Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The long journey to retrieve realistic thoughts

There was a (long) season of my life where I was all too comfortable with the intricate details of traveling to another country and back again.  Packing was easy and I could get through customs and immigration in my sleep.  I was rarely stressed, and the airport (in any country) felt like home.  I knew exactly how much 3oz of liquid was, and always had extra zip-lock bags.  Traveling with only a carry on for any length of trip meant wheeling that around and carrying a small "personal item."  Still, I was still the fastest person through security on any given day.  Delayed flights were opportunities for blog posts, jet-lag was no problem for melatonin, and I always had exactly what I needed, or could easily figure out something with what was available locally.

I've been out of the routine now, for a little while (minus traveling for 5 weeks to S. Asia last summer on a Discover Trip), but the travelling life image came back to me yesterday as I was thinking about my own thoughts and feelings.

Except this time, it wasn't the easy breezy trip prep, journey and unpacking as it had once been.  It seemed much more involved and in the end hardly worth it.

Let me explain.

Two nights ago, I was in Walmart waiting for my husband, Jason, to get some shampoo.  Unknown to me, he decided since he was over in that area to pick up something else he needed.  While it felt like an eternity to me, he came back in what was probably a fairly long 9-10 minutes.  I doesn't soudn like saying it like that, but at the time it felt so long that I started to wonder if he had checked out at another register and might be waiting for me in the car!  Note: He would never do that, and I know that!

Anyway, while I waited, the negative thoughts started in.

"Why is he taking so long?  Doesn't he know we have other things to do?  Doesn't he understand that I am waiting for him?  He is over getting his own personal things, but I have spent the past 15 minutes getting stuff for our family as a whole.  Why do I always have to wait for him?" and on and on the thoughts went.

I struggled.  I fought.

I tried hard to get the positive, or even just the realistic thoughts back in my mind... those truths of: "My husband loves me.  He knows I'm waiting, and I know that he will come as fast as he can.  He isn't in this store for his own sake, he is intentionally getting things we need.  He knows we have other things to do, he will come back soon....Remember the days when you wished you had a husband to wait for?"

There were traces of those positive truths here and there in my mind as I waited -- kind-of like a flight confirmation code gives you the promise of your trip.

But in order to get to the other side - to the land of realistic thought patterns, bags have to be packed, someone takes me to the airport, I have to remove my shoes, get through security, find the gate, at the right terminal, deal with delayed flights, jet-lag, arrival, customs & immigration, locate a taxi, experience strange smells and sounds, unpack my bags, rest, and then, finally, the positive outcome of retrieving the appropriate attitude filter for the situation.


Way. To. Much. Work.

For others, positive or realistic responses to a (stressful or annoying) situations come easily and quickly.  I've noticed it's this way for Jason.  When a potentially unnerving situation arises, it seems like Jason rarely (if ever!) is negatively affected or responds negatively to it.  His ability to react well to frustrating circumstances is unparalleled to any I have ever seen!  Especially my own.

It takes me a long time to get there.

Like traveling around the world, it takes an insane amount of mental energy to move from the instantaneous negativity taking off, to actually begin the descent and land on a realistic viewpoint.

So is it worth it?

Is it worth the hassle of traveling around the world to get those realistic and positive attitudes to replace the negative ones that come so immediately?

On the one hand, I've put in the hard work of going to the far corners of the earth to get those truths and have had some victories overcoming the negative assumptions that flood my mind.  Being able to see clearly or to move through a situation with realistic perceptions is freeing!

But, I've also struggled to choose the right response and the outcome hasn't been so great.  Either because I gave up halfway, because the journey was too daunting (aka: my pride was too great), or because the other travelers involved (aka: Jason) didn't do what I was hoping in the midst of my journey which then complicated everything!

While it is a fight, and while it doesn't result in victories by my measurements every time, I know that there is a point to it all.

"In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.  Keep putting into practice all you have learned and received from me -- everything you heard from me and saw me doing.

Then the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

We are not to fill our minds with these things just for the sake of thinking nice thoughts.

We are not to persevere in this mental challenge when it feels like it is impossible just to fill our time.

These attitude shifts and expectation adjustments result in the peace of God being with us.

That, I do believe, is worth it.

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