Thursday started out wrong.
I didn’t sleep well and woke up foggy.
I grumpily said to my wife, “boy, I’m so tired.” I forced myself through my morning rituals, still in a slow minded funk.
It was racquetball day, so I was leaving early with my daughter, Hannah. I had to get out the door by 7:25 am. Had to. As sometimes happens, she was running a little slowly and we didn’t leave until 7:35 am.
Frustrated, since the traffic with that 10 minute delay is much worse, I stewed in the driver’s seat as we pulled away from the house.
I get stuck behind someone texting instead of taking a right on red when he could have. Now we have to wait for all the left turners coming the other way.
Damn it! Trigger.
The school drop off was way backed up and when I was finally close, there’s a dad talking to his daughter through his window holding up the whole line for what seemed forever!!
I hit every red light on the rest of the way to the gym!
Trigger. Trigger. Trigger.
I pull in and follow a woman to her car since the gym lot is full. She gets in her car and just sits there. Sits there! Two minutes go by and she still hasn’t pulled out. I jump out of my car and walk up to her’s. She’s just talking on her phone. I tap on her window and ask “Are you leaving?”
She says, “Not yet, sorry.” Trigger!
Events conspire against me. I revel in my misfortune—screaming at the lights, cursing the people, letting my blood pressure rise and my face turn a reddish purple while my fists clench the wheel maniacally.
I finally park and get into the gym. My turn comes to step on the court.
I’m fully awake. My nervous energy is off the charts.
Racquetball is a thoughtful game.
Unfortunately, I had no coherent thoughts in my head as we began to play. My opponent was warmed up and ready. At once, he had me running all over the place. I was swinging wildly and then running some more. I guess I wasn’t even breathing properly, because at the end of a very long and very ugly point, I stood up, took a quick breath and felt the world start to close in on me.
I must have been holding my breath for most of the point and I came very close to blacking out.
I knelt down and took some long deep breaths. The bright lights that were blazing across my eyes slowly went from an incredible fireworks show to just a few shooting stars. My head started to clear and I was no longer circling the deep abyss. I took a break for a few minutes off the court.
I like to think that I’m mentally healthy. I know my amygdala (the oldest, most reptilian, most powerful part of our brain) doesn’t engage in much higher thought. It just reacts—triggered by a stimulus to fight, flight or freeze. I know I was being triggered left and right that morning and did nothing to help my recovery. I just let myself get provoked and live in the dark side of self-pity and martyrdom.
It took almost passing out to snap me out of it.
As I drank some water and let my breathing get stronger, I replayed the morning in my mind.
Thinking and saying “I’m tired.” Our thoughts and our words become our reality. I will try not to do that again. I’ll instead choose an “attitude of gratitude” for the thousands of good things in my world.
All the events that happened didn’t need to affect me in such a drastic way.
Forgiveness, rather than anger, was the way to go. No time like the present.
I forgave Hannah for not getting ready so quickly in the morning—the delay gave me a few more minutes in the car with my beautiful, precious daughter.
I forgave the person texting rather than making the right on red—they may have been replying to a sick parent frantic about finding their medication.
I forgave the dad at pickup—his daughter may have been nervous about a test that day and he was telling her that he loved her no matter how she did and to just do her best.
I forgive the woman who sat in her parked car in the lot not pulling out for me—she was probably blissfully unaware that I was waiting and the call she was on was important.
Lastly, and most importantly, I forgave myself.
I can be grumpy. I can get frustrated and irritable. I can behave irrationally and counter my best interests. I can make insensitive and inappropriate comments. I do all of those things sometimes.
But I also try to improve everyday. I try to evolve and learn everyday. I try to be a better father, husband, brother, son, friend, co-worker, leader, teammate, competitor, neighbor, marketer, vendor, customer, American and human being.
One minute of introspection. From triggers to forgiveness.
The brain is a very powerful weapon. Controlling our thoughts determines whether it will be one of good or destruction.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Eric Lebersfeld
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock