By Shamyla Tareen
Four years ago, I crashed my car. It was a drizzly Tuesday morning; I was trying to make it down the slick highway for a meeting. My thoughts were helter-skelter. I needed to plan stuff, talk to my boss about a client, talk to a friend – and get a haircut. Feeling like I could efficiently multi-task as always, I decided to check the phone number of the hairdressers’ while driving. Affirming every cliché – I looked down for JUST a minute. Suddenly, my car was swaying back and forth like a possessed thing. Then it spun, Frisbee-like, across all four lanes of I-95 N. “Oh,” I remember thinking in slow motion, “I see that guardrail and I am going to hit it.” I hung on tight, hit one car, then the guardrail. My car bounced back into the highway and smashed the guardrail again before coming to a stop. It was a miracle I got out alive and that no one was hurt – the man I hit actually got out of his car to comfort me. I couldn’t stop shaking.
After sending the ambulance away twice, (“I’m FINE!”) and riding nonchalantly to the dealership in a tow truck, I was told to empty my possessions from my wrecked car. The car sat on an incline on the tow-truck ramp. I opened the door, got things out, slammed it, and my coat got stuck. In frustration I yanked the door open… and fell backwards off the ramp. Lying on the ground, unsure if any fingers or vertebrae were broken, glasses and hair all tangled, guess what my first thought was? “is my new iPhone okay?!?!”
All this happened because I was not paying enough attention to one thing at a time. My mind was in 60,000 different places at once- and it cost me. That young feeling of invincibility eventually catches up with you and you realize you have to slow down. I’ve come to understand in the past four years, why parents and teachers were always after me to pay more attention and make less careless mistakes. I’ve been learning many lessons.
In this attention deficit, sensory overloaded, hyperactive, technologically driven world, paying attention and quieting your mind is so difficult. During the beginning of October I was studying for an exam. The hardest part was not the material – which was actually interesting. The first challenge was cutting out my robust social life, and then not checking Facebook, email, texts or Instagram. My thumbs missed scrolling on my phone. I felt twitchy and foggy using a pen and paper. What happened to my handwriting? Every 20 minutes I wanted to get up and start dancing!
Without distractions, my mind found other ways to amuse and torture me. As I sat there staring at the book, feelings of anxiety, despair, and fear ran amok. Instead of running from, stuffing down, or indulging in those fears, I tried staying still and remaining calm. This is something many people have tried to teach me but I was never able to manage. When I felt sad or hopeless about things beyond my control, I took deep breaths and tried to let the feelings wash over me. Then I went back to studying or took breaks. Like any storm, these feelings would also pass. I realized what an expert I’d become at not paying attention to how I feel. Somewhere along the line I picked up a cultural mantra – being an emotional person makes one weak and silly. I was wrong about that. I’ve heard the saying: “Vulnerability is the new strength”, and I want to embrace that.
Often, I pay attention to the negativity, drama, terrible things – about me, about others. When I pay attention to good things, cynical people say, “You’re such a Pollyanna!” or “don’t be a simpleton, living in a silly make believe world of clouds!” When someone does a good thing, some people immediately shift their attention from the overall good to critiquing that person. I noticed that I rarely comment about how lovely that sunset was, how good my meal was, how my friends can sometimes make me feel so loved. I also realized I was surrounding myself with people hell bent on taking each other down, criticizing and complaining. Why were they doing this? Why was I doing this?! More often than not, why is it easier to be miserable than to be happy?
A friend of mine seemed somewhat skeptical of my Happiness Project. At a bookstore, she saw rows of the book stacked and commented, “All this happiness everywhere… Blah. Why don’t they write an Unhappiness Project? I’d read that!” I thought about her comment later and realized: no one needs to write that book. Too many folks already live that way. We need books like the “Happiness Project” to jump-start our minds into a different direction, point us in a better, healthier way of living.
In the book, Gretchen talks about simple truths/wise words that help her get through life and make it better. I asked some of my friends for theirs. Some of them didn’t respond. Others sent me joking quotes. But a few people really thought about theirs and then sent them to me. I thought I would share a few of their mottos and some of mine, that relate to hope or our journeys through life.
Quotes about Resilience:
· “In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on.”
· “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
· “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
· “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Quotes about Love and Kindness:
· “When you pray for others, God listens to you and blesses them, and sometimes, when you are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for you.”
· “Hug somebody every day.”
· “Be fair and kind. Life and people have been unfair at times but I try not to wound someone just because someone might have done that to me. “
Quotes about Forgiveness:
· “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
· “Everything and everyone you love will be lost in one form or another (through change or death.)” So be kind.
· “Don’t part on angry terms, because you don’t know if that is the last time you will ever see that person again.”
Quotes about Daily Reminders:
· “Let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.”
· “Do it live. (as in, go with the flow.)
· “When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Relax and Let go.”
· “Beyond right & wrong there is a field; I meet you there.””
These are just some of the quotes I like reading that make me feel good and give me a sense of how to live my life. I realize how short my life is, yet how deep and good. There is value in paying attention to it; it’s the only one I’ve got! I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the road now. Hopefully I’ll end up at a great destination!