Generally, many of my posts in this blog come to some kind of solution of how to get into a positive state of mind, even the ones in which I bitch relentlessly. I guess the reason I write about this a lot is because I’m usually trying to switch from negative to positive and writing is a useful tool for me. Lately there is so much sadness in friends going through really tough situations I have lived through. I know in my heart my friends have to walk through the pain, after which they will grow tremendously. But I wish I could wave a wand and make it all go away. I wish I could just grab them by the hand and have them forget the assholes who hurt them and pull them into the sunshine and heal! I wish I could SWITCH ON HAPPINESS for them.
Aw. Wouldn’t it be great to look in the mirror, slap my face and shout “SNAP OUT IF IT!”? I think of Cher in Moonstruck when I say that but in my head it’s more of a prolonged scream than her bedroom-eyed, “what the hell are you thinking?” Italian Brooklynite kind of delivery. Of course, she did slap Nick twice. So she trumps me there.
I will acquiesce that not all misery is snapoutofitable. If I’ve been hit by a bus, I’m gonna be in misery and a body cast for a looooooong , long, long time. Dealing with the death of a loved one, financial ruin, divorce, kids not doing their homework AGAIN...this is all stuff I can fall prey to misery over. If I am James Caan and Kathy Bates is swinging a mallet around, I am definitely in misery but the good news is that it will end in about two hours.
But is it as simple as a figurative (or, in some cases, literal) slap in the face to snap out of it? When I am miserable and the world seems to fall around my ankles like crap-filled underwear and I claw my face and yell at God and feel sorry for myself, is it so easy to change up my mindset and go from misery to happiness?
Well, it kind of is. Sort of. It gets easier the more I practice it. And, of course, there are times when I just say eff it, and wallow in the yuck for however long it serves me. And believe me...just about everything I go through in my life is some situation I have created somehow – good and bad – and it is all there to serve me for some reason. So if I’m in self-induced misery and complain and cry...sorry to break this news to you, but that is serving a purpose in my life. I am in no way saying that is wrong. It’s not, necessarily. I just have to be aware that I choose to be in whatever state of mind I’m in. I also have to be very careful to not allow bitterness and resentment to overrun my thinking because when that happens wallowing in the yuck will eat me alive from the inside out.
And here we are back to the real question: How do I switch from miserable to happy?
The simple answer is: Grow the fuck up. Be a woman for God’s sake. Own my situation and take control of my reaction(s) to them. Stand up, trudge forward and fix the broken pieces steadily, live one moment at a time and remember to keep breathing. Ok, that’s pretty blunt and the nurturer in me wants to me to hug myself. But that’s the cold hard truth. I know it is a process, however, the beauty about states of mind is that I am completely in my own power to change my mindset at any time I choose to change. The only thing that stops me is my negative thinking habit. Some people may not even be aware of the way their thought processes affect them. What the hell do you do when your perception isn’t even suspect?
When I’m rational (let’s be honest, I can go from calm to insane in about 5 seconds. And you know where and when: traffic and end of the day when my kids are whining) it helps me to take a look at my state of mind and break it down into smaller parts that are easier to digest. So what is Misery to me?
Fear was instilled in us eons ago to keep us alive. Fear keeps us from walking down dark alleys (unless you’re in a teen horror flick), jumping out of a perfectly good plane without a parachute (or, in some cases keeps us (me) from jumping out of a perfectly good plane WITH a parachute), or spitting in a dinosaur’s face. Good, instinctual, healthy fear serves to keep us living another day. Nowadays the word “fear” is kind of diluted to describe less life-threatening situations. I once heard fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Hmmm. Sounds suspiciously like...
Meaning, and to quote Mark Twain, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” And that’s really just a fancy schmancy way to say I’m a worry-wart. To combat this, I make myself think about where I am and what is happening at this very moment. So let’s do that right now. At this very moment I’m not being held at gunpoint, I’m not dying, not being raped, I’m not walking around in public half naked (hello! those are just awesome anxiety dreams, right??), I’m not going to jail, not being hit by a bus, my children are not hospitalized, we’re none of us starving, no one is - at this very moment - screaming in my face and accusing me of awful things, no one is suing me for anything and last I checked there is no T-rex lurking in the backyard waiting to eat me. Soon what is real turns into a gratitude list. Whatever it is that I am worried about usually isn’t happening to me at the time I am feeling the “fear”. And the moment my head says, “Yeah, but....” I just need to reiterate the facts of right here, right now and accept that for the moment all is ok. Before I know it the moments add up and I realize more days than not that I am fine, always have been fine, and probably always will be fine.
I have entitlement issues that rival the Queen of England. And yet I’m always worried about what you think of me just as much as I’m judging you. It’s like a frickin scorn contest. Who can out-eyeball who. So I have to ask: How much of my misery is based on 1) how I perceive myself, 2) what I worry others think about me and 3) how I think about others? If I was judged by everyone the way I judge myself I’d be a quivering, crying mass of jello. And I really do fuss in my head over what you are thinking of me. I still have issues with making you believe I am ok, that I am always doing the right thing and that I’m a very good person. As for me judging others, I’m trying to make up for some lack in myself somewhere. I have to remember that every time I say or think something negative, I bring more negativity back to me. This is a daily struggle for me. I can be spiritual one minute and stand in line at the grocery store pissed off at the people in front of me for no good reason other than they are in front of me. If I can remember that I don’t know ANYTHING about what someone else might be going through, it takes the sting out of my barb. Funny thing is I usually don’t stop and remember that so then God steps in and helps me trip over cracks on the sidewalk, or over a flower bed or walk into a wall. True story. Happens a LOT. The most important thing for me to remember is I don’t deserve to be beaten up emotionally or verbally, by myself or anyone else and I certainly hate being the kind of person that beats others up. I’m human, so are you, so let’s live and let live.
Well, I know that when I am angry I am ugly and disgusting and pretty stupid. And irrational. I can maintain sanity for only so long before I snap. Newsflash: my anger is masked fear/worry, so I must ask myself what am I afraid of? For example, there are phases my daughter goes through where she snivels and whines as soon as she sits down to do homework and I react in anger because my worry chain kicks in at 6000 rpm: I know it is manipulation (because she is just like I used to be), then I’m afraid she’ll get into bad homework habits, which means she’ll not do well in school, which means she she’ll grow up having self-confidence problems, then get depressed and shut herself away from life OR she’ll go the other way and make friends with other kids who are totally bad seeds and we all know what that leads to! Drugs! Sex! Teen Pregnancy! Living on the streets! She’ll grow up not being able to cope with the pressures of life...OH. MY. GOD!! SHE’LL GROW UP LIKE...MEEEEEE! (For the record, I didn’t do the drugs, teen pregnancy, living on the streets thing...) Anyway: Aha. That’s it. There’s the real fear. I don’t want her to make the same mistakes - OR WORSE - that I made. That is my fear that fuels that nugget of anger. So. Today’s lesson? Go back to False Evidence Appearing Real and realize what I am really upset about. And know that most times I’m tired too which causes my positive defenses to plummet and we should all just take a time out and eat ice cream.
Whoopsie daisy. I can control my thoughts, I can control my actions. But that’s about it. Can I really control an outcome? Oh, I have no doubt in my mind there are amazing men and women who can orchestrate events that come off without a hitch. It is probably because they have no doubt that it will be any other way. But in a space of misery...there is SO much doubt involved, isn’t there? If I am in a space of misery, I doubt myself, the events I have created, everything begins to unravel and the more it unravels the more I try to grasp the strands in a desparate attempt to tie the threads together hastily to save an outcome I really know nothing about. I sweat, I shake, my pulse (and my mind) races because I know I am losing! If. It. Is. Not. This. Way. It. Can’t. Be. Any. Way. At. All. Oh please. There MUST be a time when I let go of the threads and let them fall where they fall. Most times the outcome will be better than I could ever imagine. The knots I tried so vainly to tie together? Just a mess. That’s all they are. A mess. When I let go and say, “I’ve done what I can, now let’s see what happens” the outcome is as it is supposed to be. Acceptance is the opposite of control. Do I always have to like an outcome to accept it? Nope. But not all the kicking and screaming and whining in the world is going to change the way something is. So I (try to) accept it and move on. Otherwise my only option left is to change what I can and the only thing I can change is myself. Good luck having great results with trying to change other people. By the way, the more I manipulate others to behave in a way I think is right, the more disturbed I’m gonna be when the outcome backfires on me. The most freeing phrase I’ve ever learned is “I don’t know, God please help me.”
LACK OF PATIENCE
There goes that control freak again. When I force things to happen the way I think I want them to happen...well, let’s just say there are times when I DO get what I think I want, only to spend a lot of time pushing through the regret. “If only I had just let things happen naturally...” Nope. I must have everything the way I want it RIGHT NOW WHEN I WANT IT. Oh, how the Universe sparkles in knowing laughter at that silly notion. The Universe / God will gladly provide us if we ask. But how and when isn’t in the cards darling. Oh that’s so unfair. Truth is the most beautiful and valuable lessons can be learned in the process of something, not in the end result.
What’s the point. There is absolutely nothing in my life that has already happened that I cannot change. Impossible. So why do I waste so much energy and emotion regretting something I can’t undo? Why do the stabs of pain and shame feel so sharp? It is so hard to forgive myself (that whole judgment thing) for some of the things I have done. The thing that I need to remember is just don’t do it again. To regret an experience in my past is one thing...to regret many like experiences is to be someone who is unwilling to learn and change. And that will, on my deathbed, be the biggest regret of all.
So for me the Misery Entree at Heartbreak Diner is comprised of equal parts Fear, Worry, Judgment, Anger, Control, Lack of Patience and Regret.
The tonic? Faith, Humility, Tolerance, Acceptance, Patience and being Teachable. If I can just turn my negative thought, whatever it is, into the opposite to bring in a new, positive thought, and keep practicing that (at first it is really hard to remember to stop and breathe and assess), soon enough it is not such a long process to get out of my misery and into some happiness.