Three And A Half Minutes

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It’s a silly little thing that seems so trivial. If I’m being objective, there’s a chance that it’s completely immaterial. Am I making a thingy out of a what-cha-ma-call-it? Quite possibly, but that’s what we do here. Dance with life’s curiosities until the night grows old and our bones grow weary.

Was that too dramatic? Mm, you have a decent point, but I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again. It’s an impulse that I can’t control. Or won’t control? So many brilliant questions, but we only have time for one or two.

Speaking of poor impulse control!

I recently realized that I’ve developed a bit of a problem. It’s not unique to my distorted psyche. I think we all do it. It’s a reflex that isn’t given much thought. We rarely fight it or try to correct it. Does it serve a purpose? Is it good for us?

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I would argue that is something we— or just me— need to cease and desist soonish.

I didn’t realize it was a problem until I was in the middle of a conversation, and it hit me across the face. It was the slap I needed to connect the missing link. Do you ever have one of those moments? You realize something so blatantly obvious that you can’t believe you didn’t see it sooner. 

Naturally, I called myself an idiot. In hindsight, it wasn’t a kind thing to do. Another reflex, or is that a regurgitation? Hm, a bit of both? That would take hours of therapy, and I don’t have that kind of money.

Oh, the things we say to ourselves. Bullies, that’s what we are when we talk to ourselves in the privacy of our minds. If we wouldn’t talk to our best friend like that? Why is it okay to talk to ourselves like that?

Think, Pinky, think.

I’ve forgiven myself for the insult, but it did bring a shocking realization. I have this habit of minimizing the good things in my life with one little word. It slips out so effortlessly that I don’t even know I’m doing it. It sounds so logical, and I dismiss it as nothing more than a hard fact. That might be true, but I’m about to argue that it isn’t helpful and can do more harm than good.

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It’s hard to spot and barely noticeable. It happens so fast that it’s flown by in a blink. I’m trying to catch it, but I miss it more often than not. In my defence, I’m not the most observant person. A while back, I had a three-inch gash on my dominant hand. It was bleeding, but it still took me forty-five minutes to realize the damage I’d done. 

If I miss something so obvious and painful? Surely this would be easier to overlook. I stumble around, babbling about this and that, and before I know it, there it is. Oops? My bad? Slurp it back in and swallow it. If only we could edit our spoken words as easily as these written ones.

Alas— that’s right, I said alas— it flies out of my mouth, and I let it go without a thought. Until now because here I sit, pontificating this teeny, tiny word. Three little letters. A simple conjunction that’s never the hero in linguistic circles. Most of us spend hours debating the age-old grammatical quandary: To comma or not to comma.

You don’t do that? Well, that’s your loss. It’s a debate that’ll get the blood pumping, I’ll tell you. Whew, ain’t no party like a… I’ll stop. Go Oxford comma. Woot. Woot.

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Tell me if you do this too, alright? It’s a gorgeous day. In fact, it’s a perfect day filled with all of our favourite things. The sky is the bluest we’ve ever seen. It’s warm, but there’s a breeze that cools us down. We’re hiking a quiet trail, the forest is thick, and come to an opening in the trees. There, stretching out in front of us, is the ocean, and this moment couldn’t get any better.

There’s a slow exhale of breath, the tension melts away, and every worry we’ve been carrying disappears. At this moment, nothing else matters and simply existing is more than enough. This is a bubble of perfection. It’s a small pocket of sanity when our mental health is in turmoil and inching towards a diagnosable mental illness. This place, this moment is the solid ground we’ve been looking for in the fluidity of life.

Am I overselling it? It’s perfect. It’s wonderful. If only it could last forever!

Ah, here it comes. Even in this hypothetical moment of happiness, I can feel the word sitting on the tip of my tongue. BUT it’s too bad it can’t last. It’s gorgeous here, BUT I’m going to have to move on. Sure, the sky’s clear now, BUT you live in a rainforest. The clouds will roll back in, and the rain will freeze your bones.

Did you see what I did there? I used all the fancy fonts to completely invalidate a moment of happiness.

I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. Nothing lasts forever, and we’re always going to have to move on to something new. As much as I want to hold on to the moment, life is dragging me away. We haven’t found a way to control the weather— we can’t even predict it accurately— so, of course, a storm will swoop in. The clear skies will be hidden behind grey clouds, and the mud beneath my boots will turn into puddles.

It’s all true, but the truth isn’t always needed or helpful. 

It’s such a curious thing, and I’m trying to figure out why I do this. Why can’t I let myself be completely present in the moment? Why can’t I let myself enjoy it without dismissing it because it won’t last? Why can’t I just let myself be happy?

It’s all true, but the truth isn’t always needed or helpful. 

I just got back from visiting someone I love dearly. It was great to see them, and it’s always a blessing. Not that long ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get to see them again, but today we spent some time together. All I wanted to do was be present and enjoy it. I didn’t want to think about everything we’ve been through. 

I wanted to be there with them, but that word crept into my mind. But what about…But what if…But. But. But. The list became overwhelming and screamed in my ear. I shook my head and tried to remind myself that this was our moment together. What could matter more than right now?

But what about the next moment and the next?

Sure, there’s that, but what about this one? This moment is pretty good. Can we just relax and enjoy it?

But it won’t last, and then what?

Would you shut up and let me enjoy this.

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Do you have these arguments with yourself? Fighting the desire to stay more present in the moment and worrying about the future. There’s this primal survival instinct that’s constantly looking for trouble. This moment is too good, and I’m too happy. Oh no, that means something horrible is going to happen. Danger. Danger. Look out!

Just stop, could you do that for me? Stop looking for problems. Stop saying, BUT. Stop ruining good moments, please. It’s exhausting. I’m tired. I just want to be happy for more than three and a half minutes. 

Is this a uniquely me problem, or does your brain work like this too?

I know the buzzword that’s sitting on the tip of the tongue. Anyone who’s spent five minutes in mental health circles has heard it. It’s so hyped up that it’s feeling a bit trite. It induces eye rolls and gag reflexes. Whenever someone helpfully suggests it? A low simmering annoyance grumbles petulantly.

By all accounts, mindfulness practices work wonders for most people. Breathing exercises, guided imagery, and meditation can calm your mind, reduce stress, and ease anxiety. With hard work, it can help you stay present in most moments. It can stop the buts and what-ifs.

I’ve heard so many success stories that I’m feeling left out. Yes, I’ve tried it. I wholeheartedly threw myself into the deep end. I know it takes practice and time to develop a routine. It’s not easy, I get that, but it doesn’t work for me.

My stress response is strong, and it triggers my anxiety. My fists and jaw clench. My muscles tense up. A thin layer of sweat clings to my forehead. By the end of the session, I’m worse off than when I started.

As much as I’d love to have a mindfulness practice, the traditional methods don’t work for me. Forcing the issue and trying to push through? Nope, that’s not helpful. Finding new ways to keep myself grounded? Yeah, I can do that, I think. Maybe? It’s so much work.

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When my chronically ill body is functioning at decent levels, some things work well for me. Hiking is one, and I always take my camera with me. Photography and videography stop the noise for a few minutes. Baking bread is another because I have to focus on amounts and techniques.

But right now, as I recover from a back injury, I’m not able to do those things. I get three and a half minutes of peace before the BUTs start. That’s not a lot of time to enjoy the moment. It’s over before it begins. It’s…Well, it’s what I have to work with, so I can enjoy it.

When we can string together a few minutes of peace throughout the day, doing things that we enjoy, it adds up. Three and a half minutes in the morning, sipping a cup of tea. Three and a half minutes walking my dog in the afternoon. Three and a half minutes of a stupid hot shower that melts the knots in my back.

Those moments where I close my eyes, sigh and relax add up to hours of determined, hard-earned mindfulness


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