Recently I was tooling around running errands while listening to NPR, and the featured show was on the topic of Cognitive Positive Reframing. They were interviewing a woman whose husband was suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s and she was heartbroken at the fact that he was only a mere shell of the man she had married, years ago. She found herself resentful as his caregiver and had sought professional help. Through the process of reframing, however, she learned to manipulate her perspective with a positive spin and this helped her to manage her situation with more compassion and understanding.
Reframing is a way to solve problems by looking at the problem with a new outlook or from a different point of view. Reframing is also used in businesses to spark innovation and creativity – if you solve every obstacle the same way, chances are there will be no new ideas or innovation. If we can view our stressors as challenges that we can face, even opportunities, rather than mere threats to our happiness, they can help us out of feeling trapped. Once we broaden our perspectives with positivity, we are able to see more options. In the NPR lady’s case, she was able to focus on what she COULD do, rather than what she couldn’t. She could still hug him and show him affection. He could smile at her in appreciation. Sure, things weren’t ever going to be the same, but they could move forward together with a new encouraging viewpoint for their time ahead. Some days are harder than others, sure, but sometimes it IS mind over matter.
As I listened to this I grew excited and hopeful. I’m the type of optimistic fool that looks forward to trying shit like this out. Well, IN THEORY. Often, in recovery, folks would suggest that I should pray or wish good (or even fucking thank them if you can imagine) upon people which I felt had done me an injustice or owed me an apology for wrongdoing, as they have helped me to grow. I was told to look for my part in everything. I was told to do the next right thing. I was also told that even if I didn’t know what the next right thing was, I sure as shit knew what the WRONG thing was to do, so avoid doing THAT, at the very least.
I didn’t have long to wait for an opportunity.
My Mother was swinging through town on Mother’s Day weekend, only for one evening. We rarely get to spend time together, so this was special. My husband and I planned a nice family dinner and my only assignment was to pick up dessert. We have a delightful local bakeshop that specializes in spectacular cakes (with frosting so sweet it’ll give you an instant throbby toothache) and I decided to swing by and pick up one of those on my way home, a few hours before her arrival. As I opened the door and attempted to step into the bakery, I immediately realized my mistake. Did I mention it was MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND!? That joint was rimmed out from elbows to assholes with young and white tennis-playing-bouncy-soccer moms to withered old country club divas, who had ALREADY ORDERED their fucking cakes because THEY ARE ADULTS WITH CALENDARS.
I quickly addressed the situation in my own unique way, which was to run around all panicky and wide-eyed like a sprayed roach inside the bakery trying to ascertain what the hell was left and which cake I was going to end up stealing out of someone’s actual arms. Before I knew it, there was a shiny pimply teenager in front of me asking me the name on my pre-ordered cake. SHIT. I hurriedly explained to him that I was a dolt and didn’t preorder a cake (don’t you dare judge me kid) and I would simply take anything that was left. He informed me that it was indeed my lucky day that they had one solitary cake left at the moment and I screamed “OMG I’LL TAKE IT, MOTHERFUCKERS!” He hurriedly disappeared into the back of the shop. I inhaled deeply to absorb my victory as he scrambled to get my cake. When he appeared in the doorway, I could barely make out his figure, as the cakebox was so freaking big. This cake was enough for fifty people, y’all.
Okay, more like twenty folks, but STILL. There were only four of us having dinner that night and let me again remind you that my financial situation these days isn’t stellar so I wasn’t really prepared for a fifty dollar cake for that matter, let alone a fifty POUND one. My husband will have a seizure when he sees the size of this monstrosity, JESUS. Now, there are two ways I could’ve handled this; One way was to calmly explain to shiny pimply teen that I misunderstood the size/cost of the remaining cake and politely apologize and take my sober bitter ass over to the regular grocery store and get a frozen cheap Sara Lee cake like the rest of America would have done to start with. The second way was to freak the F out and start sweating, swearing, and stuttering and then force my debit card into shiny pimply teen’s face with a shaking hand hoping and praying that it didn’t get declined and then hoisting said fifty pound cake out to my Jeep to have a nervous breakdown in private because I clearly cannot handle life. Well, as private as a public parking lot outside a ridiculously busy bakery on the Friday before Mother’s Day, anyway.
Naturally, I went with the latter scenario. However, once I got into my Jeep and proceeded to have my hysterical breakdown, I recalled the reframing conversation from NPR. Now, here was a perfect opportunity to try this shit out. So, I calmed myself down and instead of telling myself that I’m a loser and don’t deserve any happiness in life and that I’ve ruined my Mother’s entire visit, I simply ‘reframed’ it in my mind.
What is the BOTTOM LINE, I asked myself? Let’s look at this from another angle. . . what is the ultimate problem here…?!?
I laughed out loud as the obvious answer hit me between the eyes like a frozen snickers bar . . . I HAVE A SHIT TON OF CAKE.
And really? That was what it boiled down to. No, we don’t have a surplus of money these days but we arguably could eat cake for dinner for the rest of the following week. The whole thing was just me letting life get me wound up in all the wrong ways. We get so caught up in the fast-paced minutiae and detritus of life. This was not really a “problem” of any sort and I was over-reacting, as I’m a dramatic, overwhelmed, and tired human being. Just like everyone else.
So, I took my big ass cake home and had a lovely evening with my family and my sweet Momma, and you know what? We had TWO slices of cake, each.