Changing My Mind
People always talk about New Year’s resolutions, but I see every day as a new year—the anniversary of that date one year prior and the opportunity to start fresh.
So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to lose weight. I started getting up early and working out on the treadmill. While logging hundreds of stationary miles, I’ve been keeping myself entertained by watching documentaries. I saw one about gender inequality in filmmaking that made me conscious of my own biases, and I was inspired by one about Joan Didion, whose writing is amazing despite periods of intense suffering. But it’s the Brene Brown talk on vulnerability that sticks with me most. She discussed her experiences with people who had been through loss and discovered many of them had similar sentiments.
“They all missed the ordinary stuff,” she said.
She gave the example of a couple whose 4-year old son died from cancer. They used to get upset with his door slamming. Now they sometimes stand there, shutting the entryway door over and over just to hear the noise.
I couldn’t help but think about Autumn. To say my daughter is messy is an understatement. When she’s done eating, she throws the rest of her food in all directions. No container is safe from dumping, and spillproof cups spill everywhere when the tops are removed. I’ve become a world record holder in the toddler/parent sport of Picking Up and Wiping, and the event is narrated by an extremely critical inner voice: “This is so annoying,” it chides. “Why does she do this? And when does this phase end?”
Brene Brown makes me want to hire a new narrator, one with less drama and more gratitude. What if, in those moments of frustration, I thought differently? As I’m racing the dog to the soggy bran flakes on the floor, could I instead be thankful for the baby who made the mess or happy to have the food to clean up?
In theory, this sounds amazing. In reality, it seems insane. Only yogis who devote their entire lives to clearing minds seem capable of staying present and joyful when things get messy. So what can I do to appreciate ordinary moments?
This negative narrator has always been with me. When I think about my past, it scolds, “You made dumb choices.” When I think about my future, it says, “Things look bleak.” It’s like the Grinch who steals confidence and hope instead of Christmas, and it has been squatting in my mind for far too long. If a friend spoke to me the way I speak to myself, that person would’ve been unfriended a long time ago. And if a kid ever utters to Autumn what my narrator says to me, all bets are off when it comes to restraint.
And so, not because it’s the new year, but because it’s time, I am seeking a new inner voice. It will spend more moments reminding me they’re just that — blips in time that come and go, some too quickly, like all of babyhood, and some not fast enough, like cleaning up the 1,000 hair bands scattered all over the floor. The new announcer will focus on the broader life picture, and instead of reciting my failures, maybe she will praise me for trying again, and try her best to remind me to find softness and ease even when there’s food flying past me and the dog is covered in cottage cheese.