Monday, February 19, 2018

"Tear down this wall."

Hm. I see that the quote I posted yesterday--about not removing a wall until you know why it's there--has been used to argue against changes such as legalizing same-sex marriage.

I hadn't thought of it in political terms. I'd quoted it because I think it's wise in personal terms--be careful about removing your psychological supports, willy-nilly.

In both realms, I'd argue for the wisdom of forethought, and I'd vote for the messiness of liberation over the sterility of repression.
I never thought I'd be quoting Reagan, but I'm with him in saying,
 "Tear down this wall." (wikipedia article)
The Berlin Wall, West Berlin, Germany, 1962
 Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, via Magnum Photos

Of course that's not enough. When I was young, I thought all you had to do was tear down  walls. I didn't know that the harder thing to remove was what Germans, after the Berlin Wall came down, called the wall in the mind.

You can't really tear down the wall in the mind--that's putting up another wall. You have to dismantle it with care, and replace it with something (or learn to live with it, or go around it, etc.).

I recently came across a blogger whose first post explains that she started the blog because she was so disgusted with herself for being depressed when her life was so blessed. So she was going to start writing positive thoughts every day, she said, as a way to "slap myself in the face".

I don't know, maybe it helped her? I couldn't stand to read on. 
If it's one piece of a larger strategy, it can be helpful to count your blessings, to "fake it till you make it," but it's not usually very effective in the long run to bludgeon yourself out of your intrinsic feelings.

Maybe that's why clowns are so scary--we sense that painted-on smiles are lies.

In contrast, I think of the story of a young student who talked to Gandhi about his desire to follow a spiritually enlightened path and not cling to material things, but the student felt he was failing because he couldn't bring himself to get rid of his books.

Gandhi told him not to get rid of his books--it's not enlightened, he said, to do violence to oneself.

You don't build resilience by forcing yourself to look on the bright side. It's more about gaining a set of skills--boring and sometimes hard to practice--like. . .  honestly, I think it includes little things like drinking water throughout the day, or eating some peanuts when your blood sugar drops. Or turning down invitation to go to a movie with friends if you don't want to go. Or getting up the gumption to ask someone to a movie.

It's amazing what that little stuff can do for your mood. It's not really little in importance, any more than bricks in a wall are.

I've been thinking about this because lately I see how socially isolated I've become in recent years. For a bunch of reasons, I undermined my natural tendencies to socialize with groups of people.
But it's not something I can build back up in a moment, with a dramatic act of will. It's more like remembering to drink water.

I'm really pleased that I took a small but huge step of reaching out to volunteer at SVDP. I go to my first shift this morning, and then tomorrow I interview the facilitator of the Refugee Welcoming Committee for the little article I'm writing. 
Writing short pieces is a fun challenge--at only half a page, it's like writing a poem.

A really nice thing about little stuff is, you can do it. 


ArtSparker said...

Ha, I hadn't made that connection before, about the clowns and forced smiles. What first occurred to me with your earlier mention of the Refugee Welcoming Committee was wondering if there were opportunities for tutoring - 7 years old is the ideal age for human beings, so it is very positive way to socialize. Also a learning process (I now understand the true weirdness of "won" and "one" for instance.

Fresca said...

Hi, Sparker!
English is a weird language. Seven is an ideal age for us--I like nine too.
I've never socialized with children--they kind of scare me because I don't know them. Maybe one day I will try to change that.