Monday, November 10, 2014


Most people I meet at work are apprehensive and anxious. Not everyone, but most. They are after all at best committing their welfare to another or at worst, flirting with death. Toward the end of the pre-anaesthetic consultation I routinely ask the question: Are there any special worries or fears we haven't talked about?

Or something like that, depending on how it is going.

On Friday, I got an answer that was a first, delivered with considerable assurance.

"No. I have a peaceful mind."


"Not exactly. Years ago I decided to write down at the end of each day everything good or beautiful that happened during the day."

"Like an act of kindness, or lovely rose?"

"Yes, or a successful business outcome. The more I did this, the longer the list became till I had to stop* "

As things evolved, I was left with little doubt this was a mind at peace with itself and its situation and not some lolly-gobble-bliss-bomb state of denial.

*writing them down, not being aware


David said...

Splendid. In my times of serious depression, it wasn't so easy, but writing down one thing achieved that day where I might have got even a little pleasure out of it, or simply satisfaction at the smallest deed, showed me I wasn't at rock bottom.

wanderer said...

Good to hear David. I was unusually (to the point of a post) impressed with what this person, a mature and sophisticated ex foreign affairs civil servant, had genuinely achieved. I always thought the risk with only seeing the 'beauty' was that one was skating on the thin ice of denial (about the true state of existence) but the way you explain your experience helps me better understand what is going on here.

Susan Scheid said...

It's a curious phrase, "I have a peaceful mind." I can't imagine it, but the practice of finding the glimmers of light, even in the darkest times, seems to be a good approach, when and if it can be managed. I think of something a friend who is coping with terrible health problems said to me. I often feel I'm skating over the top of it when I propose this or that as a possible distraction for her. But then she said to me, "what I really appreciate is that you always try to stay positive. It's not that you're in denial," she continued. "You know what's happening here."

wanderer said...

A very curious phrase Sue - one I'm still pondering and which in the circumstances it was neither appropriate nor practical to explore further. But it did, as an aside, set me thinking about the question of the 'peace' of dealing with the truth vs the 'peace' of denying it.

David's experience I hesitate to interpret, but he has given me some insight into the struggle with an all encompassing negativity.

David said...

Back to Vonnegut. I've quoted him before, but here he puts it slightly differently: 'My Uncle Alex Vonnegut, an insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania, taught me something very important. He said that when things are going really well, we should be sure to notice it. He was talking about very simple occasions, not great victories. Maybe drinking lemonade under a shade tree, or smelling the aroma of a bakery, or fishing, or listening to music coming from a concert hall while standing outside, or, dare I say, after a kiss. He told me that it was important at such times to say out loud, "If this isn't nice, what is?" '

wanderer said...

That is, acknowledging, if not clinging to, the truth of beauty; the beauty of truth ?