While scrolling through Facebook this morning I came across one of my favorite quotes.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”-Elie Wiesel
Indifference. It’s what we feel when we feel nothing. It’s that mostly painless but empty feeling of “I don’t care anymore.” Indifference is spending weeks, months, maybe years living on autopilot until you finally get away for a vacation. Sitting on the beach noticing the texture of the sand or the smell of the salt water you suddenly remember what it feels like to feel. And you start dreading going home… Back to feeling nothing again. Indifference to your work, your daily commute, your never-gets-shorter to do list, maybe even your partner who has become nearly invisible within the gray fog of routine. Indifference is when you quit noticing. When love turns to anger, frustration and sometimes hate, there is still something there. It’s when I no longer felt anything that I knew my marriage was over. Indifference is the death of feeling. It’s an epidemic… The cause of a zombie apocalypse happening all around us of people living their lives while not really living.
Indifference is also a defense mechanism. It’s a comfy place to camp out so we don’t venture too far into the scary, unknown parts of the forest. It keeps us from experiencing failure by holding us firmly in an often unfulfilling but safe emotional or physical place, removing motivation to take risks. Indifference keeps us in bad relationships. What if I leave? Will I ever meet anyone else?? I can get hurt!! I don’t feel happy but I’m okay-ish and I’m safe from all that messy life shit right here. Indifference is what prevents you from committing to a healthier lifestyle… Yes, you’re irritated by the 20 lbs you gained over the last couple years mindlessly eating your way through work and 15 season Netflix binges of TV shows that were cancelled years ago. But not irritated enough. It keeps you in a job or career you no longer enjoy. You hate showing up for work every morning and dream about doing something you love for a living, but quitting and taking that risk? Scary. You may feel discontent at work… Just not enough. Bury the crazy thoughts of your dream job safely under benign indifference.
I grew up in Chicago and moved to the Seattle area years ago. Moving somewhere new instantly destroys indifference. Whenever I take a trip home I’m hit with all the details of where I grew up that were once nearly invisible to me. Yes, I noticed but I didn’t REALLY notice the fireflies, the thunderstorms and the warm summer nights while growing up surrounded by it all. The sliders from White Castle and how incredibly beautiful and blue Lake Michigan looks some days. I can hear the trains in the distance while I sleep and how the floor creaks in my old house when my parents wake up in the morning. I fall in love with it all again every time I’m home. Then I head back to Seattle and notice the sound of the train has been replaced by frogs. I hear my kids waking up instead of my parents. No indifference. Just gratitude for what surrounds me daily. Most mornings I have my coffee on a little stretch of road along the water where I can climb down the rocks and listen to the waves or look for shells. Its never the same. The tide, the weather, the sea life… Its a different place every day because I choose to see and feel what is in front of me. For more than 15 years I have never tired of that view. Be present, aware and grateful of what you have. Using all of your senses is an amazing cure for indifference.
Motivation-killing indifference? The kind you are using to keep yourself safely in check? That is more insidious and harder to recognize. It disguises itself as legitimate excuses to avoid anything risky. Things are not bad in your relationship, just not good. There’s no point in leaving him to seek a fulfilling relationship because maybe the next one will be no better. The idea of committing to an exercise program to lose the extra weight that has been bothering you? Everyone always gains it back so why bother. It’s not worth the hassle. You hate your job, but doesn’t everyone? You make decent money so you’re okay working 50 weeks a year at a job you don’t enjoy to earn your 2 weeks paid vacation once a year. REALLY?? Do you really believe any of that deep down? We all know people that prove everything above wrong. Google “motivation” and you’ll quickly find a ton of quotes and memes saying a version of the same thing… You need to take risks to achieve great happiness. Indifference keeps you in place and gives you excuses to avoid failure. Unfortunately avoiding failure also means avoiding success and the possibility of true happiness.
“Security Is Mostly A Superstition. Life Is Either A Daring Adventure Or Nothing.”- Helen Keller
The only remedy for the indifference that is keeping you from taking steps to make changes in your life is to recognize the deep rooted discontent hidden under the indifference and then take action. You need to wake up one morning and choose to take a step, no matter how small, in the direction of where you would like to go. Of course you shouldn’t quit your job without a plan, but make a move. Take a course that interests you online. Want to lose weight? Start by choosing to skip second helpings. Do SOMETHING. It’s Physics. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. The law doesn’t care how fast the object is moving or how big it is. The law applies to even the tiniest of objects. Choose to not be paralyzed by numbing indifference, out of fear of failure. Choose to take the first step, big or small… Then another… Then another. Your steps will get bigger each time and your goals will move closer. The snowball gets larger with each roll.
Indifference is living life while not living at all. It’s a zombie state that poisons your drive to pursue a truly happy life. Every day you have the choice to sleep through your day while wide awake or you can choose to open your eyes and appreciate what’s in front of you while taking steps to reach what you can see but not yet touch. Choose to open your eyes and look around. Enjoy, experience, dream, pursue and appreciate.