My partner and I are thinking about moving. Nothing definite yet, just the exploration stage. We’ve been here before. This would be our third move in the last 10 years. Here’s what I’m discovering about myself as this situation unfolds in a context of self-acceptance, mindfulness, and non-judging awareness: “It is the view which the mind takes of a thing which creates the sorrow that arises from it.”
Who would guess that Victorian era author Anthony Trollope was a Buddhist? I shouldn’t be surprised at his insight since his work overflows not just with minute observations about the daily activities of his characters’ lives but also the social constructs shaping them, and the sense they make of their station in life. He conveys the challenge we all face when our essential self comes up against what the world appears to expect from us. Like Trollope, I understand, more than I have before, that the view my mind takes of thing creates the sorrow that arises from it.
When I think about moving there is sorrow when I fixate on the future—where will we go, what will it be like, will I make friends? And on alternate days when I dwell in the past recalling all the things about previous moves that overwhelmed me. But practicing mindfulness has helped me distinguish between constructive planning and obsessive stewing.
Differentiating between my concerns and my partner’s can a tangled source of sorrow. We are truly in this together but in our eagerness to do right by the other person we try to do the other person’s thinking and feeling for her. For instance, I push aside my hesitation or downright dislike of a location by telling myself that if a job is a good fit for her then I can’t stand in her way, and that I can adjust to any location, and that this attitude is the very definition of being a good partner. Recently, my partner told me that if she was single she would, most likely, have already moved by now. I said, “See, I am an obstacle.” “No,” she said, “That’s not what I meant. I meant that I try to think about which locations would best suit your needs.” When she said that I felt, of course, she is the most wonderful woman in the world. But I also felt irritated because I don’t want her to decide, on my behalf, where I’ll be happy. And, yes, I do see that we are mirroring each other’s behavior. When we try to think and feel for the other person, we have frustrating, circular conversations each trying her best not to be the cause of the other person’s possible unhappiness.
Non-judging awareness and self-acceptance are critical because they allow me to observe my thoughts and feelings, not be overwhelmed by them, and not push them aside because I assume they are an obstacle to my partner’s happiness. Together, we remind each other that we will take the journey as it comes and view the journey as one filled with compassion for and trust in the other person.