Ruminating on Good

The opposite of worrying a wound is ruminating on good. The word “ruminate” comes from cows chewing their cud. Just as cows regurgitate their cud to re-chew it, humans do the same—not with food but with experiences.

Our behavior is understandable because it is how the human brain is hardwired. Back when our ancestors lived on the savannah, if they noticed a rustling in the tall grass it was to their benefit to think, “Rustling in the grass—it might be a lion! I better get out of here!” Our ancestors skedaddled out of there. However, there were other savannah dwellers who thought, “Rustling in the grass—it might be a lion. But probably not. I think I’ll just hang here.” Maybe 99% of the time they were right but the 1% of the time they were wrong was the end of them. They don’t have descendants.

It helps to know that my brain is hardwired to notice that imagined slight, to replay that presentation that went badly, to ponder why he likes her and not me. It is understandable but it is not helpful. Therefore, I have decided to practice ruminating on good. This is new for me.

The practice is to do the same things with positive experiences that I typically do with negative experiences—bring them to mind and replay them over and over and over.

When I was leaving the bank, I had a meeting with someone in Employee Relations to make sure my exit paperwork was in order. At the end of the meeting I commented, “I appreciate how gracious the bank has been with me during this process.” She said, “There are a lot of people here who care about you, Jule.”

That night, in the time between lying down and falling asleep, the time when I more typically worry, I decided to ruminate on good instead. I brought the scene to mind. I had stood to leave and was at her door. She was seated at her desk, the sunlight making a glint along the top of her hair. She looked up at me, her eyes brown and warm (how can I work with someone for eight years and never notice their eyes?). She said, “There are a lot of people here who care about you, Jule.” I remembered the sound of her voice, the kindness in it. I remember how her words bought warmth to the inside of my chest and tears to my eyes. I remembered nodding and saying “Thank you.”

It felt odd to recall a positive experience and I have no idea why because I am so good at recalling negative ones. Doing this once wouldn’t be enough to start to shift the balance of how my brain tends to think. Deciding that I typically replay negative experiences about five times, I did that with this positive experience. Five times she looked at me. Five times she said, “There are a lot of people here who care about you, Jule.”

It’s not enough to reroute the Grand Canyon, but it’s a start. 

Consistency will be key.

PS: For those of you wondering about Leda, her wound is healing nicely. Here is an updated photo, taken two weeks after the worried wound photo. She eventually figured out how to wriggle out of her jammies but I thwarted her by putting really smelly oregano oil around her wound. Victory!

Leda’s leg, on the mend

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