Be sane by being present instead
While holidaying in Tasmania, I was a barmaid for a few minutes.
Being the perfect tourist, I visited the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), which the Tasmania Travel Guide describes as Australia's largest private museum and one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities in the world.
And that’s when I turned into a barmaid.
I was wandering the darkened corridors of the museum, trying to make sense of the exhibits, when suddenly I saw myself in Édouard Manet’s painting, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. The original is in the Courtauld Gallery in London. This was a copy, with the face of the barmaid removed and a mirror inserted in its place so that whoever stood in front of it saw themselves as the barmaid.
A twist to the experience was that as the barmaid, I was also looking out of the mirror at myself as if I were at the famous Parisienne music hall of the 1800s.
I was the barmaid in the painting, and I was myself looking at myself in the painting. I was observing myself as someone else, and as someone else, I was observing myself.
I was two people, in two places at once.
It was a disorienting experience.
As I reluctantly moved away from the seductive image of me wearing a low-cut gown, I recalled the expression: ‘I was beside myself’. This is usually said when we’re highly emotional about an event, to the point that we are out of control. For example, ‘I was beside myself with disappointment when I received a rejection slip from a publisher, who had my manuscript on their short list of possibly publishable material.’
Being beside oneself, instead of inside oneself, is impossible, of course, but the expression is a good one because it illustrates the absurdity of feeling that way. Of what use are you to yourself if you’re not “at home”?
We function best when we are within ourselves, when we are present, when we are calm and in control, and here.
The only time we don’t feel this way is when we don’t accept the reality that the moment is presenting us. We argue with it, deny it, refuse to believe it, wish it were different.
When we step out of presence, we spin out of control. There’s a traffic jam of thoughts in our head. Life becomes a blur.
When we feel like this, it’s time to calm down and become present, not absent.
The self-inquiry expert Byron Katie says:
Insanity is arguing with reality.
When we are beside ourselves, when we are rejecting what is, we are insane.
It’s as simple as that!
So, next time you feel beside yourself, when life hasn’t dealt you what you think you deserve, remember to remain sane.
Accept what is, and start working with reality, rather than against it.
That's what sane people do.
With love, Marlane