Monday, January 4, 2010

upson downs

Well, here we are: Twenty-Ten. (Such an odd-sounding and -looking year, isn’t it? Very Space Age.) No matter how much I resist assigning meaning to New Year’s, it was still a thrill watching the clock hit midnight straight up, and the calendar flip over to 01/01/10. I suppose, surrounded as we are by top-ten lists and post-holiday diet tips and tax forms (already!!), it’s impossible to stop ourselves from looking back and looking ahead, from taking stock and making resolutions.

My favorite resolution ever came from a friend in L.A., years ago: “No more cheap shoes.” As much as I applaud and support her admirable goal, my 2010 resolution, such as it is, is a bit less concrete: I want to work on my court vision. In basketball, court vision refers to a player’s ability to take in the whole picture—to see everything that’s happening on the court, and to strategize the right moves given the situation and the various ways it could potentially unfold.

I want court vision for my life—to be able to see the whole, not just the parts, to figure out the different ways a scenario can play out. This would be a change for me: I tend to get focused on some fraction of a given situation, and to react solely to that one aspect—good, bad, or indifferent—and to tamp down any distracting awareness of the whole shebang.

This is especially true of high-emotion moments, whether positive (going on a fun first date) or negative (being yelled at by an evil boss). In the past, it’s been nearly impossible for me to step back in such a moment and weigh the situation; instead, I just react out of my own tangled emotional history—in the first example, by projecting way ahead into a happily-ever-after future, in the second by zooming straight into “fight or flight” mode.

I have really tried, over the past couple years, to learn to be “in the moment” as much as possible. For me, this means looking at what is right in front of me, right now—not what it was, or what I hope it will be, or what I wish it were, or what it represents—and, given that, to figure out my options and my best move.

I’ve had a lot of guidance in this effort—from books, from yoga, from therapy, from wise friends—and have managed to get myself in a much better place than I was just a couple of years ago. Of course, a huge part of this can be attributed not to any innate yogic goodness on my part, but instead simply to the fact that I left my hateful job; it’s much easier to be more mindful (and grateful) if you’re not in a continuous state of exhaustion and jerk-induced panic.

But while the lessons I’ve learned are valuable, and while I can see the progress I’ve made, it doesn’t take much to plunge me back into an inchoate emotional turmoil. I was initially going to call this post “nothing but net,” and blather on for the whole time about my astonishing spiritual development, but then I had a setback that forced me to face how far I have yet to travel. Simply put, that fun first date (on Christmas Eve, no less) doesn’t seem to be leading to the finish line of bliss that I’d envisioned. I’m disappointed, naturally enough. The issue is that I’ve instantly taken a relatively minor incident and blown it up into a symbol of everything that’s wrong with me and my life, and, to be honest, I’m wallowing.

Still, I’m trying to put into practice what I’ve learned—to try to create a bit of space where my rational self can step in and prevent my slipping straight back into an emotional mess. I hope I can keep my sense of the big picture—that this one incident has no larger message, that I’m not stuck, that I have choices, that I can act in different ways than I have in the past.

What I’m working to remember right now is that, as much as I wanted this potential romance to work out, the disappointing outcome is not a measure of failure. As the ever-helpful Buddhists remind me, “Your journey is to know yourself.” The goal isn’t romance, or a new job, or a fat bank account. The goal is being aware, and learning, and appreciating. And if I don’t get the outcome I wanted, whether in a romance, or a work project, or what have you—well, no harm, no foul.

Speaking of outcomes: I hope that in 2010, I can more fully understand this concept, so that my sense of the big picture—my court vision—can carry me through rough times, without crazy roller coaster rides like the one of the past couple weeks.

An admirable intention, to be sure. And I’ll get right on it—after a bit more wallowing.


  1. Okay, times up... no more wallowing and if I may, I'd like to expand our your brilliant basketball analogy. In other words, let's take a more thorough look at the full "court view".

    1. Stay out of the "trap pocket" because that's where wallowing takes place. You could get stuck there and the best one can hope for in a trap pocket situation is a "jump ball". A jump ball means you couldn't get the ball down the court, play was stopped, and your progress up to that point was a waste of time. A stalemate!

    2. Stay away from the "sidelines", the sidelines lead to out of bounds and that means out of play. It's important to stay in the game or you're back to wallowing. In other words, stay "centered" and move toward the center of the court

    3. Master the "skip pass", it's a way of skipping past Christmas Eve and playing yourself into the new year. A good offense is one that keeps the ball moving!

    4. There's the "strong side" and the "weak side"... you already know what the weak side brings so it's obvious which of these strategies you should employ. Remember, you're running the offense, you decide to go "strong" or to go "weak".

    4. And then there's the "top of the key"... that's the spot on the court from which the point guard calls the plays and initiates the offense. He has many options from there, he sees all from there, and chief among his options is working the ball toward the goal. It could be a long shot (a long rang goal) or a lay up (a short range goal) but the idea is to take a shot and score. You're the point guard so call a play and move toward a goal and don't be indecisive or you'll find yourself quickly back on defense.

    5. And finally there's "the paint". That's that area right in front of the basket (where most of the mingling takes place) so go there and paint the town red!

    Another wonderful post, Siobhan, (as always with you) and I hope you didn't mind my little riff. By the way, where DO you get all those terrific graphics?

    All the best for a great new year,

  2. Scrib, your comment puts my post to shame! Man, you can carry a metaphor all the way to victory. Thanks for the words of support - you're the best...

  3. Nice Valley of the Dolls reference in the title BTW.

  4. Lovely as always.

    I like your stuff because it's so relatable to me, even as in this case the opposite way. I turn everything into "What does this mean in the Big Picture" almost reflexively, to the point of ignoring the moment.

    Anti-kindred souls.

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