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Part 1: What to do when you have a "Bad" day
Steps 1 &2: So-called "bad" days happen. Here are some tips for straightening out your energy and fostering inner alignment and integrity
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Step #1: Notice something doesn’t feel right to you
“This doesn’t feel right for me.”
First you have to notice.
Let’s be honest. We all have them. Bad days. At least I tell myself this as 1) it makes me feel better and 2) it feels true and makes me feel less alone. I imagine our so-called “bad” days are one of the ways we grow. Bad days provide a compass of sorts. They provide that moment to check in with yourself and ask yourself: What do I really need? What do I really want? What can I learn from this?
Now, I tell myself “bad” is a judgement word (which is judgmental of me). That it comes from a lack of spiritual maturity, and I really shouldn’t (another judgement word) use it in a title. Just like using so-called “bad” words seem less-than-evolved. But that is rather funny isn’t it? I could title this post: How to have a great day, and not think twice about it or question myself.
It is like “bad” days or experiences that don’t feel right are prohibited. Don’t use the word. Don’t talk about them. Pretend they don’t happen and you are OK. If you want to really do a full bypass of how you are feeling, you can paste the words: “It’s all good,” onto a description of your difficult day and try to convince yourself that you feel fine.
But that is not honest. Yes, there is a frequency band where I do believe the words, “it’s all good,” are absolutely true. You and I are on unfolding journeys here and everything is helping to assist us to continually blossom our souls into more beauty and complexity. In this journey you are always beautiful, always learning and growing. You are an expression of the divine and nothing is wrong with you. And sure, of course, “it’s all good.” More than good. It is exquisite.
And sometimes it is tough. That caterpillar has to liquify in the chrysalis before it becomes a butterfly. Does it feel it? Is it screaming in there? I don’t know. But for sure, this is a world where we grow from both pain and pleasure. And that means, sometimes we will have one. You will have one. A bad day when things just don’t go as you wish, or feel “right” in some way.
“This is happening for me, not to me.”—Dr. Sean Stephenson
My friend and I were recently discussing these things. “Terra,” she said, as she cocked her head to one side, “it feels like you are doing this.” The “this” was me, losing my sense of what I, inside, truly wanted and needed and compromising my inner alignment and integrity. She was demonstrating in a physical way, what I was doing with my energy. I was kinked.
At the time, we were discussing iced tea. Sugary iced tea to be specific. I had recently been in a fast-food restaurant with a glass of sugary iced tea; I was not happy, and I was thirsty.
I didn’t consider the possibility that I could have told my sugar-loving friend and local driver these words: “I want a coconut.” Which was true and would have solved many of my desires in that moment, which included a healthy snack and quenching my thirst. But the possibility that I could have that, and ask for it, did not occur to me. I was in a habitual stance of head-cocked-to-one-side, kinked-compromising-myself energy. Which led to me sipping sugar iced tea in a fast food restaurant, somewhat resentfully.
You know those coping mechanisms that arise? Like overeating, overexercising, procrastinating, or getting caught in anxiety. There are more. Many more. And under the things you may judge yourself for, is a need and a want that you are trying to meet and this need requires kindness and care. Your desire is waiting to be honored, seen, and fulfilled. Otherwise, in compromising your needs, you will most likely end up angry with someone. It might be the person across from you or it might be yourself.
I really didn’t realize I was angry. Someone pointed that out to me today. He pointed out that my coping strategy, which was telling myself I was flexible and flowing with the options in a country that wasn’t full of organic-food loving health-food-store people from the US, was not fully true. I was acting flexible and flowing and I wasn’t actually feeling that way inside. I wasn’t having fun and I definitely wasn’t happy.
Coping mechanisms are sometimes the only option you have until you feel a little deeper and ask yourself why they are there? What feeling are they trying to help you numb a bit (and this is not wrong) or what unmet need do you have that is in you like a gaping hole, that one of your strategies is trying, so very kindly, to help bandage over. That hole needs healing. But you have to know it’s there. So sometimes, it helps to ask yourself this question: “Hello coping mechanism. Why are you here?” Especially when you start to hit yourself over the head with criticism for doing the “X”-thing that you tell yourself is bad for you and not helping.
One of my coping mechanisms is people pleasing. And it is lovely to be around happy people, as long as you are not compromising your needs and inner truth for them. That is where I miss the boat sometimes. Much less than I used to…and it still happens. Change is a process. And for me, it was a good strategy when I was growing up. I preferred it to the alternative of upset people around me directing their anger my way. So I pleased them as best I could and learned to bypass what I was feeling. Maybe you know this strategy?
This morning I was thinking about anxiety and what I really needed. Because the morning after my bad day, I woke up feeling anxious and not particularly happy. I think part of me was prepping for an endless irrational stream of repeating misery. Funny how that can happen. My mind was ready to protect me by continuing the stream of misery. If the mind knows what it is dealing with, it can make a plan for it. So, I had one bad day in the stream of a lot of great days. Well, my mind could handle bad days endlessly. In fact, it could look for the bad in everything, to make sure I could address it. This would also allow me to continue my inner energetic stance of head-cocking people-pleasing.
The rest of me was not excited about that. You know that feeling? I am grateful that in this moment, I can see it as a little bit sweet and funny.
So, I adjusted my trajectory and started my day with a tapping app called EFT (emotional freedom technique) which did help shift how I was feeling for the better and led me to wonder about the following question:
Why do I get anxious sometimes (a coping mechanism)?
Well, I have a need for safety. That doesn’t seem so bad. It seems normal, reasonable even. And I can do my best to bring some care and kindness to myself around that. Sure, one is never guaranteed safety, and anxiety does not get me closer to it. It actually feeds the flames. Do you get anxious sometimes too? Or is there another go-to emotion you experience sometimes that doesn’t seem to serve you? Maybe there is something you need too, underneath it? Something that you can feel a bit of understanding and compassion for?
My recent “bad” day was yesterday. It started early. My enthusiastic El Salvadorian real estate entrepreneur/translator/driver suggested it would benefit me to take a second look at two ocean view lots I was considering purchasing. These particular lots were three hours away and I was not comfortable with the access road to them (my inner compass was telling me something).
So, he suggested we get an early start and that I take the opportunity to go with him and measure the width of the existing semblance of a road, take a video of the properties to show to potential engineers I might hire, and go to the city of Usulután to check the history and registry of the lots and actual dimensions of the access road. He suggested that a trip to the city offices to research the properties would be a good education for me. This made sense at the time to me, despite my lawyer’s advice that she could do this and it was her area of expertise.
Now, when you are in an energetically head-cocked-to-the-side stance (vs. standing tall and knowing what you really want and need), things can feel confusing. Conflicting advice can buffet you around. So, you resort to doing your best, which often ends up messy. My lawyer and my property-selling driver had been warning me or advising me differently for a few days and I was feeling confused. So I decided this time, to ignore my lawyer and follow the advice of my driver and go ahead and educate myself as he suggested. Education. How could that be a bad decision?
In order to accomplish his suggested agenda, he told me we would have to leave at 6am, which meant I would have to get up at 5am to be ready. He, who lived in a different city, was willing to get up at 4am to get me.
Days with this driver have tended to be more packed than he initially makes them out to be.
Knowing this by now, I suggested we leave later and he reminded me of the benefit of being at the city offices early, which would allow them enough time to prepare any documents we needed.
Things are done differently here. In the city planning department, much like the department of motor vehicles (aka DMV) in the United States, you take a number and wait for your turn. (Here, there are fewer people and the office feels much nicer than the DMV, but you get the idea). After your number is called, you speak to someone behind the counter and request what you need. Then, the city representative sends a text to your cell phone when said paperwork is ready. This can be hours later, or the next day.
Suffice it to say that I had to miss my included breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, cheese, coffee (very important to me), and plantains as the kitchen at my hotel does not open until the reasonable hour of 7am.
I was in the car with some nuts, two bananas, some pineapple I cut up the night before, and some protein powder from my friend’s company in Durango, mixed with almond milk. These things I shared with my driver who sipped the protein powder speculatively as he does not like anything that does not have about 10 tablespoons of sugar per cup.
He told me it was not as bad as he expected and off we went and my tiring, high-pressure day began. Because the truth is, he had decided I needed to buy these lots and he was going to sell me and sell me hard.
I do think he actually believed they were acceptable and a good investment opportunity. He wanted me to see this and understand things better. Good intentions for sure. The problem was he really was not able to listen to my sense of things or accept any other possibility. And I, for my part, was far from standing straight and tall, internally and externally expressing what I wanted and needed. This, from the start, was not going to go smoothly. Learning opportunities rarely are smooth. They tend to be bumpy, uncomfortable, and often confusing.
The end result of our research was that in my opinion, I was right. Which on the surface sounds fine and validating. We also never made it to the lots. We spent the entire day going from one city office to another and I did see how things work here. These particular lots did not have the access road officially recorded and the unofficial road that did appear on a few unofficial maps, was too narrow for my taste.
In between going from office to office and listening to my friend talk to people in rapid-fire Spanish of which I comprehend about 1% (he did translate periodically for me), he also took me to get a NIT which I believe is some kind of tax ID number and required (I am told by him) to purchase property.
This was probably the highlight of my day simply because the NIT office had a large sign that I decided was very much like something you would see at The Ministry of Magic in a Harry Potter book. I also felt the national emblem of El Salvador not only reminded me of a Masonic pyramid, but appeared to have a humorous looking top to it that reminded me of yet another thing. He told me it was a flag tip. (Honestly, by then I was desperate for any opportunity for a bit of levity).
After helping me obtain my NIT, he told me he was hungry and we set off for lunch. Now, as you are aware I am sure from my previous comments, I am an organic food-loving, GMO-avoiding, pesticide-free kind of eater who has recently decided I really do want to eat vegetarian again. I also prefer things to be cooked in raw, organic butter or extra virgin coconut oil. I do my best to be flexible as my food preferences are not always easy to accommodate, especially in remote towns in El Salvador.
In his quest to feed us, he triumphantly and happily found one of his favorite restaurants. In his world, he was teaching me. He was on track, helping me learn things about property while feeding us both with large quantities of food, priced very reasonably (two meals with drinks were under $10).
I sat there, in front of a plate of Chinese fast food and my happy friend and driver. It was buy one, get one half off day and he was thrilled to find his favorite fast food place in this new city. My plate was filled with rice speckled with what I guessed were bits of pork, and a main course of very dark pieces of meat that looked like beef, but I was told were chicken. There was also broccoli, which was a greenish grey color. There were no drinks without sugar. He reminded me with a smile on his face that in El Salvador, everything has sugar. So I sat with peach iced tea, too sweet for me to really drink and I was thirsty.
Unpacking this moment later with my friend, was when I realized I missed my opportunity to feel and ask for what I needed, the coconut.
Perhaps you too, have habitual places in yourself where you simply accommodate the people and situations around you? Energetically, this is what I and my friend are calling the head-cocked-to-the-side energy stance. I could throw a technical label on it here, and I feel there are enough of those out there and I don’t want you to berate yourself by putting yourself in yet another category that needs healing.
This whole story and post is to bring your awareness, and mine, to when this head-cocked-to-the-side behavior is happening, which allows you to start doing something that feels more aligned with what you want and need. I will call this standing energetically straight and tall in your integrity.
So, on with the description of my “bad” day of head-cocked-to-the-side experiences.
Earlier my driver had kindly treated me to a $.15 cent bag of popcorn, which he assured me, again with a smile, was very healthy. To me, it was a bright yellow that likely came from food coloring, with a list of ingredients I couldn’t read. And I do like popcorn. Really. It is one of my favorite things. Except it has to be GMO-free and cooked with organic butter or coconut oil or both. And sea salt. Real sea salt. That is key. And I knew I needed real sea salt because I was sweating, a lot. It is hot in the city.
I ate the popcorn, internally energetically tweaked and outwardly sporting a grateful smile.
Our experience of the day was different and for me, deteriorating rapidly. This was not his fault. He was doing his best to help and teach me. He saved our uneaten food and most of my uneaten lunch-chicken in a plastic bag to share with the street dogs he knew we would meet. Bless his heart. He is a kind soul and our life experiences create lenses on the world that sometimes, just don’t meet.
As the challenging day unfolded, at one point on our multiple visits to the CNR office, I had to visit the bathroom where I discovered there was no toilet paper or paper towels. I discovered that too late. I have this technique in public bathrooms of not really fully sitting, if you know what I mean…and I missed a little bit. Other than the lack of toilet paper, it was really clean. That was before me. Kind of embarrassing and there was nothing I could think to do. I hoped the kind man who opens the door for everyone who enters and exits the air conditioned CNR building and also points people to the restrooms and lets them know if anyone is using them…well, I hoped he didn’t look or hold it against me.
Step #2: Bring some care and compassion to yourself, even if all this happens after the fact
Now I know. You are probably thinking, “Terra, you could have asked him to stop for fresh fruit, or a coconut. You could have told him you wanted to go to the lots and let go of the research in the city etc… etc…” And you would have been right. But I told myself I was learning and told myself I was just being flexible and the food was only this day, this once, because it was easiest to just flow along and learn what I could. (Plus, Google Maps confirmed for me that there were no organic restaurants in the vicinity).
But I was doing the thing I knew best, the unconscious thing, twisting myself just the least little bit (I thought) to accommodate the people around me and tilting my energetic head to the side while telling myself I was coping well, and navigating things.
I know you have had days like this. Days you knew if you had done something differently, or stood up for yourself more, or made a better choice…you wouldn’t have suffered so much. And at the time, it doesn’t even occur to you. You are in an old habitually patterned way of doing something. That your energetic head is “not on straight” is totally unconscious. It feels straight. It is not your fault.
And this is when the grumpiness can set in, along with projecting that pain onto others. For me, I am sorry to say, I made it all my driver’s fault. Because in his case, I truly believe his intentions were good. And I don’t want to be hard on myself either.
I was tired. Despite all the things I have studied and hours I have spent on communication practices, I have times of reaching less-than-optimal versions of me. I want to tell you I never project my issues. It actually took me two days to see it, which is why I didn’t send this article to you last week. I knew there was something missing. That something was seeing what I did with my pain. It was a coping mechanism. What did I need? What did I want? Well, I was bypassing both those questions.
Some things I needed at the time and didn’t catch were: a coconut, understanding, connection, respect for how I was seeing things, and no pressure to do anything.
He did his best and he could not fulfill all of those needs. That is something I learned from the bad day that is helpful. Sometimes, we have needs that we want the person in front of us to meet. And sometimes they simply can’t. Grumpiness and blame doesn’t change that. Wishing things were different doesn’t change it either. Compassion for them and for yourself is what helps. Then you figure out how you can get your needs met and honor what you want and how you feel. This is key to finding your inner alignment again.
(To be continued next week…including steps 3 & 4)
Becoming a Butterfly is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.