What’s The Story?
In the morning I often find myself feeling anxious about what might lying in wait for me, in the workday that lies ahead. Will there be any difficult decisions to make? Will there be pain that I will have to face and fight my way through? Will that uncomfortable conversation I had yesterday about that thing lead to further uncomfortable conversations today? How much will I have to suffer?
I find this to be particularly true on a Monday morning. Having had a couple of days in my own space, I now approach the workspace, and there is a sense of dread about what lies in store. Is there a pack of hyenas waiting to ambush me in the darkness? Will I fall into a giant hole, bumping against the sides as I tumble toward the bottom?
Will a piano fall on my head?
We tell ourselves stories all the time, based on our flawed interpretations of external signals which, most often, are revealed to be untrue. That person didn’t text me back so they must be mad at me. I saw something vague that someone posted online which can only be about me. My boyfriend isn’t home yet so he must have been killed in a terrible giant lizard incident.
But the reality is we are embellishing the facts. If we have only raw data, then we are simply projecting our insecurities and fears to create situations that aren’t real, and generating narratives in our heads that are false.
If we haven’t heard from someone in a long time, it isn’t necessarily because they hate us. They might be busy, they might have lost our contact details, they might have struggling to sort our own lives out. Before we start feeling awkward about it we need to consider the facts, not the false narrative. And what are the facts? The facts are that we haven’t heard from this person in a long time. That’s it. No narrative.
When your boyfriend is running late it isn’t necessarily because he’s been mauled to death by Godzilla. All you know is that he’s running later than usual. That’s it. There is nothing to infer, nothing to assume, no narrative other than the false one inside your head that you have created for yourself. When you have a feeling of dread on the way to work about what might be waiting for you at the office, all that’s going on is a feeling of dread. Inside you. Created by you. That’s the entire story.
When we adopt a practice of mindfulness, and use practices such as meditation to identify and disassociate ourselves from our thoughts we can take a moment to choose whether we want to hang on to a particular narrative or not. We can arrive at work with our hearts in our mouths, or we tell ourselves that our Monday morning anxiety is coming from within, and cut it off before it takes hold of us entirely and ruins our day before it has even started.
We can choose which voices inside our heads we listen to.
And more than this, we can choose to rewrite these internal narratives even more. And we can use them to emphasise those things in our world that bring us pleasure. We can heighten our sense of happiness and contentment with a gratitude practice. And we can adorn it even further by choosing to relish details, and turn up the volume on those things which make our lives just that little bit more pleasant.
As we go about our day we can make extra effort to be present. We can enjoy the sunshine as it streams in through the window, illuminating the wilting flowers in the vase on the mantelpiece. We can take a minute or two to study the way the light and shadow give a texture and depth that we’ve never seen before to the porcelain, and the way the dropped petals change the environment around the fading peonies.
We can watch the steam rising up from our teacup, dancing in the air before it dissipates into the infinite continuum of being, just as raindrops become the ocean that they fall into. We can feel the warmth of the cup as we hold it in our hands, before we’ve taken that first sip.
We can indulge ourselves in the sounds of the footsteps around us as we walk to work, and the noise of the office door as it sweeps open, brushing against the doormat as we arrive at office. We can drift off into the vanishing point of the train tracks as we wait on the platform on the way home. We can lose ourselves in the vibration of the carriage as we travel out of the city in evening, finding music in the rhythms of the wheels as they trundle along.
In presence – in mindful awareness – the everyday becomes unique and fascinating, and filled with infinite depth and texture. And, what’s more, we can rewrite the narrative to create something that works so much better for us. Something that serves us and our ambitions to grow and flourish, and to build the life that we truly deserve.
On that Monday morning when our internal narrative would have us feeling anxious about what lies ahead, we can choose to change this storyline. We can see the start of a new week as an opportunity to be reborn. The day that lies ahead is a chance to deliver your best performance, to do good work and to prove to yourself that you are not only worthy of the responsibilities of the tasks that you have been assigned, but that you have mastered them and you’re worthy of more.
You can tell yourself that today is providing a unique chance to be better than yesterday. To build on all the years that have lead you to this point, to create a positive framework that will take you even further tomorrow. You can choose to be productive, proactive, creative, and positive. This day is yours and you can’t wait to jump into it.
And while we are creating narratives for ourselves, why not change the stories we tell ourselves about other people, too. Instead of assuming the worst, we can attempt to assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt. When someone doesn’t live up to our expectations we can attempt to understand before we criticise. When someone tries and fails, we can celebrate the effort rather than deride the failure. When someone comes to us for help, we can be honoured that they would see us someone they can turn to, rather than a burden or a drain. We can make someone’s actions about them rather than about us. We can embrace a perspective of compassion and understanding towards others, and also towards ourselves.
We only have two eyes with which to view our world, and it is entirely up to us what that view looks like. We can either let our negative programming and bitterness see a grim picture, the sky full of clouds and cracks in the pavement, or we can choose to see it differently. We can see the sun coming out after the rain, the flowers pushing up between the paving stones, and the opportunity to grow and flourish and be better today than we were yesterday.
And when we engineer our days in this way, by nurturing ourselves with sleep and water and food and spiritual and intellectual nourishment, there’s no reason why we can’t hold a commanding position over every day. Day after day after day, we make our lives our own rather than leaving them to life to manage for us.
Each day is ours and as they pass we cannot get them back. So make today the best yet, and tomorrow even better.