My twelve-year old son was sitting at breakfast one morning, head and spirits down. He wasn’t eating because he said his stomach ached. I knew it wasn’t the flu. A few days earlier he had started a new school. We all remember what it is to be the new kid at school? Being that it was middle school made it even more awkward, nerve wracking and unsettling. To make matters worse, he was the new kid in middle school at a small Catholic school, where all the other kids have been together since kindergarten. If that wasn’t quite enough, add a dress shirt, tie and a Hail Mary at the end of every class period. I could understand the stomachache. My heart ached a little for him.
“Head up, buddy,” I sang in that way moms do when they feel the need to cheer their children up and on. His eyes looked up at me, tears were forming, and I knew I was going to need a bigger pom-pom. After giving him the space to express his feelings–which were all very negative–I told him he needed to lose his marbles.
That quizzical look on your face right now, he had that look too.
I know that metaphorically losing your marbles means to go insane. What I’m suggesting is quite the contrary. I’m talking about regaining your sanity by gaining control over what you are thinking and consciously choosing your thoughts again.
This might sound like magical thinking but think again.
In my metaphor, your mind is like a bag full of marbles: black ones and white ones. These are your thoughts. The black marbles are the negative thoughts and perceptions. These fill us with emotions like anxiety, hate, anger, hopelessness, stress, overwhelm, discouragement, desperation, sadness, and the granddaddy of them all, fear. The white marbles are the positive thoughts and perceptions. Choose a white marble and you feel joy, hope, happiness, optimism, satisfaction, encouragement, peace, and the granddaddy of them all, love.
You’ve heard people wax on philosophically that you create your reality. This is how it is done, one marble at a time.
Just so we are clear, the circumstances don’t change. Only the way you choose to think about the circumstances changes.
My son still has to head off to a school he doesn’t like wearing a tie he loves even less. You will still have to head off to the job you might not love and could even hate. Yet when you change your thoughts, it appears the circumstance has also changed.
This is the real magic in magical thinking.
So if you could visualize reaching into the bag of marbles inside your brain and hand picking which thoughts to focus on for the day, what would you choose? Now you might argue that it isn’t as simple as I’m making it out to be. But it is. It’s so simple, in fact, that a twelve-year old can do it.
Later that same day I picked my son up from school. When I asked how his day was, he said that it was really, really good. I’m not exaggerating with the second really. Then he paused, wisely, and said, “I picked the white marbles.”