I’m in line at the grocery store. But not really. My mind is 100 other places. I’ve asked the cashier for an empty box. She looks at me inquisitively. I’m feeling a bit self-questioning already actually. I’ve just figured out a new game that I want to do on Fridays with my middle school cross country runners. It should be fun and exciting, and also get them running a bit and loosened up before the meet on Saturday. The game includes taking two pieces of either fruit or vegetables and hiding them in the woods (this week’s victims are two butternut squash named Hank and Bertha).
I’ve run this idea by about a half a dozen people, children as well as adults, and everybody wants to know what’s in the box. This game should be a hit! We should all have a lot of fun, but right now my mind keeps running over all the things that could go wrong. It is literally playing out every scenario that doesn’t work. Hank and Bertha don’t get found. The runners get lost in the woods and miss the late bus. Nobody even cares what’s in the box – I find this last one hard to believe, but my mind is having a field day!
I’d like to say that this thought process has only been going on since I got in the check-out line, but I’ve been mulling it over all day. Practice is literally a little over an hour from now, yet it seems like I’ve been wondering if this new game’s gonna’ work out since I thought of it yesterday. That’s 23 hours of not being present with my work, with my family, with my run on the trails. Even standing in this line…
We all get 24 hours each day. It doesn’t matter who you are, that’s all you get. Rich or poor. Strong or weak. Bald or a full head of hair. Those 24 hours are the same for everyone.
Except they’re not. Not really.
When you are caught up in your emotions, you can lose time. You can find yourself allowing uncomfortable emotions to make your decisions for you, driving your thinking. This leaves you, the decision-maker, taking a backseat to your own life. When your mind floods with uncertainty, doubt, and fear you can get lost in the memories of uncomfortable setbacks that you cannot change, or an uncertain future that you are convinced will hold every failure you can imagine.
This doesn’t mean you ignore the information that your emotions provide. When you have a fearful memory, acknowledge that fearful memory, rather than allowing it to take up your time in the present. Look at it with your full awareness on what is actually happening in the present moment. Then you can let the emotion pass, refocusing on what is going on right now for you.
You can feel sad, for example, because you are missing a loved one who is not at a family gathering. You can also realize that you don’t want to feel sad right now and choose instead to recall good memories of your loved one that make you smile. Or you can go talk to cousin Jeff (we all have a cousin Jeff 😊) who always feels good to be around, leaving you in a better emotional space. The trick is to always use your ability to listen to your emotions as fuel to keep you in the present moment rather than allowing them to take you from it!
I hear the cashier ask me why I need a box? “It’s a game I created for my runners,” I tell her. “The winner gets to decide whether or not they want what’s in the box or 6 Jolly Ranchers.”
She laughs and says, “Well that will keep their attention!”
I take a deep breath. I finally allow myself to begin to trust the game will work and decide to move my attention to the other things I have to do. It’s true I feel uncertain about how it will go, but that won’t help me create the talk I have coming up in a few weeks. I’ll let my ‘what if’ scenarios play out over possible edits to what I want to say. Allow the fuel of my uncertainty to do some good for me. I’ll give my attention to “what’s in the box” during practice!