There are many tools in my toolbox. Some are for the kitchen and some are for my soul.
Tools in my kitchen
Earlier this year I decided I wanted to paint the kitchen. It had been on our list of to-dos for quite some time so I figured we’d just get it done. But when planning to paint the kitchen, we realized the cabinets needed help too. You see, someone who had lived in this house previously didn’t know how to paint correctly. They left paint drips on the walls and cabinet doors. They painted over the doors and left them closed so when they opened the doors paint peeled off. This isn’t just in our kitchen but throughout the entire house.
It is easy to blame them. We do it quite a bit.
And then we get to work because talking about what poor painters they were doesn’t change the fact that we have work to do!
We tried sanding down the cabinet doors but soon realized a few layers down that there was oil-based paint that just gummed up the sander. Next we tried a paint stripper and realized it was going to take way more chemicals and energy to clean off those cabinets than we wanted to use.
We considered replacing the cabinet doors but that was going to cost almost as much as just replacing the cabinets.
All I wanted to do was paint the kitchen!
We were ready to buy some cabinets when the world stopped. The cabinet doors were off, the lights were gone and the world took a pause. So did we. But I knew we couldn’t pause for too long because soon the sun will start setting earlier and earlier and I really like having light in the kitchen while we’re cooking…I know, I’m so demanding! 😉
We picked out new cabinets and countertops. We decided to get new appliances. The electrical stuff is sorted out along with the plumbing. We have light! Cabinets got delivered and the countertop is now in progress. All we need to do is install the cabinets and we’re good to go…
Then I heard a big sigh from my husband.
I know what that sigh means so I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.
And then he told me — the upper cabinets are wrong.
I felt my heart sink and my stomach rise. My face got hot. Once we realized the problem shame stepped in to help me feel worse: you’re dumb, why on earth did you think you could do this, of course something went wrong. Tears started dropping from my eyes. I felt the spiraling begin.
I have tools in my toolbox
But, before I let the spiraling take over I sent a text to my friend. She heard my frustrations and validated my feelings. She also suggested I come back to the moment by paying attention to my five senses: what do you feel, what do you see, what do you hear, what do you taste, what do you smell. Then I took some deep breaths. Next I thought about the worst case scenario: we lose money and the project gets delayed.
I had a work meeting during all of this which actually helped distract me. I briefly named what happened, they sympathized, and we moved onto the work. I felt capable and needed. That felt really good.
After the meeting, I reached out to our contact at Lowe’s to find a solution. Within a few hours we had new cabinets ordered (we only needed to replace two of the four) and she confirmed that we could return the ones that won’t work.
We didn’t lose any money. The project will be slightly delayed — we’ll get the upper cabinets around the same time as the countertops are installed.
A few years ago I would have lost my shit. Maybe even a few months ago. However, I’ve slowly been adding tools to my toolbox in order to make life more bearable, and it turns out they work!
Tools for my soul
Breathing: through a month long program I’m doing with my breathwork teacher, I am doing daily breathwork. I started this daily practice a week ago. I’ve also paid more attention to my breathing because of daily yoga. In the middle of my emotional distress, I remembered to breathe. That’s a big deal.
Reaching out: right away I sent my friend a text. I didn’t know if she’d be available in the moment; if she wasn’t, I would have sent a text to another friend until I got a response. Knowing who is trustworthy and who will see me is crucial. She validated me and helped calm me down.
Putting it into perspective: I named to myself the worst case scenario. By doing so, I realized we could handle the worst case. My mind no longer started spinning out of control with made up stories about what might happen.
Daily yoga: just hours before this situation unfolded before me I was standing firmly in eagle pose. Adriene talked about the ways life can knock us over, but when we stay steady in our breathing and focused in our attention we can pull ourselves back up into the pose. I lived into that very moment and I remembered to focus on my breathing — talk about taking my yoga off the mat!
This is living in the midst
We are all living in the midst of something. It might be infertility or divorce or The Great Pause or job loss or a kitchen remodel. No matter what it is, you have access to tools that will help you grow through it — tools right in your own body!
I encourage you to try using one of these or coming up with your own. Practice using them often so when that thing comes along and knocks you over, you’ll know how to slowly get back up even stronger than before.