"Somehow America always goes a little off the rails in the allegedly slow month of August, and this year’s party is as wild as any."
Slate.com, August 24, 2012
The month of August has been the most turbulent period of time that I've had this year. The year hasn't been uneventful; it started in Brazil and continued through what I saw as an unprecedented academic and work load, a trip to Turkey, the completion of my Master's degree, a new job in retail and has brought me up to my current situation. For some reason, in spite of the upheaval of different events and the succession of perceived successes and failures, August has been the most mentally trying month.
Someone told me that August is like a perpetual Sunday. Sundays are my least favorite day of the week, because the weekend is still going on but the mood has shifted from relief at having time off to anxiety at the feeling of an entire week to come. Summer is still going on in August, but the feeling has shifted from the carefree excitement of June and July to conflicted anticipation of the fall. The heat is relentless, predatory. Summer is here but it has one foot out the door and it seems impatient. The novelty of the season has worn off and what remains is mainly just a hangover from the debauchery of July.
I just finished my first week at my new job, and it was largely chaotic and stressful. Not overly so, more like what I have come to expect from new jobs, first days living in new places, a new language. I made a point not to become dismayed at the setbacks, and whenever something challenging or frustrating happened, all I thought was "August. Classic fucking August."
It might not be accurate to attribute all challenges to the time of the year, but vilifying an external factor seemed more manageable than accepting personal responsibility.
My roommate in college had a post-it on her desk that said "Willfully accept all that is undesirable." I think it was something that she got from a book, but I remember immediately committing it to memory and repeating it to myself with a frequency that made it almost a mantra. The phrase seemed to contain innate relief. If something is undesirable, don't agonize over it. Accept it. Willfully. For someone (like me) with a tendency toward strong convictions and a constant impulse to control my environment, it wasn't an instinctual thought process.
What I got from the phrase is that you can reach a level of consciousness where both favorable and unfavorable situations are seen as equally valuable. If you can reach this level of consciousness, you can let go of the torment and frustration of unforeseen difficulty or a dissatisfying outcome. It doesn't mean you won't feel a passing sensation of disappointment, but it means that you will accept that the situation was as fundamental to progress as the desirable outcome.
I read a comparison to a mountain watching a cloud pass: the mountain sees the cloud and acknowledges its presence but it does not sway. The cloud is as integral and natural as the sunshine. Adversity is a natural condition of life and a necessary element of existence. Attempting to understand and compartmentalize every situation as it comes will probably only lead to more frustration and angst, but the knowledge that something that presently seems unfortunate may actually be the best thing that could have happened is liberating.
The ability to let go of things that can't be controlled isn't at odds with striving for the best. It doesn't mean relinquishing control over your own destiny. It just means that there's no point in agonizing. Agonize. August. Similar phonetic pronunciations. This can not be a coincidence.
I think there will be recurring themes in writing this more sensible and palatable string of blog posts, so I hope I don't bore you dear reader, and I hope you get something out of the synthesis I try to find in things that happen. I hope that the repetition of what I think about is somehow relatable or useful to you and you don't find it sanctimonious. That there is a point of intersection somewhere in the things that you think about. I hope that if anything happens to you in this remaining week of the month you will remember not to agonize over it. Because it might work out for the best. August is almost over and it will pass like a cloud.