Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's your mantra?

I’m not talking about what phrase you use when you meditate, though if you have one, lay it on me. I’m actually talking about the phrase that defines you, your conversations – something you say all the time that either stems from how you’re feeling about things or shapes how you feel about them.

What? you ask.

For example: When I ask my various friends how they are I often get the following answers:

Friend 1: “I feel crappy.”

Friend 2: “I’m exhausted.”

Friend 3: “I can’t complain.”

These are responses I hear most of the time when I talk to these particular people. My one friend doesn’t feel well a lot. Her health is often an issue, so nine times out of ten her response is, “I feel like crap.” I know she does, and I have great sympathy for her. This response is her mantra. And sadly, it has come to define her.

Friend 2 has a house full of kids who drive her nuts. She’s understandably tired all the time and trust me, I can sympathize with the ‘blah’ feeling that weighs you down when you look at all the things you have to do and realize 24 hours a day isn’t enough time to get it all done. Her mantra defines her as someone who is tired all the time.

Friend 3 has just as many problems as Friend 1 and 2. She works, deals with children, a husband, pets, and health issues. Her response, however is different. She can’t complain. Really, she can. She’s got plenty worth complaining about and no one would blame her if she did complain, but her mantra is, “I can’t complain.” Even though I often know I’m in for a litany of hair raising stories when the conversation really gets going, I feel a bit more upbeat about it because her mantra is a little more positive – in theory if not in actual wordage.

My mantra used to be, “I’m so tired.” I realized this about ten years ago when I worked part time as an administrative assistant. I was raising a toddler and trying to make ends meet and keep the house clean. I was tired all the time, but when I realized that’s how I answered every time someone asked me how I was, I began to wonder if saying I was tired was partially to blame for me being tired. Putting it out there, giving it voice, made it more true. Saying, “I’m so tired,” out loud sent the message to my brain that that’s what I was, so I felt even more tired. I realized after I said it, I would always think about how tired I was and agree with myself that I was indeed very tired. Finally I decided one day not to say it anymore.

I gave up my mantra and thought, it goes without saying that I’m tired so I’m not going to say it. When someone asks me how I am, I’m going to say, “I’m good, or I’m fine,” and hope my brain believes it.

I don’t know if the psychological mumbo jumbo really works, but overall I don’t think it can hurt.
What’s my mantra now? “I’m okay.” I figure if I say it enough, it has to be true.

How is it working for me? I can’t complain.

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