As a recent college grad, I was starting to figure out this adult life thing — I got a job, found a place to live and managed to balance a social life with these new 9-5 responsibilities. Things were going according to plan, until they weren't. I lost my dad suddenly to cancer, and that's when it felt as if nothing would ever be good again.
I second-guessed all of my choices and simultaneously assumed that everyone else had it all figured out. I counted the ways I felt cheated: My grief felt crippling; my job started to lose its luster; I didn't have the bank account I wanted; I didn't like the way I felt on the inside, which translated to how I felt about how I looked and how I acted. I was cranky... a lot. I was tired of seeing friends accelerating into adult life while each day felt like a challenge I had to overcome. I was sad from top to bottom and from the inside out — until I heard a quote that quite literally changed my life.
"If you can't change a situation, change your mind."
I was in the middle of a yoga class, and it felt like the teacher was speaking directly to me. I can't remember which pose I was in, the song that was playing or the day of the week, but I do remember feeling his words reverberate in my bones. It was a wake up call, and I chose to listen.
Grief is real. And the things dragging me down were mostly out of my control, but my attitude was something only I could manage. So I started over. I fiercely protected my attitude and reactions to situations the way a mother bear might care for her cub. I had always been such a happy person and I wanted to be that person again.
I wrote the quote down on post-it notes and stuck them everywhere: on my bedroom mirror, across the back of my phone case and even on my laptop keyboard. I doodled it on my to-do lists and wrote it in my journal. I repeated it to myself constantly. I wanted to feel better, and now I had a plan. Timing is everything. If I wasn't ready, the best advice of my life might have fallen on deaf ears. But I wanted so badly to feel better.
Slowly, I formed a new habit. "If you can't change a situation, change your mind" became my go-to response for everything from a claustrophobic subway car to a terrible date to a disagreement with a friend. Of course there were days when I felt awful despite my best efforts. And there are still moments when negativity gets the best of me.
But I made a promise to myself to wake up every day and try. Feeling angry and upset won't change anything about so many situations I found myself in — in fact, it usually made things worse. Changing something I could control, like my mind, made all the difference.