Walking back to my table, I turned the word over and over in my head.
I’m not sure what the artist meant when she scribbled the word on the wall, but it did what good art is supposed to do – it made me think.
That’s how I understood the word and it got me pondering about what it meant to me.Explore reality.
A portmanteau is a combination of two words into one new word such as exploreality. Here are a few of my own portmanteaus to sum up my thoughts about the inspirational restroom art.
Why did the bathroom writer encourage us to explore reality?
Because we spend most of our time in a type of veiled, extended denial – extendenial.
Denial sometimes gets a bad rap. When we are traumatized or experience severe adversity, denial is a protective factor that helps us rest before we actively address the trauma or problem.
But used too much, denial gets in our way.
It prevents us from seeing what is right in front of us – the life that we have, not the life that we think we should have.
It’s this latter idea that forms our veil of extendenial. We don’t embrace the reality of what is in front of us because we hold an illusion that “someday” life will be ____________. (Fill in the blank with whatever you don’t have right now.)
Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly nothing wrong with having goals.
But how much of life are you missing by thinking, “I’ll be happy when . . .”?
A way to extendenial is to be busymbiotic – having a symbiotic relationship with being busy.
Our social norm of “busy = productive = good” has caused us to glom onto busyness as though it is an integral and reciprocal part of us. Just like a symbiote, we think we need busyness in order to do well in the world and be happy.
But busyness is just another way to engage in seeking the “someday” life and disengage from the life that you have right now, both the glory and the gloom.
Someone commented on my blog the other day that she decided to put away the busyness of life so that she could get on with the business of life.
Amen to that.
So, how do you stop being so busymbiotic that you’re in a state of extendenial?
By interacting with your actual life – interactuality.
Let me say again that there is certainly nothing wrong with having goals and being motivated to better yourself in life both emotionally and materially.
But interact with your days now as you are working toward those goals.
Learn something new.
Notice how you like the aroma of coffee in the morning but would be happy to not have to smell your partner’s burnt oatmeal again.
Find something that you like about work and emphasize that in your mind. Note the difference between that feeling and the one that comes up when your annoying co-worker walks by.
Life is good and bad, joy and misery, contentment and discontent, and many shades of gray in between those things.
But it’s your actual life. Interact with it.
Love your life now.
Yes, this portmanteau is exactly what it looks like: reminding yourself to be mindful.
Mindfulness is the art and practice of noticing your present experience without judgment.
So maybe part of what inhibits you from exploring reality is that reality isn’t such a great place for you so it’s easier to be in extendenial.
But is life really that bad or are you making it worse with judgmental thinking?
The thing about mindfulness is that it allows you to be engaged in your current life experience without all of the drama that you add to it in your head.
So for example, as I’ve been writing this, I’ve drifted in and out of extendenial and remindfulness.
Although I enjoy writing, it’s very hard for me. It takes a long time and I can get very easily distracted.
My thoughts tend to go something like this:
“Geez, this is taking forever. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a writer. I really want to do something else right now. Focus . . . focus . . . you can do this. Other people must be faster at this than I am. Maybe I should . . . squirrel!”
You can see that I spend a lot of internal energy wishing my life was something other than it is at the moment.
But when I remind myself to be mindful, I come into the present, take a breath and realize that I’m . . . okay.
Even with a mind that gets distracted by a squirrel or takes a long time to finish a sentence. It’s all okay and I recognize that my mind has been making me miserable only seconds before by judging my experience of writing.
Now that I’m in the present and not judging it, I can accept that writing brings me both joy and frustration. Like you, I want the joy and not the frustration.
But frustration is a part of life and mindfully accepting the emotion, not magnifying it in my head, and moving on frees me from getting stuck and wishing my life was something that it is not.
Instead, I acknowledge that this is the life I have and to live fully is to interact with it consciously and with mindfulness.
And, as I remind myself to be mindful by taking that deep breath, I look up and notice the sun outside my window and hear the sound of the chimes in the trees as they blow gently in the breeze.
I’m exploring mine. What about you?