Nice to see you again.
Well, the summer season is busy, as per usual, and D and I have spent many weekends traveling. We’ve traveled a lot together, and we’re great at it overall, but there’s one cycle that we can’t seem to break.
Part of this (okay, 95% of it) is because of me. I must have deep-rooted trauma associated with missing some form of transportation, because I morph into a crazy-eyed wildebeest every time we leave for a journey. I don’t think we’ve ever left our apartment for a trip without wanting to kill each other.
Ever the planner, I always set a time we have to leave, based on 1) how long it actually takes to get to the bus or train station, and 2) my genetic predisposition for using “airport time”.
Now, I realize that, unlike the airport, there is absolutely no need to get to Penn Station an hour before your train departs. Still, I thrive on that buffer. Whether it’s grabbing some last-minute snacks which D will inevitably want later, using the bathroom one more time because my bladder is the size of a pea, or preemptively planning for the high possibility of the C/E train leaving only once every 15-30 minutes, my sanity requires more than D’s nonchalant “Train leaves at 8? It takes us 20 minutes? Let’s leave at 7:30” mentality.
Last month’s commute left me on the brink of a second panic attack. D and I left the apartment in our all-too-familiar state of Huff & Puff — him telling me to calm down because he was hustling and we had plenty of time, me trying not to blow a gasket as I watched him move through what appeared to be congealing molasses.
“Are you ready?”
Ten minutes later...
"So, it's really time to go now."
"Yup, I'm ready to walk out...Wait, have you seen my shorts?”
Not enough deep breaths in the world.
We got to Penn Station just in time to board the train. Carried mob-style by the mass of people heading out of the city for July 4th, I turned to D, who was buying our tickets — and he wasn’t there. He usually stands out, taller than most of the crowd, but he was nowhere to be found. Something came unhinged in my brain, and I went into survival mode. Running back and forth, shrieking his name, I most definitely looked out of my freaking mind. (But, because it was Penn Station, no one even batted an eye, let alone ask if I was okay.)
I finally found him, standing behind another tall dude, calm as a flipping cucumber. Annoyingly so.
We boarded, and I folded myself — post-shock zombie-like — into my seat, trying to look normal sitting across from a very stylish traveling man in salmon-colored pants eating a breakfast croissant. I may or may not have vomited my feelings into my journal, which I only do when disarming an emergency situation. This may or may not have been followed by a brief period of dissociation to rebalance my brain state.
A full fifteen minutes later, I was fine.
You know how they always play Bob Marley's Everything's Gonna Be Alright on beaches? They need to play that song en route to Penn Station. That’s when I need to remind myself that every little thing gonna be alright. Not when I’m on a beach, not thinking about anything at all for once in my life. In fact, a beach is one of the only places I don’t worry ‘bout a thing.
Anyway, my point: obviously something needed to change.
So, in typical me fashion, I tried something new. This time, it was a Zero Negativity Challenge.
Basically, a Zero Negativity Challenge is exactly what it sounds like, but not in a Pollyanna way. The point is to be aware of your thoughts and words and reframe the ones that aren’t useful. In other words, it's a way to mindfully work on negatively-charged ions in a relationship. For example, if I said something that rubbed D the wrong way, he would let me know, and I would reframe. In other words, it helps create "a healthy environment for change".
I also extended this challenge to myself. I vowed that if I caught myself complaining or getting all fired up about something stupid, I would pause and veer in another direction.
I wasn’t sure how this would go, but I decided to try it as we left for our most recent trip.
I told D that we had to leave at 7:15am, though I knew that 7:30am would, barring catastrophe, be safe as well. That gave me a buffer at best and just enough time at worst.
Sure enough, we didn’t walk out of the apartment until 7:30am. Everything went as usual. Nothing changed in terms of the routine that we go through every single time we leave for a trip. He didn't start getting ready until 15 minutes before our pre-set time and was looking for something last minute, I went about my mostly-efficient prep and stood by the door waiting for him to be ready.
The difference is that I was completely sane. My voice remained calm (and not in a patronizing or passive-aggressive way), my breath remained free-flowing, my movements weren’t their usual spastic last-minute selves, and I honestly felt calm. As in 100%. Okay, maybe 97%. But definitely a gigantic shift for the better. And we just so happened to leave at exactly 7:30am.
That sold me on Zero Negativity. Something magical happened that morning, and all it took was a little pixie dust and a whole lotta going with the flow.
Until we got upstate, and I dropped a croquet ball on my pinkie toe whilst trying to juggle. I know, I know: croquet ball juggling? Seriously?
Well, you know what? We can’t have “finest moments” all the time.
So, yes I’ve been complaining a bit about my pinky, as it’s currently twice its usual bizarre puffiness and all kinds of unfortunate colors. And D let me whine for a little while before shutting it down. But other than that kerfuffle, I think D and I are doing pretty well.
A few things are shifting during this little experiment. I’m a little more mindful, a little more patient, and a little more forgiving. I’ve chosen to see a little more light in every moment. I’ve chosen to let go of stress that can eat away at a day full of things to be grateful for. Perhaps most importantly, I react a little less.
I’m not normally a monster, as the above paragraph might suggest. Still, we all have our stuff, and I’m realizing, more and more, that I can chalk a lot of mine up to anxiety.
Anyway, I encourage you to give this whole Zero Negativity thing — or, as D calls it, “O Neg” — a try, whether or not you’re in a relationship. Try it with a partner, or try it yourself.
I’ve heard that doing this for 30 days can change your life. I’ve only been doing it for about a week, and I already feel a difference.
Anyway, thanks for dropping by. And keeping sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.