Life came to halt last week and it was all because of one very tiny computer malfunction…
My exclamation point key stopped working.
Yes, I know in the real world this is no big deal. Its one key out of 30-some, but being without it affected me in interesting ways.
As a writer, I know better than to litter a manuscript with exclamation points, however when I chat with my friends on facebook, I like to do a lot of exclaiming…because that’s how I talk, with lots of drama, excitement, passion. In person I communicate loudly, dramatically, flapping my hands like a baby bird trying to leave the nest, pantomiming life’s dramas with animated finesse.
However with that punctuation mark missing my words just lay flat.
All of this happened at an interesting time. I had been oscillating between really happy and really miserable—singing in the morning, crying in the afternoon, and ready for bed by five. From a psychiatric perspective one might say I was “rapid cycling”. Personally, I just saw it as growing pains. I was processing a lot of new information and like a teenager exposed to rapid life changes, I was feeling moody.
My friend, who for better or worse, has had a front row seat to the pageantry of my emotional ups and downs found my keyboard predicament amusing. After a hearty dose of teasing (and flaunting his own exclamation capabilities), he paused to point out a possible advantage to my predicament.
He suggested that maybe without the highs (as expressed with exclamation points) that maybe the lows wouldn’t be so bad.
I smiled at the notion that a punctuation mark could change my mood …but then again…I thought. Why not?
And so as a silly experiment, instead of taking that five minutes necessary to fix the key, I decided to let it stay broken.
At this time I was also trying out another experiment: mindfulness—letting go of negative thoughts, letting them pass through me, like watching birds migrating down the coast, each one moving by slowly, silently without significance.
And so the days without my favorite punctuation mark progressed. It was frustrating at first. My words didn’t have their normal power, but something else was happening as the mindfulness began to set in, I was watching my intense thoughts pass through me.
At first this made me feel kind of dull. I wasn’t used to the quiet. I thought to myself,
What do I fill my head with when the intensity is gone?
The answer was astounding: in the quietness, in this life without exclamation points, there was something hidden…JOY. Love in its purest form.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if there was any correlation between my broken computer key and my feelings of rapture. Could my missing punctuation make me feel more calm or was it the gentle acceptance that nothing in my mind needed to be grasped so tightly? Or maybe it was a little bit of both.
I do like to think that by removing the exclamation point I symbolically let go of some of the drama in my head. I don’t know for sure, but it’s fun to think about all the same.
I’m just beginning this lifelong path to mindfulness. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve chosen to do, but I’m tired of the roller coaster. Sure, I’d like to keep the nice rolling hills, but I’m ready to say goodbye to the violent ups and downs.
Now, I’m not saying I’ve given up on excitement or passion. I love life and will gladly live it with a happy heart. I just want to start recognizing those overwhelming emotions—the useless, fear based ones that cause me so much suffering. I’m ready to let them go.
I can do this and I will. It’s going to take a lot of love and perseverance on my part, not to mention forgiveness and a dedicated willingness to change.
Since I started this story I’ve fixed the exclamation point on my keyboard and I’m going back to telling my stories with pizazz, however something has changed. I am now a little more conscious of my highs, my lows, and the glorious feeling of life in between.
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