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Missing out

I’ve been unwell for a few days. As I got better, I was curious about what I’d lost through being ill, and what came back as I recovered. Lying in bed, I was aware of very little apart from immediate physical sensations. Many of these were unpleasant, but odd moments – of suddenly feeling warm or painless – were really delectable. In between, there were moments of simply ‘being’. I had no concerns about who I was or what had happened in the past. I forgot the intense political debate going on at the moment, or anything practical that needed doing at work or at home. Sexual thoughts bubbled up into my mind from time to time, but they came with no energy or excitement.

Yesterday morning, I felt well enough to drive my daughter to school. I found the journey oddly flat. I just concentrated on getting there and back. Reflecting on this, I realized that normally even a routine journey comes accompanied by curiosity and little excitements (the sight of a bird flying past, the view from particular points on the road, the physical pleasure of accelerating out of a corner). I realized that there was an intensity to usual experience that was totally lacking in the drive I had just performed. (My driving was aware and safe, by the way. Probably extra-cautious. I did everything I had to do, but nothing more.)

I immediately missed the old colour. I knew I had lost something incredibly valuable – and felt very grateful for knowing this. I promised myself I would value it more in future, when it came back (as I knew it would). Positive Psychologists talk about ‘savouring’. The intensity I now missed was savouring at a much deeper, structural level than what I had taken 'savouring' to be before, which was regularly making efforts to stop and enjoy a taste or a view. This savouring is going on all the time. That makes it all the more valuable, of course. It’s a built in life-enjoying process.

I had to travel to London for a meeting that day, too. I found myself sitting on the train, wrapped in a new and total disinterest in anyone else. I actually found this delightfully peaceful – and realized that the outgoing, world-enjoying self can have a downside. It can take in too much from out there. It can get drawn into other people and their stuff in a superficial way, which can be hurtful (you are, after all, still a nosey outsider). It drags us into dramas and pain.

I’m still not sure what to make of this awareness. In a way, it seems cold. I felt no love or need for love in my strange, disconnected ‘base state’. But I’m essentially grateful for it. I feel I understand myself and the world in a new way, or at least am at the start of a new understanding. I feel reassured, without knowing why or even what about.

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