EMBRACE OR DISPLACE
#thoughtfultuesday is here again. I made the mistake of starting the second season of Queer Eye on Netflix last night, which led to a tearful binge-watching session of the entire season. On the whole, the series constructs beautiful stories, all of which encapsulate the shadow and light aspects of existence. Each episode begins by exploring a subject as a whole, multifaceted being. As the viewer, the presence of complexity (that is to be human), is made evident; amidst love and generosity, pain, suffering, and neglect coincide. In my opinion, one of the fundamental flaws of the mind exists in its efforts to reduce or simplify people, places, and/or things. With the objective of understanding, the mind quantifies and categorizes. Although this is likely rooted in survival, it does not serve us well in the realm of connection. Our reductivity bias does a disservice as it limits our ability to recognize a deep alikeness in one another. Overall, the fact that Queer Eye strays from portraying individuals as unidimensional is refreshing. What stands out to me post Queer Eye binge is the irony of life; regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religion, appearance, etc., we are united by our experiences of suffering. Fundamentally, we all desire connection, which occurs when we are seen and understood. Yet, when we endure pain of any sort, it is common to feel alone and misunderstood. So, there exists this universal opportunity for connection, yet in its presence we isolate. I will be the first to admit I default to self-obsession and seclusion when I am feeling wounded. Still, I cannot help but wonder, how many other individuals are suffering simultaneously? When I consider a world that endorses and normalizes reaching out and connecting with one another during times of suffering, my soul is alight. This is the mission not only of therapy, but is also the vision for humankind.
If you have been following my writing, it will be apparent that I favour the use of analogy in “landing” concepts. I am feeling quite pleased with myself in this moment as I prepare to share my most recent with you. Every time I cross the bridge over the Sheep River, I stare at a flock of geese huddled together, nestled on top of the ice. It hasn’t been a mild winter to say the least and merely by looking at them I shiver. I think to myself, from the comfort of my vehicle with the heat blasting, why do these crazy geese stay here? Aren’t they freezing their feathers off? The most logical next step is to bring these questions to my father, whose innate understanding of nature far surpasses mine. I ask Pops if geese have acclimatized enough to endure this senseless Albertan weather. In his simple, yet wise words Pops replies, “I think the geese have decided that staying put is a better option than flying south. They likely said, ‘To heck with a difficult flight. We might as well just stay here.’” I told you my father is a wise soul. This has to be the most fitting metaphor of life: it takes an immense amount of experience and insight to determine when to ride out the storm and when to fly south. Preceding the conversation with my father, I hadn’t even considered that enduring the winter might be more desirable than flying south.
I feel an urgent need to clarify that there is a notable difference between running from one’s problems and changing one’s patterns. Flying south sounds pretty damn appealing, which is likely why I favoured it over winter. The grass has to be greener on the other side, right? We all know that the proper use of that cliche indicates otherwise. Unfortunately, flying south does not occur in the absence of pain and fear. If you are inclined to avoid pain and fear by fleeing, indulging in a trip south will not magically eradicate your problems. Although I dislike being the bearer of bad news, fear and pain exist within us and move through us, meaning that the only way in this scenario is to, “embrace the suck”. If your pattern is to repeatedly endure and revel in the “suck” perhaps a migration is necessary. At times, it is not enough to simply be with our pain as it requires channeling and movement. The invitation to you, and I, is to candidly evaluate our responses and patterns. Instead of robotically responding in a way that appears to be comfortable, choose differently. Although the unknown can seem terrifying, I would argue that it is worse to re-create a known difficult circumstance and continue to suffer and complain about it. I am aware that sounds harsh, but it is the truth. I do not share this from a pious stance, I too am human and there are many, many subconscious patterns that I continually participate in. But, if there is conscious awareness of a pattern, there is an accountability and responsibility to oneself.
A self-help technique that I have found annoyingly effective is, “Do one thing differently each day.” I have not turned this into a goal or rigid practice, as it loses its effectiveness and authenticity when I do so. Hence, I am not telling you to make this dogmatic either. Instead, when this thought arises to “do differently”, I am present with it in my awareness in that moment. Surprisingly, when faced with a difficult decision or circumstance this “do differently” chirps directly into my ear, as a reminder to refrain from auto-piloting. More often than not, “doing differently” is a subtle gesture which may be as simple as deciding not to respond in the moment. Although this quote has been attributed to Einstein, its first documented use was in 1981 by Narcotics Anonymous, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Regardless of the source, it is insanity that it has been written and spoken since the 1980’s and still isn’t widely practiced. In closing my companions, I encourage you to look to the geese and decide whether you are team winter or team south when you face your next conundrum.