When Plans Change UnexpectedlySep 20, 2019
Yesterday I was excited about all the things I was going to get done. I had a lot of plans and commitments scheduled for work. So, I woke up early ready for a super productive day.
I made Jack’s lunch and snacks. I packed a change of clothes and put together his nap stuff. Then, Eric drove Jack to preschool and I headed into my home office to begin my super productive day. I felt energized. I had a smile on my face. My mind was one-pointed - on work.
Then, 15 minutes later I heard Jack’s voice. He was supposed to be at school. Why was he was coming in through the back door? What was happening? Why was he home? Eric came in shortly after saying, “It’s Memorial day and school is closed”.
What?! I knew it was memorial day but Jack’s preschool is always open. I didn’t see any signs posted last week about it. There were no comments from anyone at school about a closure. My school calendar didn't show it closed.
I was stunned. I was totally ready to work. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love Jack and want to spend time with him. It’s that my mind was totally set on other things.
This could have created tons of anxiety, stress and fear inside of me. And to be totally honest, for a minute - it did!
In the past my reaction would have been resistance. I would have been frustrated which would have led to blame, then lots of anxiety. I’d be mad at the school for not making it clear they were closed. How dare they ruin my day? Most of my energy would’ve been directed at blaming other people for why my day was not going as I planned.
I wouldn't even known how to take personal responsibility for what I thought or how I felt. Because my mind and emotions would have been running me!
But yesterday I was able to do something totally different.
Because for years I have trained my mind, emotions (body) to respond differently to stressors. I promise you I don’t do it perfectly, but I do it much better than ever before.
Before I tell you how I responded, let me be totally transparent. This new response has taken practice. But I promise this is doable. We can change.
Two guiding beliefs I live by and practice every single that have changed my life:
I do whatever it takes to be happy and experience joy - every single day, no matter what. And I mean, no matter what. Because if I am not happy and if I don’t know real deep joy, life only gets harder for me. Nothing in my life - from getting my coffee order wrong to the recent loss of my dad - gets easier when I blame and live in victimhood.
I connect with who I truly am. There is a part of me (of all of us) which is deeper than all of my habitual responses to life. I tend to call this my inner guidance system. It might be called seer, knower, spirit, intuition, etc. This part of me is not staring at my problems with me. Its always holding the center of peace, calm and wisdom. I touch this place by sitting quietly every single day, no matter what.
This is a quote I really love,
“You can’t control the wind, but you can always adjust the sails”.
Yesterday i was able to adjust the sails and go with the wind. Life changed suddenly and not as I planned. I could have resisted and fought with the “wind” all day long. But instead here is what I did. Here are the choices I made.
I took a few deep breaths
I know we hear “breathe” all the time. But it’s so important. When I took those breaths something amazing in my body happened. I’ve come to rely on it. I gained control. Deep breathing during times where we might have a habitual reaction can bring our mind and emotions back under our care. The fight or flight response shuts down our ability to reason and choose. But when we breathe deeply and calmly we stimulate the other part of our autonomic nervous system which counters the fight or flight. This part, known as the parasympathetic, allows us to respond using our prefrontal cortex which is necessary for decision making and reasoning.
I accepted the situation
Suffering happens in the mind. The thing happened. Jack was home. I couldn’t control or change that part of the situation. So the only place (which is the most powerful) was in my own reaction; my mind and my emotions. So, I accepted the situation with a smile on my face. How we accept matters! Smiling doesn't mean I like it necessarily, it means I am consciously choosing to manage my own energy and experience.
I let go of resistance
We resist because we want control. I want control. Control feels safe and secure. Wanting control is a natural part of our evolution and our survival instinct. So letting go of resistance isn’t about losing control, its about disengaging from what we can’t control so we can link with what we do have dominion over. So I let go of resisting the situation. I allowed it to be.
I made a new plan
Fear, frustration, blame and anxiety are strategies we use to cope. But they don’t work for our long term happiness and wellbeing. For years, anxiety and blame ruled my life. They were my go-to coping mechanisms. But today I can let go of residence, and blame. Letting go of what is and what we can’t change, actually frees us up for more. I made a plan for a new day. This gave me a sense of control and safety. We need that.
So what did we do? We went to Lowe’s, cleaned and organized the garage and ended the day at the park. All in all it was a GREAT day spent with people I love.
I could’ve been frustrated and bitter through it all. I could have missed out on what IS for what I thought SHOULD have been.
Instead, I took control of my attitude and response and LIVED.
What a gift to live in a universe that gives us free will to choose how we experience anything. Happiness is a practice. Peace of mind is a state of being, not something that we need to allow circumstances to control or decide for us.
Try this out next time you notice yourself reacting instead of responding:
Let Go of Resistance
Make a New Plan