One of THOSE Days

Today has been one of those days. I woke up ready to conquer the world – enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise, meditate, hang out with a friend, catch up on some work and EXHALE. 

That didn’t happen. I was on my way to make a 10 minute stop at the doctor for a test I needed done that I’d be waiting to take for 3 whole months (don’t worry… everything’s just fine)! I get there and they didn’t have any record of it (though I triple-checked earlier in the week just to make sure). Disappointment and frustration arose – a lot of frustration. 

Then, I took a few deep breaths, noticed how tense I had become, resolved to not let it ruin my Saturday and put on my favorite tunes and zipped back North on I-5 to have a nice re-set. A little work date with myself at one of my favorite sunny Portland cafes in NW and the next thing I know… I’ve taken the completely wrong exit. Instead of taking I-405 N, I end up winding through downtown. No big deal. I’ve got this.

Just when I think I’m back on track, I take yet another wrong turn! I’m on HWY 26 towards the Zoo and since it’s a holiday weekend, traffic is NOT pretty. I think to myself I’ll just have a pleasant distraction by coming back down through Washington Park and then 45 minutes later, I emerge onto NW 23rd feeling like I just made it through Disneyland on a Saturday…  exhausted, irritated and somewhat amused by my lack of mindfulness of directions (I’ve been driving in Portland since I was 16 and know the roads like the back of my hand).

I’m laughing to myself while simultaneously wishing I could blame all of this on someone else. Contracted in my body and wishing I could be feeling differently. Wishing the day could have gone differently. Feeling time running out and not having got a thing done and it’s now 2:45 in the afternoon. 

I’m a meditation teacher and a therapist, I think to myself… I’ve got this. Just take a few breaths, feel my feet, look outside at the beautiful trees and insanely colorful roses.  Grrrrrrrrr…. It seems I don’t want to. I’d rather be grumpy.  I’d rather keep going through my day feeling like crawling back in bed and starting again tomorrow.

I recognize the familiar impulse…  the part of myself that desperately wants to go to sleep whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed. Just sleep it off and start over again when I wake up. This coping mechanism is brilliant but doesn’t exactly fix the reactivity that happens in the first place AND isn’t very useful when I want to be out enjoying life.

This simple recognizing of the impulse and then questioning it automatically throws a wrench in the mind’s thought process. Maybe all of me doesn’t actually want to go to sleep. Maybe I can tap into another part that wants to stay awake and carry on with my day in a new way. What tools do I have for this?  Am I willing to use them? 

Sometimes people in my life have reassured me that when I’m grumpy, they think it’s cute – like an adorable grumpy pet. So, I go with this for a minute and see what happens. I remember my dog Kyla and how much I loved her when she was grumpy. Like  when she accidentally fell into a freezing cold river and hated water anywhere above her elbows.  When she jumped back out, she gave me a look like she was pissed at me (like I cued the bird that was flying over the water that she was chasing).  And then, she’d curl up next to me shaking and sad.

I remember being so sweet to her and saying something in a loving voice like….  “awwwww….  that wasn’t fun for you, was it? That was scary, huh? I love you so much!” and pat her on the head and sit for a few minutes. Then… she’d miraculously jump up and be off chasing something else with probably no memory that she was even in a bad mood seconds before.

I don’t know if you’re like me in that you talk to your animals like they’re sweet little toddlers but you might try it sometime… it can bring a silly sense of lightness. And then, you can try it with you when you feel frustrated, angry and overwhelmed. The truth is that when we’re reactive and contracted, we’re often being run by younger parts of ourselves. So… if we care for them like we would care for a young person, they tend to feel eased more quickly and then ready to jump up and take on the world again.

Next time you’re stressed (or right now), take a seat and a few breaths and talk to yourself like a cute grumpy pet who you just love so much.  You don’t take your beloved cat’s grumpiness personally do you? So… maybe you can stop taking your own thoughts and emotions so personally. 

I know I know, it sounds silly and for some nerdy person OTHER than you. But humor me… try it and let me know how it goes in the comments below or on the FB page where this is posted!