Friday, July 29, 2016

Now how did I get to be so smart?

I just now got around to reading the January issue of O Magazine, which has been traveling to and from the laundromat with me for weeks. (Kindly remember that the premise of this post is that I'm smart, not organized or neat.)

The article that stopped me and captured my attention asks the question, "Do we choose to be happy?' Is happiness just a matter of mind over matter?

Author Marilyn Beck writes that the secret to a happy life is "the following prescription: Allow your pain to exist. Dissolve your pain."

In other words, take some time to really feel your pain so your can get rid of it.

Sound simple? I suppose. And it only took me hundreds of hours of couch time to get here. But yeah, this is what I do.

My best friend used to call my particular brand of self-help "awfulizing." I take what is scaring me or hurting me and carry it through to its worst possible conclusion. I make it as ugly and bleak as possible.

For example: Let's say I lose my job. Now I'm carrying way too much credit card debt than is wise. I'm an old lady in a young person's industry. I have special assessments looming and my friend Barb -- a senior vice president at a competing agency who could and would give me freelance work to tide me over -- retired, so I've lost my Plan B. What will happen to me?

Really, I start by adding every turd I can find to the shit pile. I make it as tall and smelly and disgusting as I can.

Then I work backwards. OK, my mortgage is paid two months in advance. That's a good thing. And I have savings earmarked for emergency, and this would be an emergency, so I have enough to live on for about eight months. Then there's severance and unemployment benefits, so let's say 10 months.

Gal, you can make all your bills for ten months, so calm down! In the space of 10 months I'd have time to find freelance and spread it to a year. Or maybe I'll try my hand at something else. For some reason, I can see myself working for Goodwill. Sorting the stuff that comes in, helping with the pricing. I don't know why, but it's always seemed like a comfortable option for me. Likewise the pet supply store up the street ... So now my thoughts have gone from apocalyptic to optimistic.

See? No matter how bad the thing is, I make it awful to prove to myself I can handle it.

According to Buddha, what I'm doing is reinforcing that "tormenting thoughts are rooted in illusion."

OK. All I know it works.

Another example: If he leaves, I'll die. No, I won't. I'll cry a lot. Eat a lot. Maybe get yet another cat. I'll be lonely and I'll miss him. But I won't die.

You get the idea.

And I'm feeling good about myself right now. My coping skills are O-approved!

Good to know as we slide into August, this blog's designated Happiness Month.