Thursday, April 3, 2014

Peace

I have from time to time thought about what it is that I like about travel and tried to define what constitutes for me a “vacation frame of mind.” The last time I wrote anything down on the subject, I posted it to my blog in September, 2010.

I had an epiphany on the topic a few days ago. I don’t generally let myself get angry when I’m traveling. Can this be a key? I didn’t imagine I might have any kind of problems with anger until after Luci died and a close friend saw me reacting to some problem or another. She said, “I think you may be acting the way you described your father acting when he reacts too strongly to things.” She was right. By simple good fortune, most of my adult life I’ve been free generally from situations that would make me mad, especially at home.

In recent years, however, I found myself angry more often than I’d like; and I’ve had to face and address the problem. My cousin suggested that I read an annoyingly-sweet but very helpful book called “The Anatomy of Peace.” It offers some very practical guidance to getting along in stressful situations, and I began to put it into practice. As an unexpected result of that and a few other factors following, I almost never get mad any more.

I’ve long understood that happiness is a choice, and occasionally I have to remind myself that it’s the choice I wish to take. I’ve learned better to give other people the benefit of the doubt and to find positive elements and opportunities in difficult situations. It turns out that I’ve taken a new point of view, a fact that came out in a recent conversation with my wife. She was remembering a series of bad results in certain circumstances where my own impression was that the results were generally OK or even pretty good. We both remember that there were such circumstances, but our world views led to different summarizations. Maybe my recollections are overly rosy; I don’t know. I’d assert that her recollections are overly dire, and I suppose another observer might even say that we’re both wrong, that the results are somewhere in the middle. Who knows? I can just say that I’m grateful to be living with happy memories, regardless of what anybody else saw during those circumstances.

Anyway, thinking that way makes it pretty hard to aggravate me. And I think that’s one of the things I liked about all those vacations. I had no bosses, no difficult co-workers and no repeatedly-annoying business relationships. If a shopkeeper behaved badly, I’d figure it was just a little bump in the road but I felt pretty confident that I’d have a great day nonetheless. I could let it go. And lately, right here at home in Minsk, I find that I feel roughly the same way.

By way of summary, then, I think I know what I really sought when I thought about that elusive vacation frame of mind. I think I wanted to learn better to love. Not just to love nice people, but to love in general, even to love the day’s opportunities for improvement. It feels pretty good.

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