I can be so patient, for so long and then BOOM. I explode. Turns out, it’s not because I’m Irish. It’s because of the stories.
For every action and interaction, there is a story that goes on behind the scenes. You’re writing a blog post and your kiddo interrupts you. You stay patient. Your laptop accidentally deletes 3 paragraphs of your post. You manage to stay patient. The dog needs to go out. You patiently get up and let him out. The phone rings. You patiently answer it. You’re so close to the end. Just a quick read through and an image away from hitting publish and your kiddo needs a snack.
As soon as it’s over, you’re swept with guilt and can’t believe yourself. How could you explode over your poor kiddo simply needing a snack. What kind of Mother gets mad because her kiddo needs a snack. You must be the worst mom in the whole world. No other Mother would do such a thing.
You continue to beat yourself about the head and shoulders for being the worst mom ever. Which puts you in a place where it’s hard to finish that last re-read and finish your blog post image, suddenly words and ideas that were coming easily, won’t come at all. Picmonkey is glitching, and you can’t find the font you want to use. You get to the point where you think you might have to abandon all hope and use Canva. (sigh). Every little thing your kiddo does irritates you a little more, even her laughter is annoying. All you can think of is how many hours before you can put the kiddo to bed and have a glass of wine.
You wake up the next day resolved to have a different day. You vow to do better, to be more loving, to be more patient. Only to watch the same scenario plays itself out, time and time again.
Before you give up on yourself, let’s walk through the original scenario, and see what’s really going on, and see how we can stop the whole thing before it blows up in our faces.
The kiddo interrupts your work.
Now it might not seem like a huge thing, you are probably able to go right back to work, maybe you’re a little ruffled but here’s the truth.
There’s a story going on about the interruption.
It’s playing behind the scenes, and it’s ignition source for the explosion.
Your story might look something like this… Why does she have to keep interrupting me? Can’t she see I’m busy? Every time she interrupts me I lose my train of thought. When I lose my train of thought it takes me forever to get it back. I’m not going to get this post published, which means I won’t have time to promote it, which means I won’t get enough traffic, which means I’m not going to make any sales, which means I’m not going to make any money, which means I won’t be able to pay for riding lessons, which means she won’t be able to ride, which means I’m the worst mom ever.
(or something like that.)
So back to work you go… and then your paragraphs get deleted. And you hold it together… but there’s a story going on underneath.
OMG this F’ing laptop. Why does it always go crazy and delete my shit? I hate this thing. Why can’t I get a better laptop, my husband just got a new laptop! Why can’t I? I work on mine all.day.long, and he only uses his to watch videos on YouTube! argh. OMG I’m such a bad wife, he works so hard, he should be able to have nice things, and relax when he gets home.
So back to work you go… now you’ve got I’m a terrible mom, a terrible blogger, and a terrible wife running through your head. Then the damn dog.
OMG you JUST went out 15 minutes ago! You’re not even my dog, why do you have to go out every 5 minutes. Why must you insist on interrupting me all.the.time! Can’t you just go lay down and go to sleep? OMG you didn’t even pee. You’re just trying to annoy me! UGH. I’m an awful dog owner. Poor thing can’t even see or hear. I should be more patient, I’m so awful for not being able to be patient with this old dog who’s been part of our family for 15 years.
And then the phone. Can’t people just leave me alone? Don’t they know I’m busy and trying to get the post OUT! OMG it wasn’t even a real person. Who the hell things automated dialers are actually going to get a good response. ARGH!!
And finally, the last straw… the kiddo needs a snack.
At this point you’ve piled so many stories on top of one another, you’ve convinced yourself you’re a terrible, mom, wife, blogger and dog owner, and the automated dialers of the world are out to thwart you … it’s boiling up under the surface, and all you really want is to get this damn post done!
So what do you do?
You start asking yourself a simple question… a LOT.
When you get interrupted… take a second and ask yourself… How am I?
Frustrated! ok… how am I about being frustrated?
We’re not trying to fix anything with this question. We’re just trying to be aware. When you create awareness you allow space for different alternatives. You open up space for different solutions. You open up space for things to not fester, and boil.
When the computer acts wacko… how am I?
When the dog needs to go out… how am I?
When you feel a twinge of irritation… how am I?
When you feel a little bit sad… how am I?
When you feel super happy… how am I?
When you feel grateful… how am I?
The more we begin to notice how we are, and become aware of the stories going on underneath, the less power they have over us. When the stories are brought into the light of day they can no longer fester and boil in the dark. It is the pushing it down, ignoring, covering over, that causes us to explode. There is only so much we can keep inside us… only so much space. When we ask how am I we create a relief valve, a way for us to continually expel that which could otherwise create an explosion.
It becomes a practice. How am I? Then listen, without judgment, and ask again. How am I? Don’t try to fix it, just listen to yourself. Then give yourself some kindness. If you don’t know how to give yourself kindness… it’s ok. Try this. Put one hand on your heart, and the other on your cheek. Then say to yourself… “I allow myself not to be perfect.” “I allow myself to make mistakes”. “I am a good and worthy person”. You’ll know the right one… use one or use them all… make up your own. You know what your heart needs. Go ahead, it’s safe to give your heart that gift.
We will not be perfect from the start… and that’s ok. It’s to be expected. We just keep coming back to the practice.
For more on using How Am I as a daily practice, I offer you this Zencast by Gil Fronsdal.