After our wedding, Kevin and I packed up our belongings to move to Harrisonburg and begin our first new beginning as wife and husband. Fortunately for the both of us, we were given the opportunity to spend almost two whole months together before the start of my grueling first semester in the Physician Assistant program at JMU. This time gave us the chance to truly decide what we wanted to get out of this adventure together and who we wanted to be individually and as a couple. Within these two months, we were lucky to experience a healthy amount of time in the Outer Banks with friends and family. We set out to gather items for our trips, and I stumbled upon a book for 50 cents at Big Lots. I was immediately sold not only for its price but also because the author currently works with the Indiana University Medical School and resides in Bloomington where I did my first round of grad school. Unbeknownst to me, this book would serve as the stimulus for opening up our lives more to others and becoming more patient and understanding people. The book My Stroke of Insight is written by neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who describes her journey through suffering from a stroke, her recovery process, and how she uses this experience to live and teach today. While all of the book was beautifully written, especially for all of us medical nerds, one point struck me as especially motivating. She calls it “The 90-second rule” and states, “We can all learn that we can take full responsibility for what thoughts we are thinking and what emotional circuitry we are feeling. Knowing this and acting on this can lead us into feeling a wonderful sense of well-being and peacefulness. Whether it is my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry – it is really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90-second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I am thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again. When you stay stuck in an emotional response, you are choosing it by choosing to continue thinking the same thoughts that re-trigger it.”
Wow. I had never once thought my extended responses to stay angry, sad, or impatient were simply because I chose to feel that way. I would blame other things or people as causes for my feelings and why they dictated my thoughts and mood. From this point on and after much discussion with Kevin, I chose to make this time for us and those whom I would meet in school to be different: more patient, kind, selfless, understanding, and open-minded. After all, we were all given this chance at life, so why not make it something not only worthwhile for yourself but those you come to know.
How do you choose to feel?