It had been a relaxing and productive Sunday.
I was ecstatic from getting my laundry room cleaned and organized after looking at the piles grow for weeks. I kept running back in there just so I could see how neat and tidy everything looked.
I was excited to finally finish the fall placemats I had started sewing at least 10 years ago. Sewing mitered corners and then attaching it around the main body of the placement was trickier than it looked.
And the whole time, I just kept feeling wonderful. When things are organized and I’m creating, all is right in the world. When those things have been on my list for some time, it makes it that much better.
As I flitted back and forth between the iron near the sewing machine and stealing peeks at the laundry room I kept telling myself, “See how great you feel? You should do this more often! Just do it! Don’t procrastinate and wait for the perfect day to do everything.”
That’s when the lights flickered.
For the first time.
Then they flickered again, just a second later. And the PBS special on the Roosevelt’s resumed while I busily ironed the interfacing to the back of the placemats.
I went back to sneak a peek at my gorgeously arranged room, in time to change out the laundry. Just then, the lights flickered again. And then they went out.
CRAP! It was pitch black. I couldn’t see a thing, and there were countless chair and table legs between me and matches.
Less than 30 seconds later, the power was restored. But I knew something was up.
Still, I went back to ironing so I could complete my sewing project. Within minutes, I had already forgotten about the five warning flickers. I went into my bedroom to find more fabric that I needed, when POOF! After two more flickers, the lights went out.
This time, something told me they weren’t coming back on within seconds.
Groping around the dark, I was determined to find what I was looking for by feel (and the glow of someone’s laptop screen in another room that running by battery). I went about lighting candles and getting things situated for bed since it was close to 10pm.
Giving up on the lights, I blew out the candles and decided to just read on what battery was left on my Kindle app. Coincidentally, I was reading about how to tune in to the things around you, so you could find and relish in those quiet moments and messages all around.
I tried not to think about the pitch blackness that surround the house.
I tried not to think about how eerie the street looks when there is absolutely no light coming from anywhere.
I tried not to think all of my bad dreams and fears that involved the dark, and instead to focus on my reading, giving thanks for the Kindle app so I could read even when there was no electricity.
As my eyelids fluttered closed, the tiny part of my brain that was still awake kept noticing the rain. It wasn’t any louder than normal, but because everything was silent without electricity, I noticed how it sounded against the windows.
I heard the rustle of the dry leaves as they brushed against each other and then fell down to the ground.
I noticed the sounds of people in the house falling asleep and being still and quiet.
And that’s when I learned it: the sounds all around us can distract us from what is peaceful. Those seemingly subtle hums from refrigerators and heaters and fans and TV’s and computers muted by closed doors can keep us to from hearing the soft things that restore peace and comfort.
Despite my fear of the dark, I felt so calm and relaxed as my sense of hearing picked up and took over for my diminished sense of sight.
In our crazy, busy, stressful, anxious world, it is easy to get so caught up in things. Not even the big things, but just the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, going to work, or getting ready for bed. It’s easy to tune out the small things that can restore that sense of peace, and cleanse the worries around us.
One of the basic anxiety techniques that I share with my clients is: utilize your five senses to help soothe your frazzled nerves.
Take a deep breath.
- What do you hear when you get quiet and pay attention? Tiny chirps from the birds? The hum of your phone right before new texts comes through?
- What do you see when you stop being preoccupied with your thoughts and fears? Reminders of things that you have accomplished? Photos of loved ones who are just waiting to connect with you again?
- What do you feel against your skin? A scratchy wool sweater or a smooth, cold floor under your feet?
- What do you smell when you inhale deeply? Fresh rain? Lemon cleaning products? Fabric softener?
- What do you taste when you stop and pause for a second? The lingering onions from your pizza at lunch? Chocolate from the piece you unwrapped without thinking during a tense moment?
The next time you're feeling especially tense, frustrated, nervous, scared, or even angry, take a moment to notice those “small” things around you.
Or, for the gold star, try to build something into your routine that allows you to take a moment to just concentrate on those treasures that only stand out when we darken the effects of other stressors in our lives.