This morning I got my usual morning news headline summary. As I scrolled, each headline screamed with needy drama.
Today’s most aggravating headline: “Six Days Later, Joe Biden calls out Harvey Weinstein.”
My issue is not with the content of the Harvey Weinstein drama. It’s with what they are not subtly inferring about Biden.
They are shaming the man for taking his time. Less than one week. Should it really be suspect to take time to process information and then respond? Do we really need to immediately bellow raw emotion via every conceivable channel?
It feels like we are losing the ability to process information. And I think that’s probably true. I don’t think our brains were designed to healthfully process the sheer volume of information we are now exposed to – like needing a sip of water from a fire hose.
It used to be that we had to seek out information, now we are effectively drowning in it. The red-alert mode is always on. Every discussion turns into a battle. Fight or flight mode triggered continuously. It’s no wonder there’s a movement to unplug, slow down, and just be in THIS moment. Sanity can be restored, but now we have to do it ourselves.
How do we create space for ourselves to live a life that’s not always at DEFCON 1?
It’s hard to remain present all of the time. Everything in our society is geared toward escaping the current moment. Don’t feel good? Just take something, drink something, watch something, buy something, go somewhere!
Waiting is hard. Even more so when you have no power to change the outcome.
Distracting myself with current world events only exacerbates the overwhelming desire to escape the current moment.
Practice makes perfect though. When the weight threatens, a deep breath and a “note to self” that “Hey. I feel kinda shitty.” helps. It puts a little gap between me and my feelings and my current situation. Puts me into observer mode rather than sufferer mode. From there I get a little break from the weight of things. (I’m sure learning a lot from Eckhart Tolle’s talk on the “Pain Body”. It makes me happy when my audiobook selection clicks in serendipitous ways.)
My goal still stands. Right here. Right now. Whatever’s in front of me.
Getting up at 4:45a to go swimming, while not an easy feat, has given me the advantage of some time to myself before the day really “begins”. The hope is that I will eventually remind myself that being a morning person is all around better for me as a functioning being.
The topics of the day have filled me with a growing sense of dread. While yes, I can get triggered by the abundance of fear-inducing current events, even more I’m starting to feel a calm and growing certainty that in the next several years, we will see world and life-altering change that we do not expect and may not be able to prevent once it starts.
As I was driving home from the Y, I had that premonition feeling – you know, like in the post-apocalyptic films and they have a flashback to their “before”. I was feeling like I was watching the road with that “before” vibe. Maybe that’s just called “taking stock”, but today I’m consciously absorbing my surroundings and feeling exceptionally grateful. Gratitude seems to change me from within. So I’m attempting to notice all the positive things I typically whiz by in my day — the soothing whoosh of a functioning air-conditioner, the click-a-click-a-click of Sabian’s nails as she does a patrolling round of the house before schlumping onto my foot while I type.
There’s quite a bit to become alarmed by lately. And there’s a lot of garbage and outright lies. As much as I can find plenty to trigger my righteous indignation, I’m wondering what good it is to point it out to others. I am getting tired of kvetching. If pretty much everyone is just pointing to horrible things to say “that’s bad!”, does anything get better? Is there a tangible thing (or things) I can do to sow seeds to heal the world around me?
I’m going to brainstorm here a minute for things I can do right now:
Engage with others in conversation. Listen, validate, allow time and space for processing (both for me and them). Not allow fear to push me out of stepping fully in.
Recognize that in general, a difference of opinion indicates a difference of personality in circumstance. There’s no rule that either one must be “right” while the other must be “wrong”.
Take the time to discuss in an age-appropriate way, all of the current events we see happening, with my son. Not only is it helpful to him, but the act of summarizing thoughts is mentally clarifying for me. Sometimes I don’t even know what I really think until I hear myself telling J5
Periodically and regularly take the time to create “in this moment” space to breathe, resettle my mind and spirit into my body, and recognize the good in my life. Just “being” is good. Very good.
Continue to do “good work” on whatever is at hand — laundry, meal prep, customer service, driving, parenting. All of it.
Write. I don’t think I have anything better or worse to share than the next person. What I do have is a need to find a healthy response to the chaotic political and social atmosphere here in the US, and in the world. There are a LOT of things happening that are red flags to continuing the way of life as it is today. Maybe with some writing and sharing, and maybe even some conversation, I can find clarity. Clarity is sweet. It’s a high unlike others I’ve experienced.
Continue to share the good stuff via Social Media. If I’m going to contribute to the noise in the world, at least it can be a song I enjoy.
Throughout this past year, I picked up a few nuggets of wisdom. Short statements. “Notes to self” that would remind me of how to live life a little better. Sometimes they were about how to relate to others. Sometimes about how to relate to me. They are written down on little mini post-its across the top of my monitor.
As this is the last day of the year, I thought I would wrap it up by sharing these tidbits with you.
Lundie’s 2015 Post-Its
It’s not about me.
My new job this year is wonderful. It’s full of activity and things to accomplish. I’m task oriented, so this is a beautiful thing. This new gig, however, comes with a much larger amount of “client-facing” time than I’ve ever had. And as such, found myself faced with interacting on a regular basis with a couple of people who were just downright unpleasant. Condescending. Blaming. Bitter. It got so bad for a while that it would even keep me up at night when I knew that the next day I would have to walk right into that lion’s den of interaction. That’s when this nugget came in handy. As a reformed people-pleaser, not only did I work to let go of the idea I needed to win people over, I decided it has nothing to do with me at all, and therefore was not my responsibility to get them to change.
Feel it, don’t fight it
Lesson #2 this year was to stop the habit of resisting unpleasant emotions. If I started to feel anger, my habit was to try to talk myself out of it. I’d had the mistaken belief that negative emotions were wrong, and bad, and must be purged at all costs. Now I’ve learned that anger is usually my brain communicating with me (really loudly) that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. Years of tuning out when I feel something unpleasant has brought about the unfortunate pendulum side effect of emotions, now finding an audience, coming out very loud and sometimes scary. My new approach is to just stop and remind myself to feel what I’m feeling. Take some journal time. Write about the feeling. And when it starts to ease a bit, think about where it’s coming from. So many times, I’ve found my anger is just masking fear. So, I let myself feel scared for a while and wait. And then, when it starts to ease (and it does), THEN I dig into what I’m actually scared of. I spend some time deciding whether it requires an action on my part to resolve it. Mostly, I find I can ride the waves, see the little lying thought that set me off, and let it pass.
This is not like the sports company slogan. While I’m trying to relax and feel the somewhat crappy feelings I mentioned above, it can be hard for me to remember the priorities in my life. So, in the meantime I just rely on functional activity to get me through. Pick up the thing in front of me and just “do” for a while. Tidy my desk. File some papers. Throw a load of laundry in. There may be other things that are more big-picture important, but this keeps me from stalling. And it keeps me from burying it (usually via “chronic Facebook refresh”). If I don’t know what best to do next, I just “do” until focus returns.
Anxiety. My dreaded enemy. The only way I’ve been able to counteract anxiety is to say repeatedly say “yes” to whatever is hammering away at my feelings of safety and security. A portion of a thought appears in my brain, triggering anxiety. My stomach clenches, followed by a sort of hot flash, nausea and chest tightening follows. To get through, I take a deep breath, let it out slowly and look for the thought that set me off. If and when I find it, I mentally face it and say “Yes. Welcome.” and pretend that this panic triggering thought is something I decide I want. (Please note: In my life, panic and anxiety are not the same thing as legitimate fear. I don’t advocate actually welcoming legitimately life-threatening and dangerous thoughts.) I find that I can get to the other side of the anxious episode having gained some self-esteem. By having this welcoming attitude, I win. It’s about me taking control and stopping the constant feeling of being a victim.
And this sort of sums it up. This is my life. It is mine to do with as I choose. I can feel sorry for myself. I can make excuses for myself. Or I can own my shit. I am going to be with me for the rest of my life, for better or for worse. I am the only one here in this brain of mine. I may have felt that my circumstances have been unfair (leaving me a victim), but that hasn’t served me well. Martyrdom is not a pretty place to live. I have the freedom, the ability, the right, and the responsibility to live this life I have as best as I see fit. So, I choose to choose, and own my choice.
I learned today that the Sandra Bland tragedy struck closer to home than I realized. I was reading a blog post, by this pastor, about how Senator Bernie Sanders took the time to sit down and talk with Sandra’s mother recently. (I have to say, I have a great deal of hope for our country if our leaders will take a lesson or two from this man.)
As I scrolled down the page and looked at the photo taken of the group, I immediately recognized a woman from my neighborhood! Shante, who I now realize is Sandra’s older sister, lived just down the street from us for years! Our sons were good friends in early elementary school!
If for some reason you don’t know or remember who Sandra Bland is, please google her. [Interestingly, I’ve been thinking about how to write this post all day, and just now I saw that someone on HuffPo just wrote a piece about the blog post I was reading this morning.]
I’ve been trying all day (and now evening) to find good words to say. To find a way to speak up and amplify Sandra’s story. I don’t believe that Sandra killed herself. I think something ugly and tragic happened and I do hope the truth comes to light. I don’t know that my one voice can do much at all, but today, this is how I’m Speaking Up.
Please take some time to read through some of the Twitter threads below. Twitter is a plethora of opinion, and many links to additional information. If, after reading, you feel inclined to help her family dig deeper into what happened, you can contribute below. Thank you for being part of a momentary remembering of a beautiful woman whose life was cut short too early. She should not have died this way.
It’s time to say no to autopilot “shoulds”. If I can rephrase the “should” thoughts into “could” thoughts, I will open up my options and can see the “suggestion” in light of my existing priorities.
“Shoulds are hard to eradicate, since their origin and function is actually adaptive. They are simple rules to live by that have worked in the past. They are templates for survival that you can access quickly in times of stress. The problem is that they become so automatic that you don’t have time to analyze them, and so rigid that you can’t modify them to fit changing situations.”
— Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of your Moods & Your Life — by McKay, Davis and Fanning, p. 19
I have finite time and emotional energy. Why waste them on autopilot when I have all this freedom to choose?!
So, I did a big thing this weekend. I got my hair shorted. Big time.
This is the shortest my hair has ever been. Likely since birth or shortly after. I am happy. It’s only been a day, but it’s just so freeing. Slowly but surely, change is happening. Choosing alternate paths. Trial and error. It is good.
I’m really sick of feeling like a victim. Feeling anxious all the time. Brain cranking, looking for where the next spinning plate will drop in the desperate hope of catching it in time. It’s exhausting.
There is a lot still shifting in my mental architecture. In some ways, I feel like I’m having a second adolescence — which was complicated enough the first time around. Ugh. I just turned 44. (Right? Um, yeah. 2015 takeaway…yeah. 44. *smh*) There are some “finally growing up” feelings going on, but it’s more about shedding my inherited assumptions of how life works — and testing for myself — than rebelling against the “Ps” (which I never actually did…). This time it’s a lot scarier.
What am I so damned afraid of?
Letting go and the world falls apart and it’s all my fault
Making “wrong” choices
Being a disappointment
Being vulnerable to attack
Being seen as unintelligent and a fraud
Some wise things that people have said to me recently, that I want to just engrave on my brain for this season in my life:
“Won’t know until you try.”
“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.”
“What is the worst that can happen?”
This last one I think is the most important for me to take the time to honestly answer. I need to really verbalize the “worst case scenario”. I think I’ve been robbing myself of great options on a regular basis by ruling them out because of the “dread lurk”. It’s sort of the ominous Dread Pirate Roberts of my brain. “Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” If I’m ever going to get out in front of this Dread, I need to start pushing all the way through the “What if…?” options. If I keep skipping all the good things for fear of some sort of hidden “cost” that must be paid, I’m never going to move. I’ll continue my life just frozen. Locked in my own head, second-guessing every thought, only moving when I must.
This week’s recurring topic seems to be “What makes a person a ‘friend’?”. Just because someone has had the “friend” designation in the past, it does not mean they automatically keep the title for life. “A friend from High School” may not just identify when we became friends, but it could also indicate the lifespan of the friendship.
In my book, a friend:
asks you how you are doing, then they actually wait and listen for your answer!!
says “hey” once in a while, just ’cause
casually interacts with you via social media (if they partake), no drama needed
doesn’t think of you as a “one stop pep talk” and then go back to their “real life” when they feel better
The old saying, “The only way to have a friend is to be one”, rings more and more true with me. Friendship is a two-way street. I am under no obligation to be a friend to “needy” people. (Please note: “Needy people” are quite different than people who need a friend.) Needy people don’t recognize that genuine friends (those who listen, support, and love) might actually want a friend in return.
While I don’t want to be too “transaction-al” in friendship, I am closing up the 24/7 friendship pit-stop for those who show up, take my time and emotional energy, and then disappear again.
Guess I’d better spend some time considering whether I treat anyone in my life that way too…that would really suck!
I feel like 2014 was a pretty eventful year. I’m sure I feel that way near the end of each year simply due to the holidays throwing us into a flurry of interrupted routines making things feel more chaotic than normal.
However, the largest change this year was a doozy. After 10 years, I left my job to launch myself in a new direction more suited to me. It was not easy, as relationship and loyalty are high on my personal values list. However, I came to the realization that my relationship with myself, and my desire to be loyal to who I am, were in conflict with my staying, it simply became the right thing to do.
And so far, I absolutely LOVE my new role!!! 🙂 I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know too many of my coworkers yet, but everyone has been friendly and responsive. And the work itself? It’s just so me. I get into work and there are specific things that need my attention, and I can complete them and mark them done. Checklists make me so very happy, and accounting is full of that kind of work!
We hosted Christmas this year, and I cooked my first turkey and ham! We had 14 people in our not-so-big-for-hosting home, but it was a success!
As I look back at this year, I am grateful. I’ve learned a lot. I’m seeing things in a new light. I’m really looking forward to making more choices and changes, and seeing where it will all take me!