Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrow, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallize and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the pictures of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss.
-Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
I think many of us belong to this clan—the one filled with deeply-feeling and empathetic people who are affected by their surroundings, by the feelings of others, by sights and smells, and by world events.
But is this necessarily a good thing? Does it actually serve us to be so affected by so many things?
Compassion is one thing; it’s a conscious choice to care for another. But oftentimes, for those of us in this clan, our wellbeing is not a conscious choice, and is as ephemeral as the weather. We wake up in the morning, open the blinds and ask—will the sun shine today? Similarly, we wake up in the morning and ask—will I be happy today?
As if we have no part in the matter. But we do.
We can choose our thoughts. We can choose our emotions. It’s not always easy, especially if there is a lot of trauma from our past or if we have the habit of feeling powerless. But just as we have to exercise our muscles and work our way up to push-ups and sit-ups, we can also exercise our positive-talk muscles.
We can remind ourselves that life is a beautiful journey, a glorious and mysterious gift. We can remind ourselves that the glass is half-full.