“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl
I am not unhappy as of this writing. Maybe a teensy bit frustrated, but it’s a transitory feeling that can be traced directly to the bottom of my right foot where there is something hurting from our vacation. Most definitely annoying, but not even close to first world problems.
This morning I got up early and went to the gym. I figured it might not be that busy before 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning AND a holiday weekend. I was mostly right, although I expect it was about as busy at it is most Saturday mornings. And as luck would have it, trainer J was also there doing his workout. These trainer people must have a sixth sense, because every time I wander in at an odd hour believing our pathways will not cross he’s there. Ugh. Last thing I want is to be struggling through something new and have him stumble across me and feel compelled to correct his awkward student before she develops yet another bad habit.
Still, there are worse things in life. I find my social anxiety about the gym in particular makes going there a make myself do it level of activity. Seeing a friendly face is only bad because it was unexpected, and I can overcome it. What disturbed me more was when one of the other trainers working in the same area suddenly turned up the music for a 3-person group she was working with. When my already loud music blaring in my headphones has to be turned up to overcome the speakers in the room, distraction is a mild word to use describe the atmosphere. I ended up cutting my workout short and even forgot to put away a piece of equipment I had been using (which probably disturbs me even more than anything else about the whole day).
But before all that, I had been pondering a conversation with a very unhappy friend. Life is difficult right now – her marriage is crumbling, she is underemployed, and her youngest child is struggling with addiction. For anyone, this is a lot to handle all at once. She has started counseling, but anyone who has been through it knows (1) it’s hard, and (2) relief is not necessarily immediate. The financial stress of that care is also a factor, unfortunately.
Like so many of us, she is an emotional eater and confessed to gaining nearly 60 lbs. in the last year. This only adds to her unhappiness and overall health stress, being that she was well over 200 lbs. (at 5’5″ tall) to begin with. Her distress is palatable, and it seems all I could do was listen to her vent and cry and wish I had some magic to make her feel better.
I started this post on Saturday (above) and finished and posted it on Sunday (below).
The conversation brought so many personal, private thoughts and feelings back to my immediate reality. It affects me when people close to me hurt in such real ways, and I so want to be able to offer some measure of comfort or peace. Even just convincing reassurance that things will get better, because it is my firm belief things always do get better. There seems a time and a place for happy talk, though, and this was not the conversation for it. This was the time for doing the best listening available to stop her bleeding pain. Only I went away feeling vastly under equipped to do anything except listen.
My habits when I have been unhappy have been to overeat bad foods and when single, seek out the wrong types of company. I know precisely what type of person is very bad for me and seem to be drawn to them moth-to-flame, and resistance is futile in that state of mind. Through the years I have learned some methods for coping in healthier ways, and I continue pressing forward with seeking out new behaviors to substitute for others. I still eat bad food – I have a running list of comfort foods that should be permanently banished from my diet as useless, harmful products – and seem perpetually vulnerable to it when I am feeling emotionally vulnerable or frustrated or upset.
I wish to be better about my own behavioral responses to distress and unhappiness. From firsthand experience I know it is not easy to modify a lifetime of bad habits and make better choices in our lowest moments. We just have to keep trying.
Like yesterday’s gym experience, a very low-level distress. I came home and did a lot of the floor exercises I did not complete and followed up with several sets of other things J has taught me. Eating poorly was not much of an option in that I have had no appetite the past week or so, a strange side effect of cutting out all snacking, sticking to 3 meals daily, and working at gaining physical strength. I also had snappish interaction with M and found myself wishing he would STFU and leave me in peace to my own pursuits – completely unfair, but I try to be real about who I am, even the less pleasant parts.
I will keep trying, and I have to accept I will not always succeed perfectly. Unfortunately unhappiness happens. I only hope to choose wisely when faced with the choice yet again.