I can be naked in front of my cat without being self-conscious. I am secure in how my cat feels about me and I know that there isn’t any judgement or opinion there. Just pure love. And the feeling is mutual.
Then I worry. What if heaven exists? And what if I get there and find that my cat is waiting for me. And what if she can talk and we have fantastic conversations? And what if one day she says, “Hey, dude. You know all those times you undressed in front of me and I meowed? That was cat language for ‘ugly naked.’ We were trying to get you to stop torturing us. True story.”
I don’t think I would like that. Yeah, like I need more things to worry about.
The point is: Can you ever know what someone else is really thinking? And even when they tell you outright they’re still probably lying. It’s what we humans do.
So why should it matter what they think?
Don’t ask me why. I can’t tell you. But one day I found myself in the Montgomery Wards and saw a crystal candy bowl. It had a nice curve to it. I liked the style. It was sparkly. Two things to know about this moment: I could give a shit less about crystal bowls and I don’t need a fancy place to store my candy. Besides, a candy bowl just encourages people to help themselves and I am not about the sharing.
Whatever. For reasons unknown I plunked down $50.00 and bought the cursed thing. I only mention this because I enjoy shaming myself.
Then, as you already guessed from the usage of the word “cat” in the preceding paragraphs, the thing was soon utterly destroyed. By a cat. Who was not supposed to be on the counter.
Bad kitty! No biscuit!
The thing is, though, I didn’t get mad. Not really. Not the raw kind of anger that stays with me for five years and then I’m still blogging about it over and over. It was not that sort of deliciousness. It happened, I was irritated, then I easily let it go.
Why? I was curious about that. Then it hit me. The cat didn’t do it on purpose. It was just a natural result of her catness. My brain was able to understand that. And, more importantly, my brain was willing to accept it. What the cat did was not intentional.
No biggie. I didn’t want that damn bowl anyway.
I then conducted a thought experiment. What if, instead of a cute fuzzy creature, it was a human being who broke my precious bowl? What if someone walked in, grabbed it, held it high above their head with both hands like Link finding a new piece of treasure, then, with all their might, deliberately throw it on the ground with all the force they could muster?
That, my friend, would be a horse’s ass of a different color. Like beet-red crimson daggers of flame. Shooting from my eyeballs. That’s what I’m talking about.
It’s likely the next three minutes would determine the course of the rest of my life. Let’s put it this way. I’d have a new best friend named Bubba and I’d willingly bend over for the soap. All in the name of self-preservation. You need a protector when you’re on the inside.
The mind job, though, is this. In both situations the outcome is identical. Absolutely the same. Broken bowl. Should it really matter how it happened? Is my anger going to change anything, except maybe my blood pressure? Is my perception of the intent of the act in any way relevant?
When I’m driving, I look a lane over and see a lady jabber-jawin’ on her cell phone so hard that her lips create a meteorological phenomenon which almost gusts my car off the road. I immediately feel angry. Why? Just look at her! She thinks she’s so important talking on her precious phone? Being an inattentive driver? She’s putting her life and the lives of others in danger. Why, even my life! How dare she? And besides, where I live it’s now illegal to drive and have a cell phone melded to your face. She’s breaking the law!
Perhaps. But something tells me my reaction has more to do with me than her. And I’m the one dealing with the effects of my anger. Not her.
As I drive down the street I see a pedestrian on the sidewalk minding their own business. More often than not, they also have a phone shoved to their head. I lament this. Times have changed. It really bothers me. I don’t feel the same kind of anger, but I feel the judgement rising up inside of me again. I recently picked up the news and read about a 19-year-old millennial who walked and texted to her death by inattentively wandering in front of a moving car. What a waste. It’s sad to see a society collectively shrug and say, “Who gives a fuck?”
I recently concluded that “offense” is taken when I see other people doing things that I would not do myself. But what I’m struggling with is judgement and anger. If someone does something that I feel is rude, how do I stop my brain from reacting? How do I prevent my inner voice from saying, “You and/or your actions offend me.”
I only ask because since I feel this way 24/7 it might be pertinent to my possible future as a life form.
Researching this, I read advice from an expert in “emotion regulation” who says advocates taking a “higher road.” Another guy, a “mental professional coach,” has similar advice. “You need to go to a higher ground, a higher viewpoint of the world and life,” he says.
The advice is a 90-second rule. Recognize your reaction, allow yourself the luxury of judging (but don’t overdo it) and breath out. Then, after 90 seconds, you let it go. You do nothing. You remain silent. And you concentrate on controlling your breathing down to six to eight breaths a minute. Then you let it go and don’t revisit it again. It’s over. Nothing will change. Do not dwell.
To me, this is the magical “then a miracle occurs” step in the process. While we’re at it why don’t I poop out a gold bar and buy myself a Lamborghini? I’m sure that’ll make me feel better, too.
If thoughts are the logical starting place of my destiny, I have a simple question: How do I control my thoughts? I’d really like to know.
I’m about to go to a place called work to face my personal Darth Vader. According to Yoda I will never be a Jedi Knight until I’ve faced Boss and lived to tell the tale. One thing is certain: Something has got to give. One way or another it is my destiny.