There are days when things don’t go my way. There are days that I am off and would be better if I started my morning all over again. There are days where I can’t pinpoint exactly what is wrong but it feels that way.
These are the days that I have a conversation with my eight-year-old self.
For some reason, imagining a conversation with a younger me has always been a great way to put a different spin on the situation. To see my current routine through the eyes of a child.
For instance, here is the latest one I had after a day of roasting coffee, grocery shopping and cleaning our vacation suite:
Me at 43: Today I went to the store to buy groceries for dinner.
Me at 8: With the magic card?
43: My debit, yes.
8: Did you buy Reece’s Pieces for dinner with the magic card?
43: Um, no. Tofu and broccoli.
8: . . . Tofu . . . Is that another word for Reece’s Pieces?
43: No. It’s a form of protein.
8: Like peanut butter . . .
8: In Reece’s Pieces.
43: . . . Annnnnnd, then I cleaned the vacation suite.
8: To earn money for Reece’s Pieces.
43: Sure. Why not?
It became obvious that I have let down my 8-year-old self that dinners didn’t consist of any form of Reece’s Pieces. I guess I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with the candy as a child. Or perhaps the lesson learned here is that maybe my daily routine needs to incorporate a bit more impulsive behavior.
Either way, my eight-year-old self has decided not to become an adult at all. Especially since Reece’s Pieces becomes tofu.
For years, I have used my breath as a go-to tool when I feel the first pings of an anxiety attack coming on. It was something I did to focus my runaway thoughts on simply counting my breath in and out. It was a handy tool, like a hammer, that I reached for when I needed to nail down my growing anxiety.
I always knew that breathing or, taking it a step further, meditation daily would help me. I knew that. Somewhere. It wasn’t until COVID-19 that I actually started to practice it.
Ironically, I turned to meditation and the art of letting go of the control of my thoughts when I was seeking to gain control of my thoughts and emotions. I know. Read that again.
At the start of COVID-19, there was panic and misinformation streaming into my handheld device from my social media feed to news outlet. I was feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of input coming into my life. I felt the need to acquire data, information, and best practices from all sources I can. I believe that we can only make better decisions by extending our circle of knowledge and diversifying our input.
Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home. Essential visits. Support local. Freedom versus fear.
I couldn’t read the overnight “damage report” without walking away with a sense of rage (at best) or a prevailing feeling that the whole world is going to hell in a gloved handbasket. Mask optional for the ride.
It was then that my husband and I started talking about meditation as a way for us to learn how to let go of thoughts or emotions that were overriding our lives. A way of taking control but letting go.
Today, I reached the 21st day straight of daily meditation. In the first three weeks, I have learned:
I CAN ONLY CONTROL MY ACTIONS AND REACTIONS
Getting fired up over a Facebook post or the misdirection of a news article is my decision. Reading that is my decision. I can’t change someone’s opinion or perspective unless they want to change — and a few sentences on a Facebook post isn’t the place. Instead, I can acknowledge my thought and sit with my anger, resentment, guilt, shame or joy . . . and let it go. I can choose not to read every article or post. That is within my control.
WE ACTUALLY LIKE TO ENGAGE OUR RAGE
Letting go was a bit like withdrawal at first. My emotions felt flat because I wasn’t hitting these extreme highs and lows. I wasn’t getting the chemical fix that comes from a “like” (or what I call useless Internet points). I almost missed being pissed off — and then something happened.
PRESENT IS A GIFT
Once I stopped being wrapped up in what someone said or how I should respond, I stopped living in a world of “shoulds” and started living in the moment. I started noticing the magic in the present. My husband and I have deepened our connection because we are present with each other — out minds and emotions.
GAINING CONTROL BY LETTING IT GO
I have always handled emotions or thoughts like the operator at a switchboard. Something would come to my attention and immediately routed to my response, which was often rage, defensiveness, snarky, whatever. However, my switchboard operator has stepped up her job description. When a “call” comes in, it is examined to find the root cause, what I am feeling if it is something I can control, and then either rerouted to the appropriate department for action or hung up on.
Crazy couple of weeks.
That tool I used to keep for emergencies has shined a light on the beauty of every day in just 10 minutes a day. I’m more present with my thoughts and emotions; thus, I am more present with the people who matter to me.
So, how does one get started? Here are a few of my favourite apps:
Even just a few moments of sitting there, acknowledging your thoughts helps. I think of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunter.” When a thought enters my mind, “there it is” and I point a bright orange plastic thing at it. However, it usually disappears on its own.
It’s rare that my 14-year-old cat, Random, takes a keen interest in what I am doing. More often than not, I am just noise in the background that occasionally interrupts his naps. I am there to fill his food bowl and add cool water to his fountain.
But my recent endeavors into home exercising created a spectacle worthy of interrupting his bath time on my afghan. In fact, I had his undivided attention.
My husband and I had viewed a YouTube video about “Spaceship: You” and how to emerge from the COVID-19 self-isolation period a better person. It talked about how physical and mental exercise was the core of our “ship” and needed regular maintenance.
The two of us regularly took walks to achieve our Fitbit daily step goals. However, each of us felt like we could level up our efforts. For my husband, that meant running. I decided to go with a slightly less joint impactive practice. Using videos on my FitBit app, I started bodyweight fitness.
Using your body weight to get in shape is like doing pushups or squats. It’s nothing more than doing fitness videos in your living room, like Jane Fonda or “Sweating to the Oldies.” However, bodyweight fitness tends to focus on muscles that maybe don’t get fully used walking like shoulders, core, and glutes.
I started off ambitious. I did two different workouts in two days. Needless to say, I was feeling it. My body was sore. I felt it when I laughed. I felt it when I coughed. I felt it if I stretched to get something on the top shelf. The fact that I was this sore only highlighted how badly I needed to work those muscles. We are talking modified push-ups (and I was only dropping an inch, folks).
Feeling sore, I decided it may just be best for me to retire early. Go to bed. Sleep it off. Or that was the plan.
I went to bed and read an engaging book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” It’s like the “Behind the Scenes” written saga of science. It takes about how the world was formed, the scientist who didn’t like each other, and how many of these educated beings went out of their way to sabotage one another. Like I said, engaging.
Right as I was about to turn out the light, my bladder announced that it was full and I should do something about that. The truth of it is, I had been increasing my water intake and was making many more trips to our washroom. Fair enough.
And that is when it happened, all those sore muscles said, “Not today. No way.” My entire body revolted. My arms couldn’t lift to push me up. My core, abs, had no power to assist in me sitting up. My thighs utterly refused to lift my legs one more time to swing them off the bed.
As I struggled to move my muscles (think turtle on its back) and grunting my way through it, I happened to glance at the corner of my bedroom. On my reading chair and on top of a lime green afghan, sat my cat, watching me with a trainwreck fascination I have never seen. He was on the edge of his seat, and mid-belly lick, wanting to see how this turned out.
What was a girl to do? Honestly, my first inclination was to laugh but that hurt too much.
I weighed my options and realized that it may be the bed that was the true culprit. That perhaps if I wasn’t in bed I would have more options of pulling myself up rather than pushing myself.
So . . . I did the only thing I could think of. I rolled out of bed and faceplanted on the floor. While that did nothing to ease my sore muscles, it did allow me to slowly work myself up to standing. By the time I was on my feet and headed to the washroom, the cat and rearranged himself so his back was to me.
Fair enough. The main attraction was over. It was time to go home.
I took the next day off from bodyweight fitness to allow my sore muscles to recover. However, since then, I have gone back to doing them. While I do feel the exercises, I have yet to repeat my faceplant performance for the cat.
So, there is a chance I do emerge a bit stronger from my Starship: You. However, I lost any street cred I may have had with my cat. If I had any at all to begin with. 🙂
You physically can’t say the word “beans” aloud without smiling. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait.
See! Something in the way we utter the word causes the corners of our mouth to turn up in the corners and our cute little dimples to pop out. It’s not as teeth gritting as the word “cheese” can be for photos but has the same pleasing effect.
This is a random and fun word that my hubbers and I say in the house randomly to put a smile on our faces and the other person in the room. (Sadly, this was happening before COVID-19 so you can imagine how the two of us rolls. Or doesn’t.)
Perhaps it is the lovely connotation the word has for us with our favourite pastime of roasting coffee. Maybe it was the childhood song about them being a magical fruit. Or perhaps it is just the fine art of linguistics.
I think sometimes we just need a reason for a smile to light up our face and I wanted to pass on the magical word that does it for us.
I have always been aware of the power of words. One, I love to write. Two, I have been challenged by anxiety.
Words can create a picture of fear, scarcity, and loneliness — if I let them. My rumination mind can sink into a negative spiral with just one thought; shifting my mood and my esteem.
As I work on mindfulness and re-writing my mental patterns, I have seen first hand the power of words. I have the ability to control my thoughts, my emotions. I know that. But it doesn’t mean it is easy in all situations.
With negative news flooding my feeds and information sources, it is hard to change the narrative in my mind to support myself rather than pull me further down into the negative spiral. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the shame & blame game while I struggle to learn and adapt to new guidelines.
And then, I stumbled upon this image on my Instagram feed from Jack Canfield:
My negative spirals were a result of reacting — not creating.
Understanding our emotions, facing the difficult ones and rewriting the stories (about ourselves and others) to include understanding, compassion and love helps us to create our reality.
Think, talk and write about the world you WANT TO CREATE. A world you WANT TO SEE. Look for the moments of beauty or upon others with gratitude. When we saw what the world can do, we see how we can be part of the solution.