Saturday, September 12, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

No, this is not about the television show of the same name (though I've heard it's an awesome show). This is literally about the subject of this post--curbing your enthusiasm.

As a child, I was very enthusiastic about lots of things. My birthday, Halloween, Christmas, going "down the shore" (hey, I'm from New Jersey)--and as I got older, dates with men I had a crush on, and when I got engaged, I was enthusiastic about getting married. I'd been waiting for that last one my whole life.

Some experiences were very pleasant, don't get me wrong. But overall--none of them lived up to the level of anticipation I had beforehand. The event in question was never quite as glowing as I'd imagined, and everything seemed to end very quickly. My wedding--that "once in a lifetime big day" was a catastrophe. The guests had a great time, and aesthetically it was fine--but I had so much anxiety I didn't enjoy it at all. I realized that there was a marriage after this wedding, and I didn't want to be part of it. I had more enthusiasm about the divorce.

I've said before that life is out of our control. Some people have taken issue with that, but I think they misunderstand me. Amma once said during one of her retreats, "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." This doesn't mean that we should never plan anything--in order to produce works or goods of any kind requires some planning and effort. But there is a need to be flexible; fixating on the outcome too much will only lead to disappointment. Anything can happen at any time, and if you're too rigidly tied to your agenda, you'll break rather than bend when things get stormy.

I've discussed my May visit to Liverpool to see John Foxx. I think those events are what I look forward to the most these days. I love traveling to the UK when I can afford it. As you know from my posting on that event, there were technical difficulties, and there was concern the show wouldn't go on at all. Afterwards, when Foxx, Karborn, and Steve Malins stood around discussing what happened versus what they expected, Steve suddenly asked me, "What do you think Brigid? Did this show meet your expectations?" My reply was, "I never come with expectations. Whatever happens, happens. And everything looked just fine to me."

While I'm not sure they were convinced by my answer (they may have thought I was being polite), it was the God's-honest truth. Even when I am fired up for something, I make a sincere effort not to think about it at all beforehand. Some people tell me I'm being too negative, but I'm really not--I'm not assuming anything "bad" will happen, I just feel that I'll be happier if I live in the present and let the event unfold however it's going to unfold. Once I've booked my tickets and accommodations, I don't think about it again until a day or two before when I have to pack and get everything in order. When the event actually occurs, I just show up and see who I run into, and how well things go. You may say that the enthusiasm is part of the fun, but I disagree. What goes up must come down. If you're enthusiastic, you're also nervous and anxious, like someone who's consumed 12 cups of strong coffee. And when you finally arrive at the point of the event, or seeing the person you want to see, you either tend to behave like an idiot because you're nervous, or you're too emotionally exhausted to properly enjoy the event. It's like doing drugs--you get really up for awhile, and then comes the miserable crash. I'll pass on that experience.

Holidays are a little different. Those are more of a journey than a destination. Christmas has a whole "season" before it. I think I enjoy that more than the holiday itself. But we're so goal-oriented that we tend to focus on the day itself rather than all the festivities prior to the actual day. By the time you get to the actual day, you're probably sick of the holiday already. But if you view it as a natural culmination of the season, without putting too much importance on that day, it seems to be more enjoyable. At least that's what I've found over the years.

I think on the whole, I've learned this: goals are bad. Not general goals, like wanting to get a university degree, or wanting to engage in any particular occupation. But if you're always focused on a "goal", you are forever disappointed. Even if you achieve your goal, there is a sense of "that's it?" afterwards. All of our goals are necessarily temporal. Making a lot of money, going on a trip, having a nice house--all of these are good things, but they're not going to mean squat in 10,000 years. Think about that. We obviously need to move in some direction, because we are living life, but we shouldn't live FOR temporal things. Even careers--how many people absolutely live for their jobs for years and years, only to be lost when their career becomes obsolete?

There's no need to see all this as negative, though. Human beings like to have a "purpose", so it's good to work towards something. Just pay attention along the way, and be prepared for anything. There are lots of opportunities that you may miss if you're too narrowly focused. A "sure thing" may disappoint you, and what appears to be a loss or failure may actually be a blessing. We end up in the right place regardless of how we got there.

Actually--now that I think about it--I've achieved all the goals I had as a child. All the things I wanted to be when I grew up at one time or another, I've become, with the exception of being a Mom. Pretty cool. And I didn't even plan it that way.

1 comment:

Phil said...

You remind me of one of my friends when I told him that I thought I had acheived my goal of collecting all the books I'd ever wanted to - and need no more... He laughed at me and said "there will always be more!" 12 years later - I'm still collecting books. I have no goals per se - just the thrill of moving forward and being a part of life as it unravels and ravels (?) I suppose...