By Shannon Magsam, nwaMotherlode co-founder and Ladybug’s mama
I was Swiffering the kitchen (again) and couldn’t help but be a little grossed out, while simultaneously intrigued, by all the dusty hairballs that had gathered on the cloth.
As I always do after I use a Biore strip on my nose, I took the scummy Swiffer cloth to show my husband.
“Isn’t this gross?” I said, dangling the sheet in his face. “I still can’t believe I have a white dog in my house. A white dog that sheds!”
Before I could get too torqued up about it, I imagined pulling out my trusty yellow-handled wire cutters and defusing that emotional bomb — by reciting my fool-proof Fire Escape Phrase.
What’s a Fire Escape Phrase, you ask? I’ll tell you, because I think you’ll want to come up with a few of your own.
Fire Escape Phrases are emotional shortcuts that help you climb out of the hole of despair you just fell into. They’re truths you use to keep from getting overwhelmed in the moment. They give you a ladder to climb up — instead of diving deeper into the hole where it’s dark and stagnant.
In the case of my little white dog, I was falling down a hole which would definitely lead to me to Stress City while yelling on the way down: “WHY did we EVER get a white dog that sheds? I’m so stupid! I have to swiffer, sweep and vacuum constantly! ARGHHHHHHHHHHH.”
To the Fire Escape!
Now, to keep from getting burned in Stress City, I just climb out with my Fire Escape Phrase.
So in the case of my little white dog, my go-to Fire Escape Phrase (FEP) is: “Harley brings joy to our family and she arrived in our lives at such a perfect time that I could only call it a “God thing”. Dogs lower blood pressure (except when they don’t) and this particular dog at this particular time is just right for us. I can vacuum up the hair with my fancy vacuum that I got on clearance and enjoy all the benefits of having a sweet dog who loves everyone she meets.”
This phrase keeps me from spiraling down into a frustrated inner rant, helps me bypass the mom tantrum. Whatever you want to call it.
Here are some other Fire Escape Phrases I keep in my emotional toolkit:
Fire Escape Phrase to the rescue: “God will provide and you already have everything you need. There are people who don’t have a house, food or reliable transportation. You have all that plus a family that loves you.”
Stress City Moment: “I’ll never get all this work done! It just keeps piling up!”
Fire Escape Phrase: “You’ve felt this way before. Just find one thing on your to-do list and finish it. Then do another. And another. You can do it. You always get everything important done.”
Stress City Moment: “My teenager hates me. And I’m not too fond of her right now.”
Fire Escape Phrase: “You had multiple awesome interactions with your teenager this week, remember? Teenagers are angsty and can feel stressed out with everything they have to do. Plus, her job is to separate from me so she can stand on her own two feet in the future. Let it go. She loves you.”
Stress City Moment: “Crap. Do I really have to go to this thing?”
Fire Escape Phrase: “If I RSVPd or told someone yes, then yes. Unless I’m truly sick. Otherwise, I honor the commitment. Decision made.”
Stress City Moment: “I’ve gained weight. I feel jiggly.”
Fire Escape Phrase: “Your body housed a baby, you’re able to move and do all the things you want to do, it’s a sturdy body. Appreciate it.”
Of course, there are days when I just want to whine. Sometimes it just feels good to vent. But really, those little Stress City Moments usually happen when I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I’m overwhelmed with work or I have PMS. In those cases, I try to get more sleep, take on bite-sized bits of work and just keep repeating those Fire Escape Phrases on a loop.
Why don’t you join me? Let’s all save our emotional energy and bypass the crazy. Instead of going down the rabbit hole, climb up that Fire Escape and into the light.
Here’s some homework for you: Write out three or four Stress City Moments you seem to have on a regular basis. Then jot down some Fire Escape Phrases of your own. Put your homework where you’ll see it a LOT during the day so you can internalize your phrases. Then remember to use them when you’re about to spiral down the rabbit hole.
That makes me think of white rabbits. I wonder if they shed?