Yesterday was a good morning.
No, a GREAT morning.
A jumping-for-joy morning!
Because I got my son off to school—on a Monday—with no blow-ups.
Better than that, we actually laughed and had fun.
But then, it was almost ruined. And that’s what inspired the drawing above.
Let me explain… and hopefully share something you can use to save one of your own moments from being ruined later today.
First, you should know that my son struggles with emotional regulation. If you’ve seen me speak, then you’ve seen the picture of him on his bike at age two, with that expression of intense joy. As much joy as he was feeling, just imagine that intensity of emotion tilting the other direction. There are some short circuits in his brain—in non-scientific terms—that make it very easy for him to be “hijacked” by anger or frustration. It’s an ongoing endeavor to help him rise above these challenges so he can experience more peace and joy in his life.
That’s the backdrop for yesterday morning.
And, we’re off…
When he first woke up yesterday, I heard from his room, “Can we go to Dave & Buster’s today?” (That’s an arcade, if you’re not familiar, and we had been there over the weekend… which is why he’s now obsessed with the idea of winning enough tickets to get a cell phone. Although I’m pretty sure it would cost about $10,000 in tokens to eventually win enough tickets to get that phone.)
“No, not on a school day,” I told him.
This was the first opportunity for a blow-up. But there wasn’t one.
“What day is it today?” he asked.
“Monday,” I said.
Another opportunity for a blow-up. But nothing.
I heard him get out of bed and start getting dressed.
We proceeded through the morning… ate breakfast together… joked around… I followed him around playing guitar and making up silly songs about going to school. I mean, this is historically a tough crowd and I was working it! 😄
Then when it was time for him to walk to the bus stop, he said, “You can come if you want.” That’s a big deal when your middle schooler invites you to the bus stop!
I got the dog harnessed up for her walk and went down to the bus stop. The dude and I chatted for a minute and then he extended his hand and said, “Bro it up.”
I didn’t know what that meant but it was apparently some kind of fist bump and hand shake. So we “bro’d it up” and I walked on.
That was a great morning, and I was grateful for it. There have been some hard days in Parenting Land lately, so it’s always nice when you get a moment of reprieve.
I was feeling so good by the time I got back home from walking the dog, I was ready to sit down and dive back into working on my book. (First draft is finished. Now working on edits and rewrites—aka “the grind.”)
I got my papers together. Got my pens. Went to get a glass of water.
The dog threw up right next to my chair.
And this is where the image above came to mind.
We love when things go well, don’t we? Of course. As we should!
But then, what do we do when things don’t go so well? When things take a turn for the worse?
Now, a dog throwing up is pretty minor in the grand scheme. But, it was an interruption. It was a place where I could’ve said, “So much for a good morning.” Or, “Of course… there’s always something.” Or, “Damn dog!”
Without some skills and tools for emotional regulation, that’s exactly what happens.
Then one “bad” moment turns into a bad day.
As I once heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a bad day; only a bad moment that lingers.”
Whether it lingers, though, is up to us.
When the bottom falls out of a moment—as pictured above—it’s natural to get triggered. You’re human. All sorts of thoughts reach up to “grab” you—expectations of how it was supposed to be, fears about what happens next, limiting beliefs about your ability to get through it, past experiences and wounds that color your current experience… All sorts of things.
But just as those thoughts thrust and grab at you, know that there is a path to rise above the present conditions. Look up.
You can reach for that rope and shift your attention—from what’s going wrong to what’s going right; from what’s missing to what’s present; from what’s happened to what’s possible.
Then you can reach for that next rope and shift your attitude—from thinking you can’t to thinking you can; from thinking the day is ruined to thinking this is just a temporary blip; from thinking of what you wanted to happen to thinking of how you’re learning and growing thanks to this unexpected obstacle.
And finally, you can reach for the next rope and shift your action—asking, “what’s the right thing, right now?” and taking the next right step… because all you’re ever responsible for is the next step.
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Wilting flowers do not cause suffering; it is the unrealistic desire that flowers will not wilt that causes suffering.”
You and I can be sure there will be pitfalls in our day (they have Pitfall at Dave and Buster’s, by the way 🤓), but those pitfalls don’t have to define our experience. Actually, the pitfalls will never define our experience. What defines our experience is what we focus on, what we think about, and what we do in the midst of the circumstance. Just remember that when your focus, thoughts, and behavior get hijacked, you have the ability and the power to look up… and grab one of those ropes.
This is the path to rise above.
This is the path to live as the creator of your life and not just the manager of your circumstances.
This is the path you were made for.
You are amazing, and I’m glad you’re here.
I hope this speaks to you today, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Up we go!
P.S. If you’re new here, click here and get your free digital copy of my book, Unstoppable, where we talk more about the power of shifting your Attention, Attitude, and Action, and I’ll also send you my weekly Heart to Heart email with practical, inspirational messages just like this.