Monday, August 24, 2009

Time for a New Start

This blog post has been growing at the back of my mind over the past few days, perhaps even weeks. But I've kept putting it off, partly because I haven't been up for the challenge, partly because I've been afraid it is going to sound dangerously close to one of those spiritual self-help guides that I'm not sure actually help.

So, first, let me say this: I've tried the law-of-attraction approach. You know, what you think, you create. Because it sounds so perfectly symmetrical and logical and beautiful: if everything consists of energy (which it does, on a purely physical level) even the slightest thought will set this energy in motion (this makes sense), and somehow shape the energy surrounding you into reality as you know it (it doesn't sound completely crazy, does it?). So the question is: do you want to shape your reality with positive thoughts, or negative thoughts? Do you want to put out positive energy, or add to the negative energy?

This, stretched out a little, is what has given rise to the notion that you can become the conscious master of your own physical experience by sort of manipulating the Universe into giving you what you want. And I mean this literally, physically, materially--not just "Look on the bright side, and things will seem easier."

I think different self-help books will tell you different ways to create your physical experience (and I don't think anybody actually uses the term "manipulating the Universe" by the way): either by simply blocking out negative thoughts, or by pretending you already have what you want, or by really, really concentrating on what you want to the extent where you are convinced that it is already yours, and it will come to you asap.

I read one particular series of books on this topic (this was years ago), and I came to a point where I truly and honestly believed 100 per cent that if I just really believed that I could actually achieve exactly what I wanted if I just set my mind to it, I would.

But then my life sort of crashed and instead of going, "Okay, so I wasn't convinced enough, let's try again with new, positive thoughts!" I went: this is crap.

After some time, things I had never even dreamed of in my wildest imagination happened in my life that brought me places, people and experiences that I wanted a thousand times more than the things I had thought I wanted a while back.

My conclusion was this: nuts to spiritual self-help rules! Regardless of how much you try to control your life, life will happen the way it happens--you will have to take the bad with the good, and in the end (if it hasn't left you completely broken, I suppose), you will look back and see that the series of events, places and people that you call your life is actually a perfect blend of just the right things and that nothing else would have taken you to where you are now, and who do you think you are to even imagine that you can outshine life as a designer of this intricate, complex web?!

I gave books a rest, realized my mind is limited, and started feeling content that there are other forces at work that seem to know better than me where to take me in life.

However. And this is where I'm at now. The blog post that's been taking shape at the back of my mind as a sort of resolution, or commitment, to take responsibility again.

Because seriously. Even though I've never gone quite as far as to suggest that "fate" or something like it is what controls our lives, I have been a little too lax with my mind lately. Let it think any old negative, destructive thought it wants.

"Alas! What good is a plan, when nothing ever works out the way I want it to anyway?"

But no more of this.

Because who am I kidding? Linear thoughts-create-reality theories aside, I do create my life (sort of) consciously by making the myriad of choices that I do all the time (and subconsciously because I can't possibly control where the combination of all my choices and the choices of everybody else will take me over time). Obviously, I can't control the outcome of my choices the way I might think I want to, but I can control the way I make my choices. The state of mind I'm in when I make them.

So today is the day when I finally step up to the challenge once more, and take my life into my own hands (resolutions have to sound a little ceremonious), and vow (pause for effect) to change the way I approach life.

Therefore, I, Ruby, decide to clean up my thoughts starting with:

Minimizing the risk for disappointment, because disappointment breeds negative thoughts that eat away at my confidence in my power over my own situation,

By reducing expectations for the future, that run the risk of creating disappointment if they are not met,

With this in mind, I urge myself to take the following steps:

a) Decrease amount of daydreams
b) Replace expectations with an open mind
c) Concentrate more on what is now than what might come

And call upon myself to take all possible steps to assist in the implementation of this resolution.

This, of course, is essentially the same thing as saying "Live in the Now." Which I could have just said from the start. But then I would have sounded like I picked out any old truism from any old spiritual self-help guide that don't really help, and the point is I really mean this. I will, for the first time ever in my life, really try to live more right now than put it off to "when things are the way I want them to be."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fit for a Novel

Something happened today that felt like it could be a tiny--but nevertheless indispensable--detail of something bigger that will not fully reveal its importance until all the other little pieces it will be made up of are in place.

You know, some little quirk that will make lines cross and stick together that wouldn't have crossed or stuck together if it weren't for this quirk. They're always in novels--I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

"If I hadn't been late that day, I wouldn't have met so-and-so in the subway, and if I hadn't met so-and-so in the subway, I would never have been invited to that party, and if I hadn't been invited to that party, I would never have..." and on and on into infinity.

In fact, I would like to start writing a novel myself just because of this. This quirk of today, I mean. Make up a grand story to go with it.

(Well, only until I know whether it actually was that indispensable little twist of fate that changed everything, or whether it was just any old event that won't lead anywhere at all. And who knows? Maybe truth will prove to be stranger than fiction).

But seeing as how I'm really too lazy to start writing a novel at the moment, and don't really feel like I have a profound message I would like to share with the world (which is the only real reason you should ever write a novel), I decided to just put it in my blog:

Last Friday I posted some pictures to a person I probably shouldn't have posted some pictures to, but nonetheless I did just that, all the while telling myself that I didn't do it because I expected an answer or anything from him. I just wanted him to have the pictures we took. As a last... I'm not sure what.

I would have e-mailed them to him, but we sort of don't talk. Even electronically.

In any event, I wrote a few lines and ended the letter with these words:

"PS If you deleted my phone number, it's--" such-and-such.

And then I carefully printed the address on the envelope. A typically unspecific Egyptian address without zip codes or building numbers, but carefully printed all the same.

Writing this blog now, I realize that the events leading up to what happened today are actually just as important and indispensable as the quirk itself. Without them, the quirk would have been meaningless, or rather, wouldn't have existed at all as the quirk I now know it (or term it). Which sort of tells me that all that happens in life can actually be endowed with life-changing importance, once sufficient time has passed and we can order the events into a nice chain of cause-and-effect in our minds and make the pieces fit together. Because that's the way we make sense of the world, isn't it?

"If it weren't for the fact that I postscripted my phone number at the bottom of that letter..."

Anyway, I've waited for a week. Feeling less and less convinced that I had managed to convince myself that I didn't expect or desire a reply; and instead more and more impatient to hear the promising buzzing sound from my phone and the ensuing first bars of one of Amr Diab's latest hits.

But my phone has, of course, been defiantly still and quiet.

Until today sometime at noon when I was out in the backyard making the best of the last of the summer rays. The phone vibrated but Amr Diab didn't really have a chance to get started before I snatched up the phone and opened the message.

"Hello. My name is--" so-and-so "I have received by mistake your letter to--" so-and-so "with some photos. I want to deliver it to the correct person. Please send me his mobile number. Sorry again as I opened it. As it was sent to my address and same family name."

I felt curiously shaky as if the blood had drained from my head. Or from most of my veins, really. Or more like the blood was still there, but didn't do what it was supposed to do.

It wasn't because the photos were of us in swimsuits, or because there might have been one or two in which we might have been kissing behind a tree or anything. It was because now there's absolutely no way my brain can construct excuses somewhere along the line "But what if the letter was delivered to the wrong address and he never got the package, and that's why he's not texting or calling?" if he doesn't contact me in some way.

But that's already my brain organizing things trying to make sense out of something with the privilege of hindsight. Because at noon, I wasn't thinking this at all. It was more like, "Oh my God, a message pertaining to the person I've been dying to hear from for over a month now; it's not from him, but it's from somebody with the same last name that will call him and deliver my package so there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the package actually will reach its intended destination. And when it reaches him, he will contact me somehow, won't he? He has to, doesn't he?" And my brain started making up all sorts of likely scenarios of what might happen now, and why, and the reasons behind this other person receiving my package in lieu of this first person.

But then my phone has been disconcertingly quiet. Which is why it is tempting to reconstruct my noontime thoughts on the matter and instill some kind of continuity into the random collection of thoughts and events, as if there were a clear pattern all along, only I couldn't see it until all the pieces were there.

"The quirk was the turning-point at which I knew--finally--that I had to let go of hope that this person will ever care about me again. And the mystery man with the same last name as the intended recipient of my letter and photographs was the indispensable link that made it clear to me once and for all: if it hadn't been for his text message, I would still have wondered if the silence of my phone wasn't really a result of the fact of an undelivered package. And my last-minute idea of including my phone number in the letter, the instrument with which he could make it clear to me. See how everything fits together?"

But it doesn't. It is only our ordering of things that makes them fit together. As a matter of fact, I have a growing sensation that nothing really makes any sense at all until we decide it does.

And there you go. A profound message after all.