Experiment A. Think of the best thing that has ever happened in your life. The greatest, most exhilarating time, the one that makes you feel your whole life was worth living.
Experiment B. Now think on the worst thing that has ever happened to you. That soul wrecking moment that made you think life truly sucks.
If Experiment A took longer than Experiment B (or if B accounted more possible answers than A), then you're like me. In less than five seconds I came up with more than five flashbacks that qualified as "soul-wrecking-want-to-die" moments. On the other hand, I needed minutes (not going to say how many) to make up my mind about what would qualify as "whole-life-worth-living" moment.
I did this exercise long ago and my conclusion was that my life was just that difficult. I had too many bad experiences but good things were scarce in my past. Centuries later, I had a "conversation" with a good friend. We were supposed to be sharing our feelings and we ended up in a "who suffered the most" contest/argument. He put an end to it by pointing this out and adding one last thing. "I respect your pain. I don't know how much you're hurting because you're the one feeling it, not me. But I seriously doubt anything in your past compares to the pain of shooting your little nephew by mistake while you were drunk and high. To me, you have many more blessings to count than misfortunes. It's just that you don't see them."
More centuries passed by before I could digest the idea that I insisted to engrave in my memory all the bad stuff and overlook the good stuff in my day to day. Occasionally, someone would point out the blessings I had, but I excelled in finding flaws for them. Why should I be happy for *that* if it was not exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, when I wanted it? Alas! No one understood me or the depth of my suffering.
I was so outraged. Stupid positive thoughts. As if repeating something like a parrot would have any tangible effect on reality. As if I had not tried that before. Yet, there was a thought that stung me endlessly. I had tried positive thoughts before, but I rarely acted in consequence. I had said "I forgive you" but my mind lingered on the thoughts that made me angry. I had said "I can do this" but my mind lingered on all the reasons why I feared doing it. I had said "I believe in myself" but my heart lingered on all the emotions that made me despise myself and my actions spoke of them.
I noticed I have a strong tendency to remember the bad things clearly but I forget quickly the good things. I started a log to register all the moments I felt any kind of joy. It didn't have to be an exhilarating time. A pleasant moment would do. Have you ever done an expense log? You're amazed on how many useless things you squander your money and you don't notice. A diet log? It's kind of shocking to realize how much food you can eat and forget. Registering pleasant moments is quite an enlightening exercise. Only when we actually see all "little things" together, their huge impact on our life sinks in.
I believe now that whether my life is good or bad depends a great deal on what I want (and let my mind) to highlight, to linger on. There will always be good and bad things. In my experience, lingering in the bad will NEVER make life better. I will just stay angry, or sad, or anguished until I get sicker and then I'll be angrier, sadder and more anguished. If I really want peace, it's not enough to think "The sun'll come out tomorrow". If you want sun tomorrow, you start clearing clouds today. One must act in consequence every single time one tries a positive thought.
In Loving Memory of our furry child, Nicole
My mind lingers not on the good-bye,
but on all the joy and unconditional love you gave us.
Godspeed, big Chihuahua.
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