Let me set the scene:
Springtime is a reprieve in the desert. It’s a reprieve from sweltering hot, dry days and from the gloom of the not-quite-winter that rolls through for about four months out of the year. (Side note: I currently live near Las Vegas.) On this particular day, a few days ago, you could smell the sky like fresh laundry, a quiet blue blanket overhead, a gentle breeze making the trees dance. The sun did not beat down. Instead, it caressed your skin as it mosied towards the edge of the horizon to kiss the world goodnight.
These were my observations as I was sitting in a very long line at our local In-N-Out™ drive through, window rolled down, country music playing on Spotify™ via my (crackly) car stereo. I was paying little mind to the two order takers going from car to car, doing their best to take orders at every vehicle before the line started moving again. (If they weren’t quick enough, they would get a quick reprimand from their shift manager, who was standing idly by, bless their hearts.)
After they took my order, I lounged leisurely in the driver’s seat, shifting just enough to safely accelerate my car when I needed to creep towards the window as the line ahead of me moved. It was sitting in my car, waiting for the line to move, that I was suddenly overcome by a wave of peace. I was struck by how beautiful the world around me was, and I thought to myself, “this is perfect. This is exactly what I needed.”
And then I laughed out loud at the irony of having this moment as I was sitting in a fast-food drive-through ordering double cheeseburgers and fully loaded french fries for myself and my fiance.
Here’s the thing, though.
I’ve understood for pretty much my entire life that happiness and magic exist in what are seemingly the most mundane and ordinary moments.
The complexities of adulthood sometimes make me forget this. It takes quiet moments (and sometimes unusual scenarios) to bring that wisdom back to me.
I have come to understand that, as human beings, we can’t find something that we aren’t looking for (and I don’t mean your car keys). People who look for joy tend to find joy. People who look for the good in others tend to find the good in others. Vice versa, people who look for the negative, tend to find the negative and are the most susceptible to fear – and maybe you haven’t heard, but “the only thing [you] have to fear is fear itself.” (At least, according to Franklin D. Roosevelt. I tend to agree.)
I, for one, choose to look for everyday magic. Things like fresh lilies on the kitchen table, talking to my daughter when she turns into a tiny boxer in my tummy, and being playful with my fiance give me that everyday magic feeling.
I was asked to write a post about all things positive. Instead, I’m choosing to make this a post about how to help you find the positive (and the magic in the mundane).
How do you look for magic and positivity when you feel yourself living in a state of doom and gloom?
First of all, tell yourself to stop swimming in it.
Seriously. Say that out loud.
Second of all, remember that you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to feel positive and motivated all the time. That’s not realistic (even when we aren’t under quarantine).
Treat your negative thoughts like passersby, not like residents or long term visitors. I can’t take credit for this one (I’m pretty sure I saw the advice on an Instagram™ post), but I’ve found it to be a great metaphor for my personal approach to spiraling thought patterns.
Negative thoughts and emotions happen, and it’s important to acknowledge them. Don’t try to pretend you don’t have them – that’s the equivalent of letting a wound fester and not telling your doctor. It’s stupid to lose a leg over a minor injury that would’ve been healed already if you had just acknowledged it was injured and cared for it properly. Consider this when you just want to get the bad thoughts and feelings out of the way because they make you uncomfortable. Secrets make you sick. (Have you ever been to TWLOHA’s website? If you have, you may recognize this saying from there.)
Once you’ve acknowledged the negative thoughts and emotions, once you’ve given them a little time to breathe, give them a smile (you can take this as literally…or not…as you’d like). Imagine them floating away. Give them a name and tell them thanks for stopping by, please (don’t) come again. Think of one positive thought; flip the negative thought on its head, think of something you’re grateful for, or something you have to look forward to.
It might sound something like this:
“Gah, I’m so tired lately. I have all of this time on my hands, and I feel like I can’t get anything done, and this quarantine is messing with a lot of the plans my fiance and I had over the next few months, and it’s stressing me out. But it’s okay – I have this beautiful new home that my fiance and I live in together. Shoot, I have a roof over my head. I’ve been able to acquire things that we need (and don’t) through the modern convenience of online shopping (keeping the economy alive!), and my fiance and I started painting our daughter’s room today, which feels like progress. Oh, and thanks to current events, I found the inspiration to start this blog that I’ve been sitting on for three years! Not to mention the Final Fantasy 7 remake is out, and we have fresh food in our refrigerator, and I have a beautiful mixer to use when I want to bake and everything I need to make a cake…mm cake…”
It’s a magic trick for the mind.
Of course, if you try to replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts and it starts to feel like you’re just trudging through the deep end of the swimming pool of negativity (which happens too), take a deep breath. You can always take a nap, put on a funny movie, watch funny videos on YouTube™, do a web search for positive news stories (the Good News Network appears to be a good place for that), scroll funny memes, or put on a positive playlist.
You could even try to make a list of five activities that bring you joy (that are accessible to you in your current situation) and try to do one of them.
And, of course, if you’re struggling with a mental health issue, addiction, abuse, or anything else, and quarantine is exasperating your situation, remember that you are not alone. You can try the Crisis Text Line or 4help.org, or any of the other resources from my previous post.
And here’s the takeaway: If you feel overwhelmed by your current situation, concentrate on one thing that feeds your soul. Acknowledge your negative thoughts and feelings. Smile. Try to let gratitude trump negativity. And when you speak, speak with intention. Speak to spread joy. Speak mindfully.
You have to lift yourself up if you want to lift others up with you, and you can’t find something you aren’t looking for.
Consider these ponderings, and you too could feed your soul at the In-N-Out™ drive-through.
Or…feed your soul with In-N-Out™, or whatever else floats your boat.
In all seriousness, let me know what’s feeding your soul these days. Leave it in the comments if you feel like it…you never know who might need to hear your take on finding joy during this quarantine.
Keep your chins up!