Sometimes life just feels heavy. Every obstacle in front of me feels monumental, and not only that, but it feels like I have to overcome them all with a fifty pound weight on my back. It’s times like these that I get irritated. And not just irritated, but crazy stupid irritated. It’s not that I run around like a terror screaming at any poor sap that comes into my sight. No, I just act like everything anyone needs of me is horribly inconvenient. Because it feels that way. Acutely.
I was having one of those evenings tonight. I was chugging along wondering how I could possibly make it through the evening when it hit me that my blessings are what frustrate and irritate me the most. My children get to be overwhelming at times. I hate lugging things to and from the car. I can’t keep my house clean enough. My husband gets on my nerves. The dog chases the cat. I can’t find my book, my phone, my keys, my brain. It is my blessings that cause me the most irritation.
But the problem obviously isn’t my blessings. Rather, it’s how I look at them. When I get irritated, I look at the negative. My brain is almost trained to find only the negative or challenging in any situation. It goes on autopilot and heads straight towards self pity. But what if I trained my mind to look at the other side?
I’m not one for forced positive thinking. It always feels fake and Pollyannaish. It leads me to vapid feelings of brief but insubstantial joy. It feels empty. But today I realized that it’s not positive thinking I need – it’s appreciative thinking. I need to focus my mind on gratitude.
And when I do that, worlds open. Everything looks brighter. And it doesn’t feel fake or empty. It feels like for once I am focusing on just about the only thing that is real and substantial and worthwhile.
Once upon a time, someone suggested I try keeping a gratitude journal. It’s an excellent idea that didn’t work too well for me. I didn’t like being forced to be grateful at set moments during the day. Instead, whenever I would find myself getting frustrated, I would just stop myself and look to see what I was grateful for. And it probably made the biggest difference in my life of any cognitive shift I have ever had.
Of course I lost it and forgot it. But that’s what life is about – falling, picking ourselves up, learning from it, and doing better next time.
So next time I’m in the Best Buy parking lot with an irritated husband, a toddler who won’t stop running in traffic, and an infant who is screaming for bed, instead of being hassled and frustrated, I will look with humor and gratitude at the situation. This is my family. These are my times. These are my gifts. This is my circus. And I can appreciate it or I can overlook it, but surely my mood will follow my choice.
Woman carrying the world photo available from Shutterstock