I’m writing An Alphabet of Help. It explores, in alphabetical order, 26 options for living well, despite everything, answering questions such as–How can a person live well despite an unsolvable, unfixable problem?
Amusement helps me cope with trials and tribulations by diverting my mind from its tendency to obsess about whatever is wrong. I need to change gears, to focus my adaptable attention on something other than my anxiety about my problem. Instead of thinking about my problem, I will do something pleasurable. I could:
- Take a hot bath while reading a wonderful, attention-grabbing book;
- Sip tea and chat with an optimistic friend;
- Arrange flowers;
- Pull out my yarn stash (those fabulous colors and textures) and plan a project;
- Get out my cookbooks and dream up a special meal for my favorite people;
- Start cooking that meal;
- Dance to my favorite music;
- Open up Mango on my computer and review my Hebrew lessons (what’s boring to one person can be amusing to another);
- Sing along with Johnny Cash at the top of my voice, “In a land where we’ll never grow old!”
What is essential to remember: creating distraction through amusement has nothing to do with how I feel. Amusement is all about what I do–my behavior–which I must learn to manage, separately from and regardless of what my emotions would have me do. When faced with an unsolvable problem, I can mope, whine, or freak out. Or I can stop thinking about what’s upsetting me, and occupy myself by doing something entertaining.
It’s also important to remember, it will take some practice–repeated effort over time–before “switching gears” becomes an easy and effective comforting strategy against pain, anxiety, fear, anger and depression. In other words, there’s a struggle involved. It’s not easy. But I can control myself even when immersed in an uncomfortable situation beyond my control. I can grow into a more courageous, more patient, more joyful, peaceful and loving person. I can strengthen my willpower by giving it a work out. Even if I cannot change the situation, I can change my response to stressful situations. Therefore:
- I choose not to become incapacitated by fear;
- I choose not to give in to outbursts of anger;
- I choose not to slink around in despondency;
- I choose to humbly and gratefully recognize that my life is good at every moment in every situation, including right now.
- I choose to recognize that despite everything, my life is a gift worth celebrating.
- And I choose to celebrate my life this moment, by focussing my attention on a wholesome and pleasurable activity.
The more frequently I do this work of finding diversion through amusement, the more skilled I become at turning out an effortless and graceful performance whenever I’m called upon to be patient in the face of difficulties and frustrations.
To find amusement is to infuse joy into an activity. There is one simple goal–to pass time in a positively pleasant manner. And this serves to make an unpleasant situation endurable.
Which amusements distract you from painful realities?