Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stress

I once worked as a deliverer. It was strange to observe how, driving to work, I'd be subject to all the stresses and annoyances of traffic, but, once I had my cargo and was doing my job, I felt a tremendous calm detachment. It was a complete shift of perspective; being "on the clock" put traffic jams, aggressive drivers, and all the rest of it in a drastically different light.

There are two sorts of bus drivers and taxi drivers: those at wit's end over all the idiots on the road, and those who view it all calmly, like jet fighters (or video gamers), simply doing their best to efficiently negotiate what obviously can't be changed. Have you ever found yourself pulled over at a bus stop when a bus arrives, and been honked at? If you'd looked through your rear view mirror, you'd have seen a face that's either apoplectic with rage or else utterly impassive. The former's destined for early death - if he's lucky, that is, because his life is hell.

I recently moved. And I pitched in my share of the lifting alongside the professionals. I'd previously observed that grunts and grimaces never help, and had been working in the gym to stanch that wasted energy while lifting weights. But the movers I'd hired were like zen masters. Their faces remained perfectly serene as they hoisted my stuff - even heavy stuff that challenged them. Calm as I thought I was, the house echoed with my grunts alone. Of course I was grunting! I was carrying heavy stuff! That's just got to be unpleasant!

I've never hung out with ice fisherman, but I'd imagine they don't incessantly complain about the cold or focus on their chattering teeth. At least not the sane ones.

It all has to do with how firm one's preferences are. In other words, how you'd like things to be, versus acceptance of how they actually are. The universe is a machine devised to rub the wrong way against preferences, regardless of how we try to insulate ourselves. And life is about endlessly rediscovering this - ala Groundhog Day - until we finally think to try a more sane and grown-up approach.

My GPS is sanest of all. "Recalculating!" she exclaims, with cheerful equanimity, even when her most insistent demands have been ignored.

Further Reading:
An Adult View on Preference
The Monks and the Coffee
The Deeper Implications of Holiday Blues
Labeling and Post-Processing
Ballasting Happiness
The Key to Happiness is Rolling With It
"So That Happened"
"Now" is Happening Earlier Than We (Literally) Think



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