A mantra is an audible call to reconnect yourself to your spirit, the foundation of your strength and ability to navigate hardship. Mantras originated in Buddhism as a word or sound to repeat in meditation. They can be anything, really: a single word, a specific phrase, or whatever you need to return to a present mind under pressure.
Mantras have been extremely helpful in my personal life when it comes to breaking bad habits (Not One Cig 2018), lowering my anxiety (What’s The Worst That Can Happen, And If It Does, I’ll Be Okay), and improving my interpersonal relationships (You Have To Be Okay With Not Knowing If People Like You). This monthly column is meant to offer up a word or phrase to muse upon, but you’re more than welcome to toss it aside and highly encouraged to derive your own mantra based on whatever is specific to your life. For the inaugural column, as we leave lackadaisical summer and return to a more focused time of the year, I’m presenting a mantra that helps me to maintain grace when multiple things pull at me simultaneously: You Have The Time.
You have the time… to take a moment, breathe, and come back more present.
Give yourself 45 seconds to lower your heart rate, reconsider any nasty thoughts sitting on the edge of your tongue (that are easier to diffuse now, than try to take back later), and remember who you are. The most prominent figures in the cringefest that is the “Review of my Day” are the moments I allowed The Spaz to take over. Almost always, I had the time to take care of whatever was needed when someone threw a seventeenth thing on my plate; I could have just responded normally to an email and then grumbled privately to myself. Use those 45 seconds to show yourself immense compassion, and then come back and knock whatever you’re doing out of the park.
You have the time… to handle this task well, no matter how rushed the deadline.
The right pace is the pace when you‘re at your best. Any faster and mistakes are bound to be made, which requires do-overs, which takes even longer. If someone is literally snapping their fingers at you, or saying, “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” they are The Spaz in that moment, regardless of hierarchy. Keep doing your thing at your best pace.
You have the time… to come into your own.
I’ve certainly been impatient about reaching the long desired feeling of self-possession. I see others around me who have found their confidence sooner, and think, “What can I do to speed this up? When do I get to be Carrie Fisher??” Finding your specific power and serenity is going to be when you are at your most present and compassionate with yourself, which means… slowing down. I know I’m using compassion a lot, but it’s the key to finding grace within yourself, and with others. It’s about being a real person, knee deep in shit, looking at everyone else knee deep in shit, and feeling connected by it.
You have the time… to learn what you desire to be skilled at.
If you’re seeking quality in craftsmanship — no matter the category — time is the best thing to have on your side;if you’re seeking external approval or validation, that’s where the impatience settles in. A talent or skill is an intimate journey, one that requires you to be present and focused over a long stretch of time. It can very easily be your life’s work, and more than likely won’t have a final destination where you ever feel finished. Externally, as you grow in skill, you may receive praise, but if that’s your endgame the work will be grueling, and probably far less rewarding. You’d also be surprised, when you really immerse yourself, how quickly you can see your skills improve. Get over the hump of looking stupid (another external worry), and treat yourself to the “me time” of learning.
You have the time… to center yourself at any point in the week.
In the same vein as the first note about taking a moment, this centering yourself means making sure your days off aren’t the only time you take the time to ground yourself. If you’re someone who owns your own business, or has long work hours, or is juggling family life with a career, or is simply a person who regularly feels overwhelmed — there isn’t going to necessarily be one or two spectacular days of mental and physical rest guaranteed every week. You have to grant yourself a moment every day, where you notice that you’re doing something you enjoy, or maybe even just have 30 minutes to drink a cup of coffee and Sofia-Coppola out the window. I drive a lot for work, and can find long stretches of rest by putting on a beloved soundtrack (Alan Silvestri’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit OST is perfect for any late night city), picking up a road soda, and settling in. For the sake of all the dynamite stuff you’re working on, give your stamina multiple checkpoints, not just a finish line.
You have the time… to build your life the way you want it.
In the last year, I decided to take a 50% pay-cut and a massive title demotion to change career paths, about a year after I went back to school to complete my long unfinished degree. It’s been humbling, exhausting, and at times crushing — but my life is so much more the way I wanted, and needed it to be for a long time.
And I’m not the only one experiencing drastic changes to my status quo. In the last year I’ve witnessed so many friends start over in some aspect of their lives. One had a live-in relationship end, sending her back out on her own, starting a new job, and asking herself what she wants next. A couple others had to take time away for rehabilitation, which inevitably meant coming back to an old environment, but building new habits entirely. Sobriety is not an easy path, and I’ve been blown away at how hard they work everyday. And lastly, one very good friend had her life completely flipped on its head when a drunk driver fell asleep on a dark freeway in the middle of the night and she hit their car going 60, throwing her in the hospital for a month, and a wheelchair for six more. She’s since gotten back on her feet, is healthier than ever, with a renewed perspective on what lies ahead.
There are many ways you can control the direction your life is going, and other times, the universe makes that choice for you. What I can tell you from watching everyone around me push forward, is that a year can go a long way in personal transformation if you use that time to build the direction you truly want your life to go. You have the time to do what you gotta do.