Your world’s not falling apart..it’s falling into place
The other day I was in a hurry. I was trying to get an errand done and discovered that the credit card I needed to return the item I was trying to return was in my daughter’s wallet. My fault! …Still frustrating because I had a very short window of time to get errands done. As I was venting towards myself “oh I can’t believe I didn’t grab my card!” The lady at the checkout turned to me and tried to reframe the moment by saying, “At least you have a credit card to use, and at least you have a job that pays for a credit card. I would love to have a job like that.” No lie, I know she was trying to help me to have a more gratuitous perspective, but she just pissed me off more. Why? Her intent was good…so why was I irritated with her?
I felt that her Pollyanna attitude towards my moment of frustration unwelcome. True this was a minor first world problem, but it was that last overwhelming straw on a 2000 lb haystack. Now I didn’t go into a melt down…I wasn’t in that bad of a place… I moved on with my day and ran the errand later that evening…but the Pollyanna attitude was on my mind.
You see, there is a time and a place to reframe. It comes after we have acknowledged the negative emotion, not before. We cannot pretend negative feelings away. We live in a society that requires you never to have a negative emotion and if you do have them, you don’t show them, or talk about them…it is not politically correct. You are to never show you feel or even feel frustrated… never complain… never show that you are having a moment.
Susan David, PhD and professor at Harvard, said once that a person approached her and just said they wanted everything to be just right, everything to be calm and peaceful, and stress free. Her response was “Oh, you have dead people goals.” Only dead people live a life of calm, peace-filled, and stress-free life. The rest of us living people get to struggle. Struggles are important. Without struggle there is not success. Without disappointment there is not motivation. Without feeling negative emotions, you cannot feel positive emotions. If you numb out one emotion, you will numb them all out. Without valleys, there are no mountaintops.
As I am processing this, while I am driving down the street, I see a homeless man standing on the corner in 40-degree weather with a leg brace on his left leg. And I am telling you it is still OK and not only OK but necessary for you to recognize that your moment sucks for you. And his moment sucks for him. His moment in life out-sucking yours, doesn’t take away that you are having one of those moments.
I remember years ago when I was not even 18 months out of a divorce and my heart was still broken when 911 happened. One of the teachers that I worked with turned to me and said, “Those are people who deserve to be in grief.” That was one of the most profoundly dumb and hurtful things I have ever heard, yet it taught me this very valuable lesson. Everyone has permission to decide what they are going to grieve, when they are going to grieve, and how long they are going to grieve. The choice to grieve belongs to the person who is grieving. Everyone has the right and the need to be angry, to be sad, to be frustrated, to feel pain, and to have a negative emotion. There are people that will always suffer more than we do- we live in a very entitled society. That does not mean we don’t suffer, or that what we are going through doesn’t hurt us. It means right now we are stuck in the hurt…and when we get through that pain, we will be ready to grow, learn, and be ready to be redirected on our path.
This is not permission to live in the dark valley forever. This is not permission to implode your grief on everyone you see. It just means that there is an important period of time, after a negative event happens, that it is necessary to recognize that the negative event has impacted you, and that it is OK and healthy and necessaryto recognize these emotions. Once experienced and processed, then reframing is essential.
One of my favorite children books is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst. She details the struggles of a young boy reporting on how his day is not going as he intended. On several occasions he shares that he is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Several times he thinks of moving to Australia. I often think a tropical island in the late spring is a perfect escape. At the end of the story, his mom sits down to talk with him. She tells him a very important truth. “Some days are like that, even in Australia”…even in America…even in your home!
Action Step: Feel and experience your emotions fully. Have a bad day, an awful moment, a frustrating minute. Own it, feel it live it, and when you are ready, then let it go!