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CROSSING THE BRIDGES

We have been taught, very much programmed, to think on the run, to be rushed and hurried, to anticipate and to expect… and somehow, to stress out.

Then there are the methods people have come up with to reduce the stress that we seem to expect from daily life. There are spiritual practices, which for Buddhists are part of daily life, and there are drugs, and there is yoga, and there are massages, and there are exercises, and there are those who say “tune it out and just get on with things”.

What else is there? Answer the question: What causes “stress” in the first place for many people? Stress seems to be the result of what happens when expectations do not measure up with results; then our minds spend hours analyzing, thinking, chewing on what went wrong (more often than what went right), and losing sleep and losing our appetites because we expected or anticipated one result and another one showed up.

What can we do then that might reduce our dependence on short -term coping methods such as drugs by the expensive dose –load, or massages that temporarily flush our bodies of pain and suffering and lactic acid?

We can learn to take life naturally, and not place such a high, “set in stone” priority on expecting or anticipating. For daily life can be seen rather as a baseball game.

In baseball, every at bat is different, every inning and every game will be different. Your team can play the same team three days in a row and the results will be attained in different ways. You might have the same line –ups, but the pitchers will not be the same and the weather conditions will not be the same. The ball will carry differently depending on the winds; the turf will be different, the plays will be fielded differently.

The managers can “expect” a play to go a certain way but what if it does not? What happens then – stress. The pitcher wanted a strike called but the umpire called the pitch a ball; so much for the strikeout. A batter wants to launch a home run but instead gets under the ball and hits a long out. Well, the hit might advance a runner or it might be the third out of the inning.

As is baseball, so is life. We might go to the same bus stop we do each weekday for our trip in to the shop. We might get there about the same time each day but the bus might be late by a few minutes due to construction, a fire, or a crash that causes a reroute. When we get to work we might expect some colleague to show up but perhaps they do not, so part of the day’s plan might not be done, or lunches might be cut short because the staff has fewer people.

Some people say it is not good to lower expectations, but considering the effects stress has on the body, not setting so much on expecting something might be the best thing we can do save for treat ourselves when we have done something good at the office or had a very successful week or done some kind of community service. It is useless to anticipate what will happen; anticipation is the companion of worry, and worry does no good.

We can also learn to “mind less”. When we mind too much, we continue thinking about every little thing that happens, every person that comes and goes, every gesture, everything, and getting the small stuff too much in our minds causes just as much worry as anticipation and expectation. We can indeed have “too much on our minds”. In this age of too much information, we have to learn to do more than merely “tune out” what is not relevant or important. We have to change our thinking on not only how much information we need and is necessary, but on those who say we need to pay so much attention to the information provided. Thank goodness for the mute button and the OFF switch.

Each day presents opportunities to be fresh and new regarding what will happen. You have heard the idea of “open mind”; that is basically another way of saying “Be natural”. Let things happen as they will; if the bus comes a couple minutes late, it comes a couple minutes late. If someone does not show up on time or at all, arrange lunches with the staff members that show up. It is polite, if you happen to be late because of a transit situation, to tell someone why you were late or what happened, and get to your position as soon as possible so the day can carry on.

Do not let your job run you; YOU control your work and your interactions with customers. You say who is next and attend to the person you are assisting. Patience on all sides is a virtue, but you have the hand when in a sales situation. You might expect something to happen but if it does not, that energy is wasted in the anticipation of selling something, seeing someone, hearing something or experiencing something. Here is where the idea of the open mind is useful. Once you are at the workplace, ascertain things when you arrive. Do not anticipate ANYTHING; plans can change on a moment’s notice and situations can pop up.

There could be a storm, a building evacuation, a car crashing into the building, a fire or a swarm of bees that lands on the bridge near where you work. The boss could be in a great mood or he could be in a foul mood. The vice –president could be ready with her plan or she might put it off because there has been an event in her family that requires her attention away from the company. Though you cannot anticipate happenings such as those above or know what to do in such cases until someone else informs you, there can be some kind of “Plan B” at the firm for when someone cannot follow through with what is supposed to be on the day’s agenda.

You can find something else to do- there is always work to be done at many businesses. You can find ways to be helpful or find something to learn. Or if things just aren’t going to go as the day’s schedule mandated, you might just go back home. Who knows? If that swarm of bees hangs around you might just have to “telecommute”!

Anticipation, expectation, and worry are three little demons that afflict many people around the world and are major sources of “stress”. But each day brings chances to start with a clean slate, to meet the day free of thoughts of “what might happen”. Each day brings the bridges, but you will not know how to cross the bridges till you come to them.

You come up to the bridge and look at the situation. What is going on? Is the bridge intact and thus can be walked across with ease on sturdy supports? Is there a flood that has washed out the bridge so that it cannot be passed? What are the conditions? You cannot know until you see the situation and find out how then to deal with it.

Cross the bridges when you come to them.

Divi Logan, Chicago, ©2013.

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