I must be a funny sight these days. When everyday stresses and complications pop up, my reaction is to take a deep breath, then go get a piece of chocolate, make myself a cup of tea, or apply some lipstick (see Putting Lipstick on a Bad Day to understand why).
In essence, what I am doing is pausing. I am pausing to keep myself from melting into whatever basic emotion arises when I am faced with a difficulty--despair, anger, resentment, anxiety. I am pausing because for me it’s the only way to take back the reins and respond to life from a place of intention and action instead of just reacting to whatever life throws my way. And as Lisa shared with us in last week’s Coffee & Croissants the secret to being happy is “owning and wielding the right to be the authors of our own lives.”
Of course, when murky emotions arise, even pausing can be difficult. So, I remind myself often why pausing is important. This way, when I hit the inevitable bumps I am prepared. I choose to pause because:
When I am in pain, my imagination runs away with me. Whether it’s having a terrible night and worrying that the next day will be ruined by exhaustion, or having the nanny cancel on me at the last minute and believing I will not be able to get anything done, or losing power in the middle of a storm and thinking it will last for days, experience has proven to me that the ensuing scenario I paint in my mind is often much worse than what actually comes to pass.
When I am in pain, my feelings distort things. Not only does my mind immediately imagine the worst-case scenario, my feelings also pour a heck of a lot of “cream on the tacos.” Suddenly, it's not just that the nanny cancelled on me, it’s that the nanny doesn’t respect me. It’s not just that my son’s teacher told me he has been uncharacteristically screaming at adults, it’s that she’s telling me he might be expelled (from daycare). Suddenly, I am not just dealing with an immediate problem, I am dealing with a situation that is bigger than the moment and...doesn’t quite exist.
When I am in pain, everything seems permanent. When I look back at the past month, I can barely remember the things that annoyed or stressed me. I have a vague idea of what has bothered me, but I honestly cannot remember the specifics. And so, when something pops up that makes me want to erupt, I pause because experience reminds me I will soon forget it even if at the moment it seems like the issue is a constant in my life and I will have to deal with it forever.
I don’t have to get wrapped up. I am not sure how I came to believe that when something pops up, I have to become emotionally involved with it. The truth is I don’t. I have the choice to rise above the feelings and can do so by pausing and turning my attention to something that makes me smile (chocolate, tea, essential oils or lipstick are a few simple ones). I am amazed by how quickly the situation shifts when I don’t engage with it.
Loved ones are watching. So often I wish my kids would do as I say not as I do, but I have come to see that our kids learn most from our example. Do I want them to learn that a broken washing machine is the end of the world? No. And it’s not just my kids who are watching. It’s also my husband, my friends, my mom. If they see me in a state of stress and anxiety, they also feel stressed and anxious. If they see me smiling through the mishaps, they exhale and are inspired to smile as well. So, I pause for them.
In the long-term, I want something better. This last one is the most poignant to me. The truth is, my initial pain-filled reactions are usually not building blocks. Instead, they tear things down. I would prefer to use what life throws at me to build better communication with the people in my life, replace what isn’t working with things that will make me happy, practice being the person I want to be. And so, I choose to pause for the future because in the immediate moment, it may feel good to scream and wallow, but that won’t work towards creating something better in my life.