I often listen to podcasts while walking Marley early in the morning. Sometimes that podcast is Julie’s Library, Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton-Hamilton reading children’s books together. Even though I am well over the proverbial hill, Julie’s calming, familiar voice and positive message always lift me up when I am struggling. I suppose it takes me back to my childhood when things were so much simpler. Julie was a comfort to me then, too. Today’s message was about facing our fears, and one of the stories touched me so that tears ran down my face as I walked around Glen Iris Circle. This has been a crazy semester- honestly, a crazy seven months. Everyone is on edge and the least little thing is too easily blown out of proportion. I am feeling the stress of it all and I see my students and colleagues struggling with it, too.
None of us is perfect and we all have different coping mechanisms. As for me, I am doing my best not to see every glitch as an emergency, something that has taken a lot of work. Things go wrong, people make mistakes. I am trying my best to take a step back and look for solutions before allowing anger or frustration to take the wheel. Life is just too short to spend it filled with angst. I struggled with that enough already before a pandemic was added to the equation.
This is a difficult time for all of us. Everyone is trying their best in this minefield of chaos, and I’m hoping that the more understanding and patience we can hold onto, the more we can de-escalate the simmering turmoil around us. I have had some great talks with my therapist about this, working on ways to protect myself from the stress of other people’s emotions, as well as how to think through situations before reacting. As a huge empath, I soak up the negativity of those around me and it makes me feel awful. I have learned that reacting out of a place of anger, fear, or frustration, always leads to a negative outcome and gets in the way of productive dialogue, while thinking through options and letting things settle a bit usually paves the way for things to work out in a more positive manner.
Conflict (or the avoidance of conflict) has always been difficult for me. It kept me in a marriage for several years longer than I should have stayed and continues to provide life lessons. I have to remind myself that I have rights; I don’t have to absorb the emotions of others, I don’t have to feel the same urgency they do about situations. I can take a step back and access before reacting. In no way does it mean I’m always right or that I’m some great guru of mindfulness (so very far from the truth), it just means that I have given myself permission to not allow every issue to escalate unnecessarily.
In all of this, I am grateful for my peaceful home. Dan helps to ground me, always being a dependable and stabilizing sounding board. He has ten years on me and has seen so many life situations play out in his sixty-seven years. He is retired now and has devoted himself to supporting my career and to the running of our home. I really don’t know how I would survive without his dependable, even keel.
As Julie Andrews reminded me in the podcast, my lesson is to breathe when I feel the fear and anxiety taking over. She shared that when it happens to her, she remembers why she is doing what she’s doing and how much she loves it, and then the good feelings begin to outweigh the bad. A simple, but beautiful, idea. We can’t control other’s actions, but our super power is in learning to control how we respond. I am a work in progress; I’ll keep trying to remember her wise words.