The more tools you collect for your toolbox, the better lives we will all have—because feeling good is contagious. I've been through quite a bit in my life and there have been many times when I've had a crisis occur where I was quite quick to jump off into hysteria, depression, anxiety attacks, bad tempers. In recent years I've gotten much better about reaching into my “toolbox” to live a happier life.
Just over a month ago, while in the middle of my two week trip in South Africa, I had a jacket stolen from me. This wasn't just any jacket. My mother had given me this very beautiful white jacket with a very unique design on it. It had been my mother's jacket and when she gave it to me she said, "Whenever you wear this I will have my arms around you." This jacket has had monumental sentimental value to me and even more so since my mother's death. When I realized the jacket was missing, I felt panic and loss and sadness. Like any dark cloud, I could feel the beginnings of letting this event take over my thought process. As I sat in a van riding across the spectacular savanna landscape of Autumn golds and reds, not appreciating where I was in the present moment, I suddenly thought, I’m in South Africa! How many people get the opportunity to visit such an amazing place?
I reached further into my toolbox. I brought out, "Someone must have really needed this jacket more than me" and "My mother always has her arms around me" and "I'm so grateful that I wasn't injured" and "I'm so grateful for all of the things I do have" and "I'm so grateful my children are healthy" and finally, "What am I to learn from this experience?"And I was sincere in all of these thoughts.
I'm still a little saddened by the loss of the jacket, but of all the gazillion things I do have, why should I lose my balance over the one thing I don't have? It doesn't make sense. I stayed with the thought about what does this experience have to teach me? The jacket was a thing. Yes, it had personal value, but bottom line, it was a thing and I was faced with two choices: hang on to the sadness or let it go. The lesson for me was letting go and truly believing that someone had a bigger need for the jacket than I did. I'm not excusing theft, but I feel that to dwell on anger and sadness has no effect on the person who took my jacket. It only has a negative effect on me, and then those around me.
Maybe this person was starving, maybe this person’s children were starving, maybe this person was cold. The possibilities are infinite; I know this. Regardless, I have forgiven the person, no matter the reason. In this instance, I remembered rather quickly to stay in the present, be grateful, and let go. And, look--how lucky I am to have a happy picture of me wearing the jacket.
Lest anyone think that I think I have it all figured out . . . yesterday I nearly threw my lap top computer out the closed window of my home office. Extreme frustration smothered me and I did allow a less than pleasant mood to take over . . . where was my toolbox yesterday?