Who would you be if you could not think the thought “I am unhappy” ever again? How would you live your life if you could no longer believe that lie? What would your life be like if you knew you could never be unhappy ever again? (Mark Andrew Frey, Facebook)
There are mornings when it is good to remember that without a thought there is no such thing as “unhappiness”. This morning was one of them. Waking up was like swimming against the current of a flood of confusing dreams, trying desperately to get my head above the water. The content of the dreams was not new; they were the same old frustrating, desperate, confusing dreams I have had for most of my life: it’s just that I hadn’t had them recently.
The night had not been very restful before the dreams either. I awoke about 4 a.m. with an uncomfortable twinge in my right hip, the one that has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now. Naturally, at 4 a.m. my capacity for presence is nil and the irrational mind takes hold: “Supposing you have bone cancer” it suggests, “what will you do all alone here in France?” I love my mind: it is fantastic and I can usually just watch it take these fearful flights without flinching. The problem is that at that hour, and half asleep, my defenses are down and I am not about to wake up fully and ask the questions: “I might have bone cancer, is that true?” So the mind continues supreme and as it has posed a question, presented a problem, it must find an answer. My mind is very good at that: it can come up immediately with all the possibilities and then the reasons why I should not do that. Mexico? Out of the question: my daughter’s house has three levels and even if we could overhaul it and make a bed and bath room on the ground floor, it is cold and the altitude of Mexico City no longer agrees with me. Los Angeles? Yeah, great! You gave up your American citizenship so how are you going to move back there? And what about medical care in the States, huh? Forget it. So that leaves Spain. Spain is good, good nursing homes, good medical care, good insurance (which I have), definitely Spain. Problem solved. I go back to sleep and that is when the dreams begin.
So when I wake up in the morning, just having been at a strange dream table with twenty strangers, sampling nineteen different ways of making scrambled eggs and answering the question of the woman beside as to what a “taco” (in Mexico) is by pointing out that the woman across the table is eating one, I do not feel happy. I am supposed to be over all that confusion –is what my mind tells me- and to have it reappear means, has always meant and will never mean anything but: I must be doing it wrong (it being life in general, of course). As the mind has spent the night in control it is not about to turn itself belly up with the Byron Katie stuff, so I drag myself from bed, do the usual chores, enter the kitchen, prepare my morning smoothie, turn on the computer and BINGO!!! up pops the text that appears at the head of this page.
It’s like magic. Just reading the first sentence and the shoulders relax, the chest expands and the mind quiets down. The mind, poor thing: it gets absolutely crazy when I’m not present enough to remind it that believing itself is extremely stressful, if not fatal. So I’m breathing again and the morning is fine. Even the rain lets up long enough for me to walk to the local Café for my cup of coffee. The air has lost its winter crispness: it shimmers with suspended humidity, caressing the cheeks and brow and tasting definitely like spring. The birds are singing and chirping and warbling their hearts out as if it were their sole purpose to herald in the temperate weather and the rain storms and the bright sunny days that appear in between. Trees are bursting with buds and some have taken to complete flower already, sporting a very spring-like white dress of blossoms. As I walk, I notice that my hip is less uncomfortable this morning and I smile to myself and to my body which does such a good job of reminding me it’s there to make sure I keep caring for it after a lifetime of abuse. I take the long way to the Café because it is more scenic and get to see the river Saleys at high tide from the rains. On the way I pass the yard full of chickens where every morning the cock crows (I am convinced he knows me now and does it to say ‘hello’) and I say ‘Good morning to you, Mr. Rooster’ and smile: it is good to have such friendly neighbors.
The Café is bustling as always and everyone calls out “Bon jour” as I enter and I answer likewise. Inside I release Salomé from her leash as she is well loved and welcomed, and she goes from table to table getting a morning pet and then comes running back to sit beside me. The coffee is hot and black and sweet, and my friend arrives with the news of a world in turmoil, from the Middle East to China and I think of the 2012 predictions and decide that it is happening and am filled with wonder. Salomé couldn’t care less about world turmoil or more about the croissant that my friend is about to share with her as she waits, ears cocked, tail wagging. I sip my coffee, and breathe in the warm atmosphere of the Café and smile.
On the way home I notice that there are more than the usual dog droppings on the sidewalk and when the thought appears (“people should pick up their dog’s shit”) I turn it around (“I should pick up their dog’s shit”) and decide not to do it today although sometimes I do. At any rate, the rain will end up washing it away, so today I will just walk on being careful where I step. By the time I get home a light but steady rain has begun, and I understand that our walks will be rather wet today and that I will probably spend most of the afternoon in the house, and that is good news because it means I might get inspired and do some writing.
So –I ask myself- what would my life be like if I knew I could never be unhappy ever again? Well, just like today, I guess, just like today.