This morning, Litsa and I ran our usual Thursday morning workshop at an emergency shelter in Baltimore City. We’ve been visiting this particular shelter for almost three years now, so our visits have become pretty routine: We come, we put out coffee and donuts, a handful of residents turn up to eat and drink the aforementioned coffee and donuts, and we talk about grief, coping, and the thousands of concepts that lie in-between.
This morning felt a little different for me, though, because I was in a pretty bad mood. In a longer version of this article, I’d tell you all about how I’ve been sick which caused me to oversleep which set off a domino effect of grouchiness and yelling as I tried to rush my daughters out the door this morning… But none of that’s important here. What is important is that I was feeling terrible and my outlook was wretched until, as luck would have it, the first person to show up for our workshop this morning came in with an attitude that was the exact counter-point to mine. She had a big smile and gave me a big hug and, with great gusto, she expressed her optimism and positivity about the New Year. My sharp negativity immediately softened… and then wilted into disappointment and shame.
“Darn it,” I thought. “Just yesterday, I had been on the same train as this woman: I was ready to eat healthier, have a more patient attitude, practice more self-care, and to get organized about work… but I let a sniffling little cold and a bad morning throw me totally off the rails.” Followed by the brief, but perspective-changing thoughts, “You always do this” and “You’ll never change.”
These self-defeating thoughts are familiar to me. They’re often there, keeping me anchored to the belief that, no matter what decision or resolution I make, I will inevitably slip back into being the same old me with the same bad habits, the same lack of self-care and self-discipline, the same disorganization, and the same outlook. And if you want to dig really deep, I suppose that at the heart of these thoughts is the underlying belief that I’m not truly in control or capable. Dang.
I can tell some of you are wondering why I’m telling you this. How is it supposed to be helpful? Well, it may not be… but I just wanted to let you know: If you ever feel discouraged or defeated before you even get started on something, you aren’t alone. Many people struggle with self-doubt on good days and, as you know, many of you are also dealing with things like trauma, loss, and hardship. So today’s post is a quick one: First, with a promise that next week’s post will be (much) more constructive. Second, with a request for you to share your wisdom in response to the following questions: