First Day of Spring, 2018
Really? A foot of snow in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in late March? Last year this time I was mowing my lawn. Now I'm shoveling it!
Sitting in front of the computer in my home office yesterday, I was watching the snow come down and waiting for the power to go off. But as I felt my anxiety rising, instead of focusing on the weather outside my office window, I started reflecting on the weather we take with us and how it can darken our moods and drain our resilience. And this was surely happening to me.
What we think has a big impact on what we feel and what we do. Just as we teach participants in our workshops to do, I tuned into my own thinking, and here's what I heard: "This isn't good. My white pines are already sagging under the weight of all this wet snow, and it's going to be snowing at least for another 6 or 7 hours. And the ground is still soft from the last two storms. If that big tree comes down, it's going to take out the power lines and probably a corner of the house. Not only will the power be out - probably for days - but our insurance won't cover all the repair costs. This isn't good." There I went again. Projecting into the future and overestimating the probability of bad things happening. I could feel my anxiety increasing and my resilience dropping.
At the same time, my wife, with whom I share a home office, was going in a very different direction. She said out loud, "This winter is never going to be over. I had to cancel a big client meeting. My customer is always so busy, I don't know how we're ever going to be able to reschedule. And she's so demanding. I'm not very good at dealing with aggressive people. Maybe I should just find another way to make a living." There she went again. Heaping blame on herself and not seeing a way around what looked like a huge problem. And feeling really low as a consequence.
Even though our thinking had gone in very different directions, there was a common thread - a sense of permanence. We were both seeing the snowstorm as being around for a long time and affecting everything we do. So, even though the weather was bad, the weather we brought with us was far worse. We had both seen permanence where it didn't exist. We'd forgotten what we knew about most of the challenges we face every day. They're temporary!
As I write this post, the sun is streaming in the window, and the late March sun has already melted the snow off the trees. The power stayed on, and we didn't lose a single branch. My wife is out meeting with her client, less than 24 hours later.
So, when you're facing adversity of any kind, try closing your eyes, and saying out loud, "It's only temporary!" Most of the time, you will be right, and you will feel better about it.
And I know that real Spring weather is just around the corner...