How did you fare in the snow last week?
It seems to me there’s an arc in people’s reactions to snow. At first excitement and exclamations at how pretty it is and how they’re looking forward to some enforced time off, perhaps with the children. As the days go by, feelings change to frustration and cabin fever. It’s difficult to look after small children indoors all day. Home life feels monotonous without the distraction of colleagues or friends. The cold, the ice, the wetness all become unappealing. There’s the disappointment of cancelled events and concern about future appointments. Wanting to get back to normal becomes the overriding feeling.
For me, my snow days gave me some valuable insights. They were a reminder about mindfulness and making plans.
King Canute is famous for demonstrating that “time and tide wait for no man”. Legend has it that he sat on his throne on the shore and commanded the waves to stop in order to demonstrate the futility of man. Futility in the face of the weather was my experience when I decided to clear the snow from my drive.
On the first day it took me an hour to clear and an hour later the drive was covered again. So I cleared it again. And again the following day.
I didn’t mind this process because I wasn’t enormously focused on the outcome. I was clearing the snow because I wanted some exercise, not because I wanted a clear drive. It reminds me of mindfulness because that asks us to focus on the here and now. To focus on the activity, not the end result. To focus on clearing the drive, not a cleared drive. This enables us to be less attached to an outcome we can’t control.
If we recognise that we can’t control the outcome, we achieve a measure of freedom and a sense of space. Releasing our attachment to the outcome means it is not constricting. There is no need to have an internal conflict with the unexpected and to try and exert control over events. It is what it is, and we can choose how to respond to it.
We make things difficult for ourselves when we attach too much importance to a desired outcome. Our thinking is often focused on the end result.
I tend to use day dreaming about how things might turn out to motivate myself. I was preparing to deliver a course at the weekend and ruminating on different outcomes – a sense of confidence in my presentation or abject fear in being unprepared – was all I needed to ensure that I worked hard on the content.
What I hadn’t expected was that it would be cancelled due to the weather.
Mindfulness is about living in the moment and it is impossible to predict what the future will bring. We think we know – but we don’t. I’d become attached to a future outcome. So initially what I felt was disappointment and a sense of wasted effort. If I’d simply prepared the course for the sake of preparing the course - rather than delivering it at that precise time – I might have felt differently.
However … I still had a choice. I could see myself as a victim of the weather. Alternatively, I could see it as a stroke of luck. The bad weather at the beginning of the week gave me more time to prepare. The postponement means I’ll run the course again a couple of times to accommodate everyone and so I’ll have extra spaces for more people. Rather than feeling nervous I now know how much I want to deliver it. There is no need to feel disappointed.
So whether or not I see this situation as lucky is up to me. It is my choice as to whether I complain or celebrate.
I explained some more about our perception of luckiness in my video this week. If you can't view it properly by email, you can see it on www.thegoodenoughmum.com/videos