I have often wished that I could see the future, haven’t you?
Wished that I could somehow be assured that whatever is happening today – whether of good or sorrow or trial or joy – will turn out alright in the end. And by “turn out alright”, of course I mean in a manner acceptable to me. But wishing hasn’t made it so. In fact, life turns out to be much more like a suspense novel. You have to wait until the next page or the next chapter, let the story reveal itself one crumb of information, one race to the safety-deposit box or one secret code cracked, at a time. In fiction, this makes for an exciting experience – what we often call a page-turner.
In life, as opposed to fiction, it can be stressful. But it can also be, truthfully, whatever we choose to make it: exciting or terrifying, energizing or immobilizing, peaceful or panicked.
It isn’t that we have control. In fact, it’s the opposite. We don’t have control except over our thinking (we don’t control what happens, what other people do, or even what we feel, because we can’t). Making our days, our minutes, our seconds – in short our lives – whatever we choose is about how we think. Its about what we choose to put our minds to, including which emotions, among the many we feel in any given day, we promote and dwell upon.
To illustrate, I thought I’d share the feelings that have been repeating on my internal play-list lately:
- “I’m a loser who has nothing to offer”
- “What was I thinking?”
There are moments when I give in to these emotions and thoughts. And let me tell you, those moments truly suck.
But today is Thanksgiving, so I want to share the rest of this story.
I want to share the part of the story where I practice selective thinking – often considered a bad thing! But when I say I practice selective thinking, I mean I choose to think about the richness in my days rather than the emotions of scarcity that fuel the crappy moments. This richness or abundance includes:
- being in a city I love and having the opportunity to explore it
- spending quality and quantity time with my friends Mike and Kathe
- being proud of myself for changing my life, taking a risk
- new experiences: being a barista, working with the bicycle coalition, interacting with interesting folks via my #dailypicofMpls project, the supportive and interesting folks I’ve met through FitCamp
- being creative in the kitchen, learning to practice both frugality and sensory satisfaction with healthy foods.
Selective thinking includes both faith and hope. When I realize that I am dwelling on emotions I can’t control, I remind myself that life is lived IN THIS MOMENT, not in any other. In this moment, I can get outside, I can submit another job application, I can talk to someone I don’t know yet. In this moment, I can dwell in abundance.
As I prepared to write this post, I came upon the poem, “O Taste and See” by Denise Levertov (at the end of this post). Levertov was inspired by a poster quoting Psalm 34:8. I love that the poem talks about taking all of our experiences in life and savoring them, remembering that we have this moment – not an unlimited number of moments – to do so. Serendipitously, I stumbled upon this Wikispaces classroom site which offers a paraphrase of the poem, ending with:
So wait not for your hunger to live to be satisfied.
And reach for every meaningful experience we gain in life.
Today, I am thankful that, no matter how things turn out, I am not still waiting for my hunger to live to be satisfied. Nor am I allowing negative thoughts and emotions to color whole days crappy. Instead, I’m controlling the only thing I can – how I think about it all. And this allows me to “savor, chew, swallow, transform” my daily experiences.
On this day of Thanksgiving, I wish the same for you.
“O Taste and See” by Denise Levertov The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue, grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking