My daughter is friends with a wonderful girl and because they attend the same school and were on the same sports team, I had occasion to meet this girl's father. While we sat waiting for a recent event to start (way too early in the morning), I noticed he was wide awake, and appeared that he wasn't the least bit tired. Well, some people are morning people, I thought. Strange people, but hey, everyone has their thing, right? I'm tired and sipping my coffee and he goes on to talk to me about well, everything. Quite the talker. So now I'm paying attention. This is good entertainment early on a Saturday morning when caffeine is just starting to work its way to my brain. He was fascinating, talking quickly and within a short time I discovered he has an interesting life perspective.
Not only does he get up at the crack of dawn and do yoga (which has changed his life, he will be happy to tell you) and run a few miles after that, he has a way of deciphering what he sees around him that was different from what I was expecting from another parent at our daughter's charter school, with its crisp plaid uniforms and SUV parade at drop-off in the mornings...
He has a phrase for that which he feels afflicts many people and he calls it "Chronic Misperception Disorder". I am at the edge of my seat when I hear this...y'all know how I am in the middle of a life crisis about gratitude, acceptance, reality, intention and ambition... I woke up right about then and trained my brain on this new piece of information wafting towards me. The words were like a cartoon ribbon of scent, leading me to the real world manifestation of what I think about so often.
He went on to tell me that the way he sees it, the root of what most people are upset about is not what is happening or what they don't have or how bad things are for them. The problem is not even what they see, simply that what they see isn't what is really there. I have stopped creating original thought in my brain at this point and begin to absorb this like a sponge. Wait, what? Isn't the reason that we are unhappy that we don't have what we want or that we don't appreciate what we have? Yes, he says, that is the simplest form of how to describe the unhappiness that plagues people, particularly the North American/European variety. But what really makes us upset isn't even the lack, its our constant perception of lack, reinforced by the strictest of societal codes and pushed by our environment, fears and physiological needs. This is a DISEASE and we are all afflicted. We are mostly happily afflicted, wanting to do nothing to change it. We want to manage the symptoms instead of the illness.
People don't even 'suffer' from this terrible disorder. As far as they are concerned, they are practicing upward mobility. The situation is much different than we think, though. Sure, we don't have what we want, but we don't even know what we have. We don't even know what we want...how on earth can we ever be pleased?
You guessed it...We can't.
And that is how it works. You can never be pleased. If you reach the top, it is really only a step ladder to be able to see a HIGHER top. And then you begin the ascent to that. I know what you are thinking...This all sounds good, right? You are moving upward and onward, its the American way and you are utilizing your intelligence and capabilities to get better and better situations for yourself, right?
One little detail... you can spend your whole life doing this. You will fight this internal and external battle for decades, never knowing what you had, never being able to live in the present, appreciate the moment, see what you are possessed of and realize the beauty and wonder that is life. You will watch the ultimate sunset from the other side of tinted glasses that show you how you could have had it better, how you didn't get the best seats for this show, or the nicest car on your block, the most accomplished children, the best of everything. And everyone around you will help to reinforce this idea. If there were ever a reason to stop in your tracks and re-introduce yourself to your life, this should be it.
Trust me, I struggle with this every day (see earlier posts) but with every bit of knowledge I acquire, I filter it through whether or not I think I can use it to make my life better and therefore be in a better position to further someone else's life, not just acquire things. This spoke to me on that level. As such, I am trying to remember to take my prescription for this illness....reality checks. I try to get them daily and hoard extras for bad days. I'll bring extras for the group whenever I can.