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.
You’ve been a good year, 2015. Thank you!