Monthly Archives: March 2015

Reflections from a theme park Part 1

 

As part of my recent vacation, I enjoyed three days at Universal Studios. Believe me when I say, I use the term “enjoyed” loosely. A few weeks before my vacation, I had begun to play with an idea in my head about theme parks as a metaphor of life. So regardless of my personal satisfaction, this trip was really a great experience in field work. That said, I’m pretty sure my accountant would never agree to this as a business trip.

The Despicable Me ride at Universal is apparently one of the newer and most popular attractions. After observing the lines on day one, we noticed the line had gotten longer throughout the day, but never shorter. So, we decided our second day that we would stand in the 60 minute wait line. About 20 minutes into the line, an announcement came over the intercom informing us that there was a problem that the “minions” were trying to repair, but they didn’t know how long it would take. If you’re not familiar with the movie, minions look like twinkies wearing denim overalls and big round glasses.   We waited about another ten minutes through a few more repeat announcements and gave up.

On day three we decided it was now or never to enjoy this ride and got into the line as our first stop of the day. The board said it was an 85 minute wait. And so we added ourselves among the millions of other cows and stood in our cattle line inching our way closer to the ride. Line standing is often a time to bond with other people who are suffering the same misery. It’s also a great place to people watch in order to entertain yourself. And roughly 85 minutes later we were relieved from the heat, but not the standing as we were herded into a small crowded room to watch a short movie about the ride. Then the doors opened and we moved to…another small room with a different short movie about the ride. And finally, we were herded towards the bins to pick up 3D glasses and finally, the ride itself.

The ride was a delightful 4 minutes of 3 or 4 D (I can never tell the difference) action that include bits from both of the Despicable Me movies. Then the lights came on simultaneously with the announcement of where to return our glasses and asking us to quickly exit the auditorium. As we made our way towards the exits, I could see the next group of exhausted line waiters and room watchers piling in. These seats were no longer ours, and were about to become theirs.

So the idea is this. Amusement parks are a metaphor of life itself. Most of us spend the majority of our time in the mundane routine, non-exciting, and even sometimes painful chores of everyday living, working towards some brief time of exciting, satisfying moment. But those moments are short lived, only to have us once again return to the wait lines of the next anticipated moment. Some people look at the wait times and say “nope, not going to do it”. But the reality is, they only trade one wait line for that of another kind.

The rides, no matter how pleasurable are inevitably short. This is true both literally and metaphorically. My children being toddlers, was too short, the great meals I had on vacations ended too quickly, even getting a haircut I really like grows out quickly and I can’t get it back to the way it used to look. From the big to the small, pleasure is a fleeting experience that cannot be sustained. Even if we could logistically allow something to go on longer, our own psyche begins to diminish its sense of pleasure within us after a time. A job we were thrilled to get hired for becomes mundane and routine over time. The lover we once couldn’t keep our hands off becomes boring in our eyes. A male client once said to me that he suspected “Even Cindy Crawford’s husband gets tired of having %#@ with her after a few years.” And so, often, our remedy is to go stand in another line looking for the next thrill.

The French philosopher Jacque Lacan, made addressed this issue with his theory of what he called registers. Lacan designated the term demand as that part of our selves that wants and wants and wants, but can never truly be satisfied. In contrast, he used the term desire to describe a more mature experience of yearning for something with the knowledge that it will ebb and flow. That which we desire, are not things we expect to last and thus, are not disappointed when they pass. In fact, part of their satisfaction lies in the knowledge that they are temporary. The very essence of their fleeting nature does not over tax our psyche.

Another way to reduce our imbalance between wanting and getting is to reduce the disparity between the two. This doesn’t mean to buy a fast pass and shorten the line, but rather to embrace the wait itself as a pleasurable or at least neutral experience, rather than simply a means to an end. Often, what makes the wait line bearable are factors like, who are you waiting with, how much can you learn to play while waiting. Is it possible to even enjoy the wait instead of using your energy to either fight against it, numb yourself out from it, or complain about its every aspect of discomfort.

I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tick Tock

Over fifty years ago my father in law had a construction accident which left him with two broken feet. He elected to spend his immobilized summer building things. Two of his major accomplishments during that period were matching grandfather and grandmother clocks. The latter took up residence in the home of one of his daughters, while the grandfather has continued to chime faithfully all these years in his own home until a couple of weeks ago.

As my in-laws aged, they began discussing with their children how their possessions would be divided with respect to the desires of each child. My husband laid claim to the grandfather clock. We discussed how gorgeous we thought it might look in our foyer someday.

Some day came much sooner than I originally anticipated. A couple of weeks ago my husband went to visit his parents, and while there, his father insisted he take the clock home with him. I tried to protest, but we were overruled. The clock arrived. It’s not that I didn’t want the clock- its that I didn’t want the clock while his parents were alive. It didn’t feel right to me. But it came home to live with us anyway.

Ben noted that he thought he started immediately sleeping better because it was a familiar sound of his childhood. But my initial reaction to the clock is that it weirded me out a bit. It has a loud chime to begin with and in our two story open foyer, it bellows. After a few days I started to get used to the sound and didn’t seem to notice it as much.

Until.

Until my mother in law died suddenly last week. Ben left town to be with his family and the boys and I remained behind. The emptiness left by the news of his mother, and his own presence seemed to be filled at once by a loud clanging clock. It sounded almost haunting, or at very least taunting. I wanted to make it stop, but I didn’t know how.

Ben returned for a day and then we all left again for the weekend to attend a memorial for his beautiful and incredibly wonderful mother. It was of course, difficult and sad, and yet at the same time affirming as people told many wonderful stories of her life. I am her only daughter- in law, and that affords me a relationship unique in its own right. While I was grieving inside I spent most of the day trying to hold it together. I cried briefly as we pulled away from his parent’s house, but it became clear this was upsetting to my children and so I again mustered up a stiff upper lip.

At least until I got home. I walked in, went straight to my bedroom and let out every sob I had previously held in. I cried for her. I cried for me. I cried for my children and my husband. I cried for my father in law. I cried until I had no more cries. And then out of sheer exhaustion, I called it a night.

The next morning I woke up feeling an enormous release of all the previous week’s tension. But something else happened as well. The clock chimed its now familiar chime. The same chime as the week before. Only starting that morning, and still continuing, the sound is no longer foreign or disturbing. Rather, it is beautiful and rich. And strangely comforting, like the familiar and regular beating of life itself.

Last week I wrote about the difference between acceptance and resignation. The clock in our house has not changed. But I clearly moved from one place… resignation… to another… acceptance.

I will be on vacation next week, and thus, will not be posting a blog on 3/19.

Until next time… Take good care.

acceptance vs resignation

Before I jump into this week’s post, I’d just like to thank you all for reading last week’s post, and for the bunch of comments I received both publically and privately.  I had no idea when I wrote about Leonard that it would impact people so favorably.  I am humbled and more importantly, I am thrilled that a piece of his life touched others.

This next piece is actually something  I wrote a long time ago.  Since I’ve been referring back to it a lot recently, I decided it was time to dust it off.  I hope you find it useful.

 

Many people seem to be confused about the concept  of acceptance.  I often hear them say, if I accept “this” as it is, “it” will never change, and I simply can’t live with the way things are.  Thus, they draw the conclusion that they can’t accept their current lot.  Maybe you’ve said, “if I accept my weight the way it is, I will never get thin.  And I don’t like my body now.”

I find it helpful to make the following distinction.  Acceptance says this is what it is AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME.  It doesn’t require that you agree with the circumstance, that you like the circumstance, or that you hope it will always be this way.  It is merely acknowledgment of what is.  And this is the part people really struggle with:  acknowledge it without judgment of the condition being good or bad.  Rather, it is a relinquishment of the past and the present in favor of being where you currently are.  It is only from there that you can objectively determine the appropriate course of action.  Without your energy in the present, you are instead destined to cloud your choices by old habits and patterns and/or future fantasies.

In contrast, resignation is the inclusion of the judgment.  It says, okay, I’ll live with it the way it is, but I don’t like it.  Resignation is a victimization.

Acceptance is the recognition that where you are at this moment is all you can absolutely be sure exists.  It is an affirmation of the here and now which is the only thing you can impact with any real accuracy.  You might argue that if you change A, you can also impact the future of B.  I would agree that while that is likely in many cases, there is no guarantee that the future will occur at all, much less with the certainty that one might try to predict.

On a spiritual level, acceptance is an acknowledgment of what the universe has offered you at this particular moment.  Standing still in acceptance gives you the opportunity to see if there is anything you can learn, about you, about the world, about life.  Resignation doesn’t provide you with the openness to consider these messages.

I hope you will leave me a comment about any insights you have to share on this subject.