Day 17: The ruminating cow

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I did not realize until today evening that my advisor’s silence has had a deep impact on me. I had been telling myself that even if he was not going to be very supportive when I get back, I shouldn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Graduate students should aim to get a lot of work done, not be best friends with their advisors. Moreover, I don’t even know why he is not responding. Perhaps, he thinks that I am suffering here and is too guilt ridden, maybe he has partial dementia now and does not remember who I am – who knows? Mindfulness, Gita and Covey all point out that we should not unnecessarily read into the things that people don’t say – such as this one. It is definitely a little weird that he is mum over there – but I am going overboard with my reaction. I am thinking in vengeful terms, of how I would get back, work very very hard, gain my advisors attention, convince him of how valuable I am, but then totally snub him. I’ll make sure he regrets the way he treats me, I imagine myself winning the pulitzer (bah!) and then we decides to throw a welcoming party for me, I would refuse – that should definitely teach him a lesson. The human mind works in weird ways.

Let me tell you a story:

two women – Alice and Lisa are regulars at the local Episcopal church. Lisa usually comes to the church just as Alice is leaving. After seeing each other a couple of times, they slowly begin chatting with each other, which soon becomes a regular thing. They began to look forward to the church simply so that they could see each other. Alice would wait so that she could see Lisa, and Lisa would always come a few minutes early so that they would have enough time to talk. One day as Lisa walked in all excited, Alice passed her in a rush without so much as looking at her. Lisa was naturally perplexed. Her mind began to spin webs – Alice does not like her anymore. She decided. This of course, could not have happened for no reason – Alice, as far as she knows, is sane. Lisa then remembered that Alice and herself had one mutual acquaintance, Eleanor. Now it so happened that Lisa and Eleanor were not in very good terms and Lisa was convinced in a lightning bolt of intuition that Eleanor must have said something to Alice that had made Alice to change her mind about Lisa. Lisa now hated Alice more than Eleanor, after all, Eleanor had reasons to hate Lisa, but what reason did Alice have? If Alice could change her mind in an instant, about someone whom she hardly knew based on something someone else had said – for which there was no proof, then Alice must surely be a not so respectable person?

The next day Alice did not come to the church. LIsa has been dreading seeing her, and rehearsed the scene ten thousand times in her mind – Alice would once again try to get past her, She would not even care and pretend as if she was totally cool. In fact, Lisa was dressed splendidly today – She was definitely cool!

On the third day, as Lisa was walking into the church, Alice came out and on seeing Lisa, ran over to hug her. To a stunned Lisa, she announced: “I’m so sorry we couldn’t talk the day before. I had this huge toothache, and could hardly open my mouth because of all the swelling. I hope you didn’t feel offended…”

Very often, our interpretations of other people’s action and words are only a reflection of our own insecurities and concerns. This might clearly be what is happening with my advisor. I should learn to calm down.

At the gym today, I found that my head was totally somewhere else, in the sense that my mind was full of thoughts about completely imaginary situations. About how I would return to Brown and have a meteoric rise in status (somehow) and then make everyone who “ill treated” me suffer and repent in envy.

I was so getting carried away that I did a small breathing exercise, while cycling! It wasn’t a miraculous transformation, but it worked for the time being.

This whole thing simply stands to remind me, that old patterns, especially mental attitudes and behaviors are easy to fall back into. And shows me very clearly how important it is to practice all those mindful awareness techniques, no matter how great I feel now.

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