I love words. I love figuring them out, deconstructing them, putting them together. Probably why I got near perfect SAT scores. One of my few claims to bragging rights. One of the words I’ve been thinking about lately is a former top-ten word of mine: misery.
Does it sounds familiar? Misery. As in ‘miser’. Do those words sound related? Maybe not right away. You can have one without the other right? Well, they both originated centuries ago, like Dark Age stuff, from much the same root.
The now-obsolete meaning of ‘miser’ was ‘a wretch, a person who is unhappy or miserable’. Oddly, this came from a Latin word that meant ‘infatuation’. While we kept the meaning of misery on, we ditched the original definitions of miser in favour of ‘stingy’ or ‘person who hoards money’.
But the word ‘misery’ and my former obsessive penchant for wallowing in it got me thinking a little deeper. I was never a miser with money, but I was always a miser with my pain.
Forget the original meaning of miser. I had some masochistic pleasure in wallowing in miser-y. I was addicted to my pain, filled with self-pity and loathing. Whenever someone tried to pull me out of it, or gave me a thousand reasons to pull myself out of it, I would childishly kick and scream rather than let it go. I didn’t want to let it go.
There is something comforting in the familiar. When we’ve had years and years of conditioning and reinforcement, we become set in our ways. Misers, hoarders of our emotions, our beliefs, our possessions, our loved ones. We don’t want to share, so we feel jealous, angry, hurt, even desperate, driving us to extremes of which we never knew ourselves capable.
Change, however good or bad, can be distressing, because it can mark an immense upheaval. When the world around us changes, it’s like someone pulled the rug out from under us. Reality is shattered, and the cognitive dissonance sends our minds into a tizzy as we try to incorporate the change into our perception.
Our vision might adjust over the course of time and we get used to things, but then suddenly, everything changes again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
My way of dealing was, like I said, to kick and scream and regress, only to cause more and more shit to hit the fan.
Well, rather than dealing with change like this, there is a constructive alternative. When the world around us changes, we can change with it. Flow. Commit to being just dynamic enough in our character (if that’s not oxymoronic) to take change in our stride.
Got dumped? It’s going to hurt like hell for a while, but you already know that, and you can accept that, but it doesn’t take away from you the good stuff you had, nor does it prevent you from having more or even better stuff ahead. You can still move forward in full awareness and ride the waves. Like me, I’m using the last of my free days to write a book about my experiences. Psychologists call it sublimation.
Lost your job? Well, there are millions of jobs that could be a better fit for you, jobs that need people like you. Or maybe you have ideas of your own that you can now work on while in between jobs. Ride the waves.
But if you, like I was, are addicted to and hoarding your suffering, you won’t ever see progress, you won’t ever attain enlightenment, and you sure as hell won’t ever find peace.
I can tell you, peace sounds boring AF. But it isn’t. It really really isn’t. In fact, quite the contrary. Peace, as I’ve come to know it, makes every day profoundly fascinating and exciting.
No more miser-y for me. Hope you feel the same. Now go be awesome. I’m off to do the same.