Mental Hygiene: Do You Have Rocks in Your Head?
So there’s this rock.
It’s a huge, heavy rock. It’s gray, and I hate gray. It’s a stupid shape. It is the ugliest rock I have ever seen, and it ruins everything.
People laugh at the rock, and at me for having it. Whenever I get near it, I stub my toe on it. Sometimes, I lie down, laboriously roll the rock over on top of me, and then wail, “Help, help, I’m trapped under this big, ugly rock!”
What in the world am I talking about?
I’m talking about circumstances. I’m talking about all the things in your life that, for one reason or another, you don’t have one jot of control over—at least at the present moment. Might be your spouse. Might be your boss. Might be your health, or your child’s learning disability, or your 10-year-old car with the dent in the fender.
All of those things and people and circumstances simply are what they are. You can no more demand them to be different than you can stand over a rock and order it to change color or shape. You can wish that the rock were a beautiful fountain, or a gazebo, or a flaming pink plastic flamingo. Command all you want. Wish until the cows come home. It will still be a rock.
Is it the rock that’s so awful, or the stories you are telling yourself about the rock? Maybe you tell yourself that it’s hideous and deformed. Maybe you tell yourself that it’s malevolent and out to get you. Maybe you throw yourself at it, even hurt yourself on it. Maybe you tell yourself that you are trapped by it, held back by it, or ridiculed because of it.
Those are just stories, just as rocks are just rocks. While they sit there, being gray and rocklike, you are the one running up to them and stubbing your toe on them. You are the one telling yourself what others think about them. You are the one pretending to be limited by them, or imaging that you have control over them.
Here’s a thought: what if you just let the rocks be rocks? Your husband doesn’t remember special occasions. Your boss doesn’t want you messing with the accounting software because he thinks he’s the only one who knows how to run it. You have MS. Your child struggles with picture books. Your car is old.
Does this mean giving up on anything ever being any better? Does this mean stop trying to get what you want? Absolutely not. But it does mean giving up the insane illusion that you control the people and the physics of the world around you. It means accepting reality in the present moment. The rock is a rock is a rock. Its essential rock nature has nothing to do with you, and does not reflect upon you. It’s just an is. Can that be okay with you?
And if it isn’t, what are you willing to do about it that doesn’t require the rock to magically change into something else, that doesn’t involve you standing angrily over the rock, ordering it to be a different color, or size, or shape?
You can’t change rocks. But you can change the stories you’re telling yourself about them, and you can change yourself. You can decide which rocks to accept in your life, and which you will no longer tolerate. You can hate the rocks, or you can love them for exactly what they are, and find the goodness in them. In the way they form a beautiful backdrop for the ivy that grows around them. In the way walking carefully around them reminds you to slow down. In the support they give your back when you sit up against them and simply be present with them.
What is beautiful, what is perfect, about your rock?