An example of being anxious and distracted compared to being calm and present
I needed some cash recently so I went up the road to the ATM. This ATM has a lot of history for me. A few years ago, when I was really struggling, I would withdraw money from the ATM, but my mind was distracted, whirling around. I was thinking about other things, feeling the tension that things needed to be done, planning what I would do next, going over to-do lists in my mind, with the tension that I would not get it all done. Then, I would walk away without taking the money. I lost several hundred dollars doing this (I always wonder, where did that money end up? I hope it gave someone a good time). It was a frightening example of my inability to pay attention in the present moment. It was actually an impetus for me to seek help (suddenly professional help didn’t seem so expensive!).
Anyway, back to the ATM recently, when I arrived it was closed. So I thought “Oh well, I’ll go along to the next set of shops along the road.” As I thought that, I noticed something missing, a gap. Where was the old familiar pattern of thoughts that said things like “This is the only ATM with good parking around here… You should have got this money when you passed an ATM yesterday… Now you will lose time and won’t get other tasks done… You could have done better…”
Where was the accompanying worry about how this would throw my day out of whack? Where was the tension in my body? Where was the spiral of negative thoughts that would suck my energy for hours or days? This cluster of effects had gone. For several years in the past, that pattern was so automatic for me that I didn’t even see them as judgemental reactions at the time. They were just my way of being. I didn’t see how hard I was being on myself. I didn’t know the value of self-compassion.
So, what was my new way of responding? I calmly decided to drive to the busy shopping street. There was no park nearby. Oh well, I found one eventually. So, this was going to take more time than I had planned, but really, in the larger scheme of things that didn’t matter, and actually, look, the day was lovely and mild with a light breeze. I walked to the machine, inserted my card and….. took the money with me.