Imagination and Suffering

We suffer in imagination-Seneca

Have you found this one to be true?  I have.  Many times I have put things off because I was afraid of results and reactions.  Many times I have assumed people were thinking or believing unkind things about me that were untrue.  Many times I have dreaded doing something I had to do because I thought I would suck at it. Many times I hid in a corner while believing no one saw me and it didn’t matter anyhow if I did because they didn’t care.

I suffered a lot and most of it was in my imagination.  

It turns out that I am not the center of anyone’s world except my own.  Who knew?? I didn’t, not for a very long time.  It turns out that everyone else was doing their own thing in their own heads that likely had nothing to do with me.  Turns out, everyone else was very busy tending to their own worries and their own thoughts and their own lives and rarely tending to mine.  Apparently, that’s my job and not theirs.

I posted this picture the other day on fbIMG_1161 (2) because I was looking at photos the day before, and I remembered how much fun I had doing this as a kid.  Then I followed the trail of memories this photo led me on.  The girl standing next to me was my best friend of two years.  We had a lot of fun and spent tons of time together back then. But I cropped her out of the photo because there’s still a young girl in me who grieves the loss of that friendship. The following summer after this photo was taken, that friend decided not to be friends with me any longer, and it broke my heart.  She sent an ambassador to my house to tell me that fact.  I never understood what she did, the way she did it, or why. It felt like it was completely out of the blue and was a huge crushing blow to me.

I spent my junior year of high school in a daze and incredibly lonely.  I felt lost and like I didn’t belong anywhere.  I had no one to talk to anymore, no one to hang out with, no one to eat lunch with and no one to walk home with.  My home life was such that my friends and school were my safe and comfort zones and now I was thrown adrift.  I was extremely shy, and not being one to start conversations or engage with others for fear of being rejected, I guess I came off as stuck up.  Not.  I was just scared.  I pretended I was fine, but inside I was crying all the time.  I remember that school year as being one of the most challenging and unhappy years of my young life.  I suffered my whole junior year and I told no one how awful I felt.  Nothing was ever the same after that.

I lost something the day my best friend unfriended me.

My trust in everything I thought I knew fell away.  I became very wary.  I put up more walls to protect myself.  I hid myself and didn’t trust anyone to be who they appeared to be.  I put distance between me and other people.  In truth, I even questioned my own ability to trust myself.  My imagination created nasty scenarios and attributed unsavory motives and thoughts to others.  I was sure no one liked me and had good reasons not to, though I didn’t know what those were.

Now I wonder how different life might have been for me had I just pushed myself to talk to people.  I wonder if I had smiled more instead of ducking my head and avoiding people, would I have had made new friends?  I wonder how much better I would have felt had I just gotten the heck out of my own head drama?  What if I had stopped assigning my own reasons for others’ actions and stopped assuming the worst in my imagination?  From my current view of life, I am sure my junior year, my marriage, and the rest of my life would have been a lot more fun than it was had I tried any of that.  Instead of all the inner turmoil I allowed myself to create, I could have created something much more fun and interesting.  That being said, I did learn a lot about myself from this path and feel no experience was wasted.

My inner turmoil these days is not nearly as active as it used to be.  I have more quiet space inside.  In my imagination, I no longer blame others for my suffering.  It’s all me when I choose to do it.  And I can get out of it at the pace I choose.  How long exactly do I want to suffer this time?  Since it’s no longer a place where I want to live anymore, I usually find a way to get out of it as fast I can!  This has led to more joy and pleasure in being with myself, in turn leading to the same feeling while engaging with others.

My imagination is charged with focusing on happy, positive potentials and fascination, instead of angst, regret and suffering.  That’s a much better use of my imagination.  I can create some really cool stuff in there.  Remember what this famous quote says,

what you focus on, expands.

It’s a powerful thing, our imagination.  I say, use it wisely.  How are you choosing to use yours today?

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