Everyone has those days where nothing seems to be going their way. Everyone has those days where someone or something just really manages to get under their skin. Everyone has one of those days where they just want to scream. But, when “one of those days” rolls around, it is incredibly important in the way one handle’s themselves. Before acting drastically and regretting it later, I believe in just taking a deep breath.
Throwing the alarm clock when one finally wakes up isn’t going to stop them from being late, but hopping out of bed and doing whatever possible to make up for it might. Kicking and yelling at a flat tire won’t make the hole in it magically disappear, but pulling out a cell phone and calling AAA will definitely help the situation. Cursing a teacher and giving up won’t make that bad grade disappear, but vowing to try harder for the next test might. Grabbing a stranger from the side of the street and kissing them just in time for an old boyfriend or girlfriend to see may or may not get them back, but should anyone really go that far?
If the world was filled with people acting upon whim and first thoughts, the world would be a much scarier place. Nobody can think rationally all the time and taking a deep breath is excellent for calming irrational first thoughts. Whether it be sleeping through an alarm in the morning, getting a flat tire on the way to work, receiving a bad grade on a test, or seeing an old flame with their current love, the mature world expects a rational reaction.
Sometimes the best thing to help in a bad situation is to just sit back and take a nice long breath. Lift your chin up to the sky and close your eyes, open your mouth and just suck in as much air your lungs can hold, then hold it there. After a few seconds, slowly release the air and open your eyes. If you don’t crack a smile at how silly your first thought was, at least you won’t actually do it. And if you really, really still want to do that, then maybe your first thought wasn’t too absurd.
Without taking a minute to sit back and think things through one set themselves up for overreacting. Most of the times, things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem. When I got my first speeding ticket it was after school on some back roads that was a shortcut to my house. We all knew that police officers periodically targeted the area. Why wouldn’t they? A bunch of brand new, teenage drivers in a mad rush to get as far away from school as quickly as possible every day around 3:15 PM. This was speeding ticket heaven, or hell, depending on which side of the spectrum you are on.
I was a little behind the mad rush of students, I had gotten carried away with socializing and took longer than usual to get out of the building. The cop was ready and waiting for me. They usually have two on this section of the road, one monitoring the speed behind a tree and the other waiting to step out from behind the bush and wave you down. This time they had three. One monitoring speed and two ready to wave you down. I was trapped first. There were no cars visible, no flashing lights.
I quickly turned down my music, made sure my seatbelt was on—like it would have mattered at that point—and pulled over. The police officer told me I was going 15 mph over and I would be getting a ticket that day. I was in control of myself until the minute I rolled my window up and drove away. I burst down in tears and starting furiously sending hateful text messages to my friends who I knew would understand. I called my parents sobbing and actually tried to convince them that I hadn’t been speeding.
Thats when I got the great idea to actually drive down to the police station and argue my case right then and there. I took a very deep breath. Partly because the sobbing had worn me out and partly because I needed a second to think. Then I burst out laughing. Did I honestly think going down to the police station to argue a speeding ticket was a good idea? A 16-year-old driver’s word against an experienced police officer with two partners to back him up? No, I did not think that was actually a good idea. But, until I took a nice deep breath I thought I had every right in the world to do just that.
Taking a minute to breathe may prevent more than just an embarrassing performance, it may help make the reality of a situation obvious. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems and it is important for one to realize this before the situation has already gotten out of hand.
Just taking a breath is a small part of the huge picture–patience. My father used to preach to me that “patience is a virtue” and I plan to preach the same to my children. Patience requires maturity, understanding, and relaxation. There is no point in hurrying through life without taking any time to enjoy it and become easily aggravated when things do not immediately work out perfectly.
Learn to think before you speak and to think before you react. Learn to breathe and learn to listen. Accept that there will always be “those days” and snapping someone’s head off will not improve anything. Realize the first idea one has isn’t always the best and by simply breathing and having a little patience, nothing turns out as bad as it seems.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.