HALT. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These are some classic states of being that reduce my ability to be as kind and loving as I want to be to myself and to others. They reduce my ability to see the opportunities for joy and connection and appreciation all around me. And when I don’t see those opportunities life gets much more grim than it needs to be. Which sux. The great news is I can do something about all of those things if I notice. The less great news is that if I’m already there, already in a HALT state, it’s really hard to pull out enough to notice and make the connection between being edgy, brittle, or unkind, and needing a sandwich. And maybe some quiet time. Or a friend phone date. Or a journal sesh about whatever it is that’s bothering me. Or a walk.
And then maybe once I’ve made the connection – like, oh, I didn’t sleep so well last night and now when Ax asks me for more milk I’m thinking, “Get it yourself you entitled little prince,” instead of how I want to be, “No problem sweetie I’m so glad you’re enjoying your milk.” Or if he shows me his abstract free-form lego spaceship on the way to bed I’m thinking, “OMG I’ll kill you if you show me one more thing before bed, move along bub,” instead of, “Wow that’s a very amazing spaceship. I’d love to look at it more in the morning,” or even, “Holy crap my son is an engineering genius I am so lucky to have a child so talented and enthusiastic!” And he feels how I feel even if I squeak out the right words. And so do I. So faking it is better than unvarnished shrew, but it’s suboptimal.
And don’t even ask about how I am with Mike if I’m off-maintenance with the basics of self-care for me, the feeding, sleeping, exercising, socializing, writing, meditating, etc. etc. It doesn’t take that much for me day-to-day, but it takes more than nothing. Sometimes it just takes a few spoonfuls of yogurt to transform my mood from completely black to quite buoyant. Sometimes it takes a whole sandwich.
And Mike’s pretty awesome. He’s smart. He tries to be helpful. He’ll say, “Darling maybe you need a walk?” or “When was the last time you ate?” And I’ll think but, thanks to therapy, I generally don’t say anymore, “Mind your own frigging business, bub!” These days, now that I’m more advanced (see “Advanced” essay for usage), I’ll take the hint as a sign of love and realize perhaps there’s something I can do to feel better, and more and more I’ll actually do it.
Of course there’s other stuff on the list of stuff that can get me sideways besides those classics: there’s phases of the moon, cycles, illness, external stuff, world events, family issues. Trying to control those things is not a path to wellbeing or productivity for me. But keeping myself fed at regular intervals? Breathing in and out before I react? That I can do, I’m doing it more and more, and it’s making my life radically better. Which rocks.