I had a big AHA moment yesterday. I suffer from worrying about when the next disastrous thing will happen in my life instead of simply enjoying the gloriously disastrous free moments. I had to explore this with my therapist (if you have been following along, I proudly admit to my need of a therapist) yesterday. I realized it is because since I was 10 I have been holding on to disaster after disaster starting with my parents divorce and most recently dealing with the complications in my marriage due to past sexual abuse. There has been an MS diagnosis, 2 boys who rejected my breast milk, infant febrile seizures, a grandmother, cousin and father in law’s deaths among others. Not to mention the community wide disasters of 9/11 and 12/14 (which hit particularly close to home as I grew up dancing in Newtown).

Have I totally depressed you yet? I can tell you I have been depressed by these thoughts. I have harped on these events so long that they attached to the core of my being. Every time something new occurred my thoughts were, “of course this happened”. Don’t get me wrong, I never lost hope. I just came to expect disasters.

How can I change my views? How do I stop expecting disasters? Looking back on my life I can see that surrounding those disasters were hope, love and light. My parents love for us kept them civil if not friendly with each other. The MS diagnosis was a catalyst that changed my boyfriend into my husband. My boys are absolutely, 100% perfectly healthy. As far as death goes, I am developing a healthy relationship with it. I mean, it is a fact of life that will never change. My marriage? Better than ever.

Disasters happen. All. The. Time. They will continue to happen in my life. But, they don’t happen TO me. They happen around me. It is up to me to determine how I want to view them. What I want is to enjoy now. Right now, my life is amazingly, joyfully, wonderful. I am going to relish that, soak it all in and attach it to my core. That way, when the next disaster occurs I will know that beauty is surrounding it. My thoughts will no longer be, “of course”, but “where is the light?”

Please accept this blog as my virtual hug to you.


2 thoughts on “AHA!

  1. Great post with great insights. Here is one more insight: I don’t think many people realize (including therapists) that anyone who watches TV/movies or reads mainstream novels is being conditioned to worry about the next disaster. The nature of much entertainment is to put characters through constant conflict. Solve one crises and there is another to deal with. If a character has a great day, the next day should be ugly. I don’t think we realize that as we sit there absorbing all these stories, we are training ourselves to expect the next disaster, and if one doesn’t come naturally, we may just well create one.

  2. I have a similar habit both looking forward (This is going great, of course something bad will happen any minute…), and backward (That went well, let’s comb through the memory to see where I probably screwed something up, offended someone, etc).
    What I found was that in my case a lot of that is based on how I “feed” myself. I have a couple examples:
    I do improv on stage – it’s been a while, but I want to do it again. Where I have a hard time, though, is that I can be a *really* harsh judge of myself. The joy of doing improv is being completely playful and in the moment and nothing ruins that more easily than thinking “Wow, that was a stupid thing to say.” or “I’d better come up with something clever soon, this scene isn’t really going anywhere.”. And once you end up in that place, it’s really hard to get out because it’s that much easier to do things you don’t like when you’re paying more attention to your inner voice than your scene partner. But what I noticed is this. When watching improv as an audience member I was doing the same thing – judging others’ moves. Know how to fix my own internal judgment? Start focusing on sharing the joy of what the folks on stage are doing more. And that seems to work. (Not really relavent to your specific circumstance except in ilustrating the power of your default thought pattern).

    The other thing I did was somewhat accidental. Now here’s something you might not know about me. I have a pretty cyncial streak. I immigrated to Canada because I’m one of those political progressives who always threatened to move and followed through. And even when I got here I would still follow the news. I’d read all sorts of things that would upset me about US politics and Canadian politics and municipal politics. I’d read about upsetting things about what’s happening to the environemnt and I’d read about the latest hate crime perpetrated. I’d share them with all my friends and we’d all virtually nod to one another and say ‘See? This is what the world is, this is where the world is going.”
    But then I started down a new path. I did a charity bike ride to help the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation and noticed that there I was with about 400 other people and all of them were amazing and wonderful people. And I did it again. And then I started 500 Kindnesses. I think in the beginning I thought its big purpouse was to fill a niche, creating change by getting people to be kind to one another. Maybe it did. But what I know for certain is that the project changed me. Day after day people sent me “pledges” of kind things they were going to do or had done. Over the course of about 18 months close to 1,500 different acts were performed. It is hard to remain cynical when several times a week you hear about a nice thing someone did for someone else. And along with that, I started getting a reputation among my friends. I was the guy who liked to hear about kindness. If there was a good news story about someone being amazing, it got sent to me. If there was a story about one person making a positive difference, it was sent to me. And the messages were balanced out. Sure, I saw lots of stories about oil spills , political machinations, and intolerance, but what was different was that I was now also reading stories like a 10 year old girl setting up a lemonade stand across from the Westboro Baptist Church to raise money for an organization that encourages tolerance and whose biggest project is to provide deworming meds to millions of kids, about people starting restaurants that are “pay what you can” and people giving up their jobs as a chef in a 5 star hotel to start a charity to feed the poor in India.

    Our world view is made up by the stories we tell ourselves. Those stories are based on personal experiences (like yours), by those of our friends, and by what we take in via the media. What kind of story will you tell yourself about the world we live in if all you take in is negativity and despair. Take in enough of that and some might just decide that it’s not worth it. Better to just not try to make the world a better place because it’s an impossible job.

    All of this is not to say that bad things don’t happen, or that we should ignore them because they make us sad. What I’m saying is that we need to give our minds “equal time” to take in good things. Read hopeful stories, watch things that give you hope. Share your own stories of joy. There’s lots of good in the world and loads of disaster-free days ahead, but it’s not easy to see it if we only tell ourselves one side of the story.

    (Oh man – sorry to get all long-winded on you here 🙂 )

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