Thursday, November 17, 2016

Up-Down Days

Life in the Foreign Service requires a lot of patience. Yes, it's true that we get to travel around and see some pretty amazing things (I witnessed four middle-aged men on one motorcycle the other day!) but all of that excitement comes at the cost of giving up control over many aspects of life, for example: where we live, what house (or apartment) we live in, job availabilities, school options, pet options, extra-curricular activities, friends, food, cleaning supplies, transportation, air conditioning, ect. All are significant parts of life we learn to make the best of with what we are given. We are at the liberty of where we are posted. Sometimes this works in our favor, other times it does not.

All of this being the case, I recently found myself in a cycle of not expecting things to go my way. To do so seemed to lead to inevitable disappointment, and so I trained myself to be patient and wait and see what happened before I got my hopes up.

This may sound like a good thing, and in some ways I guess it is (Patience is important, right?) but it actually turned into a bad thing for me because I found myself having a hard time making decisions about anything and even expecting things NOT to work out.
I had become a negative person by default, not meaning to expect the worst, but doing so anyway.

We received some exciting news a few weeks ago. We found out we are heading to Brussels, Belgium for our next post. It's the kind of news that should have thrilled me, and it did ... really. Unfortunately, because I had become used to raising the "don't get your hopes up barrier", I found myself having a hard time accepting it and allowing myself to be really happy with the incredible news. I knew how I was supposed to feel, but I was waiting for the ball to drop, so to speak. It was frustrating and left me feeling sad and edgy instead. (Emotions that were making more frequent appearances in my day-to-day life.)

So, I did some research about depression and anxiety and learned that both are greatly influenced by the habit of negative thinking. The sources I read said that negative thoughts are a choice (whether we realize it or not) and can become habitual. To retrain your brain takes practice. Instead of thinking everything is terrible when one thing goes wrong, you need to take a step back and see the trial for the individual incident it is. It's important not to let all the little bad things add up to make everything seem bad.

Last year I wrote a story for my daughter about this very same topic. "Up-Down Days". It's funny because at the time, I didn't think the topic applied to me. Ellie would come home from school completely undone over simple, little things. If anything went wrong, in her seven-year-old mind everything was wrong. The story talks about how everyone has high and low points in their days and we need to remember that just because something is going bad now, doesn't mean it will forever. Here's just a little piece of the story:

"Most days in your life will sink low and fly high,
They’ll be UP-DOWN days, like a carnival ride!

You might start on top in your favorite blue shirt,
Then someone makes fun, and your feelings get hurt.
You’ll stay at the bottom for just a short while, 
‘Til a friend shares a cookie, and brings back your smile.

Your UP-DOWN day will feel happy and sad,
Exciting and scary, and silly and mad.
Then happy again, cause that feeling’s the best.

Being happy feels lighter than all of the rest.

Each morning is special, so jump up and see,
What kind of a day your new morning will be!
Will you play with a puppy or visit the zoo?
Will you have a sore belly or maybe the flu?

You don’t know just yet, what kind it will be,
So get out and play, run around, climb a tree!
Just try to remember, when something goes wrong,
You might be sad now, but you won’t be for long."

I am happy to report that for the past month I have been making a concerted effort to stop my negative thinking and allow space for little things to go wrong without letting it take over my entire day. It has made a huge difference in my life and in my attitude. It is also helping me have more patience with others, including family. I still don't have a lot of control over some aspects of my life, but I am learning to make the best out of what is right in front of me, and allow myself to be really happy about it.

Oh, and btw, I am so, so, so excited for our next adventure! Belgium is going to be amazing.
I feel pretty blessed. Hope everyone out there can have a happy day too!

1 comment:

malinda said...

Love this Becki! You need to illustrate and publish UP-DOWN DAYS. Serious. I'd love to read it to my kids- and myself on those days.