Sunday, February 14, 2010

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Seattle has turned back to the grey mushiness that is typical of winter-turning-into-spring. It stands as a stark contrast to the last few weeks of beautiful weather, where the bulbs began to poke upward into the brilliant sunshine. The earth smelled like spring and I have sported my "Jesus" sandals around town. As someone who struggles with seasonal depression, the sunshine lifted my spirits and I wondered to myself 'could this be the end of winter? could this really be spring?' In an atypical fashion, only harboring a little bit of worry that the weather would take a turn for the worse, I embraced every sunny moment...walks with the pupperoni, trips to the dog park, cappaccinos with friends, and plenty of good conversation.

But then, as it is apt to do in Seattle, the rain was back. Winter just wasn't quite through, and while I watched the news of feet and feet of snow covering the rest of the country, I couldn't help but think miserable thoughts about wanting to stay in bed all day, or calling in 'sick' to work.

And then, one day, I had a thought. This thought was about the buddhist and mindfulness idea of acceting what is rather than striving that which isn't. This grasping for sunny days was leaving me in the past or living in the future, but certainly not mindfully experiencing the moment...rain and all. It's a theme that has been running through my sessions with students lately and so it is no wonder that I get to experienc the wonderful parallel process.

So I mindfully embraced the gray Seattle skies, the rain pattering down, and my ability to spend the day inside a sweet little coffee shop and write my Master's thesis. I embraced the wet spot in my leather ballet flats, and the absence of convenient parking in the local grocery store parking lot.

And, it was good.

When I began to fall asleep that night I had a thought, a reframe of a childhood memory that has plagued me for awhile. It was the phrase my mom used once, when I wanted an ice cream cone when dad came hom eand she said, 'don't get your hopes up.'

For so long I attributed this phrase to my underlying pessimism and cynicism, the belief that bad things were going to happen and that at all costs I should expect the worst.

But that night I wondered if my mom wasn't in fact embracing a tenet of Buddhism, that somehow she might have been asking me to take a look at life differently, to see that the absence of striving, and living in the moment, in the midst of disappointment or happiness, is what life is all about. Perhaps it wasn't what she intended, perhaps it was an off-hand remark to get a kid to quit whining about dessert, and perhaps I spent too many years thinking her advice meant one thing, when in fact it could have meant something entirely different.

It doesn't matter now, though, does it? The journey has led me to this place, and right now, in this moment, the idea of 'not getting my hopes up' melds perfectly with the ideal of not striving, and so for this moment I will be mindful, even if it's raining.

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