Sunday, February 14, 2010

Living a Mindful Life Lesson 13: The Storm Before the Calm

We all have those moments when everything seems to be going wrong—one thing after the next. Sometimes those moments turn into days, weeks, if you are really unlucky, years. Life is truly unpredictable no matter how well you plan and prepare.

One of my struggles is to maintain a calm spirit in the middle of an upheaval of my life plan. I imagine a little devil with a pitchfork digging up my well attended and groomed lawn of life. I feel immediately threatened when anything goes against my expectations. Unfortunately, I tend to “catastrophize”—to make things worse than they really are. Then, to make things even worse, I project the stress I am experiencing at the moment into the future and it almost feels like whatever is happening will be happening for eternity. In the past, and even in the last few months, I’ve been called a drama queen and even worn the badge proudly on occasion. But lately I’ve realized that the catastrophizing only leads to more stress than the original incident deserves and I’ve been trying to maintain calm within a storm.

Today I am flying home from Minneapolis. I was there with my husband’s family to celebrate the life and morn the death of his beloved grandmother. My husband was up and at ‘em this morning because he had at 7:30 a.m. business meeting. Alone, I wallowed in my bliss: watched a movie, ate breakfast in bed and caught up on some computer work. As usual, I started to pack and reorganize my things. I found all my socks and folded all my t-shirts. Put away my makeup and hair products. Tried to insure that my bag weighed less than 50 pounds (42 at the airport!). But……I couldn’t find my driver’s license and I didn’t have any other form of picture I.D. As you know, in the age of terrorist, you can pretty much plan on being grounded without a form of identification.

Typically this occurrence would send me into complete panic mode with wringing of hands and lots of tears—maybe even a few well chosen swear words. Once I searched everywhere and realized that it was, indeed, lost, I had a mindful moment: a reality check. “What if,” I thought,” I just take a moment and collect my nerves. There has to be a solution to this. It is early enough for me to find out. There is no reason to lose it.” If you know me well, you would be surprised at this thought process. Typically my panic leads to ill thought out behaviors like frantically trying to track down my husband by calling and leaving a million messages (there I go being a drama queen again). In trying to live a mindful life, I am trying to be aware of those times when I can use my mindfulness to a great advantage.

Sure, there are things in life that deserve an all out panic and I pray nothing ever happens to me that justifies such madness. Losing my license did not qualify as a disaster. Well, in a nutshell, I called my airline and did exactly what they told me to do and in the end, here I sit on the airplane home typing on my husband’s laptop. My theory is that if I can master the big stuff, the small stuff won’t seem so enormous.

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