I’m on vacation now with my family- we are all staying together in a lovely beach house in Hilton Head. My niece and nephew are with us- twin almost-11 year-olds, and they are the loves of my life. It’s funny, though, how being around almost-11 year olds can remind us of some of our own childish behaviors that have survived into our adult lives… So, in the spirit of continuing with the theme of my previous posts: ‘Things people kept saying to me during my teacher training in India that drove me crazy, until I realized that they were totally true’…
No matter how much a family loves each other, sometimes they get on each others’ nerves. Yesterday my nephew needed some space from his sister, and I overheard him saying that if she went to the beach at the same time he did, she would ruin it for him. Even when we offered to take them separately, he wouldn’t be convinced.
We can’t control other people. As much as we would like to, or think that we do, we can’t. They’re going to behave the way they are going to behave, in the best way they are capable of, in any given moment. Their behavior might not make sense to us, and it may seem downright wrong, but that doesn’t actually matter because, like I said, we have no control over it.
If we have no say in how anyone acts, giving someone else the power to ‘ruin’ anything for us makes no sense at all. It might make it easier for us, because we can blame someone else for our unhappiness and ignore our own problems and issues. But placing our happiness in the control of anything outside ourselves only leads to stress and suffering.
Here’s the problem, though- when it’s written on a page, it’s easy to see. In real time, it’s a lot harder to recognize. It can range from seemingly minor things, like hearing a song that you hate and letting it ruin your night (for me, this song is “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus), to way more important stuff, like your spouse left you, and letting it ruin your life.
All that we can control is ourselves, and our reactions to the demands life puts in front of us. It’s not always easy, but it is attainable. First- look inside yourself, instead of outside in the world, for the reason that you are unhappy, frustrated, sad, or whatever emotion you are feeling. As soon as you catch yourself playing the blame game (‘Miley Cyrus is ruining my night’, or ‘the rain is ruining my vacation’, or ‘my boss sent me a crazy email that ruined my day’)- just STOP. Ask yourself what is really bothering you. What are you afraid of? Why are you giving away your happiness to something over which you have no control?
Second- who says you’re right? Who says you’re wrong? What’s right for you isn’t always right for someone else. This is actually a good thing. You do you.
Third- loosen up! Most things actually aren’t such a big deal. Take a step back and get some perspective. Follow your worst-case scenario through and see what the outcome looks like. If I let the radio keep blaring “Party in the USA” right now, what’s the worst that will happen? I might get stuck on the song all night. I might actually start to like the song. Other people who actually do like the song won’t start to hate me. I won’t be acting like a child. Not bad, right? Plus, the song is over in 3 minutes and 22 seconds (I just checked) and then I’ll be able to move on.
So maybe Miley Cyrus is actually awesome, and I’ve been wrong all these years. Maybe not. But for me to get all upset when “Party in the USA” comes on is not only ruining my night, but also everyone else’s night. Turn the blame party into an opportunity to look inward. We can start to recognize patterns of unhealthy behavior that can be changed. Step by step, change is possible, but it starts with the small stuff. Find your happiness where it belongs- within yourself.