I know that the way you feel and how your life goes has a lot to do with how you choose to see things, but I forget and head in the wrong direction sometimes.
A good example is my reaction to this sign my neighbor had in her yard for several days. (The part obscured by the grass says “watch your pets!”) Here’s how nuts I can get – all by myself running helter-skelter through the apparently empty halls of my mind. What follows is an only slightly exaggerated depiction of this experience…
As soon as I saw the sign, I noted that it was pointed directly at my house. (I live right across the street, but still – I thought the angle might be intentionally menacing.) Last year, when I got my chickens, this neighbor came to talk with me about her concern that the chickens would attract predators. She was very worried her cat might not be safe prowling around at night, as he likes to do. I thought we had settled the matter, but perhaps the sign in her yard was her passive-aggressive way of letting me know that her worst fears about my chickens had come true. And that I was a bad, selfish person for wanting to keep chickens. I suffered over this greatly. I thought about it. I asked friends what they thought. I spent time writing a post laying out all of the reasons that my chickens are not the reason coyotes may have come to our neighborhood. I felt powerless and trapped in my little suburban neighborhood where everyone seems way too interested in what I am doing. It was exhausting.
It was the beau who pulled me out of my funk. He is not one to care much about what other people think (which drives me crazy sometimes – because geeeez, you can’t just do whatever you want! Right? Right? Bueller? Anyone – right?) and he helped me realize that there was nothing to be done about this. Even if I do care what she thinks, I don’t really know what she thinks. And even if she thinks badly of me – why does her perception of reality trump my perception of reality? I was all in a dither over my own, possibly inaccurate, interpretation of the situation. The bottom line is: I am allowed to have chickens. I have a permit. (I really love my permit.)(And the beau.)
So I tried something new.
I tried being that person who is blissfully oblivious. I tried it on in great detail. I conjured up that person who doesn’t overthink what you might be thinking about her. I embodied that girl who goes about her business as if all is well, and would never think that people could hate her for having chickens, and thinks that the sign was just a neighbor sharing an interesting experience with the neighborhood. Nothing changed – except my interpretation of the situation. I made myself try on a different way of thinking about it and my whole body immediately felt different. Amazingly, it felt better. Much better. I could breathe. The world became a different place for me to live. Lucky for me, reality is truly relative to perception.
I wish I could say that I am now cured of my tendency to overreact with crippling insecurity when I think someone thinks badly of me, but I can’t. I can tell you this truth though: the more often we try a new way of perceiving the world and have the “felt experience” in our body of how much better the new way feels, the more likely it is that this new way of thinking will become our default way of seeing and living in the world. So I intend to keep at it – when I can reign myself in enough to remember to try.
Have you ever consciously changed your thinking about something?