I am having one of those days. Maybe one of those weeks. Dare I say one of those months? None of it is terribly serious. It started as one little thing. Then another. Then another. Minor irritations like:
My dog is hopelessly spoiled and nicknamed “favorite child” by my children. He is my constant companion throughout my workday. Most of the time, he lays by my feet like a gentle little lamb, while I play classical music and work in my home office. I depend on that serenity and music to help me get into the zone of creativity. Unfortunately, his breed tends to be a bit territorial, so any distraction outside (like a random bird or stray cat) will result in an unexpected bark-fest. His barking comes out of nowhere and has all of the charm of a screeching smoke detector or a colicky baby crying at the top of its lungs. Admittedly, he was probably always like this, but for the last few weeks it seems to happen more often... and my patience is currently in short supply.
Then there is the post-mortem of my daughter’s messy room from last week. I continue to preach about my life philosophy that an organized living/workspace results in a more organized mind. When things are organized, everything feels a little less overwhelming. Less time is wasted keeping track of stuff. That extra brain power is then available for higher productivity and better results in meeting your social, work and life obligations. At least, that’s my theory. So when I learned that my daughter forgot to finish one of her math assignments last week, I felt like that whole discussion simply fell on deaf ears. Apparently, organizing her room is completely unrelated to a forgotten homework assignment. While I attempted to make that connection again, I was greeted with that classic teenage-eye-roll and dismissed.
Meanwhile, I am trying to juggle the various projects that I am producing. I am waiting for a studio to get back to me on a contractual issue on a reality show. I am waiting for a network to get back to me on a pilot script. I am waiting for one of my writers to do an overhaul on a movie. I am waiting for another writer to come back to me with an outline for a pitch. They all seem to be in various stages of limbo at the moment… and I hate limbo. Some people are not tortured by limbo. They see it as balls in the air. Plates spinning. Things are happening. Possibilities are endless. I look at limbo as a lack of control. It’s emotional Jell-O. You can’t get a grip on it (and I don’t really like Jell-O). I am humbly reminded (yet again) of the art of Patience.
Then I am having technical issues with my computer. And by technical issues, I mean my own limitations of computers, with the exception of my mastery to send emails. My tech support has been out sick, so my to-do lists are stacking up around me. This makes me feel anxious because I feel helpless and annoyed that I am not more self-sufficient.
If I wasn’t irritated enough, I am feeling physically uncomfortable in my clothes lately. It's as if my clothes have shrunk. How is that possible? It’s not like anyone else accidentally did my laundry. Then it occurred to me. Since the holidays, I might have developed a mild addiction to comfort food. I blame it on the weather for being uncharacteristically cold and damp. So maybe it’s not so much that my clothes are shrinking, but that I seem to be expanding. Seems like all that comfort food is making me… uncomfortable. So I am going to need to work on fixing that too.
None of these issues are a big deal on their own, but they feel like a series of paper cuts. Now I am just irritated and cranky. Cranky begets cranky. It’s going to be a downward spiral if I don’t nip this in the bud.
I am really good at dispensing advice about how to take control back into your life. How to snap out of a bad mood. How to avoid a self-pity party. How to re-energize yourself. But sometimes when you are in the “spin cycle” of irritation or doubt, you forget the very basic lessons you tell others. So I thought I need to sit down and write a few “Operating Instructions” for myself. (Warning: At the risk of being Captain Obvious, and having you employ my teenage daughter’s famous eye roll, these are a few things that help me when I am feeling annoyed with myself and the rest of the world.)
Take a walk. Fresh air and sunshine (if available) can be a real game changer. If you have the luxury of walking with a friend, a co-worker or even your dog, this is even better. My dog is not a particularly good “walker.” He tends to stop and sniff every blade of grass. He has never met a single object that isn’t worth lifting his leg for. It’s not much of a workout for me, but sometimes it forces me to stop and smell the roses… which he insists on peeing on anyway. The added benefit is that he is ridiculously happy… and that makes me happy.
Take a timeout. I am a big proponent of meditation. I was really cranky the other night and I needed to get dinner on the table. I decided that dinner could wait 20 minutes, so I went into my bedroom to meditate. When I came out, it was as if I had hit the reset button. I was noticeably calmer and my family seemed a lot more appreciative that I was making dinner. (Or they might have been wary of my mood before meditation, so they were just being a little nicer.) But if meditation is not your thing, I would recommend laying down quietly for a 15-minute power nap. Or sit by yourself in a quiet place. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think about 10 things you are grateful for. They can be big or small. Sometimes just counting your blessings can change your entire perspective.
Avoid the news or social media. Read something uplifting. Sometimes I will search the internet for positive quotes. I will write one down and set that as my intention for the day. Sometimes finding the right quote, at the right moment, can make me feel less alone. As if someone else understands exactly what I am feeling at that moment. This makes me feel more connected to the universe. Sometimes just the power of positive thinking can help me see things more clearly and problem solve. The one I found today was:
Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Donate. It doesn’t matter what it is. Your time, your money, your old stuff or even just your attention to someone who needs it. Last week, I volunteered to bake cookies for the bake sale at my daughter’s school. Later I donated money to a few of my favorite charities.
Smile. It’s really hard to smile when you are cranky, but smiling truly is contagious. Have you ever noticed when you’re on vacation, it seems like everyone is nicer? That’s because when you are on vacation, you are probably smiling. So the world is smiling back at you. Positive energy attracts positive energy.
My dog is still barking. My daughter’s room is still not tidy. My projects are still in limbo… and the cookie baking didn’t quite help my current comfort food addiction. But I am smiling and I think my sour mood has passed in spite of everything else being virtually the same. So to keep the good vibes flowing, I am headed out for a walk, and then I am going to drive my brother to the airport.
That’s my charitable contribution for the day.