Don’t borrow trouble.
I remember my mother using that phrase frequently and today I needed to remember her pithy advice. I have always had a rather pessimistic view of life. I won’t bore anyone with the details of all my childhood traumas that helped create this negative view of life, but my negativity bias is old and very well-established.
For the past decade or more I have worked diligently to reframe my thinking. I feel as though I have made great strides towards the goal of rewiring my brain so that the negativity bias is not my default any longer. Now I am more likely to move into a more positive mindset even in the worst of time.
Nevertheless, when you have a pattern that is nearly 55 years old it is impossible to just erase it. So sometimes, I move into the zone of fearing and/or expecting the worse. Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about how depressed I was as I thought about the weather forecast, realizing that it was projected to be cold and rainy after a few glorious days of warmth and sunshine. You can read that blog HERE.
Looking back on that, it was a perfect example of my negativity bias at play. I experienced a stimulus – reading the weather forecast – and then immediately spiraled down into a worst-case scenario. This morning, despite the somewhat grim forecast from earlier in the week, the day dawned bright and sunny. It was cool, but ultimately rose to the upper 50s with a light breeze. All in all, a glorious spring day.
I realized that I had given in to two major logical fallacies earlier in the week. First, the fallacy that the Weather Channel could accurately predict anything. Think about it. How often have they been 100% correct? Second, the fallacy that a change in the weather is ultimately a bad thing. The weather is what it is – I cannot change it any more than I can change this current pandemic. How I choose to think about it and feel about it, however, is entirely my choice and can be whatever I want it to be.
So, armed with those understandings I decided to take a long walk. After all, I am stuck at home with almost nothing to do, so my choice was either to stay home and try to create ‘things to do’ or to put on a light jacket and venture out into the wide, wide world.
Earlier this week, I was roaming around on the internet and ran across a post about the concept of “aimless wandering.” Contrary to my first thought (that is would be a negative thing – that negativity bias at work), the article I read noted that “aimless wandering” is actually a type of Daoist meditation technique. One goes out into nature and strolls without any agenda and no plan, simply practicing mindfulness and noticing whatever crosses your path. I love that idea.
So today, I practice that Daoist version of “aimless wandering.” For the first time since the start of this isolation, I managed to not only hit but surpass my goal of 10,000 steps per day.
I put aside any sense of negativity about the current world situation and spent my time paying attention to everything around me – sights, sounds, feelings, smells. It is amazing what you notice when you stop allowing your mind to ruminate on “what it” and “could have, should have, would have” scenarios.
I noticed the early spring flowers – vibrant flashes of color from hyacinths, daffodils, azalea, forsythia, and so many others. The squirrels were frolicking around even more than usual since they did not have as many cars to dodge. I even saw a few rabbits hopping around the neighborhood. The sun was bright and there was hardly a cloud in the sky – a bright blue sky. The breeze was light, but pleasant so I never felt overly warm. At one point, I stopped in a park and sat on a south-facing bench to just drink in the sunlight. For a brief moment, I felt sad that the park was so beautiful yet so empty. Normally on a perfect spring day like this, the park would have been crowded with children playing. Today, just me and a few people walking their dogs. But I brushed those thoughts aside and refocused on what was good about the day.
As I strolled, I passed numerous restaurants that were open for pickup and takeout, so I smelled some glorious things cooking. Except for the moments when I was crossing over the Eisenhower Expressway (weirdly busy and loud with rushing cars) I was struck by how quiet things really were. I heard the sound of the breeze, children playing, music lightly wafting from houses as I passed them.
All in all, it was a relaxing and healing experience for me. I felt like I finally reconnected to some sense of peace and calm in myself. When I got home, I took a long hot bath – something I would almost never think to do on a “normal” Saturday. Rejuvenated, I jumped into some cleaning projects at home and finally spent time preparing a fantastic meal for myself.
My mother was right – don’t borrow trouble. I raise a glass to her memory tonight as I sit here and think about how much nicer it has felt today to focus on the good things in my life instead of ruminating about the past or worrying about any “what if” scenarios.
As my friend Theresa writes HERE – it’s ok to feel ok!
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.