You Can Always Choose Whether You're In A Bad Mood

Written by Katie Devine

I’m in our New York office when I first hear the news about the "crippling" storm moving into the Tri-State area. I don’t pay much attention initially. My plans won't change; this won’t affect ME. But the buzz builds rapidly about the impact of this storm, and I start to feel little flutters of anxiety rising in me like they always do when I don't have control, bubbling toward the surface like the carbonation coming up the straw in my Diet Coke.

What if I can’t make it to my grandfather's house?

What if I miss yoga tomorrow?

What if I can’t go to Hoboken to see my godson?

What if my flight IS canceled?

What if I get stuck in NJ?

What if it all changes?

I don’t do well with change.

My trips back east are always so carefully crafted, every minute efficiently and effectively planned. There's no margin of error. There's no room for late arrivals, or backups on the runway. The timetable is set. This is how I operate, how I feel in control of my life. Yet in the span of a few hours, it seems to all fall away, evaporating before the first drop of rain falls.

By the time we get the emergency text alert from the weather service — “Prepare. Avoid Travel. Check media.” — I’m free-falling in a downward spiral of my own pity, the anxiety overtaking reason.

Suddenly it feels like nothing in my life goes right. The mailroom can’t find my package. My mom is upset. My friend is stranded overseas. My ride is an hour late. My grandfather is annoyed. My sister is crying. I say something stupid to my boss. It takes forever to get home. Woe is me, woe is me.

I am officially in a funk.

This is dangerous territory. I don’t emerge easily. I can lose an hour, a day, a weekend to it. It grabs hold of me, wraps its arms tightly all the way around me, and suffocates me until I surrender to it completely. This is where I often end up.

Somewhere in the middle of this free fall, I stumble upon my lovely friend Sara’s blog post from earlier in the year, Suffering is a Choice.

Don’t you hate when you're deep in the throes of your pity party and someone more enlightened than you tells you that you're choosing to suffer? She’s right of course, but I don’t want to listen. I don’t want wisdom. I don’t want enlightenment. I want to crawl into my hole and stew in my crap until I don’t want to anymore.

Except ... something in her writing permeates deeper than the funk has. Something actually sticks.

I actually DON’T want to feel like this. I don’t want to wallow. I don’t want to let my day, or my weekend or one more minute be ruined by this mood.

My mom can still be upset. My grandfather can still be annoyed. My sister can still be crying. But maybe I can be different. Maybe I can be the one who changes this time, in the middle of everything I can’t change. Maybe losing control (did I ever really have it?) doesn't have to be such a terrible thing.

So now what?

This is unfamiliar territory. I don’t know where to start so I just start.

I try meditating (this feels stupid).

I make a joy list (well, I don’t really because I’m too annoyed to write anything).

I make a joke (it's not really that funny, unfortunately)

I make cookies (oh, this helps).

I read (this helps more).

I listen to music (ok, getting there).

I write. 

And slowly … it lifts. It releases. It burns off like the early morning Santa Monica smog that I'm almost accustomed to waking to. When you can’t see through it, and you think it will always be there and you'll never have a sunny day again … it lifts.

Earlier in the night, I texted my friend: “Who can I pass this bad mood along to?” She would understand; it got her this week too. I thought maybe she passed it to me, and I would pass it on to the next person, like a crazy flu that everyone is just passing around.

I’m done with it. I’m passing it along. If you want it, it’s yours. You get to choose. You always get to choose.

It’s always your choice.

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