It’s raining. The drops are gently hitting the leaves one at a time, and all at the same time. The rough, mossy bark of the trees that line the edge of the field is dark and wet, and everything green is bright and alive. A light breeze is moving and the air is cool and misty. I close my eyes and invite my senses to breathe it all in, slow and deep.
Based on that description, where do you think I am?
Would you have ever guessed that I am sitting on the balcony of our little two-bedroom apartment that overlooks the small yard and woods behind our building? And that on the other side of the trees is the HIGHWAY? Through the branches semi trucks, and cars of all kinds whiz past constantly. I can hear each one, even when I’m inside with the windows shut.
When friends visit for the first time, some of them say “wow, how can you sleep with the highway right there?” And some say, “what a beautiful view of the trees,” which is what we said the day we looked at this apartment. That is because the world around us is all a matter of perspective.
I know the highway is right there, the noise makes it obvious. But I can still close my eyes and focus on the calm that is the barrier between me and the busy road. Instead of loud cars and trucks, I can hear and see the Cardinal on the tree in front of me chirping his little heart out. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, he is gathering sticks and things for his nest. He is still going about his business as a bird. He is still singing, loud and proud.
Stress doesn’t have to define our outlook and our attitude. It doesn’t have to debilitate us. We decide what we let in, we have a choice. It doesn’t mean those things will go away if we change our focus. More than likely, many of those things will still be there, the highway is not going anywhere, that’s for sure. But it also doesn’t mean that by accepting what we can’t change, we allow bad things and toxic relationships to continue to interfere, just like I don’t lose sleep over the noise of the road.
What it does mean is that we can put up a peaceful barrier between us and the mess. We can have boundaries. Sometimes this is simply a change of mind, we change the direction of our thoughts with positive messages instead of the negative ones we are exposed to, as I focus on the beautiful nature surrounding me instead of the highway. Other times this means putting an actual distance between us and the stressor. In some cases, this is necessary just for a short while to gain strength against the negativity, but sometimes a permanent distance is best if that stressor constantly causes too much disruption.
At the end of the day, you may not have complete control over your surroundings, your job, or the bad events that inevitably happen to all of us because the world, and it’s troubles, still exist. But you do have complete control over the most important part, YOU.
We can always choose to take a deep breath, we can feel the cool breeze, and soak in the beauty around us. Despite the chaos, we can keep singing in the rain.