Our Perception is Our Reality

I had been on the road for 3.5 hours of a 4 hour drive home from a two day conference. As I pulled onto the exit for my final 30 mins on the road I saw brake lights and rows and rows of stopped vehicles. Of course my heart sunk and I had the typical feeling of irritation. As we sat parked, I checked google maps and saw there’s an accident 7 miles ahead and of course there is no exit between me and the incident. So that left me with a choice to make, I could be grumpy, fuss and fume and make this unfortunate situation worse or I could make the most of it and choose to see the bright side. So within a matter of moments I dug out an old favorite CD (yep I went “old school”) rolled down the window and sung along to every song on that album. These were songs I hadn’t heard in years and they brought back some great memories. It really lifted my spirits. It’s amazing the difference music can make.
As we crawled along, I thought about all I had to be grateful for. I was thankful it wasn’t me or any of my loved ones in the accident. I was glad the weather was nice, sunny and warm. I was happy I had some left over snacks in my work bag (I ALWAYS carry food with me) and I had water (I would have been even happier if I had a bathroom so I didn’t drink that much of it). And I was relieved I didn’t HAVE to be anywhere in particular (no flight to catch, no kid pick up, no scheduled appointments). It was just me and hundreds of others inching our way along a little at a time. (Oh and my heart did go out to the woman in the Acura next to me with a toddler in the backseat. I sent her/them positive vibes as we passed each other, also grateful I didn’t have a little one with me).
I realized that this unexpected stop (literally) was an opportunity for a little self-care. As is the case this time of year, with the new school year well underway things are clipping along at a pretty steady pace. Not only had I attended that 2-day conference but I had also visited five districts in the past two weeks. It can be challenging to find a few moments for yourself during the normal busyness of life but when things are accelerated, it can feel close to impossible. However, I’m a firm believer it is so important to continue to make self-care a priority. Even if it’s just a quick 3-5 minutes to reconnect with yourself. But in this case, it was forced on me, so pay attention, notice them and then capitalize on them when they do present themselves.
As rough as things can get in our day to day, (remember I just came from five different district visits, there are some real challenges to overcome in some of these places) can you see any good? Can you find a highlight? Can you count a blessing? Do you see a silver lining? I’ve heard it said so often that our perception is our reality. If we perceived this is the worst thing that could happen to me, then it may just become that. If we claim that this is a bad day or everything is going wrong, then that may be the case. Perhaps if we look at circumstances around us as they are, take them at face value and attempt to reframe or view it differently maybe things will look better, more positive and hopeful. Adjusting our perspective is part of self-care. It helps us store energy rather than expend it on the negative.
One of my favorite quotes for those “rough days” is “Well, we can only go up from here”. It typically lightens my mood (and others around me) and helps to shift the perspective. Where do we go from here? How can we get our desired circumstances? I like to believe that sometimes it can be as simple as mind over matter.
When you look at your classroom or school environment, what is good about it? When your students are getting on that last nerve, can you see anything positive? When you are asked for one more thing, what can you find to be grateful for? When the papers needing to be graded are piling up, how can you look at your schedule in a positive light?
I eventually made it home an hour later, exhausted but happy. I gained perspective through that experience, like I have in similar or worse situations before. Good can come from undesirable circumstances. There is almost always a silver lining, something to learn, an opportunity to grow or a blessing to count. In most cases, the situation could always be worse. Maybe there’s a delay at the doctor’s office, close your eyes, listen to your breath while you are waiting. Maybe there’s a long line at the grocery store check-out, use that time to recount all the good things you experienced that day. Opportunities to feed our soul are around us, we have to watch (“W” in SLOW) for them and take advantage of them.

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