The North Side

Snow! This white moisture is falling as I write. And I was reminded how beautiful snowflakes are when they spin and float. The wind may push these flakes into drifts. They become heavier in some spots. And lighter in others. Tucked away in crevices. They get stuck where they land.

But here’s what is most interesting: when the sun comes out, and the snow begins to melt, some of these white patches disappear quickly. Some take a bit longer or partially thaw, freezing overnight. They become hard and unyielding. It takes days or even weeks for the ice and snow to dissipate. And the north side is the most stubborn. It takes the longest to melt, often lingering for a month or more. This side is often cold, perhaps shaded by trees or boulders. Or it’s stuck deep within a tree, shielded from the outside.

Just as the north side snow stays longer, we too have parts inside of us that may be stubbornly entrenched. Perhaps it’s a grudge held from years ago. Or a recent dustup with a friend. Maybe even a long-held belief (I’ll never lose weight, I’ll always be like this, I hate myself/my life). Or a recent decision, say “I’m just old. I can’t learn how to do (fill in the blank).”

These feelings, emotions and beliefs can be tenacious and sometimes downright intractable. We can get stuck. The mind sets a pattern. “This is what we did the first time, and it was successful. That’s the way it will be from now on.” Just as the north side of snow and ice is fixed in its way, the mind continues to do what it’s always done until there’s a change in its thoughts.

But how to change that thought? Here are some tips to melt your north side:

  • Be mindful of where your north side resides. Someone in your family instantly sets you off and you explode before you know it. Take some time to gently tease apart the reasons for this immediate reaction before you deal with the problem. Resolve each issue as it comes up, knowing your experiences resemble an onion. Watch as each layer unfolds.
  • It’s a challenge to hear opposing points of view. Some friends have different opinions from yours. You feel yourself getting steamed up. Do you shut them off? Or listen to what they have to say? Be curious as to your reaction rather than quickly getting stuck. 
  • If frustrated, ask yourself, “What else can I enjoy doing right now?“ This simple sentence opens the door for more options. Rather than being stuck in the same rut, you can develop new patterns of behavior.
  • What’s the smallest action you can take to resolve the situation? You’ve gone to lunch with friends. And once again, you are paying more than everyone else. You feel frustrated and put upon. Stop! Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Next time? Ask for separate checks. Go to a restaurant where each pays for their own meal. Meet for coffee. And keep the friendship.
  • Put your words to music. The other day I came across a long-standing north side of my own. Instead of the nasty downward spiral I was creating, I sang my words to “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning.” The issue disappeared. And I was laughing. I was unstuck.

I hope I have opened the door to investigating your own inner north side.

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