Welp, it finally happened: in spite of my best efforts to avoid it, my therapeutic process has finally marched around the whole circle and landed me on Mindfulness with both feet. Mindfulness, like Meditation, is one of those concepts that seems like it should be simple, yet always somehow seems to elude me. How does one do Mindfulness? Is the point to concentrate or not to concentrate? Is the point to focus very hard on one thing or to not focus on anything at all? Should I be trying to ‘tune in’ my feelings or ‘tune out’ my feelings? Should I be still or active? Eyes open or closed?

Inquiring minds want to know.

In an effort to help me with this, my therapist assigned me the “homework” of trying to be mindful five times a day. To help with this, he directed me to a site that recommended five different mindfulness themes:

  • Thinking about your strengths.
  • Thinking abou one strength in particular.
  • Thinking about your role in a given situation and how to be the best you can be at that role.
  • Thinking about goodness and how you can inject it into whatever it is you’re doing.
  • Just being.

Just Being turned out to be the easiest: this one I enjoyed in between video conferences: staring vaguely out the window and listening to the sound of weed-whackers: the serenade of Quarantine.”

Strengths turned out to be harder: whenever I tried to think of something I was particularly good at, my mental voice kicked in with all the possible exceptions to the rule: I’m good at artwork, except what I don’t finish or don’t enjoy or when I’m out of practice, I’m persistent except for not always finishing things and sometimes getting frustrated when it gets too difficult and giving up if I’m too sensitive to criticism…

I wasn’t even sure I was thinking of the right kinds of strengths: was I supposed to be thinking of “I can do thirty pushups” kind of strength or a “I am an inherently honorable person” kind of strength.

In an effort to help me with THIS dilemma, my therapist directed me to a survey of Character Strengths which helped me to break down the categories. I took the survey and was given a list in which my 24 character strengths were ranked in some kind of order. It was unclear whether this was a hierarchy or a constellation: was #1 (Fairness) my most salient quality? Was #24 (Love) my greatest weakness? I’m unclear about the results.

The biggest surprise to me came in the form of #23: Zest. Feeling vital and energetic: approaching life feeling activated and excited. Why so low? I mean, I know I’m coming out of a depressive phase, but my energy level has been good lately. I feel enthusiastic about things, even if I tend to be kinda low key about how I express it. Life is pretty good and I get up in the morning feeling good and (currently) without dread- even if I don’t exactly bound out of bed shouting “NEW DAY!!! HELL YEAH!!!!”

Anyway, if there is anything that I’m especially interested in developing more of in my life, it turns out that it is Zest. I suppose part of it might come from the fact that I push myself so hard that a lot of times my energy is all wrapped up in just getting along, which leaves me with a fairly low tolerance for chaos- because problem solving saps my energy. It’s hard to be vital and energetic when you know you’ve got thirty-six hours worth of “To Do” tasks and only twenty-hour hours in which to do them.

So I guess this is my new goal: cultivate more Zest in my life. Leave myself enough energy in a day to just enjoy it. Find things that activate and and enthuse me.

Challenge accepted.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 22, 2020.

2 Responses to “Zest”

  1. Can you see the spaceship, yet? You have to look at the picture with your eyes just out of focus. Adjust your focus. Come on. Just adjust your focus. Elaine! I can’t see the damn spaceship!

    Looking at that list of mindful paths to take, I can see the next blind step. In a given situation? What given situation? Doc? You didn’t give me any situations to insert myself. 😛

    Ah, even I can see your f…er…yer fff…yer failing in being mindful. But, you said it, yourself. You countered strength talk with judgment. Now, you know, next time you try such an exercise, to slam the door on those other voices.

    Pretend you are in a small office/meeting room with a rectangular table and maybe a dozen chairs around that table. You are sitting alone, staring out a window at a sunny scene. You hear people typing away at their keyboards in the sea of cubicles at your back. Some are muttering something that doesn’t matter right now. And then, some jerk comes too close to your vacant room and disturbs your soft focus. Slam the door on him and go back to staring out the window, focusing on those strengths…like some job interview regimen.

    Seriously. Must everything be a focus on strengths? How about what makes you at peace or comfortable? Is every motion we make selling ourselves for the machine?

    You seriously sound like me on an average day. And, part of me keeps thinking we two sad sacks would either go down in flames together or, at the very least, be examples to each other and motivate each other to do more than sulk or sink into the abyss. You sound like you don’t have anyone to “jog” with you…and neither do I. And, like my nephew next to me, asking me to help him with his homework, you and I sometimes need a good sounding board…and, clearly neither you or I have one.

  2. And, you didn’t show much enthusiasm about my art challenge…well, you started out enthusiastic, but I didn’t get a follow-up. So, I started making other comics, as you can see. 😛

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