Hearing the speech, living the message

Second Thought by Dave Lein

“Beware the barrenness of a busy day.”
- Redpath

We have all heard the speech before. It usually comes from a doctor, mother or someone who cares very much for us.
“Slow down, take it easy, don’t get so uptight. Enjoy life.”
In fact, it’s been said so many times that we seldom think about it anymore. And on those rare occasions when we do stop to ponder it, we’re often greeted with a dreadful feeling of ambivalence.
What is ambivalence and why is it dreadful?
According to Webster’s, ambivalence is defined as the “simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from a person, object or action.” In layman’s terms you might say it’s guilt from, or fear of, something we enjoy. Think chocolate, roller coasters and relationships.
Ultimately, ambivalence is just a fancy word that comes to mind when thinking about life, which is what this is really all about.
In today’s world, ambivalence has become synonymous with life. Call it the evil twin of conscience. Each rides a shoulder – one sharing wisdom, the other spouting worry. One offers encouragement through tempered reason, the other disguises insecurity with challenge.
We listen to both – sometimes too much, sometimes too little. One begins to look and sound like the other. Soon the lines become blurred, and we end up confused, depressed and exhausted. That’s usually the time we hear the speech, and it’s also the occasion when we’re least receptive to the message.
So we nod, say yes and jump back into the game of life. After all, we tell ourselves, who wants be caught sitting on the bench while everyone else is back in the game?
Conscience blows the whistle, but taunts of ambivalence echo from the crowd. The message is manipulated by guilt and fear into an illusion of doubt. We know the message is important, just … not right now. A mental note is made, examine life tomorrow. If time allows, we’ll squeeze it in somewhere between the urgent and essential.
As author David Egner once wrote, “It seems that we often put ourselves under enormous pressure to succeed and to experience everything we possibly can. When we don’t, we can’t forgive ourselves for failing to measure up to our own expectations.”
Often, an event forces us to stop and listen to the speech and its message: a medical problem, the death of a friend or 9/11. They all carry the message – not through voice mail, a letter or email – but rather, through the wisdom of satisfaction, and being content with the here and now.
There will always be things to do, places to go and positions to hold. None, however, will give you the satisfaction of being who you are to yourself. Stay busy, but never be afraid to step back, listen to the speech and trust your conscience. Consultation with past guilt and future fears won’t be necessary.
When you have given your best and are satisfied – the message has been heard. Ambivalence may remain, but contentment with who you are and what you have done will render it speechless.

Dave Lein is editor of The Review. He can be reached at 231-533-5651 or email editor@antrimreview.net.


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