Seventy-five degrees. Swaying palm trees. Heaven. Paradise. Free food, free drinks and even pool boys to deliver. Warm blue water. Paradise. Heaven.
It’s 7:15AM and there I sat. The sunrise filtered through the trees and reflected off the pure white sand. The night before, my entire family laughed and teased and simply enjoyed each other. My coffee cup was full and the fruit was fresh. Tears streamed down my face. I was most unhappy in a very happy place.
Why would anyone be unhappy sitting in paradise? Well, this was day four of our vacation and day four of my sitting ALONE for breakfast. Every morning I rose at 6 AM, tagged the family beach chairs, read until 7:15 and then went to breakfast. Everyone else slept and slept and slept. That was fine at first. But on this day, I was lonely and …
The day before I had discovered that while my kids bought my first published novel, they had not bothered to actual read it. Wow! Punch in the gut. That hurt and as I sat alone (again), the hurt festered and became anger. Once the anger kicked in, warring factions in my mind started to fight.
Picture a boxing ring. In one corner stood “Rational Mind” and in the other corner stood “Emotional Mind”. Ding Ding Ding … let the fight begin:
Rational Mind: Dave has been under such stress. He deserves this time off. You should be glad he’s getting this time to sleep.
Emotional Mind: I agree – or I agreed – but come on, he could get up with me just once and have a nice breakfast. He would get up if daughter wanted to have breakfast. (Uh-oh, my jealous self has entered the fray).
Rational Mind: You haven’t even told him you want him to get up. As a matter of fact, you’ve told him you don’t mind getting up – that you enjoy the early morning. Etc. Etc. Etc. Do you expect him to read your mind? You know he would gladly get up if you just mentioned it.
Emotional Mind: He should WANT to have breakfast with me. At least once. I should not have to beg for my husband’s attention.
Rational Mind: It’s lovely here, isn’t it? You were worried about this resort being subpar. But, everything has really been great. As a matter of fact, you said that this is the first place you’ve come to you’d want to return to. Now, look at you!
Emotional Mind: Do you see that I am the only one sitting alone? Every other family is together. It’s embarrassing sitting alone. And now I’m crying. People are seeing me crying and wondering what the hell is her problem.
Rational Mind: I’m wondering the same thing…. What is your problem?
Emotional Mind: It really hurts that my own kids didn’t read my book.
Rational Mind: I agree! That does hurt and it’s okay for that to be hurtful.
DING DING DING
Somehow my therapist’s voice stepped between my fighting selves and suggested I use the RAIN technique to help me handle these overwhelming/competing emotions. RAIN is a mindfulness technique that “directs our attention in a clear, systematic way that cuts through confusion and stress.”* RAIN is an acronym for Recognize-Allow-Investigate-NonJudgment.
I’ve used RAIN effectively many times – either in the moment or afterwards to try to understand what happened and why I made a certain decision. It’s easy, private and can be done sitting in traffic. For me, the entire process requires that I develop a mindset of curiosity. In other words, I’m not trying to fix anything or find a solution. I’m just trying to move forward. There is no true goal with RAIN except to relax and get back living in the present.
This is the easiest step – take a few minutes to feel your body, notice your surroundings and recognize the emotions swirling around.
My body is tight, my shoulders are pulled to my ears, tears clog my throat. I have an intense desire to tear a napkin to shreds and then take a taxi somewhere and let my husband worry about where I’ve gone. I’d like to climb back in a bed and howl at the moon.
The breeze is lovely across my shoulders. My coffee needs more cream. The eggs are making my stomach wonky.
My feelings are hurt because my children did not read my book and because my husband did not denounce them for that.
Rather than “hold” these hurt feelings, I am spiraling to anger. And once in anger, I am seeking justification to be angry. I am also bullying myself nasty names.
The way I do this is very simple. I say – loud enough for only me to hear –
By forcing myself to notice all that is around me, I am also forced to be in the moment and not in the past (where the insult occurred) or in the future (which I cannot control). I literally just state WHAT IS in the moment. Facts only.
I am often more settled and calmer during the “Recognize” and “Allow” portions of this process. But, because I could still feel the anxiety deep inside (which meant it would too easily take back over), I did this step too. But, “with kindness” is tricky. You’ll see what I mean …
There are many different questions you can ask yourself in this step. But what I find most helpful are these:
What am I believing about myself? How is this situation feeding my story?
--- this is a good place to stop for today … next week, I’ll open my heart and delve into what I believed about myself during this scenario. It will be a painful admission and likely will require more R.A.I.N.
Tara Brach has many excellent resources. Use this link for an excellent article specifically on RAIN: https://www.tarabrach.com/articles-interviews/rain-workingwithdifficulties/
She also has several YouTube videos on this topic. Simply search: Tara Brach Rain
I am not a therapist. I have no relevant diploma. I have no fancy letters behind my name. I am a sufferer with years of therapy. I am an expert only in the sense that I am enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks. But hard knocks are an excellent teacher. If you suffer, I highly recommend you find a professional to help you and develop a personalized treatment plan. This blog is MY experience and while I pray it’s helpful, I am not qualified to diagnose or treat anyone for anything. (Well, I am a great math teacher—especially fractions! J).
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....