Relativize

Chalk it up to taking a dose of my own medicine, but I haven’t lost my cool in about three days.

Okay, I just freaked myself out by writing that. We have a rather reliable case of Famous Last Words Syndrome in my house, which means that by any account, I am about due.

I have several thoughts as to why I haven’t lost my cool in three days. Theories, if you will.

  1. I have become extremely strict with myself about putting things away immediately after I use them. Not because I am a neatnik, but because if I don’t do it right away, I won’t remember what I did with it. By doing this, I am limiting the pool of easily avoidable freakouts.
  2. When I can’t find something I’m looking for, I actually say out loud, “There’s that wandering womb again” in my best Justin McElroy/Count Donut (IFYKYK) voice and try to laugh about it.
  3. My indulgent husband has been home and has shared the burden of the gale force winds of hurricane Scalawags. It is three hundred times easier to not freak out when there is someone to share the load. And it is helpful –not to say that I enjoy it– to see someone else lose their cool when faced with equivalent headwinds. It makes me feel less crazy.
  4. I made lots of music these last. Music is this magical stuff by which all my ineptitudes and impatience evaporate and I feel human again. It literally holds me together when all else fails.

Just one day of keeping perspective on the inconveniences of this whole getting older/losing my mind thing is enough to start building momentum. And heaven knows, I NEED some momentum.

Trying to find perspective

I remember when we were thinking about trying to buy an apartment. We had found, what to my mind was the perfect place to live. It had an entire unfinished attic that was big enough to imagine as an entire living room and playroom and studio. I had gotten myself quite excited about this apartment. It is no secret that we are quite cramped and having more space would be a welcome change of pace.

Then, I had a very sobering thought: whatever mess I currently live in will not change by living in a bigger apartment. That mess will just be more spread out. We didn’t end up buying the apartment. We’re still here, in 75 meters square.

It’s like when I start a weekend with a list of fifty things I would like to-do, but can’t even get one of them started because there is no urgency.

The container –whether it be space, like our apartment or time, like a weekend or a vacation–is never the real problem. Sure, time is short and space can be tight. But it is my relationship to the container that is problematic.

When I start with a baseline of dissatisfaction: for example, this apartment isn’t big enough, or I will never be able to get all of this done, I am setting myself up for failure.

And when I start with a mindset of failure, I am on the path to losing my cool about the most basic and incompressible of things. And if I lost my cool about not knowing where the breadknife is or where my keys are in this tiny apartment, or that I didn’t have the time to finish my coffee before it got cold, then I have broken the seal on losing my cool and am on the path to losing it about everything else that I can’t control.

Relativizing. It’s the word relativiser in French. It means, to gain perspective.

Turn, Turn, Turn…

I was, just an instant ago, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes. It’s an odd little book written by King Solomon, the soi-disant wisest man who ever lived. It says everything and its opposite, so there’s a little bit for everyone.

But here is what caught my attention today:

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Ecclesiastes 8:6

It was the weighed down by misery line that caught my eye, so I went back for a closer look.

Did it say every matter? Like EVERY matter? Even, oh, I don’t know, dealing with mood swings and menopausal rage and loss of control and wallowing and coveting and social anxiety and relationship woes? Even that kind of EVERY matter?

Were I to go back to my list of what is going right right now–being strict about my mise en place and putting things away; keeping a sense of humor about what I can’t control; sharing the burden for the important things; making music as a remedy for my soul–I would see that perhaps there is a bit of prescriptive procedure here.

What is the proper procedure for what is weighing you down with misery right this instant? There might be nothing that can remove the burden, or to make it go away any faster…because, there is, first and foremost, a proper time, which may or may not be right now.

Do this for me, would you? Make a list of things that are going right. Make it your purpose to do more of that as you wait for the proper time.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

6 thoughts on “Relativize

  1. Can I just say reading your blog feels like someone’s been reading my mind. Losing my cool like I did this morning with a teenage daughter and preteen son was not fun. I feel shame and regret for yelling and throwing in a swear word for added emphasis. Oh, I so wish I knew the proper procedures for all these matters! But now that I think of it there is one thing I know I can do now, kneel and pray. Thanks for giving me some perspective!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Girl! I think you must have been the one I was writing for today! We so desperately need that perspective in the thick of it, and it can just be so looooong in coming. Keep up the little things that are working! And hey- now you have an opportunity to perfect the art of apology and asking for forgiveness. Those are priceless!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like that little perspective change at the end. To find out what’s going right and do more of that. That helps people operate from an abundance viewpoint rather than scarcity. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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