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Posts tagged ‘Perspective’

Happiness is My Choice, 15

How do I react when disasters occur? What is my response to adversity?

WBAL news reports flooding in the Baltimore area, July 2018.

WBAL news reports flooding in the Baltimore area, July 2018.

When nature doesn’t seem so natural, when events confound me, when a roadblock is placed in my way, do I panic and flounder about, or do I go forward by choosing a different route?

So many events, even daily occurrences, do not go the way I expect them to go. Surprises can create joy or terror. By their nature, surprises are… unexpected. We do not foresee them, changes in routine disrupt comfortable patterns of action, and we can become amused, befuddled, or even crippled. Some reactions are beyond control; the aha moment upon seeing fireworks and the pain of a broken bone force themselves upon us equally, though not equally desirable.

Surprises follow a spectrum. Good or bad. Big or small. Delightful or horrid. For some reason, we mostly focus on the small, bad, everyday experiences. These events captivate us and take over our thoughts. Our emotions cascade in response to the little things, and they build on each other. Predictably, some of these “bad” things may be somewhat within my control. I think that’s why they are so annoying.

Roadblocks. Most of my “bad days” start with small roadblocks:  I forget that the coffee supply needs to be replenished, so I may be unready to face the day. Like many people, my morning coffee—the anticipation of inhaling that sharp aroma and sipping the warm liquid—can propel me into the world some days. When I don’t get what I anticipate and desire, my 3-year-old self may emerge. All due to a small, unpleasant surprise. The jar was empty. Someone (i.e. me) did not put it on the shopping list.

And if I let it, the bad day can continue. I get drenched in a rainstorm walking from the parking lot to my business. I could have checked the weather report but missing my coffee threw me off, so I didn’t have the foresight to carry an umbrella. By the time I got to work, the heavens opened and the deluge splashed around me. Naturally, I wore sandals, so my feet got soaked, too. Then once in the office, while drying off, I missed the call saying the 11 o’clock meeting was being moved up to 10. At 10:15 I notice the department sounds quiet and nobody is around. Glancing at my online calendar, I see a flashing notice asking me where I am. Yikes!

Affirmations for positive thinking.

Affirmations for positive thinking.

Late for the meeting, the boss glares at me when I slide into my seat. I fail to pay attention to the presentation and missed the project update. After the meeting I realize I left my lunch in the refrigerator at home. I nibble on some crackers I keep in my bottom drawer but they don’t appease my hunger. Then my computer reboots in the middle of a calculation and I hadn’t saved the file. It’s all lost! Worse and worse. I’m in a brown mood the rest of the day after that. I just cannot get caught up. Everything snowballs into a big mess. By the end of the day, an acid ball roils in the pit of my stomach and I can’t wait to go to bed. It’s still raining when I leave the office and my feet get wet again. Say goodbye to that lousy day. But wait! I forgot to stop by the market and buy more coffee!

I can rewrite the scenario above, change my outlook, with the following directions: stay calm, be peaceful, get centered. I can control my reactions to today’s challenges.

Catastrophizing the lack of coffee, beating myself up for having forgotten to purchase it, started my descent into a “bad day.” How could I turn that around? Isn’t it inevitable that would trigger the events of the day? Any one of those little adverse events could confront me on a given day. On a catastrophic “I didn’t have my coffee” day, they become mountains to scale, larding my mood with the foulest of weightiness. Drawn down further and further, I see only the bottom of the hole. That thinking certainly is not compatible with serenity.

Frustration Ahead!

Frustration Ahead!

Happiness is my choice. Lighten up. It’s coffee, not surgery. We take everything so seriously so that when a stumbling block appears, we trip.

Here’s what I would do to change that day: There’s no coffee. I’d reach for a pen and scribble it on the shopping list mounted on the refrigerator door. Or more recently, I speak aloud, saying, “OK Google. Add coffee to Shopping List.” After listening for the confirmation, I would reach for some tea. Sipping it, I would notice the sky looks gray, or listen to the weather report. Changing out of sandals and grabbing an umbrella, I would leave the house for work. And so on.

Not quite what I wanted, but it will suffice. It will suffice. The world will not stop spinning because I don’t have coffee. It’s not the end of the world. I can get coffee later. I can go to a drive through, or stop in for a cup somewhere if I need it so badly. Living with life’s little disappointments—living life on life’s terms—makes my day manageable, pleasant even. Fewer worries. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Roadblocks are blockages, not necessarily solid barriers. We find alternate routes, travel different byways, employ substitutions, and there’s no need for panic or dismay. Putting things into perspective allows us to cope, weather the storms, and live a more comfortable, pleasant existence. Happily.

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Happiness Is My Choice, 9

What difference does it make

What difference does it make? – Peanuts © Charles Schulz

I could have put my pedal to the metal and sped up when being asked to slow down. I could have seated the guests on the right, facing a painting, instead of the left, across from the bookcase. I could have sliced the dessert lengthwise instead of widthwise. I could have worn my hair styled in a fancy manner instead of wrapped in the bohemian scarf. I could have done many things just for spite, control, or defiance.

For some reason, all of these mild requests irked me and had me thinking to do the opposite of whatever the request was. My back arched and my fur bristled. “Who do you think you are?” my inner control freak screeched.

A well-meaning person made a request of me and I bristled internally with hubris: “I’ll darned well do it my way!”, “Harumph! Who are you to tell me what to do?”, “No, I’m not going to kowtow to you”, and “Who asked you?” I could have worked myself into a fine tizzy, gotten angry, spit out unkind words. What was happening? What set me off like that?

Do I have ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder? No. It’s more simple than that: I felt irritated.

Irritation, a feeling of not being in control, led to arrogance. My way or the highway. Conceit, pride, haughtiness, and egotism all raised their crusty, creaky voices to get a piece of the action. Hauteur, contemptuousness, smugness, disrespect, and self-importance yammered for attention. My self became more important than you, her, him, them, and those others. My yetzer hara, the “evil inclination,” the nether self, that lying, poisonous snake coiled in the pit of my gut, took over my brain and implanted insanity.

Oh dear reader, don’t think I’m a saint because I identified the snake. He still lashed and slashed. I recognized the beast, then let him feast anyway. I fumed; he gnashed and snarled, gurgled and fussed. I stewed in smug self-righteousness… until it tired me out. I don’t want to be that person. Happiness is my choice. Lest I let the beast and chaos rule, lest I get into an accident or hurt someone’s feelings, I needed to oust it. I needed to choose what to do, how to respond.

But the first step was recognizing what was going on.

I’m not normally offended or offensive. I’m typically calm and not snide. I want my life to be pleasant and placid. I choose to surround myself with good: good intentions, good wishes, good feelings. I want to have the pure joy you get from recognizing someone else’s good fortune, taking pleasure in the beauty and good surrounding us. I want to dance at weddings, reveling in the gladness. I want to spread smiles and good cheer. I have the discipline to put myself in a place to harvest joy.

What difference does it make?
—Charlie Brown

I consciously remember good events and minimize the not so nice. I find ways to allow others their faults and let them have a “pass” when they’re not filling my expectations. I’m easy, pretty unflappable. The world will keep turning if I am not in control. Let it be. Irritation pushed me down a short slide into the maws of unhappiness. It erected a barrier between me and my serenity.

I can’t allow anything to exist between me and serenity. If I do, I get detoured from my daily connection with the One, the Source of All Good. I can put that snake down by refusing to succumb to its venom. All joy beckons me because I recognize the illness causing my discomfort: a false sense of reality. I’m not so important that my will matters above all. Does it really matter whether they sit here or there? Charlie Brown had it right: What difference does it make?

Next time the evil inclination bites me, I’ll know what to do: I’ll drive slower, let the guests choose their own seats, slice the dessert as each wants, and wear my hair as I please.

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