Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fueling The Habits

Sitting at her desk, she practiced her writing exercises as she did every morning. Long before the sun ever poked above house covered hills, she arranged long descriptive sentences into tight paragraphs, molded flowery stanzas and simple quotes into colorful stories. As the darkness began to give way to a brilliant, full blue, she paused to think of the next line. She looked out her window into the brightening backyard. The large space was nearly bare except for a lone wooden chair and a gray shed in the corner of the rectangular yard. There were overgrown shrubs that creeped in from the neighbor’s yard, but in her own, there was nothing but hard, smooth concrete land. At the point furthest from her window was a red hued wood fence, behind which was a tall wall of eucalyptus trees that blocked the view of the twinkling city lights below. She looked out, and as her mind freed itself from the thoughts of her writing, new thoughts began to crowd in. They were familiar thoughts, more aptly described as recurring worries that she rehashed day after day, year after year. Their forms did not change, their content, nor their frequency. Hour after hour, she wondered and worried about the same things. She felt the same jealous thoughts. She felt the same anger, the same desire for revenge, the same need to cry.
She sat at her desk, looking out the window, and now, tears were reddening her eyes. A salty droplet left a wet streak across her cheek. Alone in her room, she was filled with anger and sadness. Her body was hot and sweaty and a headache lingered at the horizon of her consciousness. Nothing had really happened to her within the last couple of minutes, nothing external. She did not get a phone call with bad news. Her neighbor had not hit her car. Her landlord had not evicted her. She had not had a fight with a friend. To any outside observer, nothing had happened. There was no external event that warranted the desperate need to cry and her elevated pulse. She had not really even moved, and yet, her energy had completely changed.
In a brief instant, she had paused and drifted into an unstructured realm of floating thoughts that quickly turned into other ideas and then, just as swiftly, morphed into recurring uncontrolled thoughts. They moved in and out of her mind like wisps of passing clouds. Their entry had been in the moments of her inattention. While her mind was off her work, it began to fill with less intentional thoughts. Gone were her poetic lines and colorful descriptions. Her attention had drifted from her creative task and, as it did so, she had begun to devote more and more of her attention to her endless series of worries. The more she thought about them, the stronger the thoughts were and thus, the bodily sensations grew stronger within her. She was overcome with sadness. And with each tear that escaped her eyes, with each suffering thought, her negative emotions grew stronger.
Like a blazing fire that begins with a small handful of thin twigs, each small worry fed the cauldron of negative emotions. Each small jealous thought added a little more strength and fury and soon, she was overcome with sadness and grief and bitter hatred. She fed it to herself, small bit by small bit, letting it grow in strength until it was impossible let it go. If she had noticed the first distracted negative thought, she could have redirected her attention to her work. Caught quickly and early it would have been easier for her to regain her focus, but a raging fire takes tons of water and ample time to extinguish. She had fed her negative emotions with her thoughts, bathed them in her attention and allowed then to consume her from within. Although she sat in the same place, with the same trees and light and view, she now had a large dark hole to climb out of.

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