Take this morning:
From the warmth and comfort of my bed, I checked the weather app at 6:15, like every responsible Canadian, from sea to shining sea. And there it was, the bold red label announcing Freezing Rain Warning. Consequently, I burrowed furthur under the covers, dreading the thought of going outdoors, even though my purpose was good. As always, I have my morning routine with my grandson Rowan. Furthermore, I am on driving duty this week, so I am picturing the road conditions that await me.
Of course, the warning doesn’t mean anything now. But I looked out the window and saw my car covered in snow and ice. The ice I just imagined to exist under the snow, and I was already dreading the scraping. My mind started making up stories about how difficult winter is and how it would be so much better if I had a garage.
Of course, to have a garage means I have to move. To be free of winter, I would also have to move. But I don’t want to move. I am exactly where I want to be. And that means ice, snow, scraping, and another two months of winter weather. ( something 100 percent out of my control) And since I am also 100 percent not going to change what could be changed – move to sunny climes – I am faced with coming to terms with winter. Logic doesn’t mean easy.
And here is the – not always as they seem part.
I did get myself outdoors by 6:45, and to my surprise, it wasn’t that cold. My side windows, covered in snow, were easily swept free with my warm, red-mittened hand. And when I brushed the front windows, there was not a speck of ice anywhere to be found. No scraping was required. I paused and considered my wiley mind and how quickly it had made up stories about the difficulties awaiting me in the driveway and on the “slippery” streets.
In fact, it was quite lovely – my street was plowed and my daughter’s street was plowed and every street that I needed to drive on was plowed this morning. As I drove along the canal, workers were out prepping the ice, skaters were skating, and my good cheer was now in high gear on this winter’s day.
Things are not always as they seem.
Sometimes they might even be worse. And sometimes they might be better. But if we learn to notice our direct experience rather than paying attention to the stories our mind offers up we may be surprised. It verifies the advice I received as a newcomer to chemo many years ago now.
“Don’t make decisions as to whether to go outside or not, from your bed. Treat each day as a brand new day filled with possibilities. Get up, get dressed and step outside on the porch and then decide if the weather is too bad to take a few steps. If it is, go back inside, have breakfast and have something interesting that you get to do. Deal with your troubles as they emerge. Cross your bridges, only when they appear. Make no assumptions about what side effects you will get. Be open to surprise.”
Let’s face it, tomorrow will be another story. My fears of this morning will most likely come to pass tomorrow if the radar is accurate. But who knows? Meteorology is an imperfect, early warning system, but not always 100% accurate. Winds change. Temperatures rise and drop, sometimes unpredictably. Nevertheless, I will deal with the reality that presents itself.
This early morning episode made me think about the many things we think/fear might happen with the slightest provocation, headline, or urban myth…we are designed for survival, so it makes sense. Yet, if we prepare for inclement weather (as an example) and, without catastrophizing, adapt to the reality of what actually happens, we have more emotional freedom. There is no need to be “fretting ” about scraping the windows; the truth is, however, distasteful, I need to scrape the windows when they are covered with ice if I want to drive my car. It is part of living in a four-season country. And I chose to live here.
Sometimes, we do this same kind of thing in other situations. Take chemo, for instance. Depending on the type of cancer, the type of treatment and the patient, side effects may be minimal or loom large at different times, and they will be different from one person to the next. Everyone has their own stories. But just because it happened to X does not mean it will happen to Y. Once again when we cross our bridges as they appear, we may have fewer or more bridges to go over. Letting the actual circumstances, rather than the imagined circumstances, dictate what needs doing is ultimately less painful and certainly less anxiety-ridden.
Ultimately, if I turned my curiosity on to winter, I might get more creative in minimizing the parts I don’t like or, better still, just recognize my tendencies and scrape. No big deal.
1:) “For each headache you face, ask yourself, ‘Is this mostly real or imagined?’ Solve the real problems, release the imaginary ones.” James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
2:) Some simple advice – “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” Laura Ingalls Wilder via James Clear
3:) You can not imagine my good fortune as I write this blog post. I had a ding on my phone, and a text came from my driving-to-school partner. We take turns, two weeks at a time. Her amazing offer was to do the driving tomorrow as it is already so icy out there. And I gratefully accepted. Thus, I can take my time, later in the morning, to de-ice my car and will be in good shape for the pickup at 3:00. Oftentimes, unexpected good surprises come along. This was one of those.
4:) We are entering our last week in January. May you have a plethora of awesomeness. Warmest greetings and an abundance of thanks to you all. Trudy
PS The aurora borealis was photographed by Gottfried in Yellowknife on New Year’s Eve 2000 or New Year’s Night 2001.The paintbox sketch by Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom