Saturday, October 16, 2010

Well, THAT happened.

Today's headline is a quote from the David Mamet film, State and Main. It is truly a line for all seasons, it fits all sizes, all occasions.

Much as I indulge myself in thoughts of the impossible, even I acknowledge that when a thing has happened, it cannot un-happen.

Surrendering to life as the ultimate big shot who makes the rules is a process. You're not the boss of me. Oh, but I am.

THAT gives us two choices: remain caught by the wrongness, the unfairness, the awfulness, the horror, the grief, the guilt and shame, rage and resentment, like banana slices in a Jello mold or give it to the past. If option two was the easy, natural choice, history and all fiction would tell very different stories.

In thinking about this essay, I drew up a sketchy, mental list of incidents where the less savory option one was my pick. As a theory, I've understood letting go for a few decades. As a practice, it is much newer business. It is the result of the desire, the intention, to become more conscious, more compassionate. It comes from the wish to lead a life less fraught.

Too much stress, a response over which I have some measure of control, produces too much cortisol which goes on to interfere with and upend healthy physiological activity when it hangs around too long. Every issue, or crumbs of issues, that we continue to push around on our plates overloads us with stuff that will stop our engines.

Every time I thought about an event or outcome that should have gone differently, I embezzled a bit of vitality, perhaps longevity, from myself, by raising my blood pressure, messing with my blood sugar, creating inflammation and undermining my immune system. Even doing a little research while writing makes me queasy and, oh ho, stressed by thinking about how long I've resisted letting the bad stuff roll off my back.

I know I've written about all this before in various forms and I know I'm not done. It is the heart of my struggle. Awareness helps the process. Reminders can be beneficial, like Jake Gittes' being told, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown," by one of his old pals from the LAPD. If you're not ready to let the injustices go, reminders probably don't change things.

To find and maintain a mostly peaceful response where peace is not the norm can cut us away from the herd. But then I've never been one to run with the pack. Solitary is not unknown terrain.

In the simplest language I can find, I want to stop poisoning myself. We are cautioned of - and frequently alarmed by - threats from outside. We are in danger at least as great, I believe, from how we react to the world, to the models we are shown...endlessly.

THAT is going to keep happening. I choose to think we are capable of finding a different way to view all the THATs which have lined up, awaiting their spotlight moments.

They are the grifters who linger along our daily paths, not panhandlers or the truly needy, but slick types whose patter makes them semi-believable. Say no and keep walking, walk faster - exercise is good - don't make eye contact, don't get sucked discord, debate, blame, outrage. Remain calm (Keep Calm and Carry On!) and if action is required, take it from a still and centered place. Robert Towne's dialogue had it right, too. On a metaphoric level, it's all Chinatown. Forget it. It happened. Let it go.


Kass said...

Your post today resonates is every way with me. I spent a week with serendipitous happenings abounding, culminating with a stumbled-upon support group that was emphasizing creating a vacuum so that good things could enter where negative things had previously been. This included literal things and thoughts.

LOVED this post, especially the word 'fraught."

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Thank you...fraught seems to be an all-too-frequent state, or shall I say was, leaving it in the past. I wish you countless good things entering and kicking the other sorts to the curb. Hooray for your serendipity. As time passes, perhaps you will share more. xo

Laoch of Chicago said...

This is very well done.

The Chinese have a simple saying that I like: The past is dead. (过去是死)

Artist and Geek said...

The curse of the human condition. We form stronger memories in reaction to negative events. A reinforced feedback loop that does not have an off switch...until we find it.

Eastern philosophy has many useful sayings:
"Unask the question"

Easier said than done.
Brains have a mind of their own.

Amanda said...

Your post is spot on!! The negative in me was driving me straight off a cliff or somewhere that I know I did not want to go but I just sat back and let the continued frustration speed me towards the abyss. However, with a conscience effort to move in a positive direction where there are endless possibilities and affirmations, I am set to make my future. Thank you for stopping by my blog too. I am new to all of this but I sure enjoy learning and connecting with wonderful people.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - A simple saying, a simple fact. At what point in our species development, I wonder, did fretting and stewing become our automatic response? Thank you and for the translation (which I want to enlarge and look at more closely) of your apt phrase.

Artist and Geek - Here we are, bearing the marks of this particular curse. Between remembering that the past is dead and unasking the question, my mind could be sufficiently occupied to stay out of trouble for a while. Gentle brain wouldn't think it would be such a task.

Artist and Geek said...

Thank you Marylinn,

Re: "Between..." Burst out laughing at your eloquent description of the human predicament.

I hope I was meant to...

Robert the Skeptic said...

I love a quotation supposedly attributed to Elenore Roosevelt (yet unable to confirm), but anyway: "No one can offend you without your permission." She supposedly said. This is a remarkable concept - it is so true, we CHOOSE to be offended by words or actions of others, we can choose not to just as well. (Of course, easier said than done).

The other concept I have had to accept is choosing one's own battles. This becomes particularly difficult when some "principle" is involved. Still I try to surrender to the ones that are really of no substance or consequence. This gives me more power to fight the good fight that needs to be fought.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Amanda - Isn't the blog-o-sphere an extraordinary place? Like being invited to an "A" list party and, afterward, you all get to talk to each other on the phone. I know you will find much at these sites to enrich your life, your ideas. I hope there will continue to be bits here, from time to time, that will let you know, whatever you are going through, you have a lot of company. Onward.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - Yes, please. Bursting out laughing, no matter what the context, is usually appropriate here. And that time especially. Sometimes YIKES is as close as I get to what I experience.

Robert - Reserving our energy for the good fight, for those skirmishes (or greater) at which we might have a chance, is a lesson slow in the learning. I managed to keep myself in a state of uproar through both terms of the Bush II administration and I believe it was to my detriment. Adrenalin does not make for a healthful state. And none of it made a bit of difference, none that I could see.

And we do have the choice, I agree, to have our feelings hurt, to be offended, slighted, what-have-you. All wise choices are, I find, more easily said than done, but saying is a place to start.

TC said...


You've hit the nail on the head: that notion of the possibility of anything, or something, or everything, un-happening....

Spooky. Maybe it's contagious.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Tom - If we can have some effect on things un-happening, well, I'd call that a good day's work. Please let me know if you have any success and I promise to do the same.

Anonymous said...

its a challenge

every day, to maintain a back slick

and waddle through life, duck like...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - It doesn't seem too much to ask, waddling forward with enough clarity not to get sucked in by yammering thoughts and uninvited events. It doesn't SEEM too much to ask...xo

RachelVB said...

I was just listening to an interview today about the science of our hearts. How in stressful times we always tell other to "take it easy." And when you think about it - we accomplish so much more in states of ease than states of stress. We of course have to acknowledge the stress or whatever feeling it is that's causing us distress, but we can then find a place of ease within ourselves by breathing through our chests, taking a break and reminding ourselves to be at ease. We function better in states of ease. We find more open paths, follow intuitions, make better decisions.
Our hearts have their own nervous systems and its rhythm influences the rhythm in our brains.
I thought it was interesting - how we go about connecting the two.

Claire Beynon said...

Some time ago, my friend and mentor Lawson said this to me '... you are going to give your greatest service in this life to the extent that you can burn up the past.' I believe he was speaking not just to me, but to himself and every one of us.

I'm wired a bit like you, I think, Marylinn - my head knows what it needs to do in order to move on, set things down, live in a soul-centered way, etc.. but oh my goodness, I do not find it in any way a straightforward process? So long as I let it, the past keeps haranguing me and tripping me up. Eeurgh. It's maddening, but perhaps identifying the wrestle it is means we're making progress? I sure hope so.

I love the idea Kass has floated here - - - that we create a vacuum where good things can enter in place of the negative things that might previously have taken up residence (thanks, Kass).

Loach's Chinese saying I like, too - The past is dead. How true this is. It is.

The tension (for me) is in getting the balance right between acknowledging and processing the past, and doing so in such a way that I don't get mired in it. Letting go is an absolute prerequisite if we want to live fully present to 'Now' and essential to our moving forward.

Thankfully, we're not alone on the obstacle course.

Thanks, Marylinn - L, Cx

L, C x

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - I, too, recently heard something about the science, in fact the physics, of hearts and the speaker told of us actually being heart-centered, not just in an emotional but also in an electrical sense. I know in times of massive stress my brain may be reeling but my heart is the organ of concern, feeling that it may grow legs and run. Without peace, any decision we make is in question, has another agenda that is likely not in our true, best interest. Connecting heart and brain/mind so they are both rowing in the same direction, there is a task. But without "mind"fulness, it will never be achieved. We become diplomats, negotiators, within our own bodies.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - No, we are fortunate indeed in not being alone with these obstacles, I agree. I am glad for the company in which to explore these quandaries. Yesterday I received mail regarding my senior citizen medical benefits, to which unwelcome changes had been made. For half an hour I grumbled and carped, planning after dinner to blog about it. Then after eating and watching some new comedy programs, I had let it go. Yes, it happened. It will be. My best choice is not to give it any more energy; something will work out. Oh, if each situation could resolve itself with the same ease. And maybe we are getting better at this.

My mind has always come forth with evidence of my shortcomings, past actions and choices, that kept me from peace and the ability to be content with my own human state. I know that has, through powerful, conscious effort, improved. But I dare not take it for granted. Our heads do know what they need to move on, yet they play such a significant part in keeping us from doing so. Ah, the conundrum. xo

RachelVB said...

I was asked once when I was younger where I was hurting. Where in my body did I hurt - I answered without question: my heart. I think that was the first time I realized how much we filter there. How my heart has not exploded is something I'll never understand. Just last night I had too much coffee ice cream and it's hard to fall asleep with a heart like a fish out of water.
I've heard of some people writing from their lungs - either way it always seems to be the chest. I dunno, maybe some people create from their toes - I might like to see that.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Toes, bless them, are not a creative center for me, not that I know. But the chest, the heart and breath, bear such meaning in so many traditions and I am aware, the more I focus on it, that my heart is the place from which I wish to of compassion, acceptance and love. (I have had Frapaccino experiences like galloping horses. Not comfortable.)