Storyblog 1: A Special Day Through The Eyes of Julie
Julie had been looking forward to this day for weeks. Well not exactly ‘on pins and needles’ kind of waiting, after all it was only a birthday and at 34 she had certainly come to understand not all birthdays brought the same level of enjoyment. But still, this day was special to her and she really believed this year was going to be a good one.
The house was quiet as she padded down the stairs to the kitchen. She had awoken at seven – her normal Saturday morning wake-up and had decided to stay in bed, luxuriating in the comfort of her memory foam and ignoring her ever present ‘to-do’ list. Her husband, Kurt, had arrived home from a four day business trip late yesterday evening and still he was up by six. She knew her seven year old, Alex, was up because she’d heard his squeal of delight when he got up and found his dad was home. Then she’d drifted off back to sleep and didn’t notice if her ten year old, Samantha, had joined the party.
She giggled to herself, as she thought the word party and wondered what special things had been planned for her today. Kurt had asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday this year, but she had just shrugged and given her typical response, “Nothing really – just relax.” As a result he could have planned anything from a day at the park, to a small celebration with friends and family, to just spoiling her by looking after all the chores she’d normally tackle on the weekend.
Tip #1: Let your expectations be known. Really think about what you would like for those special days (or even normal days that you’ve set expectations for) and share them with those people involved. The ability to read minds is very rare and it’s unlikely your family has that gift, so make it as easy as you can on everyone by sharing your thoughts.
In this case, it’s Julie’s birthday and she has ideas about how she would like the day to go…wake up when she is ready; have the day off from her usual chores; be made to feel special by her family and receive some sort of acknowledgement that they appreciate what she does for them.
Walking into the kitchen, Julie fully expected to find a fresh pot of coffee and maybe even some muffins from the bakery up the street, but other than the dog, who lifted his head and gave a weak flap of his tail, the room was empty and quiet. I guess breakfast in bed was not part of the plan, she thought to herself, Maybe Kurt finally got that one. She’d felt bad when she told him last year that although the thought is nice, I don’t enjoy being woken up on the one day I get to sleep in and I’m rarely ready to eat as soon as I open my eyes – so how’s that a treat?
No one was in the living room either. “Strange,” she mumbled, wondering if they were going to jump out and surprise her. On her way to peek in the back yard a pink post-it note stuck to the counter caught her eye.
Taken Alex with me to Stan’s and dropping
Sam off at Brittany’s. The house is yours –
enjoy it “doing nothing”!
Kurt xxx ooo
Tears sprung into Julie’s eyes. She had forgotten that Samantha had to finish her project for the fair next week and was going to Brittany’s for part of the day.
But that’s not what I’m upset about, she thought, angrily wiping away the tears, why would he take Alex and disappear for the day – especially when he’d just been away! I mean, that would be great if Kurt was here with me, but spending my birthday alone, ‘doing nothing’ is not my idea of a special day. A feeling of hurt spread through Julie’s chest and abdomen and the thought popped into her mind, Don’t they like spending time with me? Am I that unpleasant to be around that they would ditch me on my birthday?
Tip #2: Separate your feelings from your thoughts. Feelings are a very important signal for you to acknowledge – like a smoke detector, they are not set up to tell you what to think or do; but to alert you that something might be wrong. Women feel first and then create thoughts from those feelings (whereas men think first, then create feelings). If you don’t do anything to control your thoughts, often you will create thoughts that match your feelings.
In this case, Julie is feeling rejected – this is a normal response to knowing people have an opportunity to spend time with you and finding out they have chosen not to. The thoughts about them not liking her match this feeling and increase her hurt. These thoughts are not based on reality, but instead are created from how she is feeling at the moment.
Sighing deeply, Julie plopped herself down at the kitchen table. Her dog was at her knee in a second and without thinking Julie starting rubbing his ears. “At least you love me Max,” she told him, noticing the adoring look in his eyes. “Why would Daddy do this to me?” she asked him as if he’d give her an answer. Tears flooded her eyes as Julie buried her head in Max’s neck. The soft fur felt nice and he still smelled fresh from his bath yesterday.
What am I doing? She suddenly demanded of herself, straightening back up. I have the house to myself and it’s my birthday. I can sit and read, enjoy a coffee, sing, dance…whatever I want to make this day fun for me!
Taking a deep breath Julie could feel the cloud of disappointment drifting off her shoulders. Giving Max a final pat she stood up and stretched. Flicking on the XM Radio she laughed when one of her favorite songs started to play. Singing along she danced over to the cupboard, pulled out a new bag of beans and started making her own fresh pot of coffee.
Tip #3: Change what you can, Accept what you can’t – Becoming aware of what you control and what is beyond your reach can help you release feelings and create positive thoughts. You cannot change what has already happened and although you can ask, in the end you can’t control how others behave. You can control how you let their behaviour affect you and what you do in that moment to help yourself feel good.
When Julie recognized she was ruining her day by feeling sorry for herself and wishing things were different, she started taking charge of her own behaviour and steering herself in a positive direction. Patting her dog, breathing deep, stretching, singing, dancing and coffee – are all things that make her feel good and helped her stop this drift into the negative.
Sitting on the back deck in the sun, sipping coffee, listening to music and flipping through a magazine, Julie signed contentedly. When’s the last time I’ve just sat and read a magazine guilt free? Reaching over the side of her chair she rubbed her dogs belly where he had stretched out beside her. She signed again. This is not quite the day I had planned, nor what I would have chosen to do, but perhaps ‘doing nothing’ was a good idea after all.
Storyblog tasks for increasing self-awareness …
- Notice how often you share your expectations with those who are close to you rather than make them guess at what you’d really like.
- Give some thought to what your expectations are and try to figure out if they come from habit, a need for social approval or if they identify what you truly want. If they are what you really want, start sharing them.
- Pay attention to negative feelings as they arise and try to stop yourself from feeding them with matching (negative) thoughts. Sometimes it helps to focus on the bottom of your feet until the intensity of the feeling eases off or pretend you are a fly on the wall watching yourself in action.
- Notice what you are trying to control or change and ask yourself if this is a good use of your energy (i.e. is it something you can in fact control/change). If it’s not within your ability, let it go and focus on your own thoughts and actions.