I realized the other day that if heaven had visiting hours I would be in a real predicament.
I realized this because there is a song literally called Visiting Hours by Ed Sheeran and it played randomly from my playlist on two separate occasions within a couple days of each other. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason. So naturally, I believed my Mom was trying to tell me that she wished she could see me. But, why was that my assumption? Maybe it was Dad? Maybe it was Grandma Rosie? Grandpa Cliff? Grandma Louise? My cousin Molly? My friend Dana? And then I naturally began doing what our brains are so brilliant at doing. I created the rest of the story. A story about something my mind logically knows will never happen because it is not physically or humanly possible.
Who would I pick for the first visit?
Would the rest of them be mad if it was not them?
Is it really just a couple hours you have to visit?
What does the room look like?
Will I see God? Or Jesus?
Does it look like a hospital waiting room?
Why am I picturing something sterile and bright?
Will other family members or friends who have passed be there and wave?
What if I pick someone and when I leave they say that was your one and only visit?
What would I say to whoever I picked?
It would be easier if they picked us right? Just tell me who wants to see me.
What if I am a disappointment?
What if someone else already picked them and they are too tired to talk much?
What do I need to hear from them that will make the fact that they are gone be OK?
Would I want to bring them back?
Would I ask stupid questions?
Do you see where I am going with this? I took a message. That I assumed was from my Mom because other things happened earlier that made me think of her. Either way, I took a message and then I literally changed the story in my mind and turned what was a simple, beautiful thought, into something that caused great stress, discomfort and turmoil. Why? Because that is how our brains work. We are the only species on the planet that can think about something that has already happened and drive ourselves crazy about it and also simultaneously think about something that has NOT happened and create an entire story about it. It is what anxiety looks like. I created my own anxiety. Once I got done with the thousand questions, it occurred to me that heaven does not in fact, have visiting hours and I just spent an hour spinning myself out about it.
When was the last time you created a story? We are really good at it so probably more recently than you realize. We are natural storytellers. It is in our DNA. Stories are how we organize our internal worlds. Next time you are stuck in traffic or waiting for your child to get out of practice or in a meeting, pay attention to the stories your mind is telling you. Could be your grocery list, dinner plans, an article you read. Who knows, but our minds are constantly telling them. An incessant stream of commentary.
The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter is to step back and view it objectively. Just appear like someone there is talking to you. Don’t think about it; just notice it. This is hard to do if the stories are coming fast and furiously and if we are stressed, taxed, etc. The most effective strategy for working with your personal stories or readjusting your mindset is to observe your thoughts objectively, and to refrain from getting too attached to them. Most importantly it is essential to remember that you are not your story and that it does not define you.
In my story for example, there was not a wrong choice I could have made because I would have been delighted to have seen any of them. And the rest of the story I told myself or the questions I asked? I am a questioner. It is my tendency. It is in my DNA to ask all of those questions. But when I stopped and paused and stepped back and looked at the story as a whole the real underlying question I had was if heaven really did have visiting hours, if this was a real thing, who do I need to see the most? Who did I want to see walking through that door? The answer surprised even me.