As I walk out of my cozy waterfront cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks, the old screen door slams behind me. It’s a sound that brings back memories from childhood. Entering the kitchen, the smell of coffee brewing seduces me to pour a cup of my own. I then walk across the creaky wooden floors to the old screened-in octagon-shaped porch overlooking the water and plop myself down in the same wicker chair as generations before me.
There is little as soothing as the water, the movement of pine forests swaying in the distance, and the occasional canoe passing by. It’s where I sit in the mornings to follow my morning routine, and where we sit in the evenings to catch up on one another’s day.
Farewell to Summer
Summer, here on the lake, ends tomorrow, when most residents return home. Overnight, things will get silent and a boat will be a rare sight for the few remaining stragglers who stay on to experience the fall colors, which are beyond spectacular. Our final event will be a gathering of lake residents to hand out sailing trophies and say farewell till next year.
People post about all the things they are doing, the places they are experiencing or visiting, often making us wish our life was like theirs. But it’s a game, not reality. Other than an occasional family or pet death, social media provides only a glimpse, just the things we want people to know. Few offer a look at the harder aspects of life, and experts say depression is often driven by the perfection that others appear to be living.
Each day offers something that can throw us off our game, rock our world, and create disappointment and fears. How we manage those things determines our level of happiness. If we allow worry and fear to consume us, we make life harder.
Emerson said this: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
Look back just one year. What consumed you? Is that problem still consuming you? It could be, if it’s fighting a long-term illness. But are you still worried about the things you were obsessed with then? Did the worst happen? Did you survive it? Or was it less terrible than you anticipated?
The World Is Falling Apart
Recently I was talking to a person who is seriously uptight about the world today and how things are so much worse than they should be, thinking that our country is falling apart. Though I can certainly understand the perspective based on some things in the media, I recently ran across an e-mail from the same person 10 years ago, saying the same things. None of the things he mentioned as being the end of the world actually happened. I reminded him of this and his response was, “It’s different this time.” I realized he might be looking for problems.
Feeding the Worry Beast
Where we spend our time impacts our state of mind. If I watch the news or spend too much time on some kinds of social media, I can easily get worked up. So I bury my head in the sand and don’t ever watch news on TV. And I’ve deleted most of my negative friends who use social media to get others worked up. I consider it a form of protection, to keep my head in a good place. And if I can’t change things, why worry?
I’ve found that if you stay in the present, and acknowledge your feelings without judgment, you can become resilient against worry. And if something is bothering me more than normal, I know my tendency is to overthink it. By staying in the present, I tend not to get absorbed by “what if?” scenarios.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
The other day someone was sharing some worry with me, and I started fact-checking: “Is this true?” We all tend to tell ourselves stories. Ask yourself how true your concerns are and if there is evidence to back them up. We tend to start with the thing that is happening and move on to “If x continues, y will happen.” But that’s rarely the case, so be careful about projecting.
I like to ask, “Will this matter next week? Or in six months, or six years?” In most cases, I find myself putting off my worries.
Big Reasons to Worry
I’m not entirely worry-free. There have been moments I thought I would lose my business and go bankrupt. And I ruminated on the “what if?” scenarios, curled up into a fetal position with worry, and became useless. My nerves were raw. The non-emotional side of me told myself that I would make the problem bigger if I lay in bed worrying, and that action and clear thinking were what I needed. So I went to my studio, painted for an hour, my stress melted, and then I was able to snap back to being more normal. I also find that if I’m stressed, a workout will shift me from worry to confidence.
You Need Eight No Matter What
The worst thing is losing sleep, lying in bed and worrying, because sleep is what we need to operate optimally. So I’ll get up, make a list of everything on my mind, then go down the list one at a time and say, “Can I do anything about this tonight, right now?” If I can’t, I skip over it, or if I can, I’ll fire off an e-mail or whatever I can do. This gives me peace and allows me to sleep.
A Life of Waste
I look back on the days when I used to worry and realize that I caused myself unnecessary stress, probably knocking years off my life. And none of it was necessary.
I’m not sure if it’s time and perspective that reduce my worry, but my attitude today is that I turn all my worry over to God and know that whatever happens, we will get through it. Over time, most things I could worry about, I realized I’ve faced. As a kid I’d worry that I’d lose my dad, yet all of that was wasted energy. I had my dad till he was 94. Though I never looked forward to losing Dad and Mom, I got through it. I’ve watched my son almost not survive multiple cardiac arrests, probably the worst moment of my life. I was seriously bothered, worried, but calmly got through it. I’ve lost employees I never thought we could survive without, but we survived. I’ve had businesses fail. I’ve lost my biggest accounts. I’ve lost love. I even crashed an airplane. In the end, I’ve realized we can get through anything. So why worry?
Are you worried now?
Is there anything you can change now?
Any action you should take to change the outcome?
If not, turn it over to God and give yourself the peace you deserve. You’ll get through it.
PS: The other day I went to a cocktail party where I met multiple strangers. When introduced to one, she said, “I love your Sunday Coffee.” This was a person I would never expect to have been exposed to it, which shows the power of forwarding things that you think will speak to others. I don’t know where this stranger got it, but thank you, whoever you are. I stopped keeping track of numbers of subscribers years ago because I don’t want to get hung up on performing for growth. I don’t ever want to be influenced by my ego (which isn’t easy). But it warms my heart to know that something meant enough to you that you decided to share it.
PS 2: In just under a month I’ll be gathering with 100 artists at my Fall Color Week painters retreat in the Adirondacks. I’ll then drive back to Texas (dogs can’t fly) and then head out for three weeks in Europe, leading our annual art lovers’ trip in Stockholm and Madrid and then taking a week off to play. (There are still a couple of seats at www.finearttrip.com.) Then I return just in time for one of our biggest and most successful online art training events, Realism Live, where we teach all subjects and styles. It’s a must for anyone who wants to paint real things (not abstract). Hope to see you there (www.realismlive.com).
PS 3: Thanks for all the birthday greetings on social media (@ericrhoads). And I hope you enjoy what’s left of Labor Day Weekend. A final thought. Time travel is real. It seems like just yesterday we were in a new year. You can still crush your 2023 4th quarter if you push hard now. Sometimes you can make 50% or more sales for Christmas. Start planning now, and start working on your 2023 plan so you have ample time to build and implement it.