I was half asleep on Monday, January 24th when I reached over to grab my eye mask and realized it was soaking wet in my hands. All of a sudden, my brain went to work. It computed that, in fact, the whole nightstand was wet.
(The portable humidifier had been on it. In that moment, I realized that the humidifier had leaked water everywhere, soaking everything from tissues to eye masks in its path.)
I had a brief thought about beginning to clean it up, which I knew would wake me up completely and make it hard for me to get a good night’s sleep. But then, instead, I called out to Ross, calmly and with complete control.
“Hi Ross! Do you have the spoons to come help me with something?”
Previous to my Enneagram and mental fitness work, I would have asked that question as if it was an absolute emergency. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a question at all. “Ross, come here!” I would have yelled across the apartment. “There’s a mess, and I need help!” Cue flashbacks to”‘the time I knocked an entire bowl of Chex Mix on the floor” and “the time I realized my cat had fleas”, among other memorable moments.
But this time, I recognized that it wasn’t actually an emergency. This situation was relatively stable. There was no need to introduce more stress and drama into the equation.
Ross came in, cracking some cute joke or comment about spoons. I calmly explained to him what had happened, in a very matter-of-fact way. Instead of asking him to completely handle it, I asked him if he’d go get a garbage can. Then, in my half sleepy state, I took him through solving the situation, one step at a time. I did used my handy problem-solving skills, which I excel at, apparently even when half-awake, so that I could avoid Ross feeling overwhelmed, as I know he would have navigating it solo. (You can learn a lot after 13 years of dating or marriage!) I never got out of bed this entire time. I heard myself saying things like, “Can you please go hang this somewhere?” or “Can you please go get a towel?”.
I trusted him to take care of it. I let go of the need for it to be done a certain way. And somehow, when it was done, I just went to sleep. (Yes, I went to sleep! No panic, no racing thoughts, no getting out of bed to see where he hung things…I just went to sleep.)
A good friend and member of one of my Enneagram groups asked me what was different about this time, and I shared that it was a few things.
The main difference is that there was a space before doing. Old me would have IMMEDIATELY started handling the clean up, before I even stopped to think about how I wanted it done, or what should be done, or if it was mine to do or I could ask for help or if I should wait or gather some things first. As I did the cleanup, I would have felt feelings of frustration and anger, and I would have resented doing it solo…and by the time I would have asked Ross to help me, I would have been resentful that I had to ask or that he hadn’t helped me yet.
Ross would have come into the room with his guard up, and his stressful vibes would have fed on mine and caused a “saboteur contagion”, as we call it, with him struggling so much with my energy that he a) probably wouldn’t have finished helping me before giving up and leaving the room, upset and b) whether he finished it or not, he’d have ended up a complete wreck by the end, and then I’d be upset he was upset and I’d be unable to let it go (or sleep).
Instead, there was a space. A breath. A pause as I processed what happened and held off acting for a second. Instead of acting on autopilot, going to darker and depressing parts of my mind, I had the space to breathe and ask for help, calmly and without needing things to be done a particular way. It just became an “any old situation”, not an emergency. Even when I woke the next day, I didn’t get dazed when I walked into the bathroom with stuff hanging everywhere. Again, I just let it go.
My mental muscles are now so strong that I didn’t get triggered and have saboteurs react. There was a pause and then a move into my sage/wise mind/calmer self. And I stayed there the entire time.
Another friend shared with me that she was truly impressed because with all the work she has done on herself, she knows she still would have had to have control of that whole process. She couldn’t have stayed in bed to manage and would have had ways it had to be done. My first friend suggested the two of them should join my mental fitness program. My third friend has already, so I told the other two, join the club!
If you’d like to learn the science and get the practical tools to finally, once and for all, be able to be less reactive, more happy, less stressed or fearful, more efficient and effective, let’s connect. Mental fitness has been an absolute game-changer for me, and I want you to experience it too. Book a time here for an intro, with no obligation. You deserve to be happy. We all do.
P.S. If you’ve been doing your own work and already have rock-solid mental health practices, go you! Please consider sharing this with a friend or family member (or many) if it resonates with you and you want to share the benefits of a life you love and daily practices that support you.