A lot, actually. But of all the things I have learned in my lifetime, one stands out the most.
The years have taught me not to take things personally. Milk gets spilled. Clouds form. Missteps happen. People misbehave (or behave differently than we would have them to). Siblings squabble. Pets die. Rain falls.
You see where I’m going with this? Tons of things happen over the course of our lives. We can’t control anything other than ourselves and even then we sometimes have a hard time with self-control too.
The other day I met with a new friend who is about my age. We have a lot in common, including our names and our appearance. In fact, I met her because someone else mistook me for this woman. We discovered we had the same attitude about life and how we manage conflict.
“Why get upset over that which I can’t control?” she said to me as if she were reading my mind.
She admitted that twenty years ago she couldn’t possibly have the same perspective. Stuck in a traffic jam on a bus for eight hours the night before, she decided to surrender to the situation. She identified how quickly time seemed to flow now that she had reached a certain age. Why would she spend those units of time on something as unpleasant as rage?
That is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t feel rage when appropriate. I am a fan of letting it all hang out when you need to. But the sooner you do, the sooner you can regain your inner equilibrium.
My recipe for calm:
- Acceptance. Certain things will never change. Understand your role in affecting change where you can.
- Surrender. This ingredient differs from acceptance because you are literally giving in to the situation, releasing any thought or expectation about it.
- Big Picture. When something happens, I zoom out to the larger landscape of things. How big of an issue is this really?
- Golden Nugget. Silver Lining. Gift Wrapped in Barbed Wire. Whatever you call it, remember this thing needs to happen so the next, better thing can emerge.
- Gratitude. We tend to focus on the negative (it has to do with our primordial programming). So what if two shitty things happened today? How many good things can you count that happened too? Focus on them instead.
- Connection. Sometimes we need friends to pull us out of our funk. Talk to someone who cares about you. They may not tell you what you want to hear, but cherish their perspective for what it is – their perspective. Maybe it will lead you in the right direction, which is back to yourself where the upset began.
It is indeed marvelous to get older. Life has a way of sandpapering our rough edges for a smoother, more glorious ride into infinity.