the shpilkes

I have a really hard time sitting still. Be it my DNA or my personality, I lack any sort of ability to stop thinking about what my next move will be. As soon as I lose interest in something, my mind is rapidly moving onto a new task, that undoubtedly will also lose my attention in a matter of minutes. I grew up hearing this type of energy referred to in Yiddish, as shpilkes. Loosely translated, it means you’ve got ants in your pants. Or, you are a spaz, or a millennial.

It’s rare that anything keeps my complete focus, but I actually think this is a strength. I’m never complacent, I never stop learning and I always have new interests. The only time it gets really challenging is when I’m watching a movie I don’t like, and subsequently want to do anything but keep watching it, or if I’m forced to sit still without reading material. Then the shpilkes set in with a vengeance.

How do I combat this affliction? Yoga helps, massages and exercise. Oh, and keeping my mind stimulated – that’s the unbeatable cure. Needless to say, it’s rare that I’m able to really relax, but last week I experienced a moment of pure tranquility.

On my flight home from Denver, I lucked out in a window seat with an empty seat to my left. I could hardly keep my eyes open as we took off, until I caught a glimpse of the sunset out the window. I couldn’t help but stare, it was unbelievable – unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Deep shades of blue and indigo blending into electric orange, spanning as far as I could see in either direction.

The way the plane traveled, I had a perfect view of the horizon, and I swear the display lasted twice as long as a typical sunset. For a minute I wondered if I was on some sort of weird trajectory to Hogwart’s where time was frozen and I was entering an alternate universe. At any rate, it was mesmerizing.

I had my iPod on, and found myself in an almost trance-like state as I listened to music and watched the sky. I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment, just sitting and staring, and it dawned on me that I was feeling completely happy.

I know that sounds trite, but it was a really strange realization. To just sit and feel absolutely happy. All by myself, just sitting.

It made me think about the way people grow to feel happiness, and how often it’s associated with doing or having something, and rarely on just the feeling itself. We’re constantly buying things and going places to make ourselves feel good, despite an underlying knowledge that the best things in life aren’t things.

I’ll be the first to admit that I live a charmed life, but it had been a long time since I could remember feeling so happy. I felt like whatever happened in that moment was equal parts energizing and soothing, and frankly I wish it was available for purchase.

I took a picture that really doesn’t give any justice to what it actually looked like:

Shortly after I snapped this picture, we entered the most turbulent 20 minutes of flight I’ve ever experienced. My moment of serenity was cut short, and replaced with a feeling that made me want to throw up and cry at the same time.

Fortunately, we landed safely shortly thereafter. I don’t know if I’ll ever have this kind of tranquility on public transportation again, but for what it’s worth, it was a great feeling to experience and a good reminder that slowing down every once in a while can be as productive as going full tilt.

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4 thoughts on “the shpilkes

  1. Pure joy reading this – (except for the turbulence part). Did it occur to you that the serenity followed by the turbulence you experienced is yet another metaphor for life?

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