Attitude is everything as a philosophy is, let’s face it, a bit of a motivational cliché. It’s easy to have a great attitude when things are going your way. Have you been hit by tragedy or are you in a truly grave circumstance? Well, if you have it in you to create and maintain a story that positions you as a survivor, even more so a plucky cheerful survivor, then more power to you. You are indeed fortunate! But what about the middle ground? You’re not the luckiest person on the planet but neither are you in the midst of great tragedy and loss. You’re simply a person, living your life and trying to keep your spirits up even though events around you seem to be buffeting your hopes and dreams and sense of security. What about your attitude then?
I think about this a lot when I am in clinic and in my office. I definitely do see people who demonstrate quite a range of attitudes. Some of them are helpful and others keep the person stuck. My role is to be a nonjudgmental presence and a support system, whether it be via acupuncture needles, my tui na hands, cups, and/or simply my open ears and heart. I am able to maintain this presence because yes, I admit it, I do have to practice it in my own life. And practice I do. If I’m not practicing when I’m preparing for my state board exams (looming ever closer, dear reader) then I definitely am honing my skills as I navigate Austin’s ghastly traffic. Lately, with all the stress I’ve seen in clinic and in my office, I got to thinking about attitude too. Lately, I’ve been pondering the notion of how I am a better practitioner when I practice not just presence but also perspective. And then, as it always happens, I had a few instances of that hoary old chestnut known as “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
Since we’re clearly feeling the clichés here, I will keep this essay relatively brief and confined to three ways to fulfill the promise of its title. (If you would like a detour, and a smile, check out the vintage Schoolhouse Rock “3 is a Magic Number” song–old Schoolhouse Rock clips are always great for an attitude adjustment). And without further ado, then:
#1. Really, attitude is everything and, on top of that, what you look for really can be what you get.
Just recently, I was driving to North clinic and, as I zoomed towards the Mopac entrance, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
Normally, I do not speed. I am a mellow driver and I just want to get where I’m going with minimal fuss. This particular morning, I was in a rush to get to clinic and I was definitely and without question well over the speed limit.
What did I see? Well, my subconscious mind saw it first, and I coded it as Super Tiny with a little ray gun in its hands. I thought it was so cute that I beamed at it…and as it dropped its ray gun in disbelief, I blinked and realized that it was actually a police officer with a speed radar pointed straight at me. OOPS! But by the time I realized what this was, the damage was done: the police officer was smiling back at me and I had time to slow down and pass without being pulled over. I think the officer must have been initially surprised to see someone’s face light up at the sight of them (trust me, I have an expressive face and I BEAMED with surprise and joy at this vision). And then maybe they decided that they thought they knew me and that I was smiling because we were great friends. Who knows? All I know is that the officer’s expression of surprise was replaced by a friendly smile and I got to drive on by without further ado.
Moral of the story: if you smile at things and are delighted, at best you can make a new friend or get out of a speeding ticket. At worst, you might seem a little eccentric. But try it if you like–just look out at things around you and see if you can practice having your first reaction to what is there be delight and interest and joy. What will happen then? You’ll find out…
#2. Absurdity abounds. Can you laugh at it?
True story: I drove on to work, laughing about how my subconscious mind saw Super Tiny and how it got me out of what surely would have been a ticket. I decided to keep my eyes open for anything to laugh about that day. Clinic was wonderful, though not a laugh riot from start to finish–obviously–and before I knew it, my shifts (I pulled a double that day) were over. Of course, the drive home was a little nutty–if you’re not in Austin, look up Evil Mopac on twitter–but I looked at people in cars around me and noticed who looked tired and who looked happy and who was looking at their phone. It was instructive, to say the least.
I sat there in standstill traffic and I consciously decided to not be angry. I decided to practice what I’ve been trying to do every morning (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t); to wit: I get up and think to myself “Today is going to be a great day! Today I am going to discover something new, I’m going to get things done that I need to do, and–on top of it all–I AM going to do a good job with my self-care. I can do it!” And so I thought things in this vein as I sat in the unmoving traffic, and when things slowly started to move along, I kept thinking it. By the time I got home, I was tired but in a good mood. I sat down to check my social media (I love my social media and am determined to have fun with it and not see it as a chore). Before I knew it, this post showed up on my Facebook feed:
Ok, this is comedy gold right here! I snorted so loudly that I startled myself, and I’m not kidding. Oh, the Entomology group on Facebook…they are a gift that just keeps giving. (The guy who wrote this gave me permission to share his post, btw). And if you ponder it, there’s some real life wisdom to be gleaned herein. For some people, maggots and flies are horrible. But for others, especially if they are entomologists and/or complete and utter bug nerds, then maggots and flies are thrilling sources of exciting research.
Perspective is everything, right? It is, it is…so how can you, if you put your mind to it, change your perspective and see things in a new light?
#3. Self-care makes the difference.
All the humor and attitude in the world won’t help if you’re running on empty. Can you find ways to take good care of yourself? What about simple things, like taking a short walk after you get home from work? Or committing to spending time with a friend at a local museum or park? Is there anything you can do that does not involve zoning out in front of the computer or television or stupefying yourself with food? Plan ahead, and have more than one option available to you, no matter how small that option may be. Having some good self-care ideas in mind before you are exhausted and upset is always a good idea. It’s like not going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. You’ll do better and you’ll feel better if you choose to practice health nurturance and you consciously have a plan for when you are tired or lonely or depleted.
Obviously, I am biased in favor of Chinese medicine and holistic wellness. Myself, I opt for acupuncture treatments and I have one every other week. It is my treat for myself, it keeps me sane and healthy, and time on the table is my own mini-vacation. What about you? If you’re needle averse and don’t see acupuncture as being necessarily restful, there are other ways to enjoy Chinese medicine. I think, for instance, that everyone can benefit from trying the Chinese style of Asian bodywork that I practice, tui na, which is sort of like getting a massage and kind of like getting an acupuncture treatment without the needles. Have you tried cupping? Any of these modalities are great for stress, anxiety, muscle injury or tension, insomnia, poor digestion, weight loss, even facial rejuvenation..it really depends on the patient and their presentation. I wrote a lovely blog post about how Chinese medicine for facial rejuvenation can help your mood, here. If you prefer your facial rejuvenation without needles, I have a blog post for that, too, here.
No matter what your choice for self-care is, do choose something. Sure, there are quite a few daily annoyances in life that wear you out and yes, you may be stressed and feeling like things are chaotic (a lot of my patients feel this way too–you are not alone!). But you can do something about this; quite a lot, in fact. Trying to see things from new eyes, laughing when you can, and taking good care of yourself every day are good ways to build a sturdier capacity for resilience…it’s not as easy as it sounds, but with practice, you’ll be perfect.
Like Positive Panda says: stay positive….and may your days be filled with joy and discovery, each and every day. You can do it!
Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine. Services at present include Chinese-style Asian bodywork therapy and health coaching. Coming soon? Acupuncture and herbs!
Two Hearts Asian bodywork therapy is now available by appointment on Sundays and Mondays at 2919 Manchaca Rd., Ste. 101 in Austin, TX 78741 (located inside Heather Gordon Spa and Wellness). For appointments in North Austin (Monday mornings, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), THW can be found at 4131 Spicewood Springs Rd Ste N8, Austin, TX 78759. Book online here.