Yesterday I walked gingerly over a six-inch thick sheet of ice to close my garage door. Slowly I turned back across it to my car, eager to pick up my daughter from preschool. I thought with hostility of ice, winter, and arctic temperatures, while I fumbled with my gloves, even though I did not fall.
Then I thought about thinking itself, where had those negative thoughts come from? I remembered how a fresh dusting of snow glints in the sunlight, how much fun my boys had digging snow tunnels and forts and I remembered sledding and hot chocolate. I smiled and felt immeasurably happier. I remembered my joy when the first flakes fell. I decided to view the last days of winter cheerfully. Spring is coming soon, and then winter will be a delight to look forward to again. Now where had those thoughts come from?
When I was in my teen years, my thoughts were often dark. I read horror, murder mysteries and psycho suspense with gusto, imagining death, blood and gore without flinching. I rarely gave any space to positive thoughts, except for some vague idea that my life would be better when I was on my own.
words spilling blood
My own life seemed cheap, all things absurd, all cultural mores without depth or meaning, all of us caught in a spider web of habits developed by people long dead. Pointless.
How did I get from there to here, where negative thoughts are automatically balanced by positive ones and my mind achieves serenity? I no longer dwell in the dark places or give voice to angst, betrayal and pain, despite treading water in it for years.
I had an epiphany. I’m not sure I should share it. Things that are too simple are often confused with the simple-minded. And yet, simple is the curve of a throat that make you catch your breath. Simple is a blue sky after a storm, the sun reflecting in all the wet places. Simple is ice in the summer or a warm hand when yours is icy.
If you are still reading, you may wonder what my epiphany was. In that case, I will tell you: I control my own thoughts. That’s it. No matter how dark, or scary or hurtful others are, they cannot control my thoughts unless I let them. I can look for beauty and good memories, and focus on those, letting the rest go. So I did, every time the negative thoughts came, I used mental muscle to shove them aside and substitute positive ones. Over time, the initial herculean effort became an easy, automatic one.
I came home from picking up my daughter, stepped onto the ice, and BAM, slammed into the trash bin, so thoughtfully provided by my city sanitation department. My first thought: that wasn’t so bad. Next thought: OWWW!!! That thought lasted longer than I like to remember, but eventually my well-trained brain found happy thoughts again: I’m so glad I didn’t break anything. At least my daughter won’t have to risk walking over it. My driving is done for the day. I can go lie down for half an hour. Spring is coming.
rays of sunshine push through