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You can change the atmosphere

Last month, I went on my first business related travel in months – a sign that my work life is back to normal. I welcomed this trip because I was in a work “slump”. My attitude has not been the greatest due to some recent decisions made that were out of my control. Those decisions impacted one project that I had been working on for about 3 years. I often use the travel time on these trips to reflect and regroup, and boy, did I have some epiphanies! Intellectually, I know that the I have the power to change the atmosphere with a positive attitude, but it takes work. Sometimes, it feels comfortable to mope around and not do anything about it, but it doesn’t provide any long term benefits. Here’s a personal example from my business trip of changing the atmosphere.

This incident occurred at the airport on my way to my destination. Yup…I hadn’t even left the city yet and I was faced with a lesson. I tend to require extra screening when I go through TSA and that day was no different. I was so annoyed because I got called to the side even after they practically make stripped me down to the basics – shirt and bottom. I was told by security that the following areas on my body were of concern: my left wrist, my waist, my groin area, my left breast, my knee, my right hand, my right kidney, my second toe on the right foot, my lungs and my thyroid gland (not really on the last few, but you get my drift). I don’t normally get embarrased when they pull me to the side. My outlook has been that this is routine, but this day was just ridiculous with all of the friskinh. It seemed like it took forever. I partially kept my gaze on my items that were in the bins waiting for me. I didn’t want anyone to walk off with my stuff. I was impatient and annoyed with all of the questions and frisking. 

By the time it was over, I was outdone with irritation. I went to grab my stuff, reached for the shoes and the security guard asked just as I managed to put one on my foot, “are those your shoes?” I looked at him and said, “Yes.” There was a slight delay in my mind registering what he had actually asked, so I came back with an “I hope so since I’m putting them on MY feet.” We exchanged a laugh. He said he was trying to cheer me up since I looked so serious, but he could see I didn’t get it at first. He was only joking and knows that people only reach for their own shoes. I attempted to explain that I was annoyed with the whole frisking process. What’s interesting is that saying it out loud made me question why I made a big deal about it. He asked me a follow up question and then we parted ways. 

That security guard changed the atmosphere in my mind because I was on my way to a full pity party due to that experience. I walked away from him asking myself why I had been so annoyed. I know this is routine. I arrived at the airport early to account for the process. Telling me that I “looked so serious” reminded me that this was the opposite of how I want to carry myself, especially after recovering from a chronic, life altering health condition – breast cancer. I strive to be lighter in mind, spirit and body. Even the use of the word “light” in my blog title, Enlightened Social Worker, provides a clue to how I want to be. That experience did ENLIGHTEN me to my attitude. I’m not immune from reverting back to old ways. Also, as part of my breast cancer treatment, I’m required to take a medication for at least 5 years. The medication is essentially hormone therapy and I believe that it does affect my mood, which is a side effect. I’ve been more conscious of it and make adjustments as needed (I may decide to be more reserved and stay to myself at work or home to avoid spewing my agitation on some unsuspecting soul).

Someone may believe that I was justified in my feeling that day. My point is not to berate myself because I realized that my attitude was not what I wanted it to be. The point is that with humor, the security guard said something that sparked a change in the atmosphere of my mind. He changed the trajectory of my attitude and I loved that. That’s how I want to be for others. Even the Bishop at my church has preached on this in the past. You have to believe that you have that power and you do because it doesn’t take much. This can be accomplished through simple acts of connecting with people even if for a brief moment. You can do it for yourself with postive self-talk. Out of habit, you may be feeding your mind negative messages (like I do) and not realize it. However, I catch myself and when I do, I change my self-talk to encouragement or whatever is useful for that moment. 

I’m so glad that I received that reminder that day. And I can be funny too, so I need to channel more of that, especially when I’m stressed. How do you go about changing the atmosphere? 

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