Jumping After Stars
Marya has problems of her own. Unlike her husband, anger is not among her major issues. Frankly, she’s the most kind, gentle and forgiving character in the novel. Her problems are similar to her husband’s, however, in that they originate within herself. She’s got a bit of that Bolkonsky melancholy about her. She allows that melancholy and irritation to seep into her soul from entirely preventable sources.
Just a moment of detachment and reflection today would have revealed that the source of her anxiety is not what she thinks it is. Unfortunately, Marya chooses to indulge her passions rather than engage them in mindful dissection. All she knows is that she is upset because her husband is upset with her. She burns a whole day in mindless agitation thinking so.
But is it really the case that Nikolai is upset with her?
No. Nikolai he tells her twice in today’s chapter that he’s not upset at all. Nor could he be. He loves her and needs her in his life. Marya’s aggravation has to come from somewhere though. If not from Nikolai, then where?
We’ve discussed before the perils of allowing the thoughts of others to vex our own. And that is exactly what’s going on here. Marya believes, erroneously, that Nikolai is upset with her. Even if it were true it should cause no injury to her own psyche. What Nikolai feels — what anyone feels — is simply beyond Countess Marya’s control. Worrying over others is jumping after stars. It’s an impossible endeavour and can only lead to frustration.
This is true even when others are actively seeking to hurt us. All that is within our power when others insult us or try to hurt us is to distance ourselves from such people. If that is impossible then our final refuge is the citadel of our own minds where we don the protective armor of the reflection that it is not our enemy who hurts us but, rather, our reaction to our enemy.
Remember that what is insulting is not the person who abuses or hits you, but the judgment that these things are insulting. So when someone irritates you, realize that it is your own opinion that has irritated you.