If you had told me last April when I first discussed the difficulty in dealing with transitions, and specifically with the 2nd phase of the process, waiting, that we would still be in that phase today, I would have thought it impossible.
But here we are, either still, or again. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for businesses to re-open. Waiting to see our friends and loved ones in person. Waiting for some sense of normalcy to return.
I find it easier to sit in this murky phase of transition now than I did last spring, but I also have days where I’m just sick of it and want it to go away. Of course, that isn’t going to happen. So, when those days arise, I focus on what specifically is causing my distress. What is it that I want to do that I’m unable to do? Interestingly, each time I realize that there’s not really anything I want to do. I just don’t like feeling like I can’t, which sounds rather childish, but that’s the truth.
Mindful observation of our own thoughts and behaviors is a pretty miraculous thing sometimes. Our minds churn out thoughts that create emotions and most of the time, if the emotions are negative, we simply think we’re in a bad mood and that’s that. But if we take the time to observe what’s going on between our ears, without judgment, we find that as we focus on the activity, the activity diminishes. This process works for physical pain as well. By focusing on the specific pain in a detailed fashion, noticing the various sensations being felt – tingling, sharpness, aching, heat – those sensations diminish from subtly to substantially. I find that fascinating.
My mind has been a jumble of activity during the last week as I try to juggle the business-side of owning a business to the creative side of producing the work, at my least favorite time of year because of all of the deadlines related to accounting and taxes. As the treasurer of a non-profit, this is our annual audit time, so switching my thoughts from lessons on playfulness to inventory counts feels like a monumental struggle. The monotony of producing 1099s on silly forms that don’t line up in the printer slows my creative flow to a drip. I sense overwhelm creeping in and become somewhat mindless, multiple times a day some days. And then I remember to pause and observe. I’m creating this mood, this sense of overwhelm, this sometimes sense of dread.
Each time this happens, I recognize that I simply need to return to my practices. Observe my thoughts and feelings with a sense of curiosity. Meditate and reflect, focus on the positive, feel gratitude. How blessed am I that I have a business to file 1099s in during this seemingly never-ending pandemic? How lucky am I that I have a creative outlet to consistently play in and that as a bonus, may motivate others to live more joyfully? How meaningful to be able to use previous career skills to volunteer for and support an organization that is trying to make abandoned children’s lives a little better?
It’s simple to observe. The hard part is remembering to stop and do it. Take a few moments now to consider any areas of distress in your life. It may be helpful to write it down and then spend a few minutes observing the thoughts that run through your mind as you reflect on it. The longer you observe, the more the intensity of those thoughts or sensations subside. Once the intensity is dialed down, it’s much easier to reframe the situation into something more positive and to recognize areas of gratitude and hope to focus on.
We’re all facing discomfort of some sort and we’re all waiting together for external conditions to improve. But life keeps going and we can really get stuck if we’re waiting to live until those factors improve. Many people are very frustrated that they can’t get a vaccine yet, but resisting waiting and even feeling angry about it don’t serve us in any way. The vaccination roll-out is what it is and we can’t change that. We can accept that if we want a vaccine, we’ll get one eventually, but the timeline isn’t up to us. In the meantime, we still have a life to live, so why not live it to the fullest possible under these circumstances?
Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another one opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” I think many of us are looking at the closed door, waiting for it to open again instead of looking forward to new doors that are waiting for us to go through.
Happiness is definitely an inside job, so it’s important that we aim for joy, comfort and feeling at ease, despite what’s happening around us. Mindfulness practices definitely help and meditation is an excellent practice for not only calming down the mind, but for improving our health and immune systems. We have plenty of tools and techniques at our disposal to support us through these challenging times. We just have to remember to use them. Set alarms, place sticky notes around the home or office, make an appointment in your calendar – whatever works for you to remind you to pause, observe and reframe.
We can’t force everything to be positive or happy, but we can definitely improve our own energy level toward the positive and that definitely serves us well. And we can all stop looking at the closed door behind us and start looking for new doors to open.
Until next time, I’ll be here, waiting, but also open to whatever comes next. Have a wonderful week.