“Pretty Ugly”

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you sometimes and slapping you across the back of the head. I had one of those moments this morning upon entering a Zoom meeting. I caught a glimpse of my own video window and immediately thought, “Who is that old guy?” It didn’t take me long to realize who it was at all because, well, it was me. The negative self-talk continued in my mind at a rapid pace: “Look at those wrinkles on your forehead. When did all those extra gray hairs appear in your beard? That’s a whole lot of liver spots on your bald head. Really packing on the pounds there, huh, Nick?”

Old Man Nick on a Zoom

I know, I know. I shouldn’t allow that type of negativity. I should have switched lens and cognitively reframed this incident to something more helpful and positive. Here’s my favorite link on reframing/restructuring from some pretty smart people. Of course, I didn’t use that strategy. I didn’t do anything positive (unless Googling “liver spot removal creams” is considered “positive”). But a few hours later, I was walking down the hallway at school and I overheard my favorite 8th grade student reciting their favorite poem by Abdullah Shoaib in English class. I paused to listen and these were the words from the poem:


Well that summed up how I had been been feeling pretty accurately. I began to walk away, but then heard my favorite student say, “It’s a pretty sad poem, but the idea is to look at it in a different way. Read the poem again. But this time read it from the bottom to the top of the poem.

A totally different poem from bottom to top.

And just like that, an eighth grade student turned my day around completely. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear exactly the right “thing” to help me cognitively reframe. Sometimes knowing what to do isn’t enough. We need something to snap us out of our funk or malaise. What can you do when you are in a situation like this to cognitively reframe? Maybe it’s a certain song or a work of art or a bible verse or a quick walk outside or a Tik Tok video? Whatever it is, remember that a “splash of cold water” can really do the trick.

After hearing the poem, I went back to my office and looked at my face in the webcam again. This time, however, I played a favorite song in the background and the lyrics made me smile…

“Now I look in the mirror and what do I see
A lone wolf there staring back at me
Long in the tooth but harmless as can be
Lord, I guess he’s doin’ alright.”

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