Recently, I had a particularly challenging and revealing experience while shopping in Lowes, preparing for my 1st ever yard sale.
Yard sales are great because they allow you to sort through the moments and interactions with the people in your life. That can also be challenging because you come face-to-face with all the stories you have shared innumerable times with family and friends over the years that are embedded in each item and memory. It gives you the chance to come to a state of peace by letting both the story and the item go, making room for a more desired and harmonious future. I carry a LOT of stories, memories, and items with me!
It was this realization that showed and reminded me how very loved I am and have been, and how much I have to be thankful for. This provided a re-framed context for remembering the circumstances, stories, items, and people. It was especially helpful for the more painful recurring stories and memories.
So, in preparation for the yard sale, I needed signs to put up in the neighborhood. I was in a very happy mood when I entered Lowe's. After finding the signs I needed, as I walked toward the checkout stations, an older man spoke to me as he was driving past on his motorized cart. What he said to me changed my day and shifted my mood, perceptions, and perspective tremendously.
As a mindset coach, I know how important it is to actively practice the art and skill of staying in touch with your power of observation even as you are going through an experience.
As he rode past me, he saw the signs saying "yard sale" in my arms. His comment was “they gonna buy you”. In my happy state, I was with him up through the last word - you. That one simple word made all the difference in the world.
The reason I am sharing this incident is, in part, because of the worldwide intellectual, psychological, ideological, and emotional climate we are living in. As a black, American woman, with all the general history this entails, combined with my personal history, that statement coming from an elderly white man in Texas, felt like an attack. BUT I was looking directly into his eyes as he said it and, weirdly, it did not feel malicious which was incredibly odd, confusing, and unsettling.
I had other errands to complete and as I was driving, I became increasingly upset until a powerful thought interrupted my emotional trajectory. It was “you have the choice to be upset and let this one moment ruin your day, or you can decide that your peace and emotional stability is more important to accomplishing your goals”. The event in the store took about 2 seconds. I realized that I was about to give 2 seconds and 1 word in my day the power to completely derail my focus, subvert and divert the flow of my energy, and hinder the pursuit of the actions that would advance the attainment of my goals.
Give that a moment to sink in.
It was such a powerful moment, I had to find a place to pull over so I could focus and fully grasp and absorb the importance and impact of that revelation.
Maintaining my equilibrium through the rest of the day was, admittedly, a challenge because the pull to let old response habits take charge was extremely hard to resist. But I managed to stay in this new space of partial clarity as I repeated '2 seconds and 1 word' throughout the day. I managed to complete the things I wanted to accomplish; however, when sharing the experience with family and friends, I received the most revealing and greatest reminder of the importance and impact of differences in perception.
After texting the details of my encounter with family, I read their reactions and the emotional responses ranged from complete anger, disgust, and frustration to sorrow and empathetic compassion that I had experienced being told that someone was going to "buy me" at a yard sale.
Remember I said earlier that I was able to stay in a space of partial clarity?
When I told two of my black male friends what happened, their reactions were startlingly different from those of my family.
Their response was Laughter! Genuine, fully amused LAUGHTER!
I was completely floored. How in the world could they find this funny on any level? They both saw the situation from the same point of view.
Their response was “He liked what he saw!”.
I NEVER saw that coming. They presented the possibility that the man was being flirtatious. From my point of view, that's a very odd way to be flirtatious, but this is the heart of my point.
When I began to look at the event in that context, it became clear on a much deeper level how easy it is to assume we know the speaker's intent, when the assumptions and our response is a direct result of their words or actions passing through our lenses.
The responses I received were an incredible reminder of the power of perception and perspective, and they filled in the final pieces for me, completing my clarity.
Frequently, we spend way too much time allowing ambiguous moments to be the focus rather than prioritizing our emotional well-being and mental stability so we can continue to be the most effective artists, creators, and teachers possible.
It is important when faced with 'WTF' moments, to utilize the observational and analytical skills we already possess from the discipline of practicing our art. This allows us to move past whatever distress or discomfort the encounter or situation causes, and more effectively and efficiently reach a place of calm, letting us find release and a return to centered focus.
So, remember, whether it is what you say to yourself about the missed brush stroke in your painting, missed note in your music, or the random comment from another person that disturbs your emotions of the moment, you have the choice and the power to make the greatest difference in your world and turn it around in 2 seconds and 1 word.