I’ve been thinking about how well (or not) our brains actually handle metaphors.
For instance, there’s this study that demonstrates that individuals holding a warm beverage were more likely to rate the person that handed it to them as warm. If they were handed a cold beverage, they were more likely to rate them as cold. http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/10/26/warm-hands-warm-heart-how-physical-and-emotional-warmth-are/
It’s an interesting thought that maybe our brains aren’t as good at processing metaphors as we’d like to believe. If someone is wearing sparkly jewelry, am I more likely to describe them as having a sparkling personality? If my office is dark, am I likely to start thinking of myself as being in a dark place in my life? If I see someone sitting half on half off their chair would I also view their work as half-assed?
Well, that’s the experiment. I’ve always seen myself as a person of some weight. At best I have gravitas, at worst prone to worry and catastrophizing. And although I know I can be funny on stage, in my writing and at least one of my friends describes me as impish, I view myself as heavy, weighed down, burdened.
And truth be told, there have been a lot of weighty things going on in the last few years: I lost both my parents to cancer within a year of each other. My mother had been ill for 2.5 years—2.5 years of doctors, tests, surgeries, waiting rooms, medications—heavy stuff. We lost my Dad in a brief six weeks between his first symptoms and his death—it was awful, like watching someone be hit by a train in extreme slow motion. Those were the biggest boulders in the mountain, but there were other things, like my daughter being hit by a car resulting in a broken femur and a helicopter ride to the hospital. I have 2 kids with special needs diagnoses that mean an ever-present need to “deal with stuff” lest they never become contributing members of society and it will be all my fault. Plus a job loss due in the family due to a restructuring that meant I took a second part-time job and went from working 3 days per week to 6 days per week. I am so lucky to be employed in the field I love and both my employers are wonderful and flexible, but the work isn’t going to do itself and there’s a lot of it.
I want to honour these important challenges. The traumas happened and they are done now. I don’t have to live by my parent’s grave (actually their grave is less than a mile from my house – metaphor gone awry again?) or fear that every time my kids get on a bike they have a 50/50 chance of coming home alive. It’s a bit like living with sub-clinical PTSD. I don’t end up sobbing in my bed, but I find myself triggered by everyday conflicts and challenges into feeling at that life and death crossroads of fight or flight (usually choosing flight [avoidance]).
And there are aspects of weight that I like: gravitas, power (in the sense of having personal powerful), groundedness, wisdom, strength. And I don’t think I need to give those up. But I am too weighted (ha!) in the heavy side of this ying-yang duality.
My point, and I promise I’m getting to it. My life has been heavy metaphorically and now I’m also physically heavier. And yes, I get that it’s not metaphor. That it’s behaviour. At its root, I’ve been habitually taking in more than I’ve expended. But my hypothesis is that it’s my belief and narrative about it that’s driving my behaviour. I get home and I’m fried. I’m tired. I can’t move. I feel low energy so I look for energy in food (literal energy) but I don’t have the energy to workout. I need to sleep so I don’t workout in the morning. I have too much work to do to take a break so I eat at my desk. I don’t have time to meal plan, shop and cook and blah blah blah, you’re getting the drift ya?
So, my hypothesis. What if I lighten up? What if I start building a relationship with the quality of lightness: levity, inspiration, enlightenment, energy, effervescence, humour, sparkle, glow, radiance, luminosity, exuberance, unburdening, pleasure, joy. All those qualities that are in the neighbourhood of light.
Will changing my focus to the light instead of the heavy also shift my story and shift my behaviour?
That is indeed the question.
So, starting on the Vernal Equinox (March 20th), as we start heading into the light, I’ll embark on my year of lightening up.
I don’t quite know what that means yet. I’ve made my hypothesis and now I have to create the experiment to test it.