My boyfriend spent the weekend at a family wedding in Indiana. He drove there with his 13 year old daughter and his parents, who are in their 80's. He was a little anxious about the trip before he left. Just the idea of spending an entire weekend with his parents trapped in a small condo in a small town was stressing him out.
It's one thing to have a visit with your parents for a few hours but it is quite another thing to spend a few days together. It gives you a deeper insight into their relationship and the process of aging in general. I think many of us have had similar experiences travelling with our parents.
We were on the phone yesterday morning and he was unloading some of the more irritating stories of the day in rapid fire succession. Like me, he is used to a more quiet existence and having some control over the pace of his day and the level of interaction with other people. This trip was like a full contact sport. Listening to constant banter and bickering among his parents.
"Why do they have to yell at each other like that," he lamented. "I know they probably can't hear very well, but can't they just walk over to the other person and look them in the eye when they talk?"
"I know," I sympathized with him. "I don't want to be like that. When we get older, we will just have to learn to read lips so we can see what the other person is saying without yelling at them."
"Or we could get a giant white board and write each other notes!" He chimed in. I could tell that our conversation was already starting to lighten his mood. Or maybe it was the idea of the giant white board that was feeding his passion for office supplies.
One of the stories that stood out the most was about vitamins. Apparently his parents spent five minutes arguing back and forth about whether they took their vitamins the day before.
"Why do they need to argue about that?" He asked. "It is such a waste of energy. There is absolutely nothing they can do about it. They can't travel back in time to take their vitamins yesterday. All they can do is take them today and move on!"
I nodded in agreement, even though he couldn't see me through the phone. It was so funny to picture these two older people, whom I have never met, standing around in their pajamas and arguing about vitamins. I felt like our entire conversation and his trip could have been an episode of a sitcom.
After I hung up, I went to go and teach my yoga class. The theme for my class was noticing your thoughts. The journal that I am using now has a quote at the top of every page. Yesterday's quote was: Change your thoughts and you can change your world.
As I was driving to class, I thought about his parents and the vitamins. How many of us are doing the same thing with our thoughts? Spending precious energy thinking about things that happened in the past. Things we cannot control or change. And yet we let those things enter into our head space. Sometimes we even let those events from our past drive the decisions we make about the future.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from the vitamin argument. If we want to make changes in our life, it begins with how we think about our life. Just the mere act of noticing our thoughts can help us to start changing them.
Whenever you have a thought, especially a negative thought, take a moment and ask yourself: Where is this thought coming from? Is this really what I think, or did I get it from somewhere else? Does this thought serve me, or is it something that I should start to let go?
It may not be easy to change some thoughts. We may have been carrying them for a very long time. But if we are patient with ourselves and observe without judgement, we can begin to open up our minds and invite new thoughts to come to us. And we can begin to envision a different future for ourselves.
In my case, hopefully a peaceful and harmonious future with my boyfriend. And a white board.