July 4th is a magical time of the year. The sun is shining and the beaches, trails, campgrounds and lakes are packed with happy vacationers enjoying time with family and friends. Sounds enchanting right? Why is it then that so many of us feel stressed out and underwhelmed? We count down for months on our calendars willing away the days and fantasize about all the future fun we will be having. Visions of campfires, firework displays, cookouts, and parades flood our mind and help us get through the enduring rainy spring days.
Finally, the July 4th weekend arrives. You have spent the last several weeks stocking up on red white and blue attire for your family (on sale from Memorial Day, of course), restocked your torn American flags that were left out until Labor Day last year, and splurged on gourmet s’more ingredients.
“Hey everyone, what are our plans for the weekend?” To which there is no reply. Subtly you restate your question as not to alert your family members that you are hoping they have also been looking forward to spending time together.
“Fools learn nothing from wise men, but wise men learn much from fools” Johann Lavater
Your children scatter about, leaving scribbled notes on various counter surfaces noting their erratic work schedules. “See you at 10pm” “Have the car, gas tank on Empty, be home at 8” “Please pick me up at 5!”. Well, at least there is some communication, right? But no one has replied to my initial question. Then the cell phone rings and it’s your husband announcing he would be stopping by the local microbrew store on his way home from work, inquiring if he could pick you up anything. Considering you are a wine drinker, the answer is obvious. At least he checked with you, right?
And there you are left alone to puzzle piece the weekend plans. It is at this very moment when you decide to take a break from the craziness of it all and scroll through your Facebook page to “check in” or should I say, “check out”. Immediately images of happy families flood your newsfeed. “Hmm”, you say to yourself. “How can I create that image for my family?”, especially when no one is around. Panic sets in and you begin to feel stressed and annoyed at your family’s inattention to planning and prioritizing together time. You find yourself scrolling through your phone at an alarming rate, mumbling to yourself. You become annoyed at your friends innocent check in’s at local hot spots enjoying the obligatory summer lobster roll or taking a leisurely boat ride down on the lake.
Pay attention, on purpose, without judgement….be mindful at this very moment!
Notice your breath.
It has become short,
Your stomach begins to feel nervous,
The blood has rushed to your head, and thoughts are running rampid.
You begin comparing, judging, feeling anger and resentment.
S T O P HERE!
Take another breath, this time slowly through your nose and out your mouth. Actually pay attention to the breath and how it feels in your chest. Notice your chest rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
When a thought enters your mind, (like how angry you are at your family members, or how Sally’s posts are annoying on Facebook) let it go…. don’t judge yourself for having the thought, just simply notice it and watch it pass by.
Continue this process until you feel calm and relaxed.
Now you have a choice to respond or react to your emotions. A reaction goes something like this:
“You kids are so selfish” ….” Tell your boss that you cannot work, non-negotiable” …” Everyone who loves me knows I don’t drink beer” ….” bleep, bleep, bleep (often times my go to response, sadly)
The communication has broken down further, and you begin to feel badly and more removed.
There’s actually a Choice, there always is!
Here’s what a response looks like:
“Well, you work so hard, can you please try to squeeze a few hours to spend time with us, we will miss you” …” I am so looking forward to spending some time together, lets figure this out” …” I am grateful you checked in and on your way home from the microbrewery could you stop at the wine store?”
When you look for things to be grateful for, no matter how small…rather than things to be angry about, you begin to feel happier and more connected with your loved ones. How you communicate with yourself and others is important! And when you least expect it, that special unplanned moment occurs. Your entire family is in the back yard, laughing and playing volleyball and enjoying each other’s company. Even if just for an instant. You begin to notice and relish that moment in time. When you stop and notice, really notice that…. life gets so much richer. Sure, you wish those moments would be more frequent. But if they were, would you appreciate them more or less?
And, at the end of the day, if you are not on Facebook sharing photos it simply means you are keeping them close to your heart where they belong.
Megan Murphy, CPC