It's one thing after another, right? Last week you were mad at your friend for ditching you for lunch. This week your boss said something that screwed with you. And let's not even talk about that fight you had with your parents a couple weeks ago.
You're not the kind of person to put things off. You've been diligent about trying to resolve these issues, one after the other. You've gone to therapy. You've read whatever you could find. You've increased your self-awareness. You've mastered the art of having difficult conversations.
You've come at your problems with a bulldozer, and often you've succeeded in crushing them. But then there is the next problem, and the next one after that.
You often dream of a time when you will have solved all your problems, and reach the pinnacle of adulting which is to be 'sorted'. Then, when things are quieter, you will be at peace. You will sip your chai under the winter sun and have not a single unpleasant thought in your head. Yes, you're in the race for now, but that is the finish line.
This finish line is what Phil Stutz would call 'the snapshot'. The imagination of a perfect life that is forever out of reach. Stutz doesn't believe that there is a time when we win. For him, life is pain + uncertainty + constant work:
The snapshot is also called the realm of illusion. It means that you are looking for a perfect experience. The perfect wife. The perfect amount of money in the bank. Perfect moment. It doesn't matter. Whatever it is, it doesn't exist, it's just an image in your own mind.
Think about this: what's the nature of the snapshot? It has no movement, it's still, and it has no depth. You've taken this snapshot and you've crippled yourself with it. You fantasized. People tell themselves, if they can enter that perfect world, then magic will happen.
But you can't forget, there are three aspects of reality: the pain will never go away, uncertainty will no ever go away, and there's no getting away from the need for constant work. Everybody has to live like that, no matter what.
I'll give you a moment to process that, since it's a tough damn thing to process. Everybody has to live like that, no matter what.
Do you have a 'snapshot' of a perfect existence? What happens if you stop waiting for it?
How does this change things?
Let's say that we accept that the 'snapshot' doesn't exist. We've made peace with the fact that what we're experiencing today is, in some way, fundamentally what life is like. It has its redeeming moments, but is a complicated mess overall. Most importantly, it'll stay that way.
That realization brings me firmly into the present. If the problems never stop, I must learn to relish a life ridden with problems. I will not attain the silence I crave one day when I win the battle and return home. I will need to find it standing firmly in the battlefield.
So I'm going to take my cup of chai and sit under the sun today trying to keep a quiet mind. What will you do?
This Week's Recommendation
The idea of the snapshot comes from psychotherapist Phil Stutz. I encountered it in this brilliant documentary about him, made by Jonah Hill.
The 'snapshot' is one of many powerful ideas in this documentary, which is structured like a therapy session. It changed me in more ways than one, so I had to share it with you this week. Here's the trailer: