Although I try to be understanding, when it comes to certain topics, I can be a bit petty. I will completely write a person off over a first impression, which is a bit unfair.
Today, I was contemplating a scenario where someone got a wrong impression of me, recently, and decided to write me off. I was so offended because their actions, as a result of their assumptions, impacted more than just me.
As a way of getting beyond the moment, I decided to write a letter—as a journaling exercise to get it off my mind, because I have no intentions of sending the letter to the individual. What I realized as I was writing, is that I was calling her completely irrational for not communicating with me before making a judgment about me. That’s when I realized I had done the same to someone else, under fairly similar circumstances.
It’s a hard thing to realize that we aren’t perfect. And it’s even harder to see the depravity of another in our own actions. As much as I wish things happened differently, I must admit that I am grateful for this opportunity to heal that tendency. I am choosing to release my negative impression of the person I prejudged. And I choose to forgive this individual and trust that all things work together for good.
Today, I lost my mojo. I woke up so excited to go to the lake and paint. But, I let all kinds of doubts, frustrations, annoyances, and even responsibilities get in the way. By the time I left my house, I was in such a funk. I sat in my car for two hours just feeling defeated.
This is why it’s important to have friends who are so connected to you that they feel led to reach out when you are feeling off your game. My dear friend messaged me at the right time and our conversation lifted me. I went from, conceding to just go stand by the water, to actually getting my canvas, paints and brushes (and a snack, lol) and heading to my favorite bench to begin to paint.
When I arrived, all I had was a rough sketch that I was primarily frustrated with, but I sat and worked with it until I found my flow. I stopped checking my phone and trusted that this time was just for me. I worked until it no longer felt like work. I felt my smile come back and I remembered the joy (that is still new to me) that happens when I paint.
It was fun to interact with passersby as they paused to watch what I was doing. And, I primarily enjoyed the solitude. I look forward to fine tuning this piece and finding a home for it.
I’m glad I didn’t give up my day to those emotions I was feeling earlier. I’m grateful for dear friends who help me get going on my intentions when I fall into a funk.
Update: Now, days later, I can see what happened and how to use this information in the future. Let me explain.
One of the things that helped me get out of the car was remembering my intention and the joy I felt when I first woke up. I felt so inspired and driven and something within me believed that moment mattered more than how I was feeling sitting in that car. I recognized that the only reason I was feeling so down because that morning I bought into so many discouraging and distracting thoughts. I internalized every self-criticism and fearful suggestion. I gave away my bliss by giving into negativity.
If I simply ignored those thoughts and focused on my intention to get out the house, I could’ve maintained my great mood. There’s a phrase, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” It’s accurate. By giving in to fearful, discouraging thoughts, I nearly tanked my whole day. Each distracting, “I should do this before I leave,” brought on another. Every “What if it doesn’t work out?” thought brought on another. Once I gave in to the first negative thought, the rest came in like a flood. In retrospect, I see that my intention and feelings first thing that morning are where I should have concentrated my focus. Our moments of inspiration fresh from rest are often the truest moments in our day. All the fears and frustrations that come along to choke out that feeling are the lies.
It is not always easy to press through and get things done when we’re in a funk. It’s important to be kind and loving toward ourselves in those moments. As I reflect, I see that I was able to find my way back to inspiration because I didn’t beat myself up for not getting out the car. I put my seat back and my feet up and relaxed into the moment. I made peace with the idea that maybe all I would do there was get a few moments of chill time by the lake. I wasn’t happy about not painting, but I made peace with the likelihood that I wouldn’t.
The funny thing is that by choosing to let go, I slowly returned to a state of rest. In a restful state, it is easier to “hear” guidance. As I began messaging with my friend, I became calmer because she was being supportive and our exchange was energizing. Inspired thoughts came to mind, while we chatted, and I didn’t ignore them. I thought, “Maybe I could get out the car and just stand by the water.” I didn’t ignore it. I started sitting up and thinking about what I needed to do next to make that happen. As I began to feel a little better, I thought, “Well, I did come here to paint. I could get my things and head to the bench.” I messaged my friend and told her that I was thinking about painting. I opened my door and started to gather my things. As I headed to the bench, I thought, “If I don’t feel like painting, I can just work on the sketch.” And after a while of working on the sketch, I thought, “Well, I could start on the background.” And next thing I was filling in the silhouette. I didn’t ignore the inspiring thoughts. I didn’t remain committed to the funk. I listened. I shifted out of the funk, one thought at a time.
When we quiet our minds we are able to receive guidance. Often, that is the key to getting out of those moments. Overcoming a funk is similar to untying a knot. It’s a patient, step-by-step process. You get out of it the same way got into it—one thought at a time.
I am the first to say how happily single I am, but let the right person cross my path, and enough coincidences occur, and I’m thinking, “Hmmm…. I wonder if you’re the one.” I watch way too many romantic comedies to not get nipped by the love bug periodically.
What I have learned over time is that I tend to ignore red flags. I am so accepting of others that I put ribbons and bows on red flags. It starts out as, “I can understand how they became the way they are, look at their story.” Before long it’s, “Everyone else has walked away, I have to be the one who shows them someone cares enough not to leave.” It’s a bit of a toxic pattern.
Over the last few years, I have been a bit more aware of this tendency and adjusted to only dressing up red flags that aren’t that serious. For example, an anger issue is a definite “No,,” but a fear of commitment might get a bow.
As I’ve been doing so much introspection lately, I discovered that regardless of my comfort with being single, I am honestly wired to be a wife. I don’t really know how to be a girlfriend. I go from “we met” to full on “wifey.” Before long I’m learning likes and dislikes, memorizing important stories and their characters, and figuring out how to support his dreams. (Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing to share, but if my openness empowers you, it’s worth it.)
About a week ago, I had an epiphany about not having a middle ground. I was deep in thought about my history of making faux husbands of red flag bearers, when I recalled a T. D. Jakes’ sermon I heard many years ago. Bishop Jakes said, “We’re building houses where we should be pitching tents.” Those words hit me like an openhanded slap!
I claim to live by the idea that, “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” But when enough key elements line up, I start hiding red flags behind my back and start digging a foundation. As I was processing the T.D. Jakes’ quote, I heard these words within, “Can’t you just go camping?” I literally laughed out loud!
Regardless of how I’ve operated in the past, going zero to sixty in relationships is a crash waiting to happen. I don’t have to pull out the blueprints to a house every time I meet someone. I can just pitch a tent and give myself time to see if they are here for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
I’m not sure who I wrote this for, but ever since that quote came back to me, I’ve been thinking I need to share it in a post. This can apply to friendships, as well as intimate relationships. It’s okay to connect with people AND give it some time to see who and how they are. We can also allow relationships to complete, without viewing it as a failure. We can appreciate the good times we’ve had, and be willing to loosen our grip when we are no longer aligned. Not all relationships are meant to last forever. We don’t need to keep building houses where we should be pitching tents. We can just go camping.
Many years ago I worked in a nursing home. One of the residents I worked with had a condition that caused her to only say four phrases repeatedly throughout the day. I had never seen anything like it and when I first started working there no one warned me.
Our first direct interaction went something like this.
Her: What’s your name?
Me: Oh, I’m Marlene. Are you ready to head to bed?
Her: How’re we gonna do it?
Me: Well, I’ll push you in your wheelchair to your room and get you cleaned up for bed.
Her: I need a job.
Me: Well, you’ve probably worked your whole life. It’s your time to relax.
Her: Shut up.
I was a little offended, but figured maybe she really wanted to get a job.
As my days at the nursing home continued, I noticed that no matter what conversation was taking place, and even when this sweet woman was sitting by herself, she ONLY repeated the same phrases. “What’s your name?” “How’re we gonna do it?” “I need a job.” “Shut up.” It was purely coincidence that our first conversation made sense.
This morning, before I rolled out of bed, I decided to stay a while and do a little stretching and some strength exercises. I got excited at the thought of making this a daily routine. Then an inner monologue began. It sounded something like this. “That’s not gonna work.” “That’s a waste of time.” “You’re not gonna be consistent.” “You’re doing it wrong.”
For the last week or more I’ve been paying attention to these thoughts. Today, I realized that these same discouraging phrases repeat in my thoughts no matter what I attempt. This is when I remembered that sweet elderly lady who only said the same four phrases all day.
When I worked with her, at first I took each thing she said seriously and responded to it. However, after a few days, I recognized her communication was purely on loop. The only communication from her that had value was her body language. She literally ONLY said those four things. Never a “yes” or “no,” or even an “I’m hungry.”
In a similar way, our negative and discouraging thoughts tend to just habitually repeat. They don’t offer any true value. Once we recognize the loop, we can begin to ignore it. We get to train ourselves to stop listening to thoughts that don’t serve us. They are simply on loop habitually. Instead we can focus our attention on the communication of value, which is how we feel.
When we pay attention to our emotions, we can take notice of the thoughts that caused us to feel that way. It may seem that it is an experience that caused our emotions, but typically it’s our thoughts about the experience. Just like when we see someone respond in gratitude to a situation that would devastate us. That occurs because their thoughts about what they experienced are different than the thoughts we would have. Somebody loses a job and thinks, “Oh, gawd, my life is over. How will I be able to pay my bills?” Somebody else loses a job and thinks, “Well, now I have time to spend with my family while I look for something that feels better for me.” Same situation, different perspective. And our perspective is simply how we choose to view a situation—how we choose to THINK about it.
Our thoughts are fueled by questions that we often don’t even notice have been asked. Usually when we feel upset, our thoughts ask us “What happened to make you feel this way?” Then, we reenact the whole scene in our minds, and feel the experience all over again. And if our thoughts are free to go on uninterrupted, our minds may hit us with a follow-up question, “What/who else has made you feel this way in the past?” Suddenly we’re on a trip down effed up memory lane, sinking deeper into an emotion we didn’t consciously choose. However, we do have a choice.
What I am training myself to do is to ask myself more empowering questions. When the automatic thought, “How do you feel?” arises, I follow it with, “What was I just thinking about?” I bypass the reenactment of whatever got me upset and trace it back to the THOUGHT that shifted my mood. Then, I choose an empowering follow-up question, “Is it possible that there’s another way I can view this situation?” (Yes. I really do this. No. It’s not automatic. Yes. It takes practice. Yes. It’s sooo worth it.) What I’ve noticed is that the second I think of a more empowering way to view the situation, I instantaneously feel better. Our thoughts guide our emotions.
No matter what is going on around us, there are multiple ways to view the situation. I’ve done this with everything from the loss of a loved one, to the loss of an intimate relationship. I am not saying it isn’t valid to experience the gamut of emotions. However we choose to experience life is valid for us. The less pleasant emotions are not bad or wrong. They are an essential part of being human. I choose, however, to allow my emotions to be more like traffic signals on my journey, rather than destinations. They communicate messages about where I am and where I’m going. If I’m feeling happy, that communicates that I am doing (or thinking) in a way that is aligned with my values. I should probably continue down that path and do more of that. If I’m feeling angry, I likely have just experienced, or thought about, a situation where my values/boundaries were compromised. I should probably take note of the situation that rubbed me the wrong way. I likely need to establish a stronger boundary in this regard and possibly address the issue if that’s best. I don’t need to sit in anger. I can use it.
We can do more with emotions than just feel them. We can use them….
I am grateful that I recognized the phrases that loop in my mind. Now, I know not to take them seriously.
If you tend to procrastinate, or act in ways that don’t line up with your true desires, likely there is an automatic loop of thought(s) playing in your mind. The next time you set out to do that thing, notice what thoughts come up that deter you from it. Write them down somewhere safe. Notice if they come up again later, maybe in a different situation.
When you start to feel unhappy, especially if just minutes ago you were fine, notice what you are thinking about. Start to pay attention to the thoughts that cross your mind. You may be surprised that what’s keeping you stuck isn’t your actions, but your thoughts.