Every day can’t be a “feel good” day for most of us because not every situation we come upon plucks our happy chord. Yes, we all have the opportunity to work through our, at times, challenging reactions to certain conditions, and the effort we make to do so adds Grace to our lives. Sometimes, however, we are inexplicably driven to bypass that opportunity and latch onto melancholy, self-pity, frustration, or even rage. I can find no other reason for opting to invite this emotional drama to take center stage in my life than the blatant desire to beat myself up for feeling “less than”—or better said, “power-less than” life itself as it insists on unfolding not according to my plan on many an occasion.
Whatever in the world makes my eccentric ego think that my plan, even if it is right there on my dayplanner in bright red letters, is so fabulous is, well, ridiculous. Looking back on past experiences it’s abundantly clear that had my plan worked out on many of those occasions in which life interfered, I would not only have been miserable in the long run, but I also would not have become the better person that I am today.
Yet, I am human and can get sucked into that “my plan” state of mind when life interrupts anything from my “happily ever after” plan for all people everywhere, to my daily writing schedule.
The only worse feeling than unhappiness about the events of the day not agreeing with my plan is the feeling of frustration and/or disappointment with myself for allowing my presence to have been usurped by that ego-trip in the first place. That leaves me with double the trouble. Do I stop there? No. Once I’ve been sucked in that deep I have the insane need to dispose of these unhealthy emotions by dumping them on someone else—as if chewing out the retail clerk that sold me faulty product or the friend or family member that does something even mildly irritating will relieve me of my burdensome weight of guilt or regret. Doing so then triples my troubles because by this time I have saddled myself with –
1. distress (self-pity) over my imagined double-cross by life
2. distress (guilt) over my imagined self-judgment
3. distress (regret) over having deliberately tried to foist my problems onto someone else
This begins a downward spiral—one I think most of us have experienced whether we’ve noticed or not.
The only question of any value becomes, “How do I interrupt this spiral of self-sabotaging behavior once I’ve become aware of it?” I start by asking myself where it began. Usually it begins with a one-letter word—”I” –
“I” don’t want to work today.
“I” would rather go fishing.
“I” don’t like this stormy weather.
“I” am too tired.
“I” am too cold.
“I” don’t want to be around those people.
“I” am uninspired.
“I” want …
“I” don’t want …
“I” like …
“I” don’t like …
“I” am …
“I” am not …
The first lesson my esoteric psychology teacher offered me was, “Like what IT does not like.” I didn’t understand what he was talking about. What is “IT”? Then I remembered a game we played as kids—”Tag, you’re IT!” OH! So, when I’m stuck in my ego-trip “I” am “IT” because my soulfully true “I-dentity” is stolen by “IT”—the ego-trip—the “I-dentity T-hief!” Wow!
I thought that “I” didn’t want to get out of my cozy, warm bed one winter morning not long ago to shovel snow in the freezing, cold blizzard to get to my car to drive on frightening, icy roads to an office that “I” didn’t want to spend the day sitting in, doing a job that “I” didn’t want to spend the day doing, alongside people “I” didn’t want to be around. Huh. Maybe it wasn’t that “I” was full of excuses like “this headache” and “it’s cold outside”—maybe “I” was just being too lazy to notice that “IT” was the thing stealing my joy.
So, “I” crawled out of the warm blankets and into a nice, warm shower, brushed the sleep from my teeth, boiled up a cup of tea, and nourished my body with a sizzling, sumptuous breakfast. Snuggled into my snowsuit, hat and gloves, “I” picked up my shovel and pushed a few yards of snowflakes out of the way, started up the car and turned on the defroster. Making my way back into the house to gather up my briefcase and lunchbox, “I” breathed in the cold, crisp winter air, appreciating the feeling as it kissed my face, letting me know that “I” am alive in this world of wonders.
Having a car, a privilege many others do not have, to get me to my job, another privilege many others do not have, to spend the day with people who, as it turns out, have a smile to add to my day, is plenty to be grateful for. “I” get to perform a service that brings joy to my employer who happens to be willing to pay me money that “I” can use to pay rent for the home that “I” can relax and write it, AND house my cozy, warm bed.
Instead of letting the “I-dentity T-hief” of mechanical excuse-making behavior on auto-pilot steal my day that day, “I” stopped making excuses for letting “IT” be in control.
That night “I” was back in my cozy, warm bed thinking about how grateful “I” am that “I” conquered “IT” that morning, and now have the privilege of writing about my experience to share with others. It’s evident that “Mastery of self” is a moment-by-moment work on strengthening real “I”—for “IT” was just one of those days that “I” came to own by doing one simple thing: DECIDING to BE an attitude of gratitude.
“I” just have to remember that every new day is up for grabs, so “I” will let you know how “IT” goes…
What’s next? Look for my future blog post – “Writer’s Block? There’s no place like OM; there’s no place like OM; there’s no place like OM.”
For a more comprehensive look at how to improve and refine your life skills and attitude of gratitude, please pick up a copy of my book Dear Sandy – The letter that wrote itself into a Book.
© Jennifer Sweete, April 2016