A few weeks ago, I had plans to have lunch with the kiddo at school. She’d been talking about it for days, so there’s a good chance she was excited about it.
The original plan was to go to the library that’s near her school, do some work until noon, and then head over to the land of juice pouches and apple slices. I even remembered to bring tea for the morning so I’d have some thing to drink at the library.
I strutted up to the library door, so proud of myself for being up early and having my shit together. Going to be a good week!
I pulled on the door.
It’s been true for decades, and never really sunk in – despite what my inner child believes to be true, the library is not always open if I’m awake. We were lucky when voters opted to give enough money to the library to have them be open on Mondays and Tuesdays at all.
So there I was, determined not to spend money on coffee just for a place to sit (especially not when I already had my tea), and the library was closed.
There were a few options. I could go sit in my car. I could suck it up, stop drinking my tea, and go to one of the seven coffee spots nearby. Maybe I could just go back to school and hang out with the class? (Hahahahaha, no seriously what were my options…) There was also some whispery idea that I wasn’t listening to.
There was a more important choice to make, though.
The one where I decide whether to let this little moment change my day.
I could already feel the grump setting in. “I have nowhere to go,” “You should have remembered the hours,” “I don’t have time to get back to the house,” “today is wasted,” “this week is going to suck.” Sound familiar?
Those thoughts were likely to come into my mind regardless. It’s what kept us safe from the lions and tigers and bears back in the day. We are not capable of forcing ourselves to “think positive,” despite mantras to the contrary – and we usually feel worse when we fail to do so.
But it was my choice whether to let them take root, or just notice them and let them pass by.
We have control over whether we let those thoughts win. We can practice noticing them, and see the effect they’re having on the next thoughts, and what effect they’re having in our bodies. When we learn to notice them, we can choose the outcome we want, regardless of what the thoughts are saying.
Sometimes those thoughts aren’t easy to notice, and our bodies might be easier to tune into. When we learn how negative thinking affects our bodies, we can use our physical reactions to help us notice what we’re thinking. For me, it’s my shoulders, face, and back – my chest tightens and pulls my shoulders forward, while my brow scrunches and my jaw clenches, and maybe my lower back shoots out a complaint or three.
For the sake of this story, I wish I could say that standing at the door to the library, I shot a triumphant fist into the air and said “you will not defy me!” but the impact was more subtle.
I knew I was slipping into negative thoughts, but I also really wanted to “win” at today’s plan. A teeny tiny thought kept trying to poke its head in. “Hey, you could go to the park. It’s really nice outside.” At first I grumped that thought away, but in the end, when I realized the park was only a block away, I thought I’d give it a try.
Benches? Check. Warm day? Check. Allergy pill this morning? Check. Enough battery? ….Chhheck. Ish.
It wasn’t until I was sitting down with trees around me that I realized what I had. I had the freedom to choose to sit in a park on a beautiful morning. To breathe fresh air and watch moms jog, dogs wrestle. To watch a guy practice his fishing cast and another man in a suit doing tai chi in the basketball court. (I love Portland.) Most importantly, I could choose to win.
As an added bonus, I got to wonder what this guy was supposed to be. Seriously, what is that? A bee? A dog? I don’t know, but I’d happily take him home with me if he doesn’t sting.
Make it a great day, my friend.