Running in Circles
--A Story Inspired by a Bug--
Done eating my salad, while sitting on my deck one pretty summer day, I placed my near-empty bowl on the glass table. Soon, I noticed a beetle/bug climbing up on the rim of the bowl and then starting to run around on it. Around and around it went, initially with great speed and seemingly enthusiastic. But then it stopped and noticed, at two distinct points where lettuce was stuck to the side of the bowl and peaking a bit over the rim. Apparently, the recognition was dawning, "I've been here before." So it started changing direction, and every time it came to a piece of lettuce, it changed direction again. This went on for a good long time. Eventually, it started walking sometimes further out on the rim, as if to avoid the lettuce and the sad recognition that it wasn't getting anywhere soon. And then it ran under the rim, avoiding to see inside the bowl: Genius denial techniques! The pace was slowing to a near stop, which is when it proceeded to try and walk into the bowl, but the slippery slopes (from salad dressing) caused it to return to the top, again and again. I went inside for a while, leaving the bowl on the table. When I returned, the bug was now stopped in one place, looking dazed and confused. Or, perhaps, it had just run out of steam and got tired of exploring, resigned to its "fate"? Oh no, after a long pause, it--once again--started going round and round, occasionally turning around and running in the opposite direction... .
Sounds familiar? How may times have we been preoccupied with searches that led us nowhere? How often have we tried to conceal this truth from ourselves, to spend a few more years in a fruitless pursuit? And when we sometimes changed direction, we actually made believe that we were changing something, although similar landmarks as before kept showing up at the wayside, except that we then saw them from a different angle? How exhausted we got at times from these efforts, resigned or even ready to give up!
And then we even tried to go deeper inside, where dangers and chaos lingered--a stormy love affair, perhaps, or a risky business endeavor, as a last-resort effort? Luckily, we came back up again, but the merry-go-round began anew, at the fringes of truly living and still not feeling fully alive.
Is this how we pursue happiness, in a merry-go-round fashion? The time comes when we have to think outside the box, take a chance and get off it altogether. Thinking outside the box (or salad bowl) means the recognition that we are pursuing the wrong cause. 12-Step Programs teach us that happiness cannot be pursued directly; instead, it is the occasional by-product of doing the right things. Only (right) actions and their impact let us know, via good feelings, that we are on the right track, although we never see exactly where this track is leading, or if it will ever end. The direct pursuit of happiness can cause depression and resignation, in and by itself, as many expectations tend to do. Whoever promised us happiness, or whoever told us that such was the goal of life on earth??? If we feel we're running and running, with no real change or improvement in mood or conditions, it may serve us well to come to a full stop and pause for a while, followed by an honest reckoning and, perhaps, reaching out for help! At some point in our journey, after trying a variety of "happiness techniques," we realize that probably nothing can replace a brutally honest inventory of our situation. And, sometimes, our own solutions aren't innovative enough and still keep our focus limited on the proverbial salad bowl.