happy + neurotic = ?
March 29, 2011 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a quotation that addresses that feeling that one can never truly enjoy the good moments in life because one is constantly afraid that if things are presently good, then something bad must surely be on its way.

I am quite sure that someone, somewhere, has said something sharp and/or inspirational and/or witty about that particular neurosis that prevents some people from ever fully enjoying the good things in life because they are waiting for the inevitable bad to come along. Anything come to mind?
posted by amro to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
“Nothing very very good and nothing very very bad ever lasts for very very long”

- Douglas Coupland
posted by princesspathos at 6:56 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

This idea is central to Buddhism, so you could probably find a lot of options by googling buddhism, impermanence, present moment, or similar concepts. Here is one option.

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.
It isn't more complicated that that.
It is opening to or recieving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is,
without either clinging to it or rejecting it.

- Sylvia Boorstein
posted by vytae at 7:26 AM on March 29, 2011

This too shall pass.
posted by heatvision at 7:48 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should add that I'm particularly looking for quotes that may help one to relax and enjoy the good moments without the accompanying dread.
posted by amro at 7:54 AM on March 29, 2011

"He was still too young to know that the heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past." - Gabriel García Márquez (from Love in the Time of Cholera)

"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future." - Fulton Oursler
posted by flex at 8:04 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I often think of this bit of dialogue from Gun Shy in those situations:
S: I think I have a great parable for this problem. There was this buddhist monk, and he was just walking through the mountains, when out of nowhere this tiger appears and just chases him to the edge of the cliff.

L: So the monk climbs over the side, where he ..

S: Five other tigers just waiting to eat him. So the monk is just hanging there, holding on to the little wisp of a shrub, when all of a sudden he notices a strawberry. And he smiles. and he says, "wow!" so he picks it and he eats it.

L: And? That's it?

S: That's it? mm-h'm.

L: The monk's about to be eaten by tigers, and he stops to eat a strawberry.

S: We're supposed to be alive every second we're alive.

L: Come on. Everybody's alive when they're alive.

S: No, not if you're consumed by fear. I mean, come on, look at you. You were about to be eaten by tigers, and twice the gods saved you. Now, are you running around grinning like you're the luckiest guy in the world? No, you're popping tranquilizers and pooping in your pants.
posted by bricoleur at 8:05 AM on March 29, 2011

This isn't a quote, but I found this Copper comic to be a touching little meditation on this topic.
posted by flawsekno at 8:05 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If this is indeed the end, then to the spirits of the destinies I prostrate myself in thanks for those golden hours that have gone before, and had there been no others to recall then would I equally account myself repaid in life and death by this.
-----Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung's Golden Hours

This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.
-----Ursula K. Le Guin

If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this one.
-----Albert Camus
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Happiness is what happens while we're making other plans"

Epictetus: "Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so toward a wife, so toward office, so toward wealth. "

"A coward dies a thousand times before his death. The valiant never taste of death but once. "
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Longer quote?

"Here is the rule for such matters: we are tormented either by things present, or by things to come, or by both. As to things present, the decision is easy. Suppose that your person enjoys freedom and health, and that you do not suffer from any external injury. As to what may happen to it in the future, we shall see later on. To-day there is nothing wrong with it. "But," you say, "something will happen to it." First of all, consider whether your proofs of future trouble are sure. For it is more often the case that we are troubled by our apprehensions, and that we are mocked by that mocker, rumour, which is wont to settle wars, but much more often settles individuals. (...)
Let us, then, look carefully into the matter. It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time. There will be many happenings meanwhile which will serve to postpone, or end, or pass on to another person, the trials which are near or even in your very presence. A fire has opened the way to flight. Men have been let down softly by a catastrophe. Sometimes the sword has been checked even at the victim's throat. Men have survived their own executioners. Even bad fortune is fickle. Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things."

and all of Seneca's Epistle XIII ("Of groundless fears") in general.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Sometimes there's only one shoe..."
posted by bardophile at 1:17 AM on March 30, 2011

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