As I begin, I should say that this is a helpful idea–those who can’t do it in certain situations needn’t feel guilty. There’s a huge difference, for example, between my story and being paralyzed in an accident. I think the same principles can apply, it’s just much much harder to do. (I say all this because I don’t want to present my ideas as the perfect way to deal with bad things and thus imply that people who can’t seem to do that are somehow defective. I went through a period of suicidal depression, so I know what that’s like to be in and the last thing one needs is to feel guilty)
On to the post!
This afternoon, the Red Line metro in DC was sharing tracks with another line. During rush hour, therefore, trains were only coming every 10 minutes or so. When I arrived, the sides of the track were four people deep. Fortunately, it was a bigger station and so lots got off. Still, I barely made it on and rode smushed to the door until the first stop, when I managed to get farther inside.
The whole trip was uncomfortable. It was hot, crowded, and the train was unusually jerky, the makings of a very bad mood.
And for a minute or two I felt frustrated. I’d worked all day, now was I going to suffer the whole way home?
Here are some solutions I found:
1. If appropriate, joke or converse pleasantly with the people around you. There were a number of students and businesswomen my age squished in with me. I quipped “Are they sponsoring ‘Get to know your neighbor week?’ Another girl added “Thank God for ‘Secret.'” Broke some tension. Built a little camaraderie. People began to speculate about which station would clear out the car. That helped a lot. We weren’t alone and we could find humor and community in the situation. Most of it was amusing, though, not angry complaining. I think that’s important.
2. Figure out how this situation can enrich your life. Can you learn patience? Do you appreciate more the normal 3-5 minute wait time between rush hour trains? Do you feel glad that you got a chance to sit down yesterday?
I had been reading Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird before I changed trains. She had just been talking about plot and putting two characters who dislike each other into an elevator–which then breaks down and traps them. Perfect! I started to imagine scenarios that would play out in a novel. My bag was nearly hitting one woman in the head. My body was pressed up against several others. What if this were the romantic hero? What if the girl whose hand I keep bumping was my chief rival at the office?
Lots of brain food there. Take the situation and play with it. Unless you can actually change it, and if you can detach enough emotionally, you might as well.
3. Be honest about your feelings. This is different from being angry. When I got off the metro and met Mr. Micah, the first thing I asked was “Can I complain for 15 seconds?” I then explained, briefly, the uncomfortable situation on the ride home. Then I was able to tell him about the more positive aspects. I got much more excited about those than I normally get about a metro ride.
I needed him to understand that I’d just been through a slightly frustrating situation. But I also didn’t want to feed the mood by yelling at the metro system. Suppressing it entirely seemed like it would feed it as well. Appropriate expression. Sometimes an appropriate expression might be crying for hours (death of a loved one). But it’s rarely blowing up. I think.
What’s most important is to communicate, to appropriate people, how we’re feeling right now.
So those are my thoughts as I mentally reviewed the situation. I think a lot of it comes from tools I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy. I hope that I expressed it well. I’d be interested in feedback.