For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Shastina challenged me with “What am I supposed to do?“ and I challenged Sarah Sparks with “What is the farthest you’ve ever travelled from home? Please describe where, why, when. And I’d love to hear about something you ate, if you are so inclined.”
To be perfectly honest, 2011 won’t go down as my most favourite of years — but it certainly has been memorable. It’s been a year of immense personal growth, as well as a lesson in self-restraint, so I find it curious that I should be randomly paired with the above question as the title for my next post.
From making the decision to leave New York, to figuring out the logistics of a cross-country move; from conquering old fears, to trying new things; from giving friends advice, to receiving it; and all of Life’s other ponderings and decisions in between, this is the question I have asked myself the most this year:
What Am I Supposed to Do?
Let’s be honest (always a good start!): my wisdom is the product of my own experience — but what advice I have, I am glad to share.
I believe we make the best decision we are capable of in That. Particular. Moment. The way I see it, a problem is only a problem if I can’t figure out the answer. But not all answers are created equal
For too often, we simply React — we let our emotions take over and make poor choices.
I want to learn how to Respond — how to make thoughtful decisions, i.e. ones that acknowledge and are influenced by our emotions but aren’t ruled by them.
The English part of me recalls that most famous example of British WWII wisdom:
Pooh-pooh the stiff upper lip bit and hear the good advice within: Don’t Panic. Panic – neither a reflex nor a response, but a reaction – might be the most fertile soil for bad decision-making.
And so, that tiny piece of advice swims around my head with others:
Don’t worry. Don’t think about it. Do nothing. Apply pressure. Back off. Count to ten. Relax. Go for it! Knock ‘em dead! You’ll show ‘em… Sleep on it. Count sheep. Listen. Don’t take it personally. Bite your tongue. Resist the urge to judge. Try to understand. Be kind. But be true to yourself. And don’t forget to breathe.
From this mind chatter, I’ve distilled three lessons learned this year:
Respond, don’t react.
There is a big difference between choosing words thoughtfully, and striking someone with a knee-jerk reaction. It’s so easy to be mean, and far harder to be kind. How much nicer the world would be if we all strove for kindness.
Specifically, with your belly, like a baby. It’s a curious thing, but when we are stressed we breathe from the top of our chest, which only limits the amount of oxygen our body receives. (Google “Diaphragmatic Breathing” to learn more.)
Never lose your sense of humour!
And here is my mother’s voice, firm, but gentle. And how wise she is. It doesn’t mean you should belittle your own feelings or not take your problems seriously. It’s a simple request for keeping perspective.
After all, some of life’s cringiest moments are the stories we dine out on, aren’t they? Remembering that has helped me to wade gracefully through many a sticky situation – including dealing with my hair turning bright green two days before my wedding…
(Of course there are plenty of times I fail, or even succeed albeit clumsily, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying. Ah, 2011, I don’t know that I will be dining out on you any time soon, but I’m glad we met. You’re one of those years I stumble through arse-over-tit, but I’m still HERE!)
And you, dear Fizgiggler, what are you supposed to do? You probably already know the answer. Would you consider sharing it here? (If the comments section is too public, you are welcome to email me privately at fizgiggery [!at] gmail [!dot] com.)