Sometimes You Lose Your Cool

Okay, instead of the word ‘cool’ in the title, I wanted to use a different word that starts with ‘sh’ and could be replaced by the poop emoji.

I decided against that in case my dad reads this. Or my kids. Or even my mom who curses like a sailor. It just seems a little coarse. But, you can translate in your head and use any word you want because it made sense to me to use a stronger word in my mind. For some reason, using the word ”sh” word seemed to lighten the mood ever so slightly.

The truth is that today I lost my cool. Since I’m probably not the only one who loses it from time to time, I thought I would rethink my actions (while typing, of course), rework my perspective, and hopefully rewire my mind a bit so that next time….ah, next time, ugh.

Oh those feelings things.

I kind of like it when people refer to them as The Feels, as if they are lovable relatives that stay in your amazing guest house that you and your spouse, child, friend (pick one, or more, it really doesn’t matter) built together from a Home Depot shed and filled with creative and adorable upcycled items. The Feels stay in a cozy shed/home with a solar chandelier and wake to fresh eggs from your home flock of free range hens.

My Feels today were more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Definitely don’t Airbnb those Feels if you did build a really cool shed-house.

It was in the shower where my feels came to a head and then started to level off. My mind was mired in the negative and at the peak of my anguish I really wondered if I could possibly NOT feel. The word ‘absent’ presented itself in a romantic, Edwardian way. Could I skirt around the edges of life, perhaps in an elegant dress and hat, and absent myself from those annoying everyday confrontations that led me to Lose My Poop Emoji?

As much as it sounded appealing and even possible in that moment, I realized I was alone in a very small room and so the idea of becoming invisible was pretty farfetched once I ran into the general population. After meditating on the soap for a duration, I realized that In all practicality there are better ways of dealing with The Feels besides locking them inside the discount shed that looks great on YouTube but in real life keeps Aunt Darla and Uncle Jim from coming to your house to visit. We all know that, while Uncle Jim was game, Aunt Darla put her foot down at the outdoor shower.

The First Better Way: Assume It’s Not About You

Don’t take it personally. Whatever you find yourself in conflict with, whether it is another person or a frustrating situation, remember that it is very likely not personal. This is actually a really tough one to understand. I think its commonly said, and we all understand ”what it means” but we really don’t know how to wrap our head around it and often we really don’t believe that it is true. It is such an immense challenge to recognize that other people, even those really close to us, can see life through a completely different lens. It is often devastating—even if just for a short while—that another person does not make the effort to communicate with you or understand you. By nature we are built to connect with others. When that connection breaks down—even momentarily—we panic. Anger is a way of forcing engagement. Experts warn that it is this disconnect that causes extremes of behavior, such as mass shootings, suicide, or violence.

I am not an expert on this, but the articles I have read on the subject often point out that having empathy with someone else, even while you are having a difficult time emotionally, can help bridge that communication gap. Taking a moment to pause and really listen to what is being said, before responding, can prevent a tense communication from becoming a complete blow-out.

On the reverse side of this, is my own two-cents. Maybe having a little less empathy is warranted. Some of us extra-feels people need more boundaries, not less. Taking an interaction less personally may mean refusing to take on the emotional tenor of your friend, partner, or the cranky guy next door. You don’t have to cater to everyone’s emotional needs or bend over backwards to appease the loudest voice in the room. You also don’t have to be the one to insist on the ‘right’ perspective when butting heads with another. In those cases, a little bit of ”absenting” may be a solid choice.

The Second Better Way: Notice What is Going Well

Something I learned when I was teaching elementary school and relearned over and over as a parent is to Notice what is going well. I think (and this is my opinion) that other people want positive feedback. We are social after all. Kids just want to please their parents and peers. Eventually they internalize these feelings and it strengthens them to choose healthy pursuits and essentially, ‘stay out of trouble.’

But, even as an adult, who doesn’t shine under a compliment? By the same token, a rebuke diminishes even the hardest among us. That’s not to say it’s good to be a pushover, but I’ve often noticed how good I feel—how good it feels to me—to notice the good. Wow. It is so mindbogglingly easy to only see the negative.

How many times do I catch myself seeing that one thing that my daughter didn’t do, meanwhile many, many things that are great manage to pass right by unnoticed as if they, by their mere positivity, are unworthy of my acknowledgment.

This is where not only those around me lose out, but so do I. I miss those amazing things—the excellence in the everyday feats—to instead focus on one dish or a dirty sock. Really? We have so much room for improvement here. We must see the incredible that is in front of us and stop, just stop, trying to control the minutia. Maybe your spouse never mows the lawn, but does make dinner every Sunday. Or maybe your son is not so diligent with homework but he senses your defeat and quietly goes on to assemble the chicken gate that was giving you trouble (true story). Maybe your daughter is so sensitive but she is also so fair and caring. Maybe your mom listens patiently to ‘what you just said to so-and-so’ and she says straightforwardly that what you said was harsh and that you overreacted…and then you write this blog post because you suddenly see that you are temporarily blinded and you have sorting out to do.

Include yourself in this too and remember your own positive contributions and traits. This little blip doesn’t mean that all of your good traits go unnoticed.

A Third Better Way : Give yourself an out.

Or, an ‘outing.’ Exercise is considered the best medicine for calming the beast. Taking a walk, looking at a beautiful view, hiking in nature are all great ways to recharge and see that life is not all that bad. This is, of course, assuming you can get up and leave for a good 20+ minutes. But, even if you can only jog over to the restroom to escape you might prevent an anger eruption. Taking a break gives you control over the situation. If you’re at work, you may have to talk to other people along the way—you may ending up smiling and engaging in a more positive interaction. This boosts your confidence and changes the anger cycle. I think it’s like a tally, in a sense, you score a couple positive points and then the losing side starts to fall apart. The losing part being the part of you that was losing it, if you get my gist.

Finally, if you do lose it get back on the horse quickly and do a Big Erase. When my kids were little we started a thing called ‘the do-over.’ It is so great. A do-over lets you just stop and say, ‘can I have a do-over.’ It’s like the game etch-a-sketch in that you simple erase and start anew.

A do-over acknowledges your humanity, that you are fallible, and that you value and recognize the importance of being civil and above all, kind.

I will leave you with this quote by James Baldwin:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Have a Great Week

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