A.N.T.s

I was happy to get my new phone last week. After dealing with the previous phone’s waning ability to keep a charge, it was nice not to be tethered all day. The new phone worked just fine until about 1:30pm Saturday when the last thing I read on the wet screen was,

“Your iPhone is disabled and shutting down.”

We woke up Saturday morning expecting to load up the bikes and drive to DuPont State Recreation Forest. DuPont is on the bucket list for many avid mountain bikers and it is just a short drive from our house. It is our favorite place to ride. But even closer to us is the Green River. We had never tubed the Green River so I asked if everyone would rather go there and got an enthusiastic ‘YES’.

Best decision. The tubing company has a great set up. Within minutes we were checked in and walked a few steps to the river with our tubes in hand. We traded playing photographer with a group of young girls from Charlotte launching next to us. The cell phones went into the dry bag and off we went. We were having so much fun. We would link together on the slower stretches and break apart at the rapids. The water was clear and cold. The scenery was gorgeous and we were laughing a lot. I remember thinking I should get a picture before the float was over so, being waist-deep in the current, I carefully fished my phone out of the dry bag. A few snacks and a bottle of water and we were on our way.

I feel most in control laying on my belly facing forward while tubing. That way I can maneuver better and stand up any time the depth permits. I had the dry bag clipped to a handle and draped inside my tube. That worked well unless it was so shallow that the dry bag scraped the bottom, in which case I would plop the bag on top of the tube. After one of the faster rapids, I stopped to check on my family and the dry bag. Imagine my surprise when I lifted the clear bag and found it full of water. The entire contents of the bag were submerged including all four of our family’s cell phones. We regrouped immediately. Right there in the middle of the river, I doled out the contents and poured the remaining water. With an hour still left on the river all we could do was put everything back in and secure the bag properly this time. As you might expect, those phones are goners.

After a week of check engine lights going off in cars, the AC going out, and the general financial stress of business ownership, it was a hard pill to swallow. The momentum shift for our family was palpable. Intellectually we already know that this story goes into the annals as “Remember that time on the Green River”. But, dealing with the hassle and expense of four new phones is not how I planned to spend my time this week.

The incident has led to some great family discussions. In situations like these, it is easy to let our minds run wild with A.N.T.s. ANTs are Automatic Negative Thoughts. The moniker comes from Dr. Daniel Amen’s book The Magnificent Mind at Any Age. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who has specialized in using brain scans for patient care. When I read his material on Automatic Negative Thoughts, I knew it was a perfect fit for the Silence the Gremlins lesson of the Life Leaders GPS.

For better or worse, much of our life is ruled by our imagination. Our imagination is much stronger than our will. It is a powerful causative force in our life. With our imagination, we are simultaneously interpreting our world and creating it. Left unchecked our imagination may draw conclusions about our external circumstances that can wreak havoc on our peace of mind. The reason why they are called “automatic” negative thoughts is that they are habitual. Dr. Amen suggests that there are at least nine different default grooves into which the needle of our internal record player slips. They are as follows.

Fortune Telling – predicting the worst will happen
Always/Never Thinking – victimhood thinking
Hyper-negative Focus – being stuck replaying negative moments
Mind Reading – thinking the worst about another person’s motives
Deciding with Feelings – trusting your negative emotions
Guilt Beatings – replaying an incident over and over and saying (to yourself or someone else) “How could you have been so stupid!?”
Labeling – categorizing people or situations in a way that causes rigidity of thought
Personalization – taking circumstances personally (especially after rejection)
Blame – attaching responsibility inappropriately

The Silence the Gremlins lesson involves learning to talk back to negative thinking. It is what Dr. Amen calls A.N.T. eaters. When life disappoints me, and also when things go my way, I have found it helpful to keep this list handy. Right now, is a perfect example. I may have visited each of these in the last 48 hours, but none of them get me any closer to replacement phones. Time to eat some ants and go get on with it.

For today, you can call me a lot of things, but you can’t call me on the phone unless you want to listen to my voicemail.

Warmly (and wetly),

Rick Burris

 

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