Serenity Now! Choosing Peace in the Midst of Chaos
Yesterday, I woke up and I tweeted this: " Don't ALLOW today to be a bad day. Choose peace. Choose happiness." Of course, as is always the case when I decide to tackle some means of self-improvement, the universe decided my resolve needed to be tested. So, while I got off to a great start, dancing in my kitchen as I scrambled my eggs and glorying in the sunny afternoon on my way out the door, my day started to take an unpleasant turn. The Caribbean restaurant near my house where I intended to get lunch was closed. So was the Chinese take out place. The bus was late, as per usual, and I was a few minutes late to work. I kept reminding myself of my tweet, repeating in my head, "choose peace, choose happiness" like a mantra.
I managed to approach my eight hour shift with a positive attitude, despite my earlier rough patch. But as I worked and chatted with my co-workers , something unpleasant was happening outside my office window. The sky was taking on a nasty dark hue and the trees outside the window were swaying wildly in the high breeze. And then, the sky opened up. At worst, I figured, the rain would make it hard for me to get home from work. That, I soon discovered, was the least of my worries.
My pleasant chit chat with my co-workers came to an abrupt halt. My job is typically quite stressful, as I field calls from the elderly and infirm, handling complaints as trivial as lost dentures or as serious as suicidal sons trying to jump the balcony (actual story). But last night, while the people of Toronto were dealing with power outages and flooded basements, I was dealing with hundreds of elderly and disabled folks who were concerned about their dark, water-logged homes. The calls were coming in three or four times faster than we could take them. On a regular day, the pace is fast, but yesterday, I was beginning to feel panicked. I was juggling multiple alarms, answering the same question about twenty times in five minutes, and trying to be as reassuring as possible, all while my belly grumbled and my bladder cursed me. I felt my stress levels rising and my tone sharpening. I was getting very close to a boiling point that I'd reached several times before. The next step would be tears (yes, I cry a lot), and this was no time to be crying.
And again, my mind flashed back to the tweet I'd posted just a few hours before. If I let the stress of the job get to me, I'd be failing to choose peace and happiness. I'd be succumbing to chaos and unhappiness; I'd be falling short of my goal for the day to see life through a more positive lens. Instead of fighting for peace and happiness, I was allowing myself to be overwhelmed by a situation that was beyond my control. I stopped and I thought to myself, "You are already doing everything in your power to get through this situation efficiently, effectively and according to protocol. What more do you have to give than your everything?" And at the point when I realized that I was giving my best, despite the rain pelting the windows and the thunder rolling angrily, I felt at peace. Perhaps not happy, but certainly at peace.
Without a doubt, choosing to be happy and at peace is always going to be difficult. Life rarely lets us off the hook that easily. On a daily basis, you'll encounter situations and people that challenge your peace and your happiness, but how you react, what you feel, is always a choice. That is not to say that you are to disregard or downplay other emotions--anger, pain, sorrow, frustration and despair all have their place in our humanity. But whether or not you stew in or succumb to these negative emotions is a choice.
And here's another crazy thought: it isn't impossible to find peace and happiness, even when you are sad, angry, hurt or frustrated. That old corny saying about clouds and silver linings isn't total bull. Perhaps you have to see the bigger picture in order to find the silver lining on a cloud that seems blacker than your darkest night, but it's there, I promise. So, even when the situation seems dire, search for peace and look for happiness.
Approach every day, every situation, with the intention on being happy and at peace. Even if you slip into something not so pleasant, just your intention to be in a better mental place will put you back on track. Even if it means walking around hollering out "Serenity now" like Frank Costanza (massive bonus points if you know who that is), do it. Don't ALLOW any day to be a bad day. Choose peace. Choose happiness.