On Joy, Grief and other things

I’ve always had a problem with living the moment. No matter how much I’m enjoying a book, I want to get to the end of it to know what happens and to start a new one. No matter how exciting a movie is, I have to check how much time is left. It takes some willpower to resist checking my mobile while working out or when out with friends, fueled by the urge to multitask. However, it wasn’t until I was going to be and I felt bothered to have to lie  all night doing nothing but being asleep, that I felt I had a real problem. It was then that I realized: what’s wrong with spending hours on end warm under a blanket, resting and recharging? Aren’t those the precious moment I so much savor in the morning when I have to wake up and get to work? Doesn’t it feel good to hit that snooze button and pretend I can stay cuddled there for another hour? Don’t I sometimes feel like I just don’t want to get up and face the world? Well, I have the chance to not face the world for up to 10 hours, why does it seem like such a waste of time now? Suddenly I realized I was missing out on the joy of sleeping, like I was missing out on the joy of several other things as I was in hurry to do the next thing. The thing is, there’s always a next thing, until there isn’t anymore, which means it will never end, you’ll just keep missing out on fully enjoying the current thing until you can’t enjoy anything anymore, because your time is up.

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I’ve been reading a book about myths in popular psychology, and one of the chapters dealt with the so-called five stages of grief. Those stages, also known as the grief cycle, were created by a Swiss psychiatrist called Elizabeth Kubler-Ross upon observing how terminal patients dealt with their eminent death, hence they were originally called “The five stages of death”. Now, aside from saying that it’s a gross generalization to say that people with all their vast differences in attitudes, beliefs and circumstances would deal with something as grand as death the same way, scientific research also begs to differ. It turns out that not everyone has to go through all these stages, much less in the same order. Based on my personal experience, I found that very reassuring. I found it confusing that I was jumping from acceptance to depression to anger and then falling in denial before going back to acceptance and then depression all over again. A dear friend of mine for example believes that there are no stages, just one long ugly stage. But that turned out to be quite normal, because, as Kubler-Ross herself testified: We are as individual in our grief as we are in our lives. So, when it comes to grief, there’s no one size fits all.

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You are, I’m sure, familiar with the saying “when it rains, it pours”. You know, when something bad happens in your life you feel like you’ve hit one domino and the rest started to topple, or like you’ve cut the wrong wire in a time bomb. But you know, I think I have an explanation. You see, when something bad happens in your life, it usually affects you negatively, it brings you down, makes you neglect some of your duties, or maybe make you less patient with people around you and more prone to hurting them and feeling hurt by them. It could even make you feel that it’s easier to give up. During the last month, as I’ve been going through some tough times of my own, I was about to fall into that trap. Today for example when I received some frustrating news about something I was pursuing, my initial reaction was: “Okay, another thing that isn’t working. When it rains, it pours.”

But then I took a moment and thought how easy would it be to fall into that paradigm, to believe that the theme of my life now is “things aren’t working.” That’s when I decided that I’m not just going to sit and watch things not working. I want this thing, and if it’s not working one way I’ll try to find another way of making it work. Losing one thing doesn’t mean you have to lose everything, not if I can help it.

And I could see that everything is linked indeed, things don’t go awry for no reason. For example, in the midst of my emotional pain, I started to experience another kind of pain: toothache. Again, the “when it rains, it pours” reasoning came into play, but I could see that the two were more or less connected. For the past month I’ve been waking up at night to find that I’m unconsciously gritting my teeth as I lie down to sleep thinking about all the things that have been making me anxious, not to mention all the extra sugar I consumed allowing myself to indulge in the last couple of days, which wasn’t just because of the cold weather. Of course my teeth would collapse!

But I the end it’s all about what you choose to focus on. Whenever I was starting to fall into self-pity I would remember all the things I have, and how my problems pale in comparison to what other people are going through, in fact they’re not even real problems compared to them. And I do believe strongly that the more thankful you are, the more God gives you, and the more you let yourself indulge in sadness and self-pity, the more of that you attract.

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