Last Sunday, I had a bad day. In the morning, I put my iPad on the bathroom counter, as I do at least three times a day. But this time, I somehow accidentally knocked it down onto the tile floor, and the screen instantly cracked into a spiderweb.
An hour later, I took a loaf pan full of freshly-baked banana bread out of the oven and promptly dropped it onto the kitchen floor, shattering glass absolutely everywhere and cutting up my toe and ankle in the process.
Do you want to guess what my first reaction was both times?
You got it:“What the hell is wrong with me?! I’m such an idiot.”
And I really meant it, I truly felt that way. Those thoughts played on a loop in my head all day: the serious concern that I had some deep, fundamental issue with my coordination, the feelings that I was just clumsy and careless and lazy, and the belief that I don’t deserve nice things.
I felt dark and heavy and unworthy and ashamed. I’m even still kind of ashamed to be writing about it, because somewhere deep down I feel like it’s embarrassing, like it’s something that would only happen to someone deeply troubled or broken in some way.
But I’m realizing that these thoughts that come so easily in dark moments are my limiting beliefs. They’re the unhelpful, untrue, unfounded automatic reactions that hold me back from my joy and my power.
I chose light as my word for 2016, but throughout the past month it’s become very obvious to me that I won’t be able to find the light until I stop dwelling in the dark. Until I find ways to acknowledge my limiting beliefs, bring them to the surface, look at them in the light of day and successfully argue to myself that they’re false. Until I stop listening to every negative feeling I have and allowing it to affect my behaviour instead of questioning its reality. Until I train myself to focus on the positive instead of perseverating about the negative. Until I notice and really unpack all the crazy stories I’m telling myself.
And I’m trying. Every day, I’m trying and learning how to better accomplish these important, lifelong challenges.
Thankfully, despite my mood I still found lots of light that day. My boyfriend picked the glass out of my ankle, sent me for a shower, and cleaned up the entire mess without being asked by the time I was done. I was embarrassed to tell my mom because I was worried that she’d worry about me, but I reached out to a friend who also struggles with anxiety and together we were able to make light of the situation. And then I went out and bought us a new loaf pan – one made of sturdy metal instead of glass.
Later in the day, I spilled flour on the floor and nearly broke the glass container we keep it in. As I was sweeping it up, I realized that I was calling myself an idiot out loud. I took a deep breath, ignored my insistent feelings, and switched the script:
“I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Today’s a bad day, and I made a mistake.”
As Brené Brown puts it, this is the difference between guilt and shame: “I did something bad” vs. “I am bad.”
Choosing to be kind to myself may not have been my first reaction, but I am grateful that I could eventually start to reach for forgiveness, grace, and light.
I created a photo project for the year based on my word: the Looking For The Light Project (#lookingforthelightproject). The wording is important, because I think that’s what I have to do: I have to look for it. As much as I might wish otherwise, it’s not in my nature to simply bask in all the light I have in my life. Maybe one day that’ll change, but for now it’s something I have to go after with my whole heart.
Sources of Light:
An excellent reminder from Elizabeth Gilbert.
I’m taking Ali Edwards’ One Little Word Class to get the most out of my word this year.
I started a Pinterest board full of beautiful quotes about light, and I’m choosing one per week to write into my planner.