I recently had the opportunity to put into practice some reframing.
That’s code for I was having a nightmare commute and it’s a good thing my 4G is patchy on the train or some poor soul at TFL’s complaints line would have been getting an earful.
It all started well but went pear-shaped on the track between West Ham and Canning Town. After spending 25 minutes getting exactly one stop closer to work, all Jubilee line trains were held in platforms while a mysterious “non-communicating train” at North Greenwich was – extremely slowly – being put back into the service.
It was a Monday, and the one day a week when my husband does the school and nursery run so I can get a full, normal day of work in. So I thought to myself, not only am I likely late for my first meeting of the week (and it’s a day of back-to-back meetings, so little room to manoeuvre here…), but I’ll have to make up the time elsewhere in my week when time is already tight. I’ve worked out my working/commuting/childcare schedules like an air traffic controller, so running 40 minutes late is not ideal.
I started to feel the exasperation and frustration rise, exacerbated by the sheer helplessness.
But I am pleased to say I was able to nip it in the bud. How, you might ask?
Well, I jokingly thought to myself how nice it was TFL was gifting me extra time to read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island (thank goodness I’m reading something light and funny).
I’ve also decided here are worse things than taking an alternative route to work that includes walking across Tower Bridge on a sunny, autumnal morning.
Reframing can sometimes get a bad rap, like some kind of Pollyanna tendency to suppress feelings. (As I write this, the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian comes to mind.)
I personally am not one for saying we should be positive all the time. Actually, I see a lot of value in really allowing yourself to feel emotions, which I distinguish from wallowing or ruminating, as it’s a matter of feeling and watching the emotion mindfully without the rational mind trying to bogart the feelings and force them to make sense or be justified in any outer-worldly way.
But to be honest, me getting hot under the collar about a delayed commute wasn’t a helpful emotion. Nor was it necessary. Grief when a loved one dies is healthy, necessary, and – awful as it feels – has a kind of beauty and necessity. Part of loving and living is saying goodbye and dying. Annoyance about crowded trains and delayed departures and missing a meeting or things not going to plan….hardly the same thing, I think we can agree.
Used judiciously, reframing can help us shed unnecessary frustration in life. Two hours after leaving my house, holding the takeaway latte I allowed myself to pick up despite running late, I turned up to my first meeting of the day ten minutes late (and forty-five minutes after I had expected to be in) – only to find that I wasn’t even the last one to arrive and it wasn’t a problem whatsoever. I was glad I hadn’t fretted unhelpfully on the various trains it took me to get in, and allowed myself to enjoy reading my book and walking from the station in the bright morning sunshine.