Have you ever had one of those days where you are going along, the sun is shining, a blue bird is sitting on your shoulder, there is happy music following you, and all feels right with the world?
Ok, me neither, but I have definitely had days that have been metaphorically like that. Today was one of them. There wasn’t anything particularly special that happened, but I was definitely in a place of gratitude. I got an encouraging and very heartfelt note from a friend. I felt incredibly thankful that it feels like I am aligning my life with my life’s purpose, that I have so many incredible people surrounding me, that I have developed such a supportive network that helps keep me moving forward. I felt thankful for the weather, for my life, for the universe… just in general it was a very loving gratefulness kind of day.
Then I got some news that wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I had been hoping for something different. Final prognosis – I’m officially out of treatment options for a foot injury I’ve been trying to heal for years, unless I’m ready to have a surgery that doesn’t have great outcomes. Crap.
After I was done badgering my poor doctor with questions about wasn’t there ANY other options (for the third time), and whining to my mother, I had choices to make. What kind of day was I going to have. Was I going to let my frustration drive me to throw my “no sugar” goal out the window? Was I going to engage in activities that would feed the part of me that wanted to throw a temper tantrum, or the part of me that I have been working to feed that recognizes emotions come and go, and don’t have to upset the still lake they are floating over?
I decided to choose the second, and then actually did. This is a big deal for me. Injuries that impact my ability to move are a huge trigger for many of my deranged inner dialogues around worth, normativity, and a host of other things. Historically they spin me out for a while, and this foot injury has been a source of unending lessons about myself, how I think, and how I have related to the world over the last couple of years. I’ve let it drive me into depression, and a host of other barriers, but today, I could see clearly enough to make the choice not to compound things. Sure, I could binge eat, watch TV and feel sorry for myself, but where would that get me? What if, instead, I remember that lovely sunny feeling of loving kindness from earlier in the day and choose activities that feed that? What if I focus on one of my main mantras to always seek the sun through the clouds? It doesn’t change the current situation, but it doesn’t compound it either. I can step aside, and witness, and learn, without the turmoil. I can step back and look at the situation more holistically. It isn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but it also isn’t the end of the world, or anywhere near it.
Am I still sad and frustrated? Sure. But I’m also grateful for the lessons I have learned, and for the opportunity to see how much my thinking really has changed. In the past it would have taken me days, weeks, or months of sitting and churning to get to the place I got in 20 minutes today. To decide I was going to honor and observe my emotions, but choose my actions based on the outcomes I want to achieve.
I like the visual that Thich Nhat Hanh paints when he says, “Emotions are like clouds in a windy sky,” or Pema Chodron when she says, “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” I have a long way to go to truly embody the peacefulness of the sky – especially as I picture it meaning the entirety of the Universe – but I’m taking heart that in this instance I have taken a clear step in that direction.