Lately, my world has been spinning like an old-fashioned top. For the past month, I’ve been suffering from vertigo, another wonderful side effect of getting older. I feel like one of those roly-poly figures from the 80’s, swaying and swinging, but thankfully never actually toppling over. In the midst of all this unsteadiness, I’ve gained some downright dizzying insights on…what else…balance.
I’ve written before about the importance of how we spin things that are happening to us (http://wp.me/p5q6qJ-98). This little health blip is teaching me that lesson again, and I’m doing my best to listen up (and not fall over).
As I flit from doctor to doctor to diagnose and treat my vertigo, I have felt monumentally frustrated. These moments of frustration have left me in a weary puddle on the couch quite a few times, lamenting my health woes and crying out, “WHY ME?” with great angst and consternation. The angst is typically followed by a good, ugly cry as I begin to wonder if there is something seriously wrong with me or if I am going to feel like a roly-poly for eternity.
As I sit in my puddle POUNDING myself with “woe is me” negative talk and thoughts, I literally feel the effect of my words on my physiology. I tense up, my head becomes cloudy, my heart rate and breathing speed up. I feel more dizzy than when I started my little pity party, and the worst part is, I did it to myself. This bears repeating: I DID IT TO MYSELF!
My pity parties left me with the revelation that how we talk to ourselves really, truly matters. Our words and our thoughts have enormous power in shaping our physiology, moods, and realities. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we label and respond to it.
In that way, we truly hold the keys to our own happiness. If we choose to spin things in a positive, hopeful way, our bodies literally respond by relaxing, opening up, and welcoming possibilities, opportunities, and solutions. Conversely, when we fall into a negative place, we ball up into “fight or flight” mode and become resigned to our “walk the plank” fate. We shut down, the lights turn off, and nobody’s home.
This discovery can be a major turning point if we can tune in, become aware of when we are sabotaging ourselves, and change that mental and verbal loop. Even if we don’t fully believe the positive talk, we can fake it ‘til we make it. Shoot some sunshine out even if you’re not feeling it; it truly makes a difference.
Recently, I was preparing for a big meeting at work, and I was ready with a capital R. I had my color-coded hand-outs and my precise, alphabetized notes; I was like a school-girl ready to wage war on a social studies test.
The night before the meeting, I assumed my usual position on the couch and began talking to my husband about the meeting. My doubts and fears bubbled to the surface, and I heard myself predicting the meeting would crash and burn. As I spoke, I felt my vital signs jumping around like a kangaroo on Redbull. My mind raced in circles of madness, tracing and retracing the doom and gloom until that became my truth. The confidence I felt so fully only a few moments before took a solid nose-dive into the ditch.
In that moment, I saw what was happening, as if I were observing myself from above. I was literally talking myself into a tizzy. I saw Fear come a-knocking on my door, and I welcomed it in. I even went so far as to serve that Fear some tea and cookies, hospitably letting the doubt and negativity build, rise, and chip away at my resolve.
Despite my tizzy, the meeting went fine. Per usual, I was over-prepared and rocked it. Next time, I think I might skip the Fear tea party and just have some chamomile instead.
Likewise, now when my vertigo rears its ugly, wart-covered head, I tell myself, “I’m going to be okay. This will pass. I will take care of myself. I will not give up.” And these words, even if I still have a sliver of doubt, make me feel better. They calm my body, slow my breathing, and clear my mind; they open me up to possibilities instead of dead ends.
It all reminds me that happiness is a choice, and what we think about really does expand and become our truth. Even in those moments when we’re feeling wobbly and woozy, we always have the power to steady ourselves.