I don’t think a more accurate statement has been said.
Almost two months are I left Mississippi to move over to Texas and it feels like I just left yesterday. I still vividly remember running around trying to gather my things so I could move last minute and just barely making it. At the time it was incredibly stressful! Everyone was putting a lot of pressure on me and somehow I made it through.
When I arrived, I was so stressed out about moving to a new environment. I couldn’t get internet and everything was a total mess. I was almost blinded with possibilities. Something bad was lurking around every corner and for some reason even my stress was stressing me out.
The interesting thing is that when you are stressed out sometimes it feels like there’s no way out. It’s as if you are trapped in a dark box and there’s no way to get out. There’s no real future, except the worst possible outcome, and the only past you can remember seems to be the better times. Everywhere else seems better than where you currently are.
In fact it’s like this pretty often, and I don’t think that I’m the only one. We tend to condition ourselves into habits and when they break sometimes it’s painful. Walking the same way to school every day and then having to go a completely different route. Hanging around the same crowd and then getting separated from them. It goes on and on.
We get used to these cycles and we fear change to them. We fear what may be lurking around the corner. Perhaps you texted someone and they didn’t reply. Your mind can roll around for hours wondering if you’ve said the wrong things. When the person could have simply fallen asleep or their phone died.
We tend to fear change and over-contemplate/complicate our stress. We think and try to rationalize everything in some desperate attempt to control it. And control all the outcomes as well. When something changes that is beyond out control, we become stressed. We cannot control the uncontrollable. We can’t make the train show up on time and we can’t make a person do anything that they don’t want to. It’s just beyond our control.
When I originally moved to Mississippi, I was under an insurmountable amount of stress. My whole life had changed. It felt like every pattern I had in my entire life was gone. Every fraction, everything. I associated all of my habits with who I was. When all of my habits were gone, I felt like there was nothing left of me. I was lost.
I felt like I couldn’t control my life. And in reality, control is a great illusion anyways. The sooner we let go of our need to control the outcomes, the sooner we’ll be free from stress. We see outcomes we want and we try to control everything to get that outcome.
Let me break it down a little bit for you. Here are some common examples of attachment to outcomes;
-I’m buying you a gift, and I expect you to like it.
When I expect you liking the gift, I am attempting to control the situation. Mentally, I’m attached to that outcome. When expectations (outcomes) aren’t met, we become upset or emotions arise. We feel angry that you didn’t like it or we feel upset. We do silly things like place blame on you for not appreciating us. Or we say to ourselves, “we must not really know them”.
-I’m going to take the weekend off and have a great time with my friends!
Here again we’re placing expectations and we’re trying to control our outcome. In this case, the outcome wouldn’t even be objective – it’s entirely open to interpretation. We try to control the weekend and carefully monitor every situation to measure whether it is good or bad. We add the situations up and measure if it was “good” or “bad”. Our expectations are high and often difficult to meet. So it’s easy to come up short then you’re expecting something to be great.
In both examples we see the possibility of stress. If something doesn’t go according to our plan you may as well throw the whole thing out the window. One bad experience could ruin the whole weekend or we may regret having given a gift. Both are such silly results from easily fixable situations.
I write this from my perspective on stress and how I’ve overcome much of it.
We all need to get rid of this anticipation. Throw it out of the window! If something is going to happen, don’t place bets on the outcome. Don’t say, it will be this way or it will be that way. Just let it be as it will be. When we expect something, we set ourselves on a course for disaster. Sure this weekend may be great but what about the next.
When we fail to meet our expectations we cause stress. When we anticipate anything we cause stress. We could anticipate the worst possible outcome or even the best possible outcome. If we anticipate the worst outcome, we become stressed about it. We want to avoid it at all costs. If we anticipate the best outcome, we could be let down by it’s inability to meet our standards.
The solution is to just let things be as they are. If you buy someone a gift, that’s great! It doesn’t matter if they love your gift or not because you are not attached to their reaction. You won’t feel sad if they don’t like it or you won’t feel let down by yourself. It just is what it is. No control over the outcomes, because ultimately you can’t control the outcome. No matter how hard you try!
The same is true about the weekend. If you just live the weekend as it is without applying your expectations, then you won’t be stressed about it. If the weekend was ok, then it was ok. If it was fantastic, is was fantastic. But once you apply your expectation you try to control it. You try to make the weekend the best that it can be and you can easily let yourself down. Maybe you lose your money on the way to a bar or you get called back into work. These things you cannot control.
However, if you just let the weekend be, it will be! You could lose your money but it doesn’t ruin your weekend. You didn’t have expectations and so you never fell short of them. Perhaps you could have a better experience with an alternate path. Maybe instead of hanging out with your drinking buddies, you get together with an old friend and catch up. But because you didn’t apply expectations, you were willing to take things as they come. Your didn’t try to control the weekend and just experienced it as it was.
For me, this has been an incredible life experience. There are many things in my life that are out of my control. An example would be what I’m going to be doing in class tomorrow. I could be working in a lab or I could be learning by a book. I can apply labels and say that I don’t like working in the lab. Then I could dread tomorrow because I’ll be worrying about whether I’ll be in lab or not. I’ll become frustrated with my inability to control what is going on tomorrow. Or in a different way, I could say that I plan on working in the book tomorrow. When I go to class and realize that I was wrong, it could ruin my day. I anticipated something and I couldn’t control it.
That is just a simple example from my life. There are an endless amount of expectations that we constantly place and label on everything. We expect a snow day tomorrow or we anticipate sleeping in. When we take each moment as it comes we can find peace with ourselves.
Eckhart Tolle calls this the “Now”. It’s the moment that we are experience now. Most people don’t live in the moment, they are constantly rearranging what they think they can control in the future, they apply expectations, and they worry if it’s something they can’t control. If only we could all just forget about these and just live now. In the moment. From second to second.
That is why the days feel long and the weeks fly by. All day we anticipate and worry. This, of course, causes the day to feel extremely slow. We stuck in our minds and we mentally try to control everything. We plan all of the things we could say to other people or the actions we could take and we just want to get to that moment. We wait for it, and waiting feels slow. Thus, our days go by slowly as we suffer. Looking back, the weeks fly by. We have not truly lived because we have spent so much time anticipating. When we look back, we see that we actually didn’t have control. The time flew by because while we were anticipating the future, we never lived in the moment. We never actually gained that much experience. Sitting in the waiting room we thought about what we could cook for dinner or what we could buy when we go shopping tonight. We forget to look at what is in front of us and because we never actually looked, we never really remember it. Therefore our perception of time is skewed.
So what should you do?
You should take each moment as it comes. When sometime arises, don’t anticipate. Don’t anticipate good things happening and don’t dread bad things happening either. When the moment arises, you’ll jump to action and resolve it. Right now, in this moment, all you truly have is this moment. You can take it all in or you can think of what you will be doing in the future. The choice is yours. But for me, my path away from stress has led me right to where I am now. Sitting on my extremely soft navy blue blanket, writing a lovely and grammatically erroneous article to you.
I hope you also choose to experience and live in the moment. Experience the moment with me! 🙂
In the comments below tell me what’s going on in this exact moment with you. Are you sitting or standing? Texting on your cell phone or getting ready for bed? What is the world like where you are standing? Are the walls blue like the ocean or as white as a ghost? Are you feeling tired or energetic? Let me know below! 😀