Updated: May 17
Yesterday the plane that was supposed to take me home was delayed for six
hours before it was unceremoniously canceled. Today it's delayed by four hours
and my connecting flight will be long gone by the time we land. I’m now on
standby for the last flight home but if I don’t make it onto that then I’m stuck in
Dallas for the night. At the moment it’s a full-on shit storm in this tiny airport where
just about every other flight is either canceled or delayed. The folks here are not
happy but I am surprisingly serene. Trust me this was not normal for me. I used to
be a stressed-out traveler who wanted to control every takeoff and landing
insisting that everyone and everything run like clockwork. What’s completely insane
about this, aside from the fact that I have ZERO CONTROL over the airport or the
skies, is that I have a notorious history of running late for everything. Ask anyone who
knows me. It’s appalling. But today I’m hanging out at the airport and just letting go.
Today I'm older and wiser. I recognize that trying to control the uncontrollable is
useless and it makes me feel overwhelmed and powerless. I become a victim
of circumstance and this makes me a little nasty, a lot surly, and all-around awful
to be around. Just ask my kids. I hated who I became when life showed up in
ways that did not perfectly suit my personal preferences and more times than I could
count, I regretted my actions and my reactions. It hurt my relationships and perpetuated a cycle of self-loathing. I wanted to be better not just for me but for my kids. Yeah, this shit had to go.
I decided to change. I learned about personal development. I studied people
who inspired me. I grew and somewhere along the line, I became obsessed with my
brain. Why did it do what it did? And more importantly, how do I stop it from
doing what it did which overwhelmed me? Enter Neuroplasticity. This changed my life.
What the hell is neuroplasticity, you ask? In a nutshell, neuroplasticity is the ability
of the brain to change in structure or function in response to experience”*.
Wait, what? I can change how my brain responds? I didn’t know I could do that!
And if I change my response then… my experience changes? As aType-A
Control Freak, I love this. I can control the experience… of my experience!
Yes please, sign me up!
What I’ve learned however is this does not happen overnight, this has to
become a dedicated practice. I have to practice letting go of other people, places,
and things. Powerful though I may think I am, I cannot control the
uncontrollable which includes the entire world. For me, understanding this was a
huge relief. It took off a lot of pressure. It also took a lot of practice. It’s a daily
practice that I am finally getting good at. What neuroplasticity tells us is that
inside, our brains are always making connections perpetually wiring and
rewiring themselves. Every day we practice habits and behaviors that can
make us feel happy or miserable. Life feels totally out of our control (which it
actually is) yet we are determined to wrestle it to the ground and make it obey.
As a result, we react habitually and this is where the train goes off the rails.
If you drive too slow in front of me and I’m in a hurry, I’m gonna get nasty real
quick. I try to get around you but suddenly someone else is blocking the lane
beside me so now I’m stuck behind you forever and eternity. I get aggressive and begin driving like an asshole while ranting "just drive like you fucking mean it!" and voilá: my day goes sideways. It’s a habitual (and completely unconscious) behavior that I’ve wired into
my brain. Driving like a raging a-hole has taken years of practice. Until I
decided to take control of the only thing I can control: me. I practiced a different
behavior. I took responsibility for my poor time management (a work-in-progress),
I acknowledged that I have no control over other drivers, stop lights, or
traffic flow. I practiced just breathing. Trust me, one (or three) long slow deep breaths does
wonders for a girl. It does even more for my brain which, with dedicated practice
began to rewire itself to behave differently. Instead of raging, I practice breathing.
I reassure myself that I won’t die from sitting in traffic or from being late and most
importantly, I remind myself that I am changing my brain which is at this very
moment rewiring itself to respond differently. This is something I can control!
And as a bonus, I discovered this practice has a magical side effect: most times when I do this traffic begins to flow. Now I make a game out of it, let go and traffic flows.
Neuroplasticity works wherever I apply it. "When you change the way you
look at things, the things you look at change". It's really true. My love affair with my brain has
literally changed my life. I’m happier. I love more unconditionally. I’m far less nasty
and mostly a lot more peaceful. I know for sure I’m a better driver. I’ve learned
that while I can’t control the world, I can control the world inside of me.
Try it out for yourself and let me know how it works for you?
*Definition from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
** Wayne Dyer
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