Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Moment in Time

"Before my accidents, there were ten thousands things I could do. I could spend the rest of my life dwelling on the things I had lost, but instead I chose to focus on the nine thousand I still had left.” ~ W. Mitchell

During a conversation with a friend, yesterday, I was surprised to hear how deeply he dwells on the very things he claims to despise in his life. Although the past couple of years have been a bit hard for him, he is certainly not in a desperate position.

One of the things that piqued my interest in the conversation was the fact that he felt his lack of good fortune was everlasting, while the good moments seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. When I shared some personal good news, his first reaction was: “make sure you enjoy those moments, because they pass too fast. Only the bad ones last.”

That really got me thinking. Is it true - as he assumes - that good moments are the exception rather than the norm? Could it be that “bad” moments seem more intense and longer lasting because we actually engage in them? When something less than desirable crosses our path we dive into the pain and discomfort of it head first. Before long, we become almost totally absorbed by the very situation we despise, and employ a large part of our day thinking about it. Feeling the pain or the anger becomes our main focus.

When things are well, we greatly ignore them, and go through the motions of our day feeling nothing special is going on. In reality, each day we are alive, pain-free, fed and safe, is a day we have been blessed. If you have a problem with this concept, wait until the next time you are in pain, and see what you would pay to feel the way you do when you think you are having a normal day.

When everything is okay we don’t produce as high an emotional response as we do when something is wrong, so moments tend to go by unobserved and unlived. When something goes wrong, the emotional force we feel is almost overwhelming – we can feel our discomfort; we can taste it and hear it in our own words. Most of all, we live it moment by moment, as if afraid that by losing touch with it we’ll waste our opportunity to validate our lack of happiness.

It is possible to invert the two. It is feasible to jumpstart a positive emotional charge by looking for an element of fun in situations, regardless of how dire they appear. It is also acceptable to acknowledge a negative situation without getting married to it.

Ultimately, life is no different than a card game. Luck – or lack of - may have an impact, but learning how to play the game will certainly improve our chances of winning.

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