A few weeks ago I was sitting at Design Squared, a Web Hosting company in Bernardsville with my friend Kathy working on our new Heartworks website. As usual, when Heartworks is the topic, the conversation moved from surface to depthful very quickly and we found ourselves talking about experiences we have had in life that have brought us to our knees.
Kathy’s co-worker John shared a story about when his brother-in-law was given a terminal diagnosis his mantra was “Someone else is carrying a bigger bag of hammers”. John said this as if this phrase was as common as “Have a nice day”.
When I asked him what the hell “Someone else is carrying a bigger bag of hammers” meant, he smiled in a way someone does when they know a secret. He said that to his brother-in-law, it meant that although his diagnosis was a tough one, there was somebody, somewhere, carrying a bigger burden than his own. He said this mantra brought his brother-in-law comfort and made sense of the senselessness in his mind.
I love learning new phrases that help people and I started to use this hammer one in the days that followed. One of my own personal favorites is “Thank you God that this problem is manageable.” I started saying this a few years ago and use it mostly when something that is truly just a surface issue is getting the best of me. I remind myself that “this problem is manageable” meaning, it’s do-able…I have options…it’s just part of the static of life and not worthy of pulling me under.
Because I have been in situations that have not felt manageable and have pulled me under, this phrase serves as a reminder and helps me prioritize if a circumstance is worthy of flattening me or if it’s just a part of the fluff of life… like when I came to after being knocked unconscious in a car accident on an icy Colorado highway in 1992, to find myself sideways on Rt 70 with speeding cars slamming into me, this did NOT feel manageable; the 25 hour car ride back to the East Coast from Boulder on September 12, 2001, not knowing if my sister’s husband was alive or dead did NOT feel manageable; and sitting next to my father in 2004 during cancer on days he could barely open his eyes, did NOT feel manageable.
So, for me when my daughter doesn’t make it onto the “A” team, or the new rug I want is backordered 8 weeks or even when I’m totally uncomfortable in a disagreement with someone I love, I remind my brain that “this is manageable” and it keeps me from giving the issue unnecessary attention and energy. It also often gives way to another favorite, “This too shall pass.” Mantras give our minds something to focus on instead of getting overwhelmed with the details of the story we are tempted to play over and over in our head. Mantras help us stay in line with the universal flow and keep us out of chaotic thinking. Mantras have helped carry people through some of the toughest times, and they offer us a direct connection with a truth bigger than ourselves.
I was reminded of these awesome aspects of mantras yesterday when a friend called me, looping in negative thoughts and asking if I knew of anything that would help her. She was having a party at her house, and as the ego does (especially before a party at your house) it had started to feed negative thoughts to her mind.
“I need new pillows in the family room, I should have gotten the kitchen cabinets painted, ugh! I never got those pictures framed, this bathroom sucks….” and on and on and on. Now, let me point out that this party banter with the negative, surface thoughts are coming from someone who has been in the “unmanageable.”
Trust me, three years ago when her son was diagnosed with a rare cancer, she spent an entire year in the unmanageable, and she has spent the past two years training her mind to re-familiarize itself with calm and quiet. And now here we were, calculating how many mums and pumpkins it would take to keep her from spending thousands of dollars at Home Depot and Pottery Barn before Friday night. As faith would have it, I told her, I am on a mantra kick and YES I had something that would help her…
“Thank you god for this manageable problem”
Three years ago she would have given ANYTHING to have a sucky bathroom be her problem of the week and yet, in the absence of the bigger life challenges (thank you God) her ego needed to cling to floppy pillows and dated cabinets in order to entertain itself. “OOOHHHH, YES!” She said, “That’s all this is…. got it” And that was last I’ve heard from her about the frameless pictures.
So these conversations got me thinking further about the power of mantras to help us stay on track either during life’s seemingly impossible times or when we need help keeping perspective in our day to day lives. This lead me to wondering about what other people’s mantras are and how they help, so, at our October meeting tonight (Oct. 4th) there will be a table set up to write down a word or phrase that helps you cope.
Then we are going to hang these cards up on a ribbon with clothes pins (I found the CUTEST polka dot and striped clothes pins EVER) and at the end of the meeting everyone can choose another Heartworker’s mantra to bring home and start using. So, please join us Tuesday night (tonight) for wine, cheese and crackers and the answer to the question “What’s your mantra?” Let’s never ever take for granted the many ways we can help each other feel connected to God and if you need a push to get you out of the house…use a mantra.
See you tonight!!!