I was crabby and distracted. I just couldn’t get my rhythm right.
You know that feeling? Where you are just so not in balance, not in line with yourself as you move through the day, and yet the day has to be moved through?
I had plenty of good reasons for being out of sorts.
Last week, a close friend fell on a patch of ice and fractured her pelvis. We were on a trip together, all set up for a few days of fun, then suddenly we were in crisis mode.
Emergency room followed by two days in the hospital followed by a harrowing flight home, during which I worried the whole time about unforeseen complications.
Thankfully, everything went okay. My friend and I are both now at home. She’s well on her way to physical recovery.
As for mental healing? That’s another question entirely.
When you have a certain story in mind about how things are supposed to be, it can be tough to adjust to change.
Over margaritas the other evening, even as she moved around on her new walker, my friend and I kept talking about how grateful we were that this accident wasn’t worse.
There was no head injury and no surgery.
But it’s challenging to actually feel that gratitude.
You tell yourself you’re lucky and you know it’s true, but it still seems like this just isn’t right.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be…different.
This thinking is a kind of grief: There was a story we were counting on, and that story is gone.
So there I was, sitting in the Home Depot parking lot on a Friday afternoon, the final stop on a long list of dull errands, just feeling frustrated and irritated.
Outside it was blowing arctic winds, colder than it had been in months.
I was gearing up to step out into the freezing air when I saw a young father walking towards a huge pickup, pushing his daughter in a cart.
It was clear they’d forgotten something in the car and were going back to get it.
As I watched, I projected a whole story onto them—he’s late, he’s got this small child with him, he’s feeling stressed and harried, he’s wishing things were easier, sunnier, lighter.
I watched him click open the car locks, and as he did, to my shock, he started laughing, his smile wide and bright. His daughter then started laughing, too.
She had said something funny, and it had cracked them both up.
He opened the car door, still grinning, and took out a bright pink winter hat. He spun around dramatically and presented it to his daughter, doing a little dance for her.
Then he put it on her head, pulling it down way too far over her face, and they both continued to giggle, their cheeks bright red with joy.
They were just two people running errands, just like me, but at that moment it was like they were living in a different world.
After they walked away, I felt my bad temper lift. I smiled.
I thought about my friend and, for the first time since the accident, I actually felt the gratitude for her well-being that I’d been trying to feel for weeks.
When you’re in a negative spot mentally, gloom colors everything. Because I was in a bad mood, I had colored in this stranger’s life with my bad mood palette.
My mood was real, and justified, sure, but it had given me a false sense of certainty about the bleakness of the rest of the world around me.
It infected everything else. As soon as that spell was broken, lots of new stories seemed possible.
What are your tricks for breaking a bad mood? How do you adjust when the story changes?
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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