As a writer, I often sit down with a topic in mind, fully intent on expanding upon it, only to find that I am supposed to cover something entirely unrelated. This is one of those times. What’s bothering you? REALLY bothering you? Underneath the seeming irritant is likely an issue hardly TIED to the seeming irritant. How can we KNOW, when we’re restless and grouchy, exactly what is eating at us? I am a warrior for positivity, love and grace. With grace, we aren’t called on to offer forgiveness nearly as much as if we live without it. With grace, we accept that people will screw up, that those screw ups may hurt and that everyone is a product of 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances. So am I. So are you. It doesn’t seem fair, and borders on cruel, to demand perfection in how others treat us. This is especially true since my idea of perfection differs from yours, and yours from his, and so on. What we’re left to decide is: am I willing to extend unearned acceptance? Not to be confused with being a doormat, grace acknowledges that although we DO deserve better treatment than being blown off by a friend or being snapped at by a partner or cut off in traffic by a perfect stranger…we can let it go. We can preserve our mental and emotional energy by asking how important is it, really, and reacting, or not, accordingly. Most things aren’t a big deal. They’re not. Know how life changes on a dime at 3pm on a random Tuesday? The benchmarks that cause us to use descriptors such as, “before,” and “after,” said event? That’s how we know everything isn’t a big deal. We actually EXPERIENCE a big deal…and all else suddenly falls away, not demanding attention or emotional energy, but not even on our radar, as something truly important overshadows it. And, we’re left wishing for what was a “big deal,” only moments before that news. This little hack is for the not-so-big-deals. It’s for those times you just can’t put your finger on, but you’re irritable, unmotivated, lacking creativity and energy has taken flight. You’re tired of yourself. And, you don’t know why. Here’s why. You have to be willing to spend a few minutes…you guessed it…writing. Grab a pen and a few sheets of paper. At the top, simply write, “What’s bothering me?” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? “I’m frustrated.” Whatever your answer, write it down. Beneath that, write, “Why am I frustrated?” See? You’re already catching on. You know what comes next. Write it out. “I’m frustrated because I was late getting out of the house today.” “Why was I late getting out of the house today?” “I couldn’t find my car keys. I spilled coffee on my white shirt. I misplaced my phone.” Why did THESE things all happen? Were you in a hurry? Did you snooze your alarm twice? Did you do laundry the night before or were you rushing, costing yourself time, trying to throw a presentable outfit together? Did you take 2 seconds and put your keys back on the key rack by the garage door when you got home last night? It sounds so simple, yet, everyday, all across the globe, irritable people are leaving their homes and sharing the road with each other. Or, not. All because of a stack of tiny, manageable tasks that save us a world of frustration. I’ve always maintained it’s not the major things in life that knock us down, repeatedly. It’s the barking dogs and broken shoelaces that send us into a tailspin. It’s controllable. And, that, to me, is the most frustrating part. I could prevent a large portion of my own demise, but I didn’t plan properly. I didn’t put my damn keys on the shelf. I stayed in bed 15 minutes too long. I didn’t do the load of whites I should have tossed in the washer last night. I didn’t have time to enjoy my coffee, unrushed. Simple stuff. And, the result impedes on my natural abilities, my talents, my motivation and my ability to extend grace to you, my fellow humans. Why? Because I’m grouchy. When I can’t stand my own mood, you can almost bet I need to clean my house. I’ve disclosed in previous articles that my external environment plays a huge role in my inner peace. Tranquil spaces foster tranquil minds. The more I talk to folks about this theory, the more I discover the theory is more the rule than the exception. But, once we’re already past the point of being on top of our to-do’s, what’s left is to figure out the most basic root of our problems. You will know when you have ran out of questions in your grouchy little flow chart. Suddenly, you’ll have an “ah-ha” moment, and you’ll know exactly what is turning you into Linda Blair’s distant cousin. (If you don’t get that reference, just fill in your generation’s most terrifying character and that’s your Linda Blair.) It’s freeing. There is liberation in scrutinizing our wild, unruly thought patterns and being in control of our reactions. A dear friend recently drove home an obvious and overlooked point during a conversation about some issues I’m facing. She said, “Do the most basic things, the self care that gets ignored first. Treat yourself the way you would treat your child. Take a bath. Eat. Indulge in a good book.” I thought, “Huh. I haven’t been THINKING of self care, lately.” It prompted my go-to examination of my mood monsters. I am nicer, to myself and certainly to you, when I take charge of my life by first taking charge of where I place my keys. It’s a snowball effect…both the positive and the negative. Small changes toward better moments loosens the noose of self-inflicted stress resulting in hectic days. Make your bed. Stretch. Drink a cup of warm lemon water. Walk. Consciously take deep breaths, often. Eat. Stay hydrated. Go to bed when you’re tired. Keep your fridge as stocked as is necessary for YOU. Some people are fine stopping at the supermarket everyday after work. Not this gal. I discovered this amazing service offered by my local grocery store. I jot down a few meals for the week, create a shopping list of ingredients, order online and for five bucks, they have it all waiting and will bring it to my car a few hours later. This may not be one of your irritants. It is, however one of mine…both the running low on food and the hassle of clogged isles as people crowd like refugees around the sample stand for a bite of a hotdog on a toothpick. I want to run into them with my cart at the 7th second I’ve “patiently” waited for them to acknowledge the store isn’t devoid of other humans and they need to get the hell out of the way. (Everybody has their peeves, k?) This simple change in how I bring food into my home has made me a nicer person. What are your peeves and what can you do to avoid them? It may be locating a shopping service to avoid the same hot dog samplers. It may be a messy car, and you can budget $20 a month to have it cleaned. Maybe it’s misplacing simple items and you need to take an hour and give your most used items a home. Whatever it is, it will show up at the very bottom of your “Why am I grouchy?” list. I challenge you, always, to be the best, most serene, creative and motivated version of yourself. You deserve a relaxed life. Destressing much of what has us running amok is in our control. These are the things that drive us nuts. When we manage the small stuff, we are more efficient at taking on the big stuff. You have nothing to lose if you give this free method a shot and discover there is absolutely no benefit in not rushing out the door and driving like a maniac down the freeway every morning. For now, I’m signing off because I need to make an electronic grocery list and light some incense while I listen to some Trevor Hall. Be nice to you. Do something creative. Put some flowers on your kitchen table. Clean your car. Make your own list of simple fixes after you complete your grouchy inventory. It will foster a sense of grace when you’re dealing with a world full of people who have no clue what’s bothering them. Lucky for us, we have a head start. Stay sane, stay serene and Peace, Warriors.