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Embrace and rephrase
Q: How do you bring calm to the chaos in your head?
Three weeks ago I was starting to feel agitated. It was at the midpoint of my three month break from work and I was starting to feel the pressure to make the time count. So much so that I began to doubt all the good stuff - long hikes, reconnecting with a few friends, investing in my family - things that I had done in the first month, questioning if any of it had been useful.
When I first took the time off, a close friend had said "Three months is not that long, be careful about your high expectations. Just focus on doing well each day." But when you take a long pause from work after fifteen years, you think you’ll be able to climb mountains with that time even if you’ve just started crawling. So I found my inner critic having a field day with the choices I was making. I had taken the time off to relax but instead I was getting anxious about not doing enough. It was time to figure out how to quieten my mind.
I decided to go away for a personal retreat for a few days, something I’ve done on and off for the past few years. I picked a place in nature, surrounded by the sound of water flowing, without wifi or cell phone reception.
On the drive there, a word popped into my head - Surrender. I needed to let go of what should and could have been and accept what was. It was the perfect start to my personal reflection time. Spending time in the hot sulfur springs by myself I was able to really be in my body, unwind and feel more centered.
All of a sudden time slows down
I close my eyes and I listen
to the sounds of life as they could be and already are
Silence, broken by a bird flapping in a tree nearby,
another one in the distance calling out incessantly,
sounding as though my thoughts were being spoken out loud
But my thoughts have a different pace here
They flow more smoothly
How is it that the slowing of time can have such a profound shift?
I had brought all my journals from the last ten years on the trip with me. I opened one and found a quote I had written down in April of 2016
"There are some needs that are unchanging and necessary in all seasons of our lives - silence, solitude and simplicity"
This is as true for me today as it was back in 2016. It’s silence and solitude that help me get centered within myself. These are essential so that I can surrender to all the little and big things in life that don’t go my way.
We landed in Bombay, India four days ago. Writing about surrendering has served as a reminder to do exactly that during our visit. The only way to survive while living under my parents’ roof, in an always-on, always-loud, forever hot and crowded city that I love so deeply is to abandon control, take a deep breath and embrace it all with a smile.
8:15am and we are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the 101. We are on our way to the airport to catch our flight for a spring break trip with the kids. A notification pops up on my phone - your flight has been delayed to 12:50pm. Hmm why did we leave so early, worried about the rush hour traffic? What are we going to do at the airport trying to kill two extra hours with kids that get antsy any time they have to sit still? By the time we get to the hotel it will be at least 8pm - the entire first day of vacation wasted.
These thoughts start to rush through my head. And I am reminded how quickly I fall into this trap. I have been training myself to not get caught up in this swirl when things are not in my control. So instead I take a breath and start to rephrase. “Now we can grab breakfast peacefully with the kids and make sure they are fed before the flight.” Our traveling companion remarks - “I have always wanted to check out this cool store at the airport but have never had the time. Let me take the kids there.”
Ten hours after leaving the house we finally land in Mexico City and find ourselves in a packed immigration line. Snaking around eight times, with no ventilation and cranky kids who just want to reach our destination, I can feel everyone’s patience wearing thin. And once again I pause and tell myself - we are here, finally on vacation. The culinary experiences in Mexico City had drawn us back to the city and I remember there being a wealth of late night dining spots in the city. “Hey kids, when have you gone out to dinner at 10pm?” I start my research standing in line. After checking in, I managed to score a table at one of the hippest restaurants in the buzzing neighborhood of Roma. The only reason we get a table here on a busy Friday night - because we are so late.
Accept and rephrase. Embrace the little inconveniences that are not in your control. Be curious about what might happen if you stop getting annoyed. Trust and go with the flow is my mantra these days.
“Something’s wrong,” controls our lives
and self-fulfills its own perverted views.
It worries and blames and does not change a thing.
It only saps our mental power
and drains our life force dry.
Then I flip a switch within my being
and tune instead to “Something’s right.”
and a new experience of life arises.
- Something Wrong Mind by William Martin