Today I am casting out a small raft of hope in the sea of resolutions, words of intention, cleanses, and tidying interventions. Not your typical, “Ten easy ways to be happier” kind of essays, more of a “This kind of surprised me, thought I’d share.”
The other day I was having a teeth-clenching kind of day on both a personal and professional level. As I started my car to go from a meeting in one town to a meeting in another I looked at the rearview mirror and said to myself, “You have to stop.”
A recurring theme for me is delaying using the bathroom. It’s wrapped up in my belief that I can multitask. I wedge two more to-dos, dashing off an email and taking a phone call, in front of hitting the restroom. Then I try to stack papers and have a conversation, again, before walking the 40 steps to the bathroom. By the time I look up, it’s time to leave for a meeting for which I’m already tardy.
I pointed myself in the direction of Starbucks and let out a huge sigh. My shoulders dropped, my jaw unclenched. What was happening? I still had to go to the bathroom. My car climbed a hill and I found myself looking down on the valley. I was calm because I had paused. I’d given myself permission to prioritize myself along with my other to-dos.
The Starbucks visit was fairly uneventful, I used the restroom without having to wait, got my drink, and was on my way in less than 5 minutes. I made it to my next meeting feeling on top of the world. The next day I had an eye appointment. My left contact was giving me grief and I told the eye doctor as much.
“It’s on inside out,” he said.
“Really? ” I asked a little bit embarrassed.
The woman who helped me with my contact lens order said, “So it was on inside out, huh?”
I began to explain that it wasn’t surprising because I go through my days with at least some sort of low-level discomfort—bladder, eye, back soreness from too many kids and cats in the bed, hunger because I didn’t leave enough time to eat.
“I mean, it’s just that I am used to being uncomfortable,” I trailed off as I said it.
What am I doing? Of course, there is time to use a bathroom. Obviously, if a contact feels wrong I should stop to sort out why
Unsurprisingly, it felt great to have the contact right side out.
These two experiences got me thinking about how many seemingly insignificant things happen in a day that burden me, diminish my sense of worth, or just plain slow me down. I’ve begun to make minor adjustments to see if the return is greater than if I hadn’t done them.
A few things I’m doing to eke out, if not outright joy, sweet relief.
I pull my car into the garage and wait 15 seconds before launching myself into the next thing. Think about it, fifteen seconds. It’s infinitesimal when held up against the 14-18 waking hours spent doing. Fifteen seconds can be a mind clearer, an itty-bitty palate cleanser.
I’ve set a bottle of lotion just outside the shower. I shut the water off and do a quick dry in the shower. Then I step out and apply lotion to my legs. This one takes closer to a minute, but I have never taken the time before. Some mornings I even close the bathroom door. The payoff to this one is that I don’t dread getting dressed and I don’t feel us hurried. I think it’s because I have taken the time to do something tender for myself.
When I can’t concentrate I say, “I’m sorry, I was somewhere else. Can you start again?” Usually, I would just fight the eye-glaze and pretend that I heard it all. Nope, now I am able to reset or, even more daring, say, “Can we talk about this another time?” We are not receptacles to take in everything at any given moment. Asserting control over what I take in has calmed me down internally a lot.
I am making it and breaking it on my terms. Some days I don’t feel safe meeting the gaze of men on the street, so I don’t. Listening to the girls, when I look at them they sit taller. At night, on the couch, I smile at Sean. He looks back, tilting his head to one side, “What?” he drawls with a widening smile. I smile back, maybe flutter my eyes a bit. It’s flirting, I guess. It feels good.
This is a big one and can be hard, but if anything from this post sticks for people I hope it’s this one. I can get caught up in an either/or and yes/no approach to everything. Taking time to think about why I am doing something or why someone is asking me to do something makes my decision more significant. Maybe we don’t mean yes.
Do I have the time? Sure.
Do they (work, strangers, kids, friends, distractions) deserve that time? Not so sure.
This is our time and as much as it feels like things are out of control and predetermined, we have power. Tiny openings each day to carve out a greater sense of well-being and hope.