real, and very important. The idea of imprints is not that our emotions are wrong, but more about how the coloring of an experience does indeed come from us. The event itself is neutral to begin with. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and that whole thing. It’s just figuring out with coloring will do the most good.
Lousy Imprint: Offices are bad, theatre is awesome
Office: I put a lot of energy into hating check requisitions. And why? I literally write a number on them, put the number in a spreadsheet, and put then in a mailbox. Then I never see them again. That is it. And yet every time one comes across my desk it’s as if someone has just dumped days of work on my plate, trapping me for all eternity in my office! No. It’s anxiety that I’m going to do it wrong and someone won’t get paid. Somewhere down the line, probably when I first got here, I was nervous about messing one up, and then never changed my mind about it.
Theatre: I always walk into an audition or rehearsal full of hope. Maybe a little too much hope. Even if I am absolutely thrilled to be there, which I am, I tend to forget that there are parts theatre that get under my skin. I am very shy person most of the time, I have just trained myself to open my mouth to say something more than I’d prefer. A lot of the time in theatre, you are either surrounded by extroverts or people like me, who are desperately trying not be too much of an introvert. So when I leave rehearsal, I tend to feel completely exhausted, and terrified that I said something doofy. But again, why? Of all places for me to be doofy, it might as well be in a business full of proud oddballs. And also, just because #soblessed girl talks an hour about her 15th chance to play Juliet or how she privately meets with the ghost of Uta Hagen, it does not mean I need to buy into or be effected by that culture.
The point is that my brain has become pre-wired to like or hate certain experiences. Before I know it, I am unable to enjoy really lovely days in my office or feel frustrated when I don’t have a rehearsal full of sunshine. Somewhere in there is reality.
Let’s stop hating Mondays
I would like to challenge everyone here to try something out. The next time there is a wave of commiserating online about how much Monday sucks (because heaven forbid we like going to work), let’s stop and try to figure out what is bad about the experience. Would an “I love Mondays” hashtag be too obnoxious or sarcastic? This won’t only help getting up in the morning, but it will also significantly help with the Sunday night blues. Unless you have a root canal Monday morning, maybe we can reassess how much we dread leaving our weekend behind. If you’re upset, you’re upset. But what about? Might as well ask. Mondays may be the shared enemy we bond over, but what is this doing to us?
Let’s stop hating each other
I know that sounds harsh. But I catch myself glaring at almost every post on Facebook these days with a grumpy cat face. Someone gets in a show and I think they’re bragging, someone has a bad day and I think they’re whining, someone is a Republican, and I think they’re a moron. I have unfollowed so many people that my newsfeed is basically just cat pictures now.
Ben and I talked about this and how the process of blocking out the negativity has made us more negative. So instead of having the knee-jerk reaction to judge everyone’s post, Ben has suggested the hashtag #ibelieveinyou or something similar. So instead of flipping a table when someone books another broadway show, or instead of rolling our eyes when someone is screaming about another first world problem, maybe we send support instead. It makes the “likes” more personal, and Facebook more about celebrating each than comparing who is eating a prettier brunch.
Don’t just sit in the hallway
So I’m suggesting to just give this all a try. The next time you find yourself seeing something as a major problem (and you or someone else’s life or rights are not being threatened) consider when this became such negative aspect of your life. This way, instead of suppressing negative thoughts and slowly building up tension like a pressure cooker, you are simply trying to see reality more clearly. You may actually be able to get off your butt and walk to class.