This is a slightly modified repost of a blog I wrote back in January. My VA, Ruby, said it’s still her favorite. And last week we both needed the reminder to consider the possibility: What if it went right? So, we thought maybe you might too. And on that note, I’m going to be showing up on Instagram and Facebook live to hang out with any of you who want to practice together for the next 7 days (June 21-27) – sharing what went right in our days and anticipating the possibilities in front of us. What it might feel like if a whole lotta things went right? Because, yes, it’s possible that it could all go to hell in a handbasket today. But it’s JUST as possible that your day, or your week, could be better than you imagined.
So, for all of you problem-solving, worst-case-scenario-planners out there, let’s give ourselves a break for just seven days. Let’s experiment and find out what happens if we notice what went right and expect (or at least consider the possibility of) the best possible outcome.
Maybe the whole world will fall apart.
Maybe it won’t.
I woke up Monday morning feeling discouraged and depressed because...
it was the third day in a three-day weekend and I hadn’t had much fun yet. In particular I hadn’t had much fun with my husband and I was really discouraged by that. Because we really needed some fun. And especially because we’d even had specific ideas of what we would do. Go to see Roma. Go walk on the beach. Maybe even have sex. (Hopefully that latter statement isn’t too much information for you all. I’m choosing to ignore my Puritanical impulse to avoid stating that sex was, in fact, one of the three items on our list. But it feels more authentic to leave it there. I’m guessing you can handle it.)
Anyway, as of Monday morning, we had done none of the above.
We didn’t go to the movies on Saturday night because my husband said he wanted to cook our dinner. But then he ran out of time and bought terrible tasting salad and bland soup and I was REALLY, REALLY disappointed by the terrible salad – which was the item I’d put all my joy and hopes on by that point. Especially since we weren’t having wine — which is the easiest fall-back option for feeling a bit of pleasure.
I did a good job of choosing to be a grown-up about it, if I do say so myself.
I observed myself without (too much) judgment – noting that my reaction to disappointment about salad was a bit extreme and demonstrated a level of dependence on food as my source of happiness that is a bit concerning. Also, noting that my over-dependence on food for joy wasn’t an issue that could be solved in that moment, I let myself feel what I felt – really disappointed and a little angry. I avoided what I would have done in the past – criticizing my husband and making it all his fault since he was the one who bought the dinner items. I told myself “maybe I’ll really enjoy the T.V. episode we’re going to watch. But I didn’t.
So, Saturday was a bummer overall in relation to fun and especially fun with my husband.
I didn’t even shower.
And Sunday wasn’t much of an improvement on Saturday.
Which led to Monday morning when I woke up before 6 am – first because I was cold and then because my alarm went off as if it were a work day.
I felt the disappointment almost immediately. Disappointment about the not fun, not sexy weekend I’d had thus far and (I noticed) also disappointment — in advance — about the disappointing day that was coming. Already I had decided that a fun, satisfying day was not possible. Already there wasn’t enough time left, we were failures etc.
Then I started looking back on where the problems started – as a means of figuring out how we could do better next time – assuming that the current weekend was already unsalvageable.
This problem-solving practice is a slightly better tactic than total doom and gloom. Well, much better, actually, but it still left me focusing on what went wrong AND assuming that the rest of the day would also go wrong.
Then I heard my new coach’s voice in my head.
What if it went right?
And I remembered that in this phase of my life I wanted to experiment with following the thoughts and feelings and ideas of my excited-self – instead of my cautious, careful, problem-solving self.
I love my problem-solving self. She brings me tons of joy actually. Solving problems is so satisfying! Problem-solving is a reliable source of joy for me. And I am reliably good at it.
But it can also lead me to need to have a problem to solve at all times. And my problem-solving- self can make it hard for me to notice and FEEL – to really experience – what is going right. And to expect the good that is possible.
It’s like I’m all off balance – like I have one arm that’s super strong and the other one is super weak. The strong arm is good. Needed, but I am choosing to focus on strengthening the weak one. And the funny thing is that in the particular case, the “weak arm” is the part of me that would notice and appreciate my strength. My “weak arm” is the part of me that would feel the enjoyment in my abilities and in all the things and people around me that are going right – or could go right.
So, in that moment, in my bed, I started asking the question, “What went right?”
Like the fact that I have a partner who bought dinner for me. And the fact that I didn’t fall into my old pattern of being overly critical. And that I was in a warm bed, with coffee.
It was actually hard to say these things out loud (which I later did with my husband.) I am so much more comfortable talking about what needs to be fixed. But this shift in attention started a slight shift in my emotions – and in my relationship.
Then I started asking myself the next question:
What if today goes right?
What if I feel joyful at the end of it? What if I go into the day believing that it’s just as possible that this day could be really pleasurable as it is that it will be hard and disappointing? What if I had a magic wand and I could KNOW that it’s going to be a really pleasurable day? What would I do then? What would my excited-self do going into this day if she knew everything was going to go really well?
This approach is not unlike the start of a prayer I’ve been using lately (from the book Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community)
We begin our day alone,
Honoring this life, with all its potentials and possibilities
We begin our day with trust,
Knowing we are created for loving encounter.
We begin our day with hope,
Knowing the day can hold,
Forgiveness and justice.
And Monday wasn’t amazing, honestly. But it was good. It was better – and we did manage to go through with one of our three plans for putting some fun into the weekend.
Definitely a better outcome than if I’d chosen to stay focused on what was, what went wrong, was going wrong, and could go wrong.
So next time you wake up noticing all that went wrong and/or anticipating all that is likely to go wrong (or how from the start you are already sure that your day will be hard and terrible and definitely doesn’t have enough time in it for all that you need/want to do.)
I encourage you do consider asking two life-transforming questions:
What went right? (past)
What if everything goes right? (future)
Then use that celebratory and anticipatory energy to go about changing your life – and the lives of those around you.
I’d love to hear about your experiments. You can always email me at email@example.com.