Record Lows, Late Starts, and Lotion Bottles

I’m a native to Minnesota. Born and raised. And we are having an “interesting” winter. Not sure where you are, but if you’re able to jump into your car without warming it, or scraping the ice off…how nice for you! The last two weeks have consisted of record lows. Like -35 (for real) that feels like -58. What that really is saying is, “it’s so cold you can’t “feel” anything at all”. My kids have had three late starts due to snow and cold in the last two weeks, and three full days off of school due to the cold. Yeah, to survive we all just stay home and hunker down. We say weird things like “Did ya see in the forecast it’s going to snow so looks likes it warming up!” On facebook the other day I saw someone using his mom’s yoga mats to stand on so he wouldn’t end up on his keister while scraping the snow and ice off his car. We problem solve. We make things happen. We fight are way through these cold winter months. And we survive, by golly.

All jokes aside this gets really exhausting. After two weeks of this I can feel myself more frustrated and easily annoyed (dare I say angry) about things. In addition to running my own private practice I am a DBT Counselor at another clinic I work at (DBT & EMDR Specialists, PA) and we teach mindfulness. Yeah, the “take a moment, and notice, and stay with it until it passes” mindfulness. And it works, but it’s darn hard to do sometimes! So hard, in fact, that as I reached for my lotion bottle this morning that has the “convenient” hand pump I could feel my frustration rise. My frustration kicked up because - based on previous experience - I pump it once and it takes, like, forever and ever to retract so I can pump it again. Ugh! And may I just say, “its a three-pump-winter people!” I’m turning into a raisin and need three pumps of that lotion so give it to me and give it to me now!

Oh boy. As I reached for the bottle and felt the frustration boil to the surface so fast, I realized, “Woah. Crazy lady.” No. That’s a judgement. What’s really going on here? Ah, “I’m resisting reality”. I’m judging that poor lotion bottle and saying “you should be different!” And I’m making myself miserable in the process. And honestly I had probably been doing it over the last two weeks. I had been judging the “polar vortex” and the late starts over and over a little bit at a time so much that I finally got to a point where I got so overwhelmed that I just wanted to lay down on my bathroom floor and take a nap. Because of a lotion bottle.

I’ve learned that these moments - the moments with slow lotion bottles, or your purse getting stuck on your seat belt when you’re trying to get out of the car, or pulling into the work parking lot only to realize you left your phone at home moments - are moments to take a pause. It is here we can - for a moment - recognize we have a choice between resisting reality or accepting it for what it is. When we do the former we invite more judgements, frustrations and anger into our body and mind. When we do the latter we invite self-compassion in for the hard stuff we’re facing and then more peace to follow.

First of all, some things can be solved. But there are just some things that cannot be solved. At least not right now. So then what? The next time you feel yourself reaching critical mass at a freaky fast rate try pausing for a moment. Is this something that is asking you to solve a problem? Or, is this an opportunity to practice radical acceptance? Is this something inviting you to choose between anger and resentment or self-compassion and peace? If the latter, try using open hands (literally open your hands in your lap), and use a half smile. The half smile is a just the internal grin that barely shows up on your face, typically undetected by others. Sit with the emotion and watch it rise and then fall. Say to yourself, “this is happening and I can handle it. Fighting it only makes me more miserable.” And ask yourself, “what is this moment asking of me?” And then with curiosity step into what comes next. I can almost guarantee self-compassion and peace will come.

So I sat and watched that lotion pump slowly retract, and I pumped it again. I watched the pump slowly make its way to the top again, and I pumped it one last time. All the while noticing my frustration rise and fall with the pump and eventually fade away. It was then I realized it was asking me to slow down and just notice what I was feeling. Compassion came in and I felt better. Life is demanding and hard sometimes AND I can handle it. One thing at a time.

Crazy what you can notice from a lotion bottle.

To learn more about how Resilient Life Therapy can help you, please check out our website here or reach out to me here to schedule a free consultation. We’re conveniently located at 1001 Twelve Oaks Center Drive in Wayzata, MN 55391.

Leaving It All On the Mat

Fake It 'Til You Make It: Five Steps to Calming Down