We’re talking disasters this week, and I’ll tell you what would be a disaster. Me. Today. In a mall. The last time I attempted a shopping spree the day after Thanksgiving — years ago, when Black Friday was mild compared to what it is today — I ended up elbowing a women in the face to get at the last cashmere sweater. Did I break her nose? Doubtful, but, man, was it bloody. The craziest part of it was that the women barely blinked. She tilted her head back, covered her nose with her scarf, and grabbed the cashmere sweater right out from under me because, stupidly, I’d stopped to apologize profusely.
I kid you not.
I bloodied a woman and I was chump enough to lose the sweater. I spent hours obsessing over this disaster, when, in reality, the sweater stealer didn’t care and the sweater was a horrible color anyhow. Let’s face it, most of our so-called disasters are our reactions to events rather than the events themselves. (OK, burning down your house, that’s a disaster … but I’m only talking about perceived disasters.)
In writing and in life, we often get caught up in our crazy head crap. We get down and anxious, stressing over things we can’t control, or we flog ourselves over little slip-ups and imperfections. We can end up feeling like our whole lives are Black Friday disasters, when really we’ve only accidentally elbowed a goldarned sweater stealer in the nose.
So how to deal with difficult moments that feel like disasters? Here’s what helps me:
1. Get out of your head and into your senses. Take a breath and notice what’s around you. The way the windshield wipers swipe away raindrops. The scent of bar-b-cue wafting out of the restaurant you just walked past. Here’s where you practice thankfulness. For the raindrops. For the scent of bar-b-cue. You’ll be amazed at how being in the moment can provide a much-needed reality check.
2. Ask yourself: Will this matter five years from now? Of course not. You farted during downward facing dog in yoga class and it smelled and everyone knew it was you and now your so mortified you never want to show your face again? Disaster! No … five years from now you’ll have forgotten about it — or at least it will have become a hilarious anecdote.
3. Remind yourself of the old proverb: This too shall pass. Right now isn’t forever. Everything is temporary and this is actually a blessing in disguise.
4. Smile. Did you know that smiling even when you don’t feel like it has a positive neurological effect? True. It works for me coupled with #1. I suggest performing this one at home so you don’t come off as a crazy person. Wait, forget I wrote that, because five years from now (#2) will it matter that a stranger saw you smiling at nothing and thought you were off your meds? Nope.
5. Eat chocolate. Wait, did I just write that? Hmm … It stays. Chocolate helps. Chocolate always helps.
Remember, however abnormal you feel in your head-crap moments, you’re not. When I compare notes with my friends, I realize just how normal I am. At times, everyone feels like they’re walking disasters. It’s so normal, it’s not worth stressing over.
And in our writing lives? Your story isn’t a disaster, it’s a work in progress just like you are.
How do you cope when you’ve got the head-crap spins going?