On Setbacks

I’m writing to you from my favorite wine place in Omaha again, and though it’s busier than past Saturdays, it still feels quiet and blissful. I’m getting a few moments, or hours, away from home to focus only on creating something.

This week was tough. I am a pretty positive and healthy person but this week was, and continues to challenge my mindset.

Let’s start off by saying, I woke up Monday in a pretty great headspace. I was happily working from home and with my team and then…BAM! I started getting annoyed and it quickly turned into feeling anger. I’ve written about being angry in this blog space. It’s definitely not a top ten emotion of mine and I also fight feeling that way by either ignoring or shaming myself for FEELING that way.

Notice, I didn’t say, “I AM ANGRY’. I said, “I’m feeling anger.” I know I’m making progress in my emotional evolution when I stop speaking about my emotions being who and what I am. So, hey! I’ve got that going for me.

I’ve also been making strides thinking that situations in life don’t happen TO me but rather FOR me. There’s a distinction there, I think. The first is a victim mentality. It is a dangerous excuse – the kind where one could say that the reason why they are mean and unkind is due to their life basically sucking. The second, is more empowering. What is the current situation attempting to TEACH me? How can I GROW from this situation? I don’t know about you, but leaning into the second, “life happens for me”, is a little foreign but I definitely like the person I am when I’m walking that path rather than blaming whatever…

All of this to say, I literally had to sit with my anger for a few days – and I noticed something interesting. I noticed that I label emotions as good and bad. Feeling love, happiness, joy – those are good. Feeling anger, sadness, frustration – those are bad emotions. But what IF emotions are neither good nor bad but just ARE?

This is not a new concept for me. I’ve heard it and have applied it before – and really, it’s true. Emotions aren’t good or bad but the language we apply to those emotions IS. So, why is that?

In the Buddhist practice, it is believed (and true, if you think about it), emotions are fleeting. They come and they go. One does not experience joy all their days. If they did, how would they know it was JOY? The same could be said about anger and sadness. How could one articulate anger and sadness if that’s all they know and experience?

Blow your mind yet?

So, to recap. Feelings are neither good or bad, they just ARE.

So, if you’re feeling anger (like I was this week), how do you get beyond the anger to feeling something different? Right?! That’s probably the million dollar question right now.

In my case, I have to acknowledge that I’m feeling this way. I need to say, “I’m experiencing anger (or sadness, or despondency, etc.)”. I also need to STOP LABELING anger as bad. Anger isn’t BAD – anger can lead to better understanding. Why am I feeling this way? What circumstances are happening that I’m not addressing or allowing to cross my personal boundaries? Am I going to bed early? What’s my self care looking like these days?

Sometimes, there is no clear answer but every time, I must allow that feeling to flow through me. I must be mindful of my reaction and pause. I must protect my headspace. That might look like inviting a good friend over to talk to and laugh. That might be watching a sitcom. That might be writing out your gratitudes. That might be meditation or praying. That might be reading something inspirational. It might be a hot bath or to sit with your pet. Whatever helps you during that time – do it but don’t ignore it.

For me, it was inviting a friend over and making her dinner. Acts of service is my primary love language and I love interrupting the “churn” so that I start thinking clearer. I cooked A LOT this week for people I love. I also decided that I was not going to take out my anger on anyone – including myself. Why beat myself up? I acknowledged that I was doing the best I could in those heated moments when I would get triggered.

Finally, I made sure I was spending time with people who support and have a similar vision about life. These people are more experienced in letting the emotions flow through them. I sent messages talking about what IS and how I was feeling. Burning off (metaphorically speaking) the feelings and talk that wasn’t serving me – and calling in the things that would serve me. Things like patience, love, grace, peace, and better personal boundaries.

So, my setback this week really wasn’t a setback. It was a challenge. Changing how I deal with emotions, the language I apply to all emotions, and especially what I do and don’t do when in “bad” headspace, is key. Viewing setbacks as a challenge is also a new concept to me. Again, with the language here – but as humans, we have put the word SETBACK in the negative column. What happens, though, when we change setback to CHALLENGE?

The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others

Erik Erickson

For me, since y’all don’t know me. I’m competitive, and really, I’m more self competitive. Challenge is something to overcome. Challenge, in my mind, doesn’t have that negative connotation associated with it. When challenged, I rise to the occasion. Sometimes I win…and sometimes, I fall flat. The point is I’m trying. I’m actively working to be my best self – and challenges – well, that’s how we refine ourselves and find our weaknesses. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the bringing of all wisdom.” I am afforded the opportunity to get better by learning my triggers and reactions so that I might overcome them. So that I might become kinder. So that I might be more loving. So that I might shine brighter.

So, what do you do, dear reader? What do you think of some of these concepts? I would love to hear from you! Much love and have a great week! Xo

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