I’ve had a bad week. It actually all started three weeks ago when I came home to what looked like a light dusting of snow all over my apartment. But this was no winter wonderland. Dust covered absolutely everything. It was so bad that when my puppy came to greet me, she left behind a trail of paw prints memorializing her path. When she shook off a cloud of dust and starting wheezing, I promptly grabbed a few things and left, puppy in tow.
The next morning, the building supervisor explained that construction in the building, and not closing the vents appropriately, caused what I now call “the dust storm.” By the landlord’s admission of fault in the issue, I naturally expected my apartment to be cleaned and back to normal within a day or two. Yeah, that didn’t happen. So instead, I’ve been fighting with my landlord for the past three weeks, and I’ve gotten more and more frustrated—thus, the bad week I’m having. I had started off with the “you attract more bees with honey” approach, but within a few days I had descended into the “you will not take advantage of me” and “I know my rights” approach. I’ve been stuck there ever since.
Truthfully, I like to win. Even more, I like to feel vindicated, especially when someone bigger and stronger tries to tackle me. But amidst the heated conversations, emails back and forth, lost time, and overall frustration, I’ve realized something valuable. I’m different when I’m being a warrior. When I walk around on my defense, I live life ready for something or someone to wrong me, so I can instantly defend myself. It is only my landlord who is wronging me, but I’m acting and feeling as if I could be attacked by anyone, at any moment. Honestly, I’m barely hanging onto my calm, which is something I’ve spent years cultivating. I’m not walking away from the battlefield—my apartment must be cleaned—but a shift is needed. So I spent yesterday exploring how to be a more peaceful warrior. And I came up with an easy technique to help me get there.
The incident that motivated this change came right after I received two emails within minutes of each other: one from my insurance company denying my claim, and the other from my landlord shifting blame from their own negligence to that of a faulty fan. I got hot, my heart raced, and my lips pursed. I took a long breath before stepping onto a very crowded bus. Within minutes, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. I spun around, looked down at my bloody ankle, and then looked my offender in the eye—a mother. She had pushed her baby’s stroller into my ankle. She was apologetic. I just stared at her, unable to have sympathy. I wanted to yell, “Strollers are not allowed on city buses!” But I didn’t. I just stared her down. When I got off the bus, I knew something was wrong. My behavior was clearly a reflection of my inner state.
In gambling, a “tell” is an unconscious change in behavior that reveals the player’s assessment of their hand. It’s kind of the opposite of a “poker face,” in that it’s a reveal of the player’s inner state, but it’s not always a shift in facial expression—sometimes it’s body language or attitude. Everyone has a tell (or two or three), whether gambling or not. I like to think of a tell as an emotional barometer. I’ve discussed the importance of acknowledging our thoughts and actions for the purpose of self-understanding. Well, acknowledging our tells is a great way to start. I know one of my tells is watching reality TV. When I find myself craving a new episode of The Real Housewives, I know I’ve reached my limit for working, thinking, or being productive. My brain is full. I can’t watch a movie or even a TV drama. Reality TV is, for me, the perfect choice and an easy tell. Yesterday, after the stroller incident, I had a much more significant realization. When I feel wronged, taken advantage of, or that my integrity is questioned, I dive headfirst into a state of fight or flight. All calm disappears. I go into fight mode, ready to attack anyone who bumps into me or even looks at me funny. It isn’t about them, it’s about me. My inner state is going haywire. Luckily, I know how to get out of fight or flight mode: I employ my restorative yoga and meditation practices. Quite simply, I start to breathe. When my mind is full I watch reality TV, and when I go into fight mode I need to breathe, in order to shift out of fight and flight and into rest (I recommend it to everyone!).
Perhaps someone in your life has told you, “it isn’t you, it’s them” when someone has yelled at you or been mean to you for no apparent reason. That is true. People have bad days. Some people live their lives in anger and never consider where that anger stems from. They are unable to acknowledge their inner state and how their actions relate to that state. They haven’t identified their tell. So how can you identify your tell? Check out our article, “Breaking the Trigger Habit for a Positive You.” As for “the dust storm” in my apartment, I plan to keep fighting, but now as a more peaceful warrior.
Make A Change Today,