A couple of days ago my car broke down. In the middle of the road. In Catford. In South-East London. The kids were with me as we were mid transit between a swimming class for the eldest and a gymnastics class for the twins.
Now, while I realise this certainly wasn’t the end of the world, it definitely wasn’t ideal.
Once I got the kids safely out of the way I started trying to get the car sorted.
Problem number 1: I realised I didn’t have any of the breakdown recovery documents in the car. In fact I had no idea who we were covered with and where these documents were at all.
Problem number 2: I couldn’t get hold of hubby and didn’t have any other way of contacting him as I don’t have anyone else’s number from his current team.
So as I stood by the car I could feel all too familiar thoughts descend on me.
- ‘How stupid am I?’
- ‘Why am I so disorganised?’
- ‘Why would I do something so stupid as to not have these documents in the car?’
- ‘How have I been so stupid as to not have more work phone numbers for my husband?’
- ‘This is typical of me.’
- ‘I’m supposedly well-educated and reasonably intelligent but I can’t even get basic things like this right.”
- ‘I can be such a let down as a Mum – the kids are gutted not to be taken to gymnastics by me (usually they go with their nanny as I am at work).
- ‘I should be on top of all this stuff. I shouldn’t have to phone my husband every time something goes wrong.’
This is my inner critic raising its head. We all have one. But some people’s are more vociferous than other’s. Mine was rampant for years and fed into, what a healthcare professional called, ‘core beliefs’ of failure and worthlessness.
However, on this occasion I accepted the mission: mindfulness.
I noticed the thoughts and how they were making me feel.
I noticed that I was close to tears and told myself (as kindly and patiently as possible!) that although that was a natural reaction to all these negative thoughts and emotions, it would not be helpful right that minute. I connected with my breath. I felt my feet to anchor me to that moment rather than worrying about:
- the fact that we were meant to be driving to France in a few days and the car looked like it wasn’t going anywhere
- the girls missing their gymnastics lesson
- what I may have done wrong to make the car break down.
And do you know what – it worked.
I remembered the important mindfulness adage ‘thoughts are not facts’.
I cried a bit on the phone to my hubby and then we laughed about how crap we have both been with paperwork recently (in fact I don’t think anything has been filed in our household since the twins were born at the beginning of 2015) and that was it.
The roadside assistance came and I was quickly sent on me way – no further work required. It was just one of those things that only someone with some knowledge could have fixed.
And as I drove off, despite the morning not going to plan, I felt reasonably calm. I headed home ticking off all the things I could be grateful for from the episode:
- Grateful to my parents for coming straight over to pick up the kids and to take them home and keep them well entertained while I was sorting out the car.
- Grateful to the ex-colleague of my husband’s who I managed to contact and who managed to track down my hubby’s team’s PA who could then get hold of him in his meeting.
- Grateful to another family friend who also works with my hubby who had tried to help me out too.
- Grateful to the roadside assistance people – the 3 customer services people who spoke to me – initially to organise the call-out and the 2 others who phoned me to check everything was OK AND of course the guy who came out and fixed the problem for me and didn’t make me feel stupid!
As I pulled up to the house it struck me that mindfulness played a large part in helping me be more resilient and robust. There would have been a time when I would have arrived home grumpy and irritated and my day would have been ‘ruined’ by the incident. Instead, I arrived home happy that our holiday was still on the cards and ready to get on with lunch.
How do you deal with setbacks in your day?
Do you notice your ‘inner critic’ at all?
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.