You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn
This morning started off on the wrong foot. I woke up not wanting to get up, but I’d told myself I’d go for a run this morning. Halfway through my workout at the outdoor track, the security guard said it was time to go: it was time fo the students to use it. Then, my yoga practice back at the apartment was met with feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction: it was a cramped space so I felt restricted in my movements, and I was judging myself in the poses I was able to do. After I took a shower, I started reading the news when my dad called me asking how my trip to Taiwan was going. He then launched into a monologue about visiting his side of the family, reminding me to use the correct title for each family member, asking what my plans were and then deciding what I should do and when I should do it. After hanging up with him, I was annoyed. The little things that “went wrong” this morning added up and I was officially pissed.
Now I’m sitting at a coffee shop and reflecting back on the events this morning. Why was I upset?
It began with my expectations. I expected to wake up well rested. I expected to be happy about going for a run, and I expected to run for as long as I wanted. I expected to feel refreshed and calm from my yoga practice, and I expected my dad to communicate happiness and excitement that I would be visiting his side of the family.
When none of those things happened, I judged the events as bad. I judged my morning as bad. I focused on the last “bad” thing that happened, which was my conversation with my dad. Why was he acting so controlling? Why did he assume that I wouldn’t know what to call each family member? Did he think I failed to be Taiwanese enough?
Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t really upset that each of those things happened. I was upset that I’d “failed” at having a good morning, and that I didn’t seem to be in control of having one. But that’s not true.
Good or bad isn’t absolute. It depends on my perspective. And while I can’t control what other people do or what happens to me, I can control what I do. I can go for a run tomorrow; I can take a nap later if I need rest; I can take some space for myself if that’s what I need; I can still make my own plans during my stay in Taiwan regardless of what my dad insists. Happiness isn’t always about things happening just right. Sometimes it’s about making a decision to create happiness when things don’t.