The Better Me Project—Day 9
How many times have we been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, slamming our hands on the steering wheel because we’re late for where we need to be? How many times, in the same situation, have we cursed up and down because we should have left earlier, took a different route, drove faster, etc., etc.? I used to do that, too. And then, I had an epiphany.
One day awhile back, I was on the Parkway (when I used to work up north) and I was moving along at my usual morning pace, despite the fact that the morning had been a complete mess—I snoozed my alarm one too many times, my blow dryer broke, there was a line at Dunkin’ Donuts. Inside I felt I should be driving faster because I was going to be late. About halfway there, the traffic started to slow—as I crept closer to my exit, I realized that the reason was because there was an accident up ahead. When I got closer, I realized it was a horrific accident and it involved a car that I would normally see on a daily basis during my commute (it was a lime green Mustang and I wondered all the time if it was the lime green Mustang I had sold a few years before).
The lime green Mustang was unrecognizable—an accordion. The driver of the car was laid out on the grass outside the car, off to the side. As I passed, I realized that she had been killed in this accident and my heart dropped into my knees.
I saw that driver nearly every single day around that exit. The idea that it could have so easily been me in the accident haunted me. Sure, that day I was a few minutes late for work, but that was a small price to pay for arriving alive. I felt terrible about that woman’s fate, but at the same time, incredibly relieved that it hadn’t been me. My knees were actually shaking from relief. How could I possibly complain about being late? Late was nothing compared to never making it to work at all.
Ever since then, I’ve played a game with myself when things don’t go my way. I try to imagine how much worse they could have been. Every time I’m stuck in traffic I’m thankful that I’m not the one holding up the traffic because I was in an accident or my car is on fire. When I sneeze and pee my pants as I’m about to walk out the door, I’m glad that it didn’t happen ten minutes later at work. When I drop a twenty outside the house and I discover it’s missing later, I consider that it could have been my whole wallet…you get the picture. Lately, however, I’m thinking that’s still kind of negative and it doesn’t really make me feel that much better because most of the time, I still end up obsessing over what I lost or how my day was still ruined.
So, I decided to change the game to “What’s the silver lining here?” Instead of complaining about the craptastic situation that I find myself in, I have started to contemplate what positive outcome did this situation bring me, what can I be thankful for? This brings more positivity to my life. After all, nobody wants to hear me drone on about how I can’t seem to get it together and how crap things always happen. In fact, I’m convinced that the more I complain about the state of things, the more likely that negative events keep on happening. Thus, finding the positive in the situation might lead to more positive things happening. Okay, it’s just a theory, but it may be right. In fact, many articles (on HuffPost, in Redbook, for example) claim that curbing your complaints may actually make you happier. So my idea is, not only am I stopping my complaints, I’m adding a bonus “What’s good about this situation that I normally would complain about?”. It’s positive and more positive. The Universe is gonna love me.
Yet, a lot of times it’s very difficult to find the immediate good with individual situations, so often I find myself considering the silver lining at the end of the day when I’m lying in bed. In a way, it’s kind of like a gratitude journal, except I don’t write it down and it’s not necessarily anything that I’m grateful for. Okay, so maybe it’s nothing like a gratitude journal. It’s just me saying, “I’m so glad I got strep throat and had to stay home from work because I got to see a show that I’ve been meaning to find time to watch” or “I’m glad my car broke down because my air fryer came two days early and I was home to sign for it” or “I’m so glad my son called me to pick him up from work but still wasn’t done so I got to catch up on my reading in the parking lot while I waited” or “I’m so glad we ran out of milk before I got to have my cereal because I’ve been meaning to cut down on my carbs and have eggs for breakfast instead”. (I realize this sounds mildly passive-aggressive and sarcastic, but I assure you, it’s not meant to be that way…)
This is stuff I normally wouldn’t be grateful for, but damn it, I’m putting a positive spin on things from this point forward. I will try my hardest not to complain about whatever fate befalls me*. Instead, I am trying to find something good about almost every negative experience, and believe me, the negative has been knocking on my door lately. (What’s up with that, Universe????) The Universe may want to challenge me, but I’m up for the challenge. Good days come with good attitudes. I’m going to be turning negatives into positives like a modern day Mary Poppins. You may think I’m nuts at this point in time, but I’m really starting to learn that attitude is everything. Bring me a spoon full of that sugar and pour it on me.
*By the way, there are actually “No complaint” Challenges circulating around. Some are 21-days, some are shorter like 1 week. Try it! I bet it’ll astonish you how much we actually complain on a daily basis.