difficult emotions / mind / mindfulness

Getting What You Want

Getting What You Want

Tomorrow, in houses all over the world, thousands of people will wake up to Christmas morning. But what would happen if Christmas didn’t come the way they expected it to.

A Thought Experiment

Imagine waking up tomorrow morning.

Even before you get out of bed, expectation fills your mind.

You think about what the day will hold. You think about presents, about family, and about food. An image of what this day should be like becomes more and more clear as you lie in bed.

Then imagine that you go downstairs. At first, everything seems totally normal.

Except it seems cold, much too cold. You feel a draft coming in from the hall but you think nothing of it.

You groggily walk to the kitchen and make some coffee. You wrap your arms around yourself as you sip warm liquid. But something still doesn’t’ feel right.

You notice a small cloud forming with every breath. And You start to wonder why is it’s so cold.

So you poke your head into the living room and your eyes widen, your pupils dilate, and your head spins. There, under the trees where the gifts should be . . . nothing.

You see muddy boot prints on the ground. You’re dumbfounded. Your are barely able to comprehend what’s happened.

Is this some horrible prank?

You turn and follow the boot prints into the hall. Your eyes tracing the small bits of earth on the front door. There you see it. Shards of broken glass and the source of the draft.

A window is shattered and the door stands slightly ajar. A sense of horror enters your heart, followed quickly by sadness.

The rest of your day is filled with tears, police reports, and a cold empty feeling. You feel violated and torn from the inside. You will never forget this day for as long as you live.

Ok now let that image go. Take a few deep breaths. Feel your body and release those feelings from your heart.

Imagine the images fading and then disappearing completely. Leaving behind a blank canvas.

 

Act 2

Once again, imagine waking up tomorrow morning.

As soon as you open your eyes, you see a gentle light streaming in from the window. The light falls across you like a blanket, warming your whole body. Just seeing this light fills your heart with gratitude.

You get out of bed and go downstairs to make coffee. Your pour yourself a cup but discover you are out of cream. You shrug your shoulders and head into the living room. You look at your simple tree and smile.

Soon your family joins you. Stockings are unpacked. Complaints are made of fair toy distribution. Breakfast is eaten and more family arrives.

Your uncle that always annoys you, today seems charming. Your kids fight, but the jabs are gentler. You get the worse present from the gift swap, but definitely the funniest. Part of the dinner gets burnt, but there is still plenty of food.

It seems like no matter what goes awry today, you rise above it. The whole day you feel glad and grateful and so connected to everyone you love.

There are gifts but they don’t matter half as much as the smiles, the hugs, and the time spent together.

Ok now let that image go. Take a few deep breaths. Feel your body and release those feelings from your heart.

Imagine the images fading and then disappearing completely. Leaving behind a blank canvas.

Choose Your Adventure

If I were to ask you to pick one of these tomorrows, I have little doubt that most of us would choose the 2nd one. Yet for many of us, a day like the second would be a disappointment. Under most circumstances.

You see our minds like to create a picture of how things should be. And then compare it to how things are. When the pictures don’t match, we suffer. But we don’t have to do this.

We can choose to create a different picture in our minds. Or even better, we can let the picture draw itself.

We can let the imperfections add color and detail. We can let each mistake be a beautiful oops.

The trick is to notice that we’ve drawn a picture and then to let that picture go.

Let the canvas of our day be as blank as possible. And if you notice yourself holding on too tight, you can do the same thing you did with each of the previous experiments.

Let that image go. Take a few deep breaths. Feel your body and release those feelings from your heart.

Imagine the images fading and then disappearing completely. Leaving behind a blank canvas.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day tomorrow and I wish mindful happiness to each of you in this coming year.

7 thoughts on “Getting What You Want

  1. Timely and beautiful. Sharing with my loves and my friends and hoping that each and every one embraces this lovely holiday experience wide open to the best possibilities.

  2. How about waking up in a makeshift bed in the “office”, which is the only room in your parents’ retirement home that even comes close to being a “guest room”, looking out the window at a frozen, snow-packed, and dirty street, hearing their footsteps from the floor above, and knowing that, yup, this is real; at 50, you are a widow, spending the first Christmas without your soulmate, without your adult children (who are spending it with your still-hostile ex), and, instead of last year’s miraculous December and January in the Caribbean, you get to have a quiet day with the people who are, once more, supporting you financially, and you have gradually slipped from your status as an adult, to being spoken to and treated as a 15 year-old?

    How does THAT contrast hit you? For me, it’s my life now – and no mentioning the terrible feeling of loss, being lost, and feeling like you’ve been hit by an Amtrak, is allowed. Focus on the positive: at least you have family who are willing to put you up, and monitor your finances closely as well. You really do have children, although they are mostly unavailable, even when on vacation, and avoid the topic of your dead spouse like it was a discussion about your own impending death. Now, THERE’S a thought you can latch onto with a degree of comfort: Someday, you too, will be dead, and there will be no more days like today. That’s the Christmas Present that has almost kept my blood warm while it’s 13F outside, and 58F in my little slice of holiday paradise this week.

    Save the kind wishes that things will get better – my last day of happiness was January 21st of this year. Nothing has changed but the amount of gray in my hair, the vanished balance in my bank account, and the increasing invisibility we middle-aged widows enjoy. How odd that less than a year ago I still made heads turn ( a few, anyway….

    • I’m sorry this has been such a rough season for you Maura. It sounds like you feel really sad and frustrated. It sounds like you really want you children to honor your loss and for your parents to honor and respect you.

      It’s always hard to know what to say. I feel like almost anything I write would be taken as a rejection of your feelings or an attempt to make you feel better. So instead I just want to thank you for sharing your struggle so honestly. I can’t even begin to imagine what this is like for you. I want you to know that I am trying to be present with your pain even though you are so far away. If there is something I can do to help please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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