When tragedy strikes, it’s natural to let oneself go. The moments that used to be filled with narcissistic activities are replaced with sorrow, self-reflection, and re-evaluation of life itself. There is hardly time for trivial pastimes such as staring at oneself in the mirror or blogging… not that I have been known to do either…
And thus, I find myself here, half a year later, struggling with all sorts of things (writer’s block included) but possessing a new outlook—young&fabulous deconstructed and reconstructed, young&fabulous 2.0 if you will. As someone recently told me: I now have lots of perspective, more than I had bargained for, but now I have it.
And so today’s musing is on open-mindedness. Sometimes, we are forced to have an open mind. When our circumstances are less than ideal, when our worst nightmares are realized, we must open our minds to our new and often horrifying realities. But in experiencing this forced mind stretching, I have found that having this mindset can be an asset. I now define open-mindedness as experiencing something without expectations or judgments on how one should experience it.
What I’ve learned is that we need to focus on every experience, every feeling, for what it is. Instead of comparing any given moment to how it would have been in other circumstances or to how we think it should be, we need to experience it for what it is.
As silly (and unbelievable) as this sounds, a few weeks ago, I told a friend that I don’t like fried desserts. To me, fried food should be salty, not sweet. A recent trip to New Orleans, however, made me reconsider. As I just learned, beignets done right are next level. And there goes another sweeping statement, disappearing from my lexicon like the powdered sugar atop the deep fried goodness I just tasted. Once I put aside preconceived notions about how something should taste and quit comparing it to how other foods taste, I was able to experience it with new eyes taste buds.
On a more serious note, I constantly wish that my dad could be here with me experiencing every milestone big and small, from trying a new cheese to laughing at the latest Judd Apatow film to seeing me graduate from college. To my dad, there was no experience too small to merit a Shehecheyanu (blessing for special occasions and new experiences). Unfortunately, it isn’t possible for him to be here for each of these new moments. Instead, what I’ve found is that it’s imperative to focus on every single one of these milestones in their own lights, as they are. I am not trying to compare these moments to how they could have been if he was there but I’m just to experience them for what they are. And what these moments actually feel like, free of comparison or judgment, is usually better than I would expect.
Moreover, it’s important to be open-minded in the way we experience emotions. When feeling sad, it’s useless to wonder why I don’t feel happier or to try to compare my sadness to what others are feeling. Chances are that other people are 1.) pretending to be happier than they actually are, 2.) experiencing happiness and sadness so differently than how I experience things that it is moot to compare, or 3.) mutant zombies. In this light, it’s clear that judging what I feel and trying to measure it against what other people may or may not feel is a silly activity—much sillier than staring at myself in the mirror and blogging COMBINED! Who knew?!
So, what have I learned? Funny you should ask because I was just about to reiterate: it’s important to be open-minded and experience everything—from wines to movies to serious losses—as they are, without judgments on how we think they should be. And in doing so we make profound realizations; we learn that there’s new joy to be found and that fried dough is delicious.