Take a minute or two and write down what you believe makes you unhappy. Life altering events such as a traumatic childhood, sexual assault or cancer diagnosis may leap to mind first but also include ongoing disappointments such as a nasty boss or loneliness. Don’t forget everyday annoyances like bad drivers or computer glitches. […]
It was only 6:00 AM and the roads were already covered with snow. I was slated to present at a conference in New York the next morning and my flight was at 3:00. The weather channel said the storm would be over by noon, but Delta had canceled several afternoon flights already. I thought of a few lines from Michael Singer’s book, ‘The Surrender Experiment.’ *
“For years I had been diligently working to free myself of that weak person inside who always insisted on things being the way he wanted.”
I could relate and recognized a snowy day at the airport as an opportunity to manage my thoughts. Whenever frustration or disappointment bubbled up, I could choose serenity. For a moment I sat quietly and checked in with my intuition. My sense was everything would be fine. I would be pleasant and happy no matter what. If God could laugh, she would have.
First Comes Fear
My phone rang. ‘I hope you are not driving to the airport,’ a friend said with concern. ‘People are sliding off the road.’ My last car would slide to the right if I braked on ice. My heart rate goes up whenever I think about icy roads and past near misses. The snow was falling harder than ever and I would have to leave soon to make my flight.
My unhelpful thoughts take their cue and jump in. ‘It’s dangerous out there. Maybe I shouldn’t go. What if I get in an accident?’ My mind has chosen fear and holds happiness hostage. I will not accept this but also want to pay attention in case I need to change course. I take a few breaths, get quiet and check. All is still well. I pack up and drive to the airport. ‘See, this is going to be easy.’
The traffic is no worse than usual. By the time I arrive, the snow has changed to sleet. I get soaked walking to the bus in the economy lot. Irritation arrives. Airline travel is not fun anymore, I think as my squish my way on to the bus. I notice the thought’s potential to ruin my mood and try to ignore it.
My flight is now two hours delayed. There is no place to sit so I wander down another corridor looking for a place to eat. This airport is so poorly designed I think irritably and then scratch that thought. By the time I return to the gate, my flight has been cancelled. I cue up in a long line of people waiting to be rescheduled.
I notice I am on the verge of cranky and decide to start a friendly conversation with the man ahead of me. He is on his way to Wisconsin. I tell him I need to be in New York tomorrow but doubt I will make it. “You need to think positive,” he instructs. “Call the airline while you are waiting here in case the service is faster.”
“You are absolutely right,” I reply, thankful for the reminder. I leave my number for a call back.
The line creeps along and my new acquaintance is no longer feeling so positive. “The airline representative is completely unhelpful,” he reports. “Notice the unhappy faces of people who have talked to him.”
I realize I am not going to make it to New York, I realize. The airline rep is indeed unhelpful. He offers me a flight that would arrive after my return flight would have left. I am no longer on the verge of cranky but am full on irritated. Maybe my intuition is not so hot after all.
Then it hit me. Everything is fine. I am healthy and safe. My flight was cancelled and I would miss my presentation. Thinking positive is not a way to bully the universe into making things go my way. It is a strategy to choose serenity rather than discontent. The incident would be a minor footnote within a week.
On the slushy drive home I called my sister. “For the first time in decades I am going to miss a talk,” I confessed.
“Better not to travel in this mess,” she opined. “Why don’t you just video conference?”
I did, though it took a few hours to arrange. It turned out just fine.