October 1, 2011

It turns out that “I suck” moments are more negotiable than I thought

October 1, 2011 - Categories: happy, life

I was unpacking my bag at home before I realized I had forgotten cash at the bank. In the middle of catching up with W-, I found a mental void when I grasped for my memories of my errand, like sitting on a chair that isn’t there.

In preparation for an upcoming trip, I had withdrawn US dollars and Canadian dollars from the bank branch near by work. I received the US dollars, but not the Canadian dollars, and both I and the teller had forgotten about it by the time she cheerfully asked me if there was anything else I could help with. After a short conversation with an acquaintance I met, I left the branch, brainstorming ideas on the way home. And then– oh, drat.

When I realized that the cash was missing, I called the bank branch and left voicemail. Then I called the branch again. As I contemplated serial-dialing the possibly unattended phone, W- encouraged me to get back on the subway to see if I could still catch the teller on her shift. (Hooray for banks that are open late!) I left my bag, picked up some energy bars, and hurried back, rehearsing possible arguments.

On the trip there, I felt the tendrils of an "I suck" moment curling about the edges of my equilibrium. "No sense in getting upset," I reminded myself. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal: six dollars’ worth of tokens, an hour of subway time spent writing, and a little stress before a clear mind kicks in. Worst-case scenario, I’d be out the forgotten money and the time. It would be an expensive lesson, but I could consider that tuition for a lesson that might save me a lot of grief later, the entrance fee for an experience that might be worth writing about, and the fluctuation that tests the capacitance of my happiness.

Fortunately, the bank staff resolved the problem in less than three minutes. The teller had remembered shortly after I’d left, and she cancelled the CAD transaction so that it didn’t affect my account. A quick chat with an available teller, and everything was sorted out. Relieved (and with the withdrawal tucked securely into my bag), I headed home.

I found it interesting that tranquility was easy to recover. Years ago, I might have let that “I suck” moment throw me off my balance. I still occasionally run into this situation at work. Even after a positive resolution, I might still have begrudged my absentmindedness the effect on my schedule, berating myself for inattention. I tested it mentally by considering this: what if I’d ended up losing the cash for good? It would be inconvenient, but I don’t think I would have let it spoil my day.

Keeping a tranquil mind was much easier when I didn’t give in to the temptation to mentally berate myself. It turns out that “I suck” moments can be dealt with. Reflection helped me grasp a situation and know that I can wring an idea or a story or an aha! out of it, which means there are never really any total losses. That comforting thought minimized the initial stress, and then I had enough mental space to focus on what I can do next, what’s going well, and what can be improved.

Do you occasionally get those “I suck” moments too? What could help you hit eject on the DVD of negative self-talk and focus instead on making the most of the next moment, and the next, and the next?