Yesterday I pictured I was dead. I was flying from NYC to LA. I don’t like turbulence and there was heavy turbulence mid-day. So I have my anti-turbulence technique. I picture that I am dead. My body, no longer mine. My thoughts, all dispersed into the ether. My emotions, my anxieties, all brief glimpses the Universe had for a second but then vaporized. No longer mattered. An infinitesimally small piece of quantum angst that disappears into a fiery plane crash.
And then I feel relief about the turbulence. Bring it! We’re all very scared of death. Despite the fact that every second we decay further into it, it’s the one thing we deny all day long in order to exist, to feed, to support, to succeed. And we all have great visions of how it could be afterwards: either heaven, or even the atheist heaven of nothing – sounds better than most of daily life. So I picture I am already dead, without thoughts or emotions or worries or happiness. And the turbulence goes away, and I feel as if I’ve woken up from a dark dream while the cabin shakes and my neighbor grips the sides of his seat.
Here’s what I feel every day at some point:
1) The grass is greener on the other side. You give me some grass, I will instantly think there is something greener. Writers want to be Doctors. Doctors want to be Entrepreneurs. Single people want to be Married. Cubicle-sitters will want to be Managers. Renters want to be Owners. Astronauts want to return to their families. Bloggers want to be book writers. Book writers want to be entrepreneurs.
2) Fear. Fear of what? I don’t know. But I’m writing this at 4:37am and at some point in the next 24 hours this body and mind I am in will experience fear of some sort. Maybe direct physical fear (turbulence) or fear of losing some opportunity. Or fear of not being about to write. Or fear of making a fool of myself. That’s my usual arsenal of fears but I have other more obscure ones as well.
3) Regrets about the past. 4:37am and I’ve already been, in my mind, angry at someone I had a relationship with years ago. Maybe that anger lasted a few seconds. But all day long today I am sure I will have flashbacks of other angers. I can’t help it. There’s a big list. Anger might have a half-life (“give it time” people say) but, like the body, it decays forever, with only glimpses of forgiveness masking it in the mind.
4) Worries about the future. It doesn’t matter what is going on, people time travel to the future and fret about the million things we can’t predict. “but”, one might say, “don’t we need to prepare now in order to have a good future. Shouldn’t we have a purpose that drives us through the day.” Yes. But, I can only speak for myself, I should do the right thing right now. And not worry about the results, the things I can’t control, the people who will say what they will. Being a father is a great example of this. If I do the right thing RIGHT NOW, they often won’t like me. But I can’t worry about how they will feel about me in the future. I still have to do the right thing (set a curfew, sew a new boundary, inflict a new consequence).
There’s also always the feeling of “what next?” After this post, what will I do tomorrow? And after the next 500 posts, and 25 investments, and after my kids grow and forget me, and after Claudia loses any passion for me, “what’s next?” But right now, I could die. Or I could live. That’s it.
5) Want to be Loved and Respected. Everytime I hit “Publish” I feel this. Everytime I say something I feel this. But you never know. Nobody ever knows.
6) Judge people. I’m going to be meeting a lot of people today. With every one of them I will form a gut opinion. I hope I can avoid this. For better or worse, my gut opinions are usually wrong. I have to always tell myself I’m not so smart. I need time to form a sense of someone.
Yesterday I was sitting in a restaurant at a table next to a well known actress and a woman I assumed was her mother. The mother was trying to explain that “South Africa is not Africa the same way South America is not North America.” There was a little girl at the table also, about six years old. She was debating changing her name to “Matthew” so she would stand out at auditions (it is LA, after all). I had a gut reflex to hate them all. To make judgments on surgeries. Form an opinion about the sizes of their breasts and lips. And then make a macro judgment on their entire lives, how they’ve lived, how they will die. How this little girl will grow up.
7) Misery. At some point each day its hard not to succumb into a feeling of, “what the hell am I doing?” People say “in the grand scheme of things”. But there is no “grand scheme of things”. Even if you define yourself as miniscule or unimportant you are still exaggerating.
This comes across as whining as I reread this. But, let me ask you: how many of the above things will you do today? Just read through the bolds and go “check”, “check”, “check” on each thing you did yesterday or will do today. How many “checks” did you count?
It doesn’t mean you are depressed. Or feeling entitled. Or a bad person.
This is being human. An animal born 200,000 years ago, descended from a starfish that crept onto the sand and needed to build a bigger brain now that food was no longer simply floating past for the grabbing in the depths of the ocean. Back then, the grass was greener on the other side. And you needed to judge people…or be killed.
Well, I can say, I’m simply not going to do those things. But that won’t work. That’s like saying I don’t need sleep. Or I won’t need to go to the bathroom today. I will do all seven of those items above. These are the defecations of the mind.
The key is simply being aware when you are doing them. Stop unconsciously doing them. Most of my life I’ve walked around asleep, doing these things all day in my head like the same seven songs constantly repeating. It’s not so hard, then, to develop superpowers. To stand out. To evolve: Simply note when you fall into one of the seven. Say, “I’m doing it again”. Notice it. What does it feel like in your body. Why are you doing it?
My only job today then: to wake up from the dull sleep I fell into many years ago. To notice and observe the comings and goings into the port of my mind. To open my eyes and for one more moment at least, to be alive.