I hit the breaks on my bike and stopped dead in my tracks. I jumped right off to retrieve my fallen phone, only to find it smack down, screen first, on the pavement in the middle of this rainy night in Maastricht. I picked it up, and sure enough my entire screen had cracked. It wasn’t just a little cracked. It was totally shattered, and my first thought was, “Oh shit, do I need to get a new phone now?” Okay, I know I’m making it sound so dramatic (I was also very cold, and very wet, LOL!) but for real we all know that when something happens to our phones, whether it gets lost, stolen, or broken, we all have a little mini-panic attack inside. Anyway, back to my story – so I jumped back on my bike and headed home. At this point, I hadn’t had any reaction to my broken screen. I was neither angry nor frustrated. As I was cycling, I started talking to myself,
“Okay Loubelle, you have two choices here, either you can get upset and pissed off, or you can see this as a gift from the universe. What is that gift? What is that lesson? What reaction will best serve you? What emotions will foster your growth in this moment?”
And so, just by talking to myself out loud, I initiated this process that I now like to call “selective reactions”. Okay yes, in the bigger picture of things, a broken screen is not that big of a deal, but the point I’m trying to make here is that we actually have SO MUCH CONTROL over our own emotions than we think we do, regardless of the situation we are in. It’s not about the experiences or the things that happen to us, but rather it is the way we respond to those experiences.
“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 E. Frankl
This quote, taken from the book, Man’s Search for Meaning (yes, go read it!) is probably one of my favourite quotes of all time. There is SO MUCH FREEDOM in this space!! Sometimes, however, it may feel that this space is so limiting, I get it, we’ve ALL been there. Hello, we’re human beings after all: choosing reactivity over response is in our very nature. How many times have we gotten angry, upset, or frustrated right away without pausing to think about what exactly we were investing all this negative energy into? This goes for any situation, whether it’s at work, with a partner/friend/family member etc. Every single moment, we have the opportunity to decide how something will affect us.
The skill of choosing my emotions, and controlling my reactions was definitely something that did not occur overnight. It took heartbreak, healing, and a whole lot of self-awareness, self-reflection, and most importantly, a lot of self-compassion to get to where I am today. I stress the importance of self-compassion because from what I’ve learned, it is only through self-compassion that we can achieve growth and true freedom. Have compassion for your emotions and your reactivity, and from that point of departure, then get curious about the source of your emotions the next time you experience feelings of anger, frustration, jealousy etc. This is when you’ll start to experience your growth and your freedom. With that being said however, that’s not to say that I still don’t experience moments of reactivity. It will always be a learning process; in fact, two weeks after my phone incident, the universe sent me yet another reminder of this essential life lesson, only this time I learned something in addition.
I woke up on this Monday morning to text messages from the group I had been working on a project with. To make a long story short, and not to go into too many details, I pretty much balled my eyes out and was extremely upset after going through the messages about the work I had done on the project insofar that I had to call my friend here in Maastricht to calm me down. Next, I even had to text my friend living in Houston, to ask her opinion on the situation and ask her advice on how to proceed with the project. Anyone who knows me from either high school, or undergrad knows that I take academics very seriously! Okay, maybe a little too seriously. We all know that group work can be a bitch (pardon my French), but let’s be real here, group work itself is already difficult enough to coordinate, let alone adding strong personalities to the mix. I’ve been a nurse for almost six years, worked with many types of patients and families, worked in various multi-disciplinary teams and never had I experienced such emotions working with other people.
After taking some time (a full day actually!) to reflect on my experience and talk to my tutor personally as well as one of my closest friends in Houston, I realized how important it is to not only choose your emotions but also to choose the situations you want to invest those emotions in (i.e. PICK YOUR BATTLES!). After six weeks of going back and forth between myself and the other group members, I finally decided that there was nothing else I could do and that deep down inside, I did everything possible to put my best foot forward. I’m not the type of person to submit work that is not reflective of my greatest potential and it was definitely hard giving up “control” and placing the fate of my grades into other peoples’ hands. However, to be completely honest, once I let go, I felt SO INCREDIBLY FREE. I remember updating my friend in Houston the next day, and she said to me,
“LOUBELLE! FINALLY! I’ve known you since Grade 1, and you have ALWAYS been this way in school. But welcome to the program!”
“THE PROGRAM OF NO FUCKS GIVEN!”
Okay, when I type it out, it seems so vulgar, but I promise, it was actually really funny (and it was a joke, in case you didn’t get that, LOL!). I’ve never “not cared” about something that had to do with my schoolwork. It’s not to say that I don’t care about school anymore, of course I STILL CARE, and of course, I am still the same Loubelle who will always aim for a perfect A+. BUT now, I’ve been able to apply what I’ve been doing in real life to my schoolwork by “picking my battles” and I can honestly say that I feel less stressed. I’ve taken the pressure off myself and this freedom feels pretty incredible.
Working on my group project on a Sunday (Zondag) night
Still working on my paper.. until the early hours of the morning
With that being said, however, the universe keeps testing me. Apart from these two incidents, my bike has broken twice (it’s broken right now as I am writing this blog), I’ve fallen off my bike, sprained my hand and had a three hour wait in the ER at the hospital here, and lastly, I also lost my healing crystal “Fire Agate” while I was in France. In Paris, one of my friends turned to me when I realized I lost my necklace, and said, “Wow, you handle disappointment so well”. This was probably one of the best compliments someone could have given me. Personally, however, it’s not about “handling the disappointment” but more about changing your perspective on the situation. Your perspective changes everything. I mean yes, I was definitely sad when I lost my necklace but the way I see it, my necklace served its purpose for me, and perhaps someone else has now found it that needs its healing powers more than I do. I know the right crystal will come to when I need it.
Anyway, I’m not sure if I’m stuck in some sort of karmic cycle, or if there are new lessons to be learned each time something happens. The tests from the universe are almost too real!! LOL! But if anyone has a few ideas to heal the parts of myself that are attracting these things (if something resonates with you, let your girl know!) then I would appreciate any guidance as well.
I also stress that by no means at all do I believe that we are not allowed to feel emotions other than happiness or gratitude. In the words of my mentor, Kelsey Grant, “We aren’t only meant to experience happiness, otherwise, we wouldn’t be human. Part of the human experience encompasses the sadness, the frustration, the “off days”, the loneliness etc.” It’s all about the self-awareness we embody, and the ability to give ourselves the compassion to feel every single part of ourselves. When we reject feeling these emotions, then we actually reject ourselves! Use those moments to dig deep and ask yourself where those emotions are coming from. Make them an opportunity to learn about yourself!
P.S My phone was fine in case you were wondering. LOL! I just got a new screen for €160 which I know is still a lot of money, but it’s way better than having to get a completely new phone. Plus, as soon as I got home that night, I had a hot plate of lasagna waiting for me! How could I have been upset over something so small and fixable when at the end of the day, I still had food and a warm bed to sleep in at night.
So here’s to shifting our perspectives, being in control of our emotions, and practicing self-compassion while we’re at it.
Love & light my friends!
From my heart to yours,