Note: This is a guest essay post by Denise Barry – who I’m thrilled to have as a regular guest blogger.
Recently I met my friend Susan for lunch. I was seated and sipping an iced tea by the time she arrived. Smiling, I waved her over. As she walked towards me, I could see that something wasn’t right. Because I’ve known Susan for a long time, I can always tell when she’s in a funk. I got up to give her a hug and asked, “Are you ok?”
She pointed to her skirt as she irritably said, “I just spilled coffee all over myself!”
“Oh no, did you get burned?” I asked, concerned.
With a dismissive wave of her hand she said, “No, I’m fine. But this is my favorite skirt! My whole day is ruined now!”
Outwardly, I expressed compassion. Inwardly, I thought; she’s letting a little spilt milk (or in this case, spilt latte) ruin her entire day? I would never do that!
From out of nowhere, an accusation filled my head; the hell you wouldn’t! You do it all the time!
Ouch. Who, exactly, had invited logic to lunch? I knew I needed to explore this line of thinking – but pushed it all away until later. I had to cheer up Susan, which I successfully did. So much so, that when she ordered a cup of coffee at meal’s end, and I congratulated her on her bravery for interacting with this mischievous fluid once again, she didn’t remember what I was talking about at first! We had a good laugh over that!
Later, upon reflection, I realized that I too let little things negatively impact my day – and in a big way! It happens so naturally I think it often goes unnoticed.
For example, there was the time I had gone shopping for a pair of jeans and I couldn’t find my size in the one pair I had to have. I obsessed over wanting those jeans for days!
I’ve felt anxious and irritable while stuck in a slow checkout line at the grocery store, which would sometimes leave me feeling rushed for hours afterwards, because I attempted to make up “lost” time.
Sometimes, when I couldn’t make it to the gym for my regular cycling class, I would feel guilty until the next one.
The list goes on and on.
Since I knew it wasn’t possible to have someone around all the time to pick me up when I was down, like I was able to do with Susan, I realized I was on my own. So, I made a plan. I promised myself that when some small annoyance threatened to hamper my mood, I would ask: “is this really enough of a reason for me to feel so unhappy?”
As I practiced this, the answer was not always a resounding NO! But it did stop the web of negativity from getting bigger, allowing my mind to quiet down a bit. Over time, I struggled less to convince myself that I had a right to feel so upset.
The interesting thing I learned is that when a feeling is left alone, it has nothing to feed on and loses its power. I don’t know where it goes, but I don’t find myself consciously searching for it. It can go to hell for all I care, but I’m not going with it (anymore).
Life feels easier knowing that nothing has the power to make me unhappy – at least, not without my permission.
What if nothing had the power to make YOU unhappy?
Written and shared with love by Denise Barry.
To find out more about Denise click here!