I spend quite a bit of time in the car commuting to and fro. As a way of maximizing my use of time, I’m almost always listening to a podcast. These podcasts are on my phone and I prefer to have my headphones in (one headphone, if you must know). Since I use my headphones with such regularity, I always put them in the same place (so I’ll know where to find them when I want them). They’re in a central location in the house, but not in a place where one of the kids can grab them and move them. [Can you guess where this is going yet?]
In getting ready to go this morning, thing were going right on cue. I slipped on my shoes, buckled in one of the kids in the back, and was about to start the engine, until I realized… my headphones!? They’re not in the car. Assuming I must have just overlooked them from their place this morning, I doubled-back and… they weren’t there! Great Scott! OK. Don’t panic, I thought.
I used them on the weekend. Maybe I must have taken them off somewhere and forgot to put them back. I checked the closet, the laundry room, my office, my wife’s office, but no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find them. My wife’s car, the closet again, my wife’s office again, inside drawers, in the pantry, the kitchen counter, the living room, one of the kid’s rooms, the bookshelf… I mowed the lawn this weekend! That must be where they are, near the riding mower. Nope, not near the riding mower. Checked the laundry room again, checked the office again, checked the kitchen again…
While all of this is going on, I’ve got one of the kids buckled into a carseat in the car. In the past, they’ve not been a fan of being in the car, buckled in, by themselves, so I’m starting to feel pretty stressed throughout this process. And doubling-back to the same spot and not finding the headphones isn’t doing anything positive for my stress, either. Where are they!?
Did I mention that I was on my way to drop off one of my kids at camp and I have a thing about being punctual (not to mention, it’ll give the kid more time to play with their friends!). Have you seen my headphones, please help!?
After a few more circuits of checking all the same places, (maybe magically, they’ll be in the spot I’ve already checked!?), I acquiesce. I give up. I’m not going to find them. They’re gone to eternity. No more head phones. Dejected, I return to the car and begin the drive into town.
As you might expect, my mind wasn’t ready to give up, or at least part of it wasn’t ready to give up. What the heck was I doing yesterday with my headphones? I replayed Friday and I replayed Saturday. All the images I could already come up with when I was racing around the house. I could see where I put the headphones in those scenarios. I began replaying Sunday (mowing the lawn), yup, I knew where the headphones were and checked. Errands in town. Yup, I checked those spots, too. And then…
Of course! I remembered. Sunday afternoon was a bit anomalous in that I had run errands and then picked up one of the kids to take them home for a nap. They were overdue for a nap. So, when we get home, I didn’t empty the car like I normally would. I took in the fridge/freezer stuff and then took the kid upstairs ASAP to get them to sleep. When I came back downstairs, I hurriedly emptied the car because I wanted to use the time during the nap to begin setting up my course for the Fall semester (it starts next week — eep!).
In my haste doing that (i.e. I took too much stuff in in one trip), I shoved my headphones into my pocket and when I finished putting stuff away in the kitchen, I hurriedly changed my clothes and headed for the office. Because my mind was so focused on getting a jumpstart on the course, I wasn’t thinking about emptying my pockets (as it happens, my debit card was in one of the pockets, too!).
So, why am I sharing this story that I’m sure everyone can relate to?
In that time where I was racing around the house, checking all the same locations, I had an ‘artificial’ deadline. I was meant to already be on my way driving. This time pressure was, no doubt, affecting my ability to be still for a few minutes, and properly recount my steps from the previous day. Remember, in the car on the way into town, my mind did just this. So, why didn’t I do it before?
Well, I was too focused on all the negative outcomes. I’m not gonna be able to listen to my podcasts. I’m not going to be able to insulate myself from sound at work or the coffee shop. I’m going to fall behind on my podcasts. I won’t be able to practice French. I’m going to have to buy new headphones! Negative, negative, negative. While all of those things might have been true. I didn’t give myself the space to use my faculties. I didn’t give myself the time to possibly be right. To find the positive outcome. I was so keyed in on all the bad things.
And that’s why the subtitle of today’s post is “return to equanimity.” When it’s time to make a decision, even a low-impact decision, if you don’t return to a state of balance, a state of neutrality, a state of equanimity — you run the risk of making poor decisions even if the right decision is right there under the surface!