July 20, 2011

Broccoli Sucks

Have you ever noticed how annoying it is when someone really famous or really rich complains about something?

Like the Hollywood stars that complain about not having enough privacy.

Privacy, I ask you??!?
Are you kidding me?
The day you signed that contract allowing you to earn one million dollars per minute, you sold your privacy.

I'm not sure but I'd bet, if you ask those poor investment banking analysts that work 18 hour days and pull all-nighters for three nights in a row, losing their eyesight to Excel sheets just before a big deal, even they don't earn one million dollars per minute.
And I'd bet they wouldn't mind selling their privacy for that pay.

I'm not disrespecting the craft of acting or belittling the profession.
But seriously, how much of the money they're paid is for their 'craft' and how much for their 'celebrity-hood' aka P.O.P.?
P.O.P. stands for Price of Privacy here.
Not Plaster of Paris.
Is acting seriously that hard a job that you get paid such a disproportionate amount of money for it?

It must be hard. I'm sure it is.
I can't act to save my life.
I can barely manage a half crooked tooth smile when a camera is pointed at me.

The question is… is it hard enough to warrant a million dollar per minute pay?

Okay, the 'million dollar per minute' pay is an exaggeration.
But not too much of an exaggeration. Only mild.
I know some people are paid that much for an hour.
I know they are. I'm pretty sure.

I read it in the tabloids.
They have ALL the info, these tabloids.
And it's accurate, I tell ya.

Anyway, celebrities and their loss of privacy is not what I wanted to talk about.

It's just that I hate that they get paid so much for working as hard as a lot of other people who earn a fraction of what they do.
It's as unfair as life gets.
It couldn't get unfairer.
This is the unfairest.

What I wanted to talk about is that everyone has problems.
Even them with their million dollar per minute pay and their fairytale lives.
And you know what the funny thing is?
Everyone thinks they've been dealt the worst hand.

I think things never come easily to me.
I really don’t remember the last time, I thought I got a lucky break.
That's impossible.

I generally need to fight, shove, push and struggle my way to anything. I bet you do too. Everyone thinks they've had to fight their way through life.

No one thinks, 'Hey… I've never had to struggle in my life. I've been given everything on a silver platter. Boy am I lucky!'

No. If you say it now. It won't count.
I just tried it.
It didn't sound like it counted.

Trust me.
Even those who know they've been born with a silver spoon, they'll complain about how difficult it is to raise the bar that's set so high for them. And how no one will ever take their achievements as their own. How it's impossible to come out of their parent's shadow.
It's probably true.

And struggling sucks.

Struggles. Hardships. Hurdles. Difficulties. Adversities. Complications. Snags. Hitches. Glitches. Setbacks. Trials. Tribulations. Hindrances. Troubles.
The whole crew.
Of words.
They suck.
The thesaurus is the greatest thing since sliced bread by the way.

When you're going through troubles. They suck.

Everyone knows that.

When I'm going through problems, I cry like a little girl.
On the bathroom floor.
With a pile of tissues on the side and plenty more strewn around me.
Okay fine. No tissues.
Using too many tissues is a waste of paper.
It's bad for the forests and the environment.

And the problem is, that at that time, anyone who talks to me to help me out…help me overcome the problem- I end up thinking:

'What do they know? They're not the ones going through what I'm going through. They don't understand how hard it is'.

It's easy to say that the banana flavored cough syrup tastes good when you're not the one whose got to gulp it down.

It's easy to say that exercise energizes you when you're not the one huffing and puffing and seeing yellow spots in front of your eyes.

It's easy to say broccoli makes you stronger when you don't have to chew on that rubbery, tasteless piece of devil food. 

Sound familiar?
Don't look now, but  you're nodding at the screen.
Okay maybe you're not… maybe I'm nodding…  and the screen's going up and down … so I thought you were nodding.
Ignore that.

I dig my heels into the ground.
I don't take any advice.
Which brings me to why I'm writing this post.

I'm not going to say anything new in this post.
I'm going to use pretty much the same reasoning that has been used before.
I'm going to re-invent the wheel.

So ladies and gentlemen, I suggest you to bring your barf-bags to your mouths and take a deep breath- because I'm going to tell you how….


Hardships are good.

I know.
I feel your pain.
Could I have possibly picked a more banal topic to talk about?

Go on.
Roll your eyes and bring on the fake yawns.
I'll wait for you.

Here's the thing.
After about 5 years of constant struggle and strife, professionally and personally, I have just had two whole weeks of no 'difficulty'.

There's no fear in my head. Of the future.
There's no guilt that I should be doing something else with my time.
There's no worry about things to come.
There's no pre-occupation.
That maybe because I may have blindfolded myself, but lets face it.
Fretting about the future isn't going to change it.

I just realized for the first time today that when I brush my teeth nowadays, I'm actually just brushing my teeth.
I'm feeling the bristles against my gums and the inside of my cheeks.
I'm listening to the faint scrubbing sound.
And I'm tasting the cool minty toothpaste.
And feeling the freshness that comes along with it.

Then I brush some more and the same cool minty freshness starts burning my tongue and I have to spit it out. But let's not go there.

It's called living in the moment. It's the path to happiness.
It's what Eckhart Tolle has written 127 books about.
Not really 127. I don't know how many.
But a LOT.

And I figure, if I dig my heels in and don't listen to anybody when I'm in the middle of a muddle, then maybe I can help myself when I'm not in the middle.
Of the muddle.

So the next time difficulty strikes, maybe I'll come back and read this and say:
I can't believe it. I'm a genius.
And after gloating over my geniusness, I'll go on to say…
I'm right.
Difficulties are good.
And I'm going to get past this.
And I'm going to start right now.

It's worth a shot.

So this is the end of the post as far as the 'present' is concerned.

If you're struggling with something in the present, chances are that you're going to think -

This is a bunch of baloney.
She has no idea how hard it is for me. It's easier said than done.

So there's no point of reading any further. Because you won't listen.

So, now we flashforward to the time you've overcome this problem. And are difficulty-free for a couple of days.
Just before your next nemesis is about to strike.

Imagine a wind-tunnel magically appearing on your right hand side.
Strong winds blow in your room… sheets of paper start flying everywhere.
The lights in your room start flickering.
You hear thunder outside your window.
Jump into the tunnel.
Zzzzwwwwiiiiiiissshhhhhh…. Zzwwwoooossssshhhhh…..
You are now in the future.

Now ask yourself with reference to your last problem :
  1. Was I being Paris Hilton?
Was the fact that I had a broken a fingernail really the end of the world?
Was I creating a mountain out of a molehill? 
I know that everyone has the tendency to think that their troubles are the absolute worst in the world. Did I do that?
Guess what? My fingernails grew back.
So I shouldn't have done that. I should have just  stayed calm.
If the answer is no-I wasn't being Paris Hilton, move onto question number
  1. Did that problem last forever? Did I really never come out of the mess?

I suggest that you go back to Vipassna teachings. Everything is impermanent. Nothing is going to last forever. Everyone has a good time which comes, stays and leaves. And everyone has a bad time, that comes, stays and leaves. So remind yourself that nothing that happened stayed forever. You're in the future now and the problem is a distant memory.

So all future problems, like the last one, will come and leave. Just keep reminding yourself that your bad time is impermanent.

A quote out of the book I'm currently reading really fits the bill here:

'Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional'
 -Haruki Murakami
It's a reminder that everyone has a bad time. Even those who you think are the luckiest people in the world. It's inevitable. Life is never ALL good for anyone.
Even the prettiest girl in the world will get pimples, wrinkles or a bloated tummy.
The most astute businessman will suffer a loss sometimes.
The guy with the best job in the world will get told off by his boss.
The perfect couple will have a fight.

You may not see it when it happens, but it will happen.

That’s exactly how it is with you. But it's a choice you make - when you decide to suffer because of it. You can just accept it for what it is- a bad time.
You can wait for it to pass or take some action to help it pass.
Either way… it will pass.

3.    How good did I feel when I came out of that a bigger better person? 
       How much did I learn?

Lets face it. No matter how much we hate to admit it- the more difficult the problem, the bigger the lesson learnt. The more you get out of it. It's annoying but it's true.

Examples from my life:

I won't feel bad if you skip this part.
Okay, I'll feel just a little bad.
But no pressure to read it though.
Except that I'll like it if you read it.
But don't if you really don't want to.
Just pretend to read it and we'll both be happy.

Problem: I didn't get into the college of my choice after high school. Missed the entry requirement by less than a hair's breadth.
Result: I went to the next best college and gained friends that I'll keep for life. I also learned that my first choice wasn't such a big deal anyway.
It really wasn't.
It's not like the sour grapes story.
It really wasn't that great.
Ask anyone.
It really wasn't.

Problem: I worked the hardest for my job interview in London. 14 hour days in the library for two weeks straight. That in the face of one of my best friends getting a job interview through her father.
Result: The first time I knew what ecstasy felt like when my boss called me to tell me I got the job. Also, it cemented my belief that hard-work can move mountains.
No offense to faith. Faith will always move mountains.
I meant that hard-work, too, can move mountains.

Problem: I hated my job in London. But I was stuck.
Result: Those two years taught me more than the remaining 25 years did. About life, people and myself. Listing it all out is almost impossible.
I'd do it all over again, pain, stress and all.

Problem: After a lot of setbacks and problems in the restaurant setup process, my prospective restaurant business  partner got married and had to move away.
Result: I took up technical analysis and trading as a possible career option. It's become everything I want from my profession. And I won a prestigious award for my exam paper.

You get the picture?!?
I'd go on and in more excruciating detail but I like you.
So I'll stop.

Meaningful lives do not just happen by accident. They require conflict, risk, striving, and overcoming. A good character in a story has to struggle, and so it is with all of us.
 -Don Miller
A difficulty-less, smooth sailing life is the mark of mediocrity. It's a symbol of stagnation.

4.    How has the difficulty helped my karmic score?

Another part of Vipassna teachings was the belief that your good times and bad times are dictated by your life's karma.

Even if you've stopped sowing the seeds of bad karma, the results of your previous actions dictate your condition today.
Yea. That's right.
Wish you hadn't bullied the poor nerdy kid back in kindergarten now, don’t ya?

The more you suffer, the more bad karma you get out of the way.
The less there is left behind to make you suffer -later- in the future.
So the difficulty and the suffering is pumping away your bad karma… which means that they are actually reducing your future suffering.  

5.    Finally, how has the difficulty conditioned my behavior today?
Be totally honest, here.
Don't say… it didn't make any difference.
It was stupid.
Agreed… it was stupid.
But it did make a difference.
Difficulty -by definition -makes a difference.
Diff-iculty and diff-erence.
Two sides, same coin.

If I ask myself, there's one thing that flashes before my eyes.
It's made me more grounded.
It's convinced me of the fragility of the good times.
It has, therefore, drilled humility into my system… forever.
And it's given me the gift of really enjoying the good times, when I get them.

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
-Henry Ford
Case in point:
When good things happened to me earlier, I'd take them at their face value.

Eh well… I got what I deserved.
No biggie.
Thank you God.. And all that.
But come on… I worked hard for it.

Big mistake…
Yes. I'm quoting Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman.

It was a mistake because, later, when the good times got rarer, I realized I should have enjoyed them more while they lasted.

And I was made to face hardships because God wanted to give me the ability to enjoy them. He wanted to teach me how to enjoy the good times.
And man… did he do a good job.
I'm enjoying brushing my teeth for Pete's sake.
Let all that sink in for awhile.
Okay… now jump into the time portal wind tunnel thingy on your right again.

Zzzzwwwwiiiiiiissshhhhhh…. Zzwwwoooossssshhhhh…..

And you're back to the present.

Come on.
Own up to it.

When you're grappling with a problem, you can hardly ever make the difference out between the angel and the devil. They're all the same.
They're all out to get you.
I've always thought of God's job as one of the most underpaid and thankless.

He should get a million dollars per minute if you ask me.
The only one person that deserves it.

He's the one that has to dole out the tough love and go through hell to watch me suffer. But He does it anyway … for my good. And I ostracize him for it. I mistake Him to be my enemy.

If I were Him, I'd resign.
Take early retirement and live in a wooden cottage in the hills.
Or maybe go backpacking across the universe.
Let the world take care of itself.
I guess that's why I'm not God.

That concludes Gabfest 2011.
Thank you for your attention.
Or lack thereof.

Kindly fold down the tops of your vomit bags and deposit them in the trashcans on your way out.

Also, in reading this far, you have participated in the proprietary technique of Pious Hippie Time Travel for which you will have to sign the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement presented below.

Please print this out on imaginary paper using your magic printer and sign it with invisible ink and keep it in your secret safe behind the Victorian era painting in your living room for eternity.
Just for fun.

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The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.