Small victories. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. Two years ago, if I’d had an hideously awful day like today I would have stopped by McDonald’s on the way home, gotten a quarter pounder with cheese, large fries, a huge diet coke, then picked up something incredibly unhealthy for dessert (I’m guessing a red velvet cupcake, possibly a bread pudding), called as many friends as I could find to vent, and cried myself to sleep.
The jury’s still out on crying myself to sleep, but I managed my stress quite differently today than I would have in the past.
First, I didn’t call anyone to vent.
According to my favorite resource for all things life-improving, The Happiness Project, talking about negative feelings doesn’t actually help dissipate them-- it just makes the negativity hang around longer.
This is also the subject of one of my favorite Zen parables, which, for your reading enjoyment, I’m copying in its entirety from detoxifynow.com:
Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!"
"Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her."
Buddhists are so smart. Why am I not a Buddhist?
Second, I didn’t go to McDonald’s. Instead, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, by myself, and read the latest Kathy Reichs novel on my Kindle. It was lovely. It was distracting. I felt better. (Until the Thursday Night SCENE started happening. Then I felt like a loser. But by then I was ready to leave.) And my grilled chicken salad and corn on the cob (with some chips and salsa) was a far cry from a quarter pounder with cheese and fries. (Must admit, I also had a vodka on the rocks, but since I drink about once a month, I figure that’s okay. On the shittiest day ever.)
Third, I didn’t pick up a massively unhealthy dessert. Instead, when I got home, I had a perfectly pleasant sugar-free fudgesicle. Did I want to drive to Whole Foods and get a sugar-free apple pie, which would technically fit under my no-sugar ban, but still be a really stupid, self-defeating thing to do? Oh, yes, I did want to. I wanted to A REAL LOT. But I didn’t.
Small victories. One step at a time. And, just maybe, instead of crying myself to sleep, I will instead institute a new bedtime mantra: This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.