Good morning, Fit Folk. This is Ben. I've been meaning to begin more writing here and going back over some things i put up in years past I came across this old piece. For better or for worse, it seems as relevant to me today as it was a few years ago:
I was in the kitchen distracting Christine from her inspection for ants with a realization I had about a record my band put out some years ago called Some Things Don’t Wash Out. “I think it just hit me now,” I said to her still kind of foggily grasping at a complete thought. “The songs themselves were about my drinking, my depression, the uncertainty in life in the face of a hope for something more, but I think i am just now realizing the theme of the record. I felt like I was pretty self aware, if not of the major problems, of at least the symptoms of those problems. I knew I desired a change but felt powerless to make that change. I was writing about the disconnect between my ideal self and my reality.”
“Oh, you mean like cognitive dissonance?” she asked.
It was not an unfamiliar term, but its meaning for some reason had vanished from my memory. I looked up the definition and it talks about the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions (ideas, beliefs, values, or emotional reactions). We are motivationally driven to bridge this gap and it often causes is to grey otherwise black and white areas of life. Given the news of late, take for example what occurs in a social circle when a rape or sexual assault occurs. Outside of this situation, rape is a black and white situation. However, within the social group one is faced with trying to rectify the dissonance between the person you thought your friend was and the type of person you feel would commit such an act. Horrible rationalizations occur in attempts to bridge such a gap. Anyway, I think i’m digressing.
So here i am wondering about this idea of cognitive dissonance. Looking back at my life, I can’t help but face the fact that I’ve never been as close to my ideal self as I would like to be. We all have morals and goals and aspirations, but i know I’m not alone in wondering if I’ll ever be the person should be. Hell, not even SHOULD but WANT to be. This isn’t something an external force is pushing me towards. This is something I want. It’s something everyone wants. So why are so many of us living lives of, as Thoreau puts it, “quiet desperation”? I know plenty of people will read this and immediately think “I’m happy. This doesn’t apply to me. Ben must have fallen off the wagon.”
Take a moment though and think of something you are planning on doing. Have you already pushed back your deadline to begin? How many of us are unsatisfied with the way we eat or the way we look (I won’t even get into all of the external factors like marketing, advertising, chemicals in the food and water supply, and so on. That is an entirely different set of essays.) but think “Oh, after this semester when things calm down” or “It’s really busy at the office right now, i can’t add anything to the list right now.”? We put off our own health, happiness, sanity, and life experience for the sake of others that would not think to do the same. We rationalize the differences between the person we see inside and the person the world sees. Here’s a quote i’m sure many have seen but i think it’s worth sharing here:
“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m not sure if it’s possible to fully bridge the gap between your ideal and your actual life/self. There will always be a horizon beyond which we cannot see. It’s perfectly fine to find yourself settled physically or emotionally but if you ever wonder what lies over the edge of your vision, I implore you not to wait. I spent a long time wanting to be better than I was the day before, only to find myself crawling back into a cave afraid to fully expose myself to my own light of judgement. We live on a finite planet for a very finite amount of time. Success can be defined in alot of ways but i’ve come to believe the true definition of success is bridging this gap not with rationale but action. I’m in all likelyhood rambling at this point but I wanted to share these thoughts with you because I feel good day. I feel like i’m better than I was yesterday and I think that’s all anyone can ask of you. Are you better than you were yesterday?