You’re going along hunky-dory through your day. You’ve had the occasional work-challenge: a co-worker who was late with their side of things, so you had to scramble. Your boss laid an unexpected deadline on you – yikes! - but you rose to the occasion and handled the situation with a good attitude.
And you were quite forgiving when the dry-cleaners mixed up your clothes with someone else’s batch, and had to wait, twiddling your thumbs (cell battery dead, phooey),while they sorted it out. You even managed to keep your cool when your teenager reacted to your “No, you’re not staying out past ten o’clock on a school night” by doing the “Oh Mom! You’re sooooo unfair!” routine and slamming her door.
But when your spouse, beloved though he be, complains about having chicken for dinner yet another night, you lose it. You smack your dishtowel against the sink counter, and snap “With all I do for this family, you dare!! Make your own dinner, dammit!” and stalk out of the room, slamming your door.
Oh dear. He got the best of you. Literally! For the best of you is what you’d been all day: compassionate, kind, positive, patient, forgiving - forging ahead with a smile. With one little sentence, your mate defeated, overcame, trounced that which is your best self.
And you let him. Sorry. But that’s the truth. Rather than pull yourself up by your mental bootstraps and put into context your husband’s comment, you blindly reacted. You felt attacked, you kicked. Instead of doing what you’d done all day long: take a pause between whatever was in the way of your happy day before knee-jerk reacting to it.
That’s really all it takes. A willingness to pause. When you feel stung by a complaint, an unfair request, whatever your spouse may say (usually not meaning any harm by it), take a moment to breathe. Just breathe, which will settle you down emotionally a little. Then think. Where is this comment coming from? Is it worth a full scale Terminator reaction?
He’s bored of chicken. Maybe you are too. Maybe responding to his comment with humor would allow you to stay in your best self.
Maybe your husband longs for a good old-fashioned steak dinner – which you can’t afford, so you get defensive. After all, you’re doing your best to keep the family budget in line. Maybe agreeing with him (it won’t kill you) that steak would be lovely would allow you to be your best self, even as you then brainstorm together solutions that would make the occasional steak possible.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking menu items or comments about your spending habits, child-rearing or sex life. Whatever it is, stay in your best self. Don’t let anything or anyone beat that best self down.
Take a pause, a breath, step back from the immediacy of the sting, and respond from the compassionate, kind, positive, patient, forgiving, forging ahead with a smile, person that you really are. Your best self.