What Do You Smell? –
Yesterday morning I ironed a shirt for Beth to wear to work. This particular shirt was given to my wife by a friend who passed away several years ago. However, even after all this time, the shirt still smelled like our friend. The fragrance immediately brought back nice memories of her kindness, joy, love and grace-filled life. It’s amazing what smells can trigger. I have another friend who had a rough childhood and the smell of certain foods triggers terrible memories. Scientists say smell is one of the major components of remembering the past.
I’ve thought about the shirt Beth wore yesterday and I ask myself; “What would someone think of if a smell triggered a memory? What smells would remind others of me?” One of the central lessons of wisdom is that everything we do leaves an imprint upon another. Good or bad, negative or positive, our lives leave a fragrance to those around us.
Nothing is Lacking–
I was a part of a conversation this week where a group of people was giving a person advice. The advice was based on what the person had shared; a story of love and betrayal. On the wrong side of a bad choice is a terrible place to be and the person was fixated on how to either get over on the person who hurt him or get over it period. Two choices were staring him the face and he was going to choose either one or the other.
Decisions based on pain are almost always bad ones. We make these in times of stress, confusion, doubt, and loneliness. We feel as though we have lost something, had it taken away from us, and we want it back or rather life back the way it was or the way it should be.
Wisdom teaches us that suffering is the gap between how life is, reality, and how we think life ought to be. The greater the gap the more suffering. It is why learning to let go and acceptance are two of the greatest life lessons we can learn and practice. Life is rarely if ever, the way we want. Even if for a while it seems to be sooner or later it changes and we have no control over this truth. To live with open hand, to not try to grasp, force life to stay the same and allow for the inevitable change is to know and live in peace.
One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.
Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.
For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.
Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.
I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”
Defining Moments –
Yesterday I wrote about my very bad, horrible, no good morning. (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/03/02/futility/) After reading the post a friend commented that she hoped it didn’t ruin the rest of my day. Thankfully I can honestly say it didn’t. My knee and ankle hurt all day but that was physical pain. The emotional frustration and darkened spirit lifted as I drove to the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
On my way to the center, rubbing my leg, and missing my coffee, I asked myself; “Is this going to define your day? Will the men at the center get a grumpy lecturer? How will you react to other drivers and persons you meet? Will the pain, frustration, and lack of caffeine, determine the rest of the day?” I reflected on my rough morning and decided; “No. They will get the best I can give.”
Too often we allow bad moments, bad days, bad weeks, to define our lives. We hold on to them and they turn our emotions negative, our moods sour, our souls bitter. Part of accepting life as it comes is knowing some moments, days, weeks and seasons will not be pleasant. However, the ultimate choice in how they define us is ours.