T.I.L.T. #141 — Change Your Underwear

I’ve come to realize more and more lately that change, in its endless variety of forms, has always been a central theme in my life. I’ll bet its true for many people whether they realize it or not. Hence, I’ve decided to focus T.I.L.T. for the foreseeable future on the processes and challenges and rewards of change.

Several of my recent T.I.L.T.s have actually been about change if anyone was paying attention. Not that I was, I was too busy changing!

Looking back even further, the essence of T.I.L.T. has always been about change, about seeing things from a different perspective, be it living as an outsider in London or in Germany. Change is inherent in the word ’tilt’ which means to adjust in one way or another in comparison to the world around you, be it standing on a ship in a storm or wearing a new pair of shoes to a ball. Maintaining your equilibrium in body or mind, means to tilting and changing all the time. If you don’t, you’ll get seasick and be a lousy dancer.

To mark the occasion of what I hope will help T.I.L.T. hone its message and find its niche, please note that today is not Friday, the day T.I.L.T. has traditionally been published, but Sunday, traditionally a day of rest. However, Sunday is also the day when some of the best columns in the world get published in the New York Times, where obviously T.I.L.T. belongs if the Times had better editors. But even though I’m not published there yet, I may as well move T.I.L.T. to Sundays so I can get used to what it will feel like when those bozos finally do get in touch and thank their lucky stars they discovered the thrilling world of T.I.L.T.!

Another reason to move to Sunday is to change my writing schedule. Cranking out T.I.L.T. during the week has always been challenging due to my day job which often expects me to work nights. And let’s not forget making time for my daily and nightly wife!

In short, there’s more time on the weekends to find the circa three hours it takes to produce T.I.L.T. each week for your reading and listening pleasure. Who knows, maybe you’ll have more time to enjoy T.I.L.T. on the weekends as well.

Now, let’s get down to the business of change and today’s main message. About twenty years ago an amazing actress I worked with taught me one of the most valuable lessons about change. Simply put, she told me, “You can change your thoughts as easily as you change your underwear.”

At first I thought she was making a joke. But she was serious. She was adamant that all our thoughts and feelings could be taken on or off as easily as we put on fresh panties whenever we feel the need.

This was a radical idea to me at the time. The thought that I could control my thoughts, my feelings, rather than my thoughts or feelings controlling me was very hard to get my mind around. Where do thoughts and feelings begin or end? Can we really control them? What about instinct? What about emotions? If someone sneaks up behind me and screams, “Boo!”, won’t I jump and be scared?

On a primitive, biological, fight-or-flight level of thinking, we’re programmed to survive. But for the vast majority of modern life’s stresses, it really is all in our heads. This can be seen in how different people react to the same situation.

You’re in the kitchen and you knock a glass off the counter. Crash! It shatters on the floor.

Do you get angry and upset at the mess and loss? Or do you laugh and think that shards bring luck? Same story, two different endings. Why? Because we have free will. Everyone will jump the moment the glass shatters, but once the primal reaction passes, and any real threat is gone, we can choose how we react to pretty much anything.

For the actress who taught me this, being able to control her thoughts and feelings and reactions was the everyday business of her profession. But she’d learned to apply it to her whole life. Does this mean she was pretending all the time? Not being honest? Not at all, the contrary was true. The more she learned to control her reactions, the more she could live in a manner that she wanted to, free to be the kind of person she really wanted to be. She was always feeling good about herself and her underwear.

For twenty years I’ve been working to get to that level of mental liberty. Sometimes I’m too wrapped up in things to stop and tilt my mind and check my balance. My thoughts and feelings run rampant, taking me on a roller coaster ride of my own creation. Other times I’m able to step off the roller coaster and have a good laugh at whatever life is throwing at me. Humor has always been my favorite weapon to combat life’s stress. I just have to remember to stop, tilt my head, choose to smile, and change my underwear.

Until next Sunday, faithful fans. May all your underwear always be fresh.

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