As I got out of bed today, I found myself thinking, "Life is hard." It's a thought I think all the time. An automatic set of words that pops into my head every time I'm tired, I think about something I don't want to do, my feelings hurt, my friend's feelings hurt, someone is mad at me, I'm running late, I'm overwhelmed, I don't know the answer to something, or my doctor's appointment gets cancelled.
And today when I thought, "Life is hard," I started noticing how that made me feel. I felt fatigue, dread, heaviness, confusion, and reluctance. And I asked myself, is that thought true?
Well, yes! There are many things about life that are hard. But there are also many things about life that aren't hard -- most things, actually. Our brains are just trained to focus on what's difficult.
But whether it's true or not, the more important question is: Does the thought "life is hard" help me or hurt me? Tuning into my feelings made it clear that this thought habit was causing me harm.
Here's all the evidence I collected today that reinforced my thought that life is hard:
I woke up at 5:20 am to get my kids out of bed. They went back to sleep and missed the activity they needed to attend anyway. Then I pulled the rest of the kids out of bed and took one to get a blood test.
The CVS (which said online that it was open) was actually closed. They directed me to a different CVS that could do the test. When we went there, that one was also closed. We went to a third where we finally got the blood draw. I then took my child back to school and missed my turn, resulting in an extra 10 minutes sitting in traffic.
I returned home and got an email about an event I'm planning that said I may need to replace some critical staff with very little time before launch. I also learned the event was going way over budget (thanks inflation), and I spent hours trying to figure out how to make it work. That made me late to my next meeting.
After my meeting I went outside and noticed my sprinklers had a leak, and water was gushing all over the concrete. I came back inside and saw that my dog had had an accident on the floor.
One of my children came home sobbing because a kid at school had been mean. I spent an hour trying to calm them. I got the mail, which was filled with unexpected medical bills and a notice saying my daughter was paying extra for college medical insurance, when we already have medical insurance.
I asked my son to bring my daughter to an activity, and then he fell asleep. She came downstairs crying because she was late and embarrassed, so I took her. On the way out to the car, I noticed a long scratch all down the side I'd never seen before. She cried all the way to the activity.
I had planned to have a cozy evening with my husband, but then he told me he had a last-minute meeting pop up he had to go to instead. I went to the kitchen to do the dishes alone and noticed my dog had had another accident.
All of the above actually, legitimately happened today. And this was just a regular day, not even a bad day. There's lots of evidence there to suggest that life is hard.
But here's what's also true.
I woke up early this morning in my soft bed with crisp sheets that my housekeeper had freshly changed. I went upstairs where my four healthy, thriving children were fast asleep. We're coming to the end of the school year, and the excitement of finishing is palpable each morning.
My son has chosen to serve a church mission, and so he needed to get a blood test for his paperwork, which we secured this morning, and now his papers are complete. Yay!
I'm planning an event that I love being a part of. It's a challenge, and I'm learning all kinds of new skills and working with people I love and admire. I made a lot of progress on that event today.
I have a gorgeous new swimming pool with all new landscaping in my backyard. I spent an hour outside today enjoying it. The weather was perfect for a swim. I played outside with my adorable mini Australian Shepherd, who I love.
All my kids came home after school, gave me a hug and told me they loved me. I got to spend a long time connecting with one of them, listening to her and serving as a support. Then I took my daughter to an activity that she was excited to go to. She was really worried she would be late, but she ended up arriving in plenty of time.
My husband had meetings tonight, so when I got home, I had time to finish the work I didn't get to earlier in the day. That's going to help tomorrow go smoothly.
Both of these stories are equally true. Each time my brain produced the thought "life is hard" I turned my focus to the negative -- to all the ways life is hard. And it felt terrible.
But this morning I decided to answer every "life is hard" thought with "and also, not hard," just to give my brain some balance. When I add that second part to the end, my negative feelings dissipate. I feel more neutral, and even a little more motivated and lighter. It definitely feels better.
As always, when we feel better, we do better. Despite all the extra things that got put into my schedule today, I still ended up accomplishing every single thing on my to-do list.
I noticed as I was writing this that I noted that this was not a bad day, just a regular day. Had I not answered my brain all day with "and also, not hard" I wonder if I would have thought this was a bad day. It looks like I may have fewer bad days in my future. Yes, please.