May 22, 2016

Inbox Mystery: Choosing Wisely.


Today, I got an email I had been eagerly waiting to find in my inbox.

You know, the kind you really want to open, hoping it contains good news; the kind that may be full of promise, yet causes you to hesitate because it may be full of disappointment.

News like that used to come addressed in bold face type on a #10 envelope. Sometimes they were metered with the correct postage; sometimes they actually had a stamp on them. No more. Now the twin imposters of glory and despair arrive in digital format, decrypted zeroes and ones, coming from the strange and mystical world of cyberspace.

These letters, well, emails I mean, they arrive with the appropriate salutation, Dear Mr. Owens, and are always followed by either, We are pleased to inform you, or, We regret to inform you. They can be communications about a dream job, admission to a graduate program, or, in my case, to a writer’s conference at a “prestigious” university. And, though the language and means of communication may be different, the same cocktails of hope and despair can be mixed from something as serious as a medical test or as seemingly trivial as whether we match with someone on a dating site. Every day is full of opportunities to choose hope and despair, or peace and anxiety.

For this recovering Type A, my practice of meditation and mindfulness has helped me begin to stay in the middle path of my emotions. The middle of the river, the main channel, is where the deep water is. Most of the snags and rocks of pride and humiliation, ecstasy and disappointment, ambition and sloth, those are near the edges. Knowing they are there, giving them a name, helps me to keep a close eye on them.

My email was one of those that began, We regret to inform you. My application had been declined. Truth is, I really wanted to go. But when I chose to apply, to take the risk of disappointment, I decided to choose to accept any decision without regret, without disappointment, and without giving up.

Choose. It’s a powerful word. It really is the essence of mindful living. So here’s what I’m learning:

• Choose wisely what to invest your life in.
• Choose to take risks and remember the words of the the wise prophet, Mick Jagger: You can’t always get what you want.
• Choose to treat failure or loss as no more a reflection of your value than you do achievement or gain.
• Choose these things before you open your email. Or apply for a job. Or go to the doctor.

Choosing is simple. It just isn’t always easy.

The chattering voice of self-imposed expectations, our belief about how the world should be or how people should behave, they make our choosing difficult sometimes. Choosing to reset our expectations or how we will respond to our gloriously messy lives is a practice. It takes a little work. But it’s well worth the effort.

I’ve decided I would stay in the middle of the channel, away for the rocks. I like it here. The water’s nice. Come on in.



Author: Jim Owens

Image: Josh Felise

Editor: Emily Bartran

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