Publisher - July 2017
As most of you know, I have had to work at being happy lately. However, I don’t think I’m the only one. As I move through my days, doing daily chores, I see a lot of people walking around with grimaces on their faces. I’m sure I fall into this category some days, as well.
We have all been through a lot. Hurricane Matthew took its toll, and though there are minimal visible remnants left in our beautiful Lowcountry, Matthew still dwells heavy inside our hearts. We live in an age where we want everything right now—our fine dining meal to us within minutes, our murders solved within an hour and our 20-pound weight gain gone within a week.
When something as big and devastating as Hurricane Matthew happens, we clean up the debris and wipe our hands of it—all healed. Not exactly. This one isn’t so easy. While we move on and think we are past it, emotionally it still lingers. But if we stay busy enough, we can avoid it and make it go away. Wrong again. And, this is the way it is for all of life’s big, heavy situations, which happen all the time.
That’s why phrases such as “one step forward, two steps back” and “I can’t win for losing” are so well known. Life promises to throw curve balls and sometimes pretty fast. The key is to be emotionally ready for them, and the way to do that is start building an emotional toolbox. That way, when an emotional light grows dark within you, you have the tools ready to brighten things up.
So what should be in this toolbox?
Know what makes you smile: E.B. White said, “We must always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” Good things, even in the darkest hours, surround us. Train yourself to hone in on those things in good times and bad. Know where, or what, your happy place is. I bought the book, Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel. It is a journal for self-exploration. One exercise instructs to “list five things that always, and immediately, bring a smile to my face. My list is as follows: 1. Running into a friend. 2. A funny joke. 3. Getting a compliment. 4. A cute dog. 5. The beach.
This seems simple enough. However, in times of distress, we tend to forget that we ever smiled. It’s nice to have a list in your emotional toolbox to remind you. Just reading the list can bring back memories and evoke a smile. In fact, recounting my list reminds me of a recent beach walk. There was this tiny malti-poo puppy, not more than three-pounds, standing next to a big, old, docile yellow lab. The sweet lab had on a red leash, and the little malti-poo (Chewy) had picked up the end of the leash with its mouth. It was the cutest thing ever. It made me giggle then, and it makes me smile now.
Things that give you power: The worse part of getting down is negative energy, which drains your power. All of a sudden positive vibes are replaced with grumblings and can’ts and nevers. Everything seems impossible but it’s not. Put things in your emotional toolbox that rev you up. Maybe it’s a quote, or numerous quotes. Maybe it’s a photo of you when you were at your best; maybe it’s an award, or an honor you were given. Maybe it’s a picture of your children. Perhaps it’s a poem or a Bible verse. Whatever it is, put it in your toolbox! You will need this stuff one day.
Give yourself a hall pass: There was nothing better than getting a hall-pass as a student. Basically, a hall-pass gave all-access permission to go where you needed to go. There were no worries about getting stopped, way-laid or questioned because you had a hall pass. Put a couple of these in your toolbox. There are times when you need to throw caution to the wind and give yourself full permission to cry, scream, do something crazy or spontaneous, buy yourself something new, or whatever. Give yourself a hall pass and go do it!
Crank it up: I’m talking about music. Music can change a mood in a minute. You learn you didn’t get the promotion you wanted: I dare you to play "Sweet Home Alabama" and not turn it up. You’ll be singing at the top of your lungs before you know it. Take some time to put together a few playlists so you have them ready for any occasion. I have a walking the beach playlist, a driving to work playlist, a you’re an a-hole playlist and a dance all night playlist to name a few. Music is my friend, and I want lots of it in my emotional toolbox.
That is just a smattering of the rations needed in an emotional toolbox. There is so much more that could be included. I would love to hear from you on what you would add. Please email and let me know. We can build our toolboxes together and run a future article about it.
We are always astute when it comes to preparing for the physical—storms, babies, vacations, repairs, etc. Doesn’t it make sense to be prepared emotionally, as well? That way when life throws us a curve ball, we will have the proper mitt on to catch it and throw it right back. Now, that’s an emotional homerun!