When someone tells me a great joke and I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe, I can safely conclude that the joke was funny. When someone close to me is in deep pain and I feel a dull ache rising up from my stomach, I know that something genuinely bad has happened. But unlike in the movies most of the things that happen to us in life occur not at the extremes but in the middle. How should we react to little experiences and events that are not obviously good or bad?
On Christmas Day in Rio I was eating a simple breakfast in my tiny, infested kitchen. It has lizards, critters I’ve never seen before in America, and tiny ants that were trying to get a piece of my sandwich. One of them already snuck into my sugar container and dug himself so deep in that it’s just a matter of time until I eat him. And the winged cockroaches that I’ve seen scampering when I turn on the lights are so big that I’m hesitant to kill them. I called my family in the afternoon and they already exchanged gifts, and were preparing the night’s feast.
All day I was alone, in a city where I only knew a couple people, trying to adjust to the heat and the challenging language. How do I feel?
I can say I’m depressed and homesick and wishing to return to the comfort of the place I was raised in.
I can say I’m lucky to be able to spend time in Rio and learn this new culture and language in a non-freezing climate.
I can say a lot of things, but a tiny spider got stuck in my arm hair and after I flicked it off I started thinking what I should do with the rest of my day.
I’m in a huge club working on the women, making progress only with the ones who aren’t my first choice. The music is unfamiliar and I can’t get into that right state where things click and I go on a tear. Like usual it’s so damn hot my belly and entire back is sweating, and I wonder how I’m going to make it through Brazil’s summer without air conditioning. How do I feel?
I can say that I wish I was back in some pseudo-hipster bar at home where getting laid was easy, meant nothing, and except for about three vigorous minutes, a mostly non-sweaty affair.
I can say that I’m going to be a better man if I can figure these Brazilian girls out in the subtropical heat.
I can say a lot of things, but my caipirinha is finished and I need to get another one before returning back to the hot girl from Porto Alegre who’s teasing me.
There really is no point to sit down and analyze my feelings in every little moment of doubt, difficulty, or even pleasure. There is no point to stop and think about these fleeting moments because my mind can trick itself either way. With just a little nudge I can abandon or embrace something that may very well go against my gut, against the direction my feet have gone for the past several months.
I ignore the day to day ups and downs of life and look back instead. What have I recently accomplished? Am I stronger because of it? Do I like what direction I’m going, and is it putting my closer to where I want to be? I ignore the voice in my head that tells me I need to feel one way or another, and I just keep going. I’m not going to let good or bad days distract me from what I set out to do, because one day has no meaning.