Holiday 2012 -- Appreciate the Goodness
Last weekend was one of those picture perfect days at the San Diego Zoo. While breathing in all the goodness around me, I overheard a woman getting all huffy because she wasn't seeing enough animals. She was going to "write a letter." Not being able to help myself, I told her the best time for seeing animals was either early in the morning or after 3 p.m. She was still going to write a letter to "the management" because it just wasn't "right."
Before getting on my own huffy high horse about how absurd it was for anyone to think the actions of wild animals could (or should!) be controlled, I tried to put myself in this woman's shoes. I wondered if perhaps she had traveled a long distance and/or paid more than she could afford? Maybe she had been looking forward to visiting our world-famous zoo since she was 3 years old? Maybe she had just come from having a root canal? I wasn't sure, but I truly did my best to understand how anyone could be so agitated while surrounded by such beauty. It got me to thinking about how practiced (or unpracticed) we are in dealing with our own disappointments.
Most of us have a "toolbox" that we open when we need to deal with disappointment, and those coping tools are all over the map. But in the end, I believe, experiencing disappointment is part of the human experience. Not everyone who buys a MEGA Millions ticket wins, not every ballerina makes the Joffrey Ballet, and cancer happens even to those who eat 100% organic. That's just the way it is.
But back to the woman at the zoo. I thought of her yesterday when dealing with my grown daughter. My disappointment over an issue sent me into an emotional fetal position. Like the woman at the zoo, my expectations had been deeply dashed, and had there been a "management" to write to, I would have! What I took from that zoo encounter was that despite this woman's feelings of outrage that the animals were taking a siesta, she was surrounded by good things. She just needed to see them! Although she couldn't control the animals' actions, she could control what she focused on. As I began shifting my thoughts this morning from what wasn't "right" about the situation with my daughter to all the good I could see around me, from my refrigerator stocked with healthful food to my neighbor's smile across the fence, I began to feel my stress dissolve. I know this probably sounds Pollyanna-ish, but it works.
With the holidays approaching, some of us will find ourselves in those "I'm going to write a letter!" moments. Let's remember to be gentle on ourselves in those moments, maybe see the absurdity of the situation, let the moment pass, decide to do something differently, or perhaps communicate our feelings in a way they can truly be heard, focus on the good around us, and then move on. As trite as it may sound, you can't control Aunt Bev being her usual three hours late, but you can control how you let it affect you.
I'm grateful for it all today—having two daughters to love, learning from the disappointments, and being here for another holiday season. I'm going to do my best to relax, breathe in all the goodness around me, and let the wild animals be wild.