Not long ago, a series of events conspired to drive me to scream at the top of my lungs at the man I love and throw my U lock into the garage with as much force as my little body could muster. As I was doing it, I could hear my brain saying to me, "you are your father's daughter."
I was not calm. I was not rational. I was in no place to adequately express why I was so upset, and even when I attempted, the message was lost to the method. It didn't really matter why I was upset, I scared the crap out of my boyfriend. So much that he was not able to truly listen to what I was saying, nor did he want to stick around to work it out.
I grew up this way, with people screaming and throwing shit, sometimes for seemingly no reason whatsoever. I am now 45 years old, and while I have worked through much of my anger issues (and I had many) some still linger, and they keep me from being a more effective communicator. They keep me from thinking clearly. They keep me from growth. They keep me from success.
The greatest thing you can be in a stressful environment, is calm. The more calm you can be, the better your brain will work and the more useful you will be to the ones who depend on you to be so, including yourself. It is simple chance that led me to write this blog the day before Valentine's day, but this chance has presented the perfect metaphor for the best strategy I know to remain calm, and it comes down, as so many things do, to one thing.
Preparation. No matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always a way to prepare. There is always something you can do to set yourself up so that you can handle anything that comes at you. A lot of people will tell you to role play, thinking of different scenarios in which people argue with you, or events that conspire to drive you to do something erratic, so that you can prepare to react appropriately. But this is false information; misleading at best. Because you are focused in the wrong direction.
Instead of worrying about external circumstances or individuals, what you should be focusing on, is you. You must be self-aware, confident. You must see the storm, and not be the storm. To illustrate:
Very often, you are around at least one person who pushes your buttons, be it their ability to back-handedly insult you in front of your boss or give you complisults (that sweater makes your head look much smaller than it actually is!) that you have no time to react to, it is inevitable; for whatever reason, there will be people around you who have the ability to inspire hatred, jealousy, even rage within you. You lose sleep over these people, you lose energy over these people, you lose your life, bit by bit replaying over and over the things you wished you would have said or done to one up them or prove them wrong or reveal them for the bastards they are.
What you are doing is fooling yourself into believing that anything they have done, whether it be directed at you or merely around you, is in any way about you. It is not. At the very most, it might be about their idea of you, but not really about you. Your mistake is getting caught up in what is going on in their head to the point that you forget yourself. You forget how great your life is. You forget how awesome so many people think you are, and you choose to buy into the bullshit.
Don't buy into the bullshit. It is too expensive and there are no returns. Once you start down the path where you believe that you can argue with someone or change someone's mind about you, you have lost your calm, your rational mind. You have lost your ability to control the situation, because the only thing you can control in ANY situation, is you.
There is just one thing you have to practice for almost any stressful situation: focusing inward. It is your job to mind your own business. It is your job to steer clear of the crazy. Personally, I have two mantras that I use interchangeably which help me to stay out of other people's heads and other people's business, even when they try to force it upon me.
- Not my circus, not my monkees
- Peeps be cray, and bitches be hatin'
For me, those two cover most unpleasantness. When people are engaging in behavior that I find to be ludicrous, hateful, or otherwise disquieting, I implement the first one. When people start to treat me like a doormat, or like I am not worthy of their respect/trust/time/attention, the second one is my go to. I say one or the other over and over in my head, with a smile on my face, because in the end, it is better that I replay that mantra in my head than what they just said or did. It keeps me in check and reminds me that I have my own special brand of crazy to attend to.
My suggestion, if you are up for one, and I can only assume that you are as you are reading this blog, is come up with a mantra for yourself. Make it entertaining, catchy, and something that completely excuses you from taking any responsibility for other people's actions. This is the actual fun part, where you get to create a verbal shield, cast in irony and sarcasm and forged in glory. This is how you prepare. This is how you walk away from situations that could fuck you up.
Celebrate this Valentine's Day by truly loving yourself. Create your own strategy for success. Come up with some mantras that you can say to yourself that will protect you from engagement with Outside Forces. Give yourself the gift of minding your own business, and the rest, as they say, will take care of itself.
If you are wondering, "they" is Hallmark. Hallmark said everything first. Well, everything except my awesome mantras.
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