I Distract Myself
The other day a dear friend asked me what I did when I was upset at something, or someone. When my anger or sadness was taking over every minute, how did I handle it to stay calm and okay?
I paused before answering. (Did I mention we were running, and I always have to pause to get enough breath to answer?) “I look at what’s good,” I told her.
“Oh,” she replied. “Do you mean you look to see all you have, and how many awful things could be true for you that aren’t, and you realize you should be grateful rather than upset?”
“No,” I answered (again after trying to catch my breath). “I look for things that feel good right now. I distract myself like I would a toddler.” Another pause.
“I notice the trees against the sky.” (As I’ve written here often.) “The sound of seagulls.” (I was just in Portland, Maine.) “I hug my kid.” (Or anyone who will let me.)
I distract myself.
I no longer believe in covering up or denying my feelings, and I certainly no longer believe in beating myself up because I’m sad or angry or struggling. I’ve learned to allow those feelings to be—and to be part of me. (The anger was the hardest one to accept. I had learned really well not to get angry.)
But I’ve also learned that “I’m more than my feelings” and “Feelings, not facts.” I’ve learned that I don’t have to stay in my anger or hurt or pain any longer than I want to. And I’ve learned that the best way to lighten my load is to lighten my load. To look for situations or experiences or sensations that will ease my heart or relax my body.
To distract myself.
I’ve learned that if I look up, literally and metaphorically, I can usually find something to smile about. I’ve learned (and I teach) that when I smile, my brain somehow thinks I’m happy. I wouldn’t be smiling if I wasn’t happy (I’m not that crazy), so I must be happy. I use this to my greatest advantage.
It’s not that I have no right to complain because other people have it worse than me. My pain still hurts. It’s not that I shouldn’t feel pain and I need to shut it down right away. Sometimes feeling—and leaning into—my pain and suffering is what I really need. It’s not that I need to be stronger, or better, or more resilient. I am (quite) strong enough, good enough, and resilient enough. And sometimes things just hurt. Or suck.
But I can lift myself out of my pain and suffering when I’m ready to be lifted out of my pain and suffering. And sometimes it’s as easy as just distracting myself.
Previously posted: https://www.lisakohnwrites.com
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