“Wrong Way” Need Not Apply

image: pixabay.com
image: pixabay.com

If you are starting something new as I currently am, you may find yourself running into obstacles you could not have easily anticipated beforehand. And some of those obstacles may prove to be downright discouraging. They seem to bear signs saying: Dead End, Wrong Way, or Do Not Enter. If you are typical rule follower as I tend to be, you may take those signs at face value and  do what appears to make sense: turn around, change course.  At present I see those signs in front of me and I’m thinking: how can I be sure that these signs apply to me? Maybe these signs are for cars but I’m a pedestrian.  What if these signs are outdated and no longer accurate?  How brave am I feeling right now?  What if I ignore this sign and keep on going?

That’s the abstract. The concrete version goes like this: my head is full of great ideas, plans, offerings. So I seek my audiences, find out who might have an interest and make the necessary pitches. And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Then I come up with more plans, more ideas, more offerings and share. The waiting for responses drags on. The silence and the waiting become my daily companions.  The waiting is my obstacle, the lack of response: a wrong way sign.

While I contemplate the potential accuracy of that “wrong way” sign,  I refer to this quote from The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist in which she explains the power of sufficiency as a mindset:

“Sufficiency resides in each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances. In our relationship with money, it is using it in a way which expresses our integrity; using it in a way that expresses value rather than determines value. Sufficiency is not a message about simplicity or about cutting back and lowering expectations. Sufficiency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive or aspire. Sufficiency is an act of generating, distinguishing, making known to ourselves the power and presence of our existing resources, and our inner resources. Sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need. There is always enough.” (p.74-75)

Wait a minute. In the scenario above  I have of course made my waiting a burden; something to be gotten through, endured.  I have given the obstacle and the signs their meaning.  And yet, waiting is a choice. Seeing the waiting as an obstacle or an opportunity is a choice.  I can choose to view and  use the time differently. I can create value in this time at my disposal rather than watch it evaporate untapped.  This assumed period of “inactivity” between creating and connecting becomes a resource.  If I dare to  “call forward” a sense of inner sufficiency, I create the opportunity for developing resources around me.  Once I realize that I am too curious to quit now, that is when and how those “wrong way,” “Dead End” and “Do Not Enter” signs lose their power over me and my judgment.  I let go of scarcity as my default mindset and press on.

To scarcity thinking, I hold up my own STOP sign and say:

I am waiting and I am productive.

I’m scared and I am enough.

I’m uncertain and I am enough.

I’m taking a risk and I am enough.

I fear that I won’t have, do, or be enough and yet, I am and continue to be enough.

Here I go.

(For those of you who following this as a process, it is an example of “reframing” which enables you to change the perspective on a topic and work from that new perspective.)

 

 

 

Got control?

Negative stress, my husband informed me, comes from the feeling of not having control. Yeah, that makes sense, I agreed with him.
It’s a straightforward insight and yet I hadn’t heard it put in such clear terms before. I’ve held onto that thought ever since.

I began observing myself in situations where I became impatient, annoyed or disengaged and discovered distinct patterns. In a short time it became readily apparent that when I felt helpless, at someone else’s mercy, or dependent on an outcome over which I felt I had no say, those negative emotions were almost certain to surface and persist. I found many more examples at home with family than at work which helped me recognize that the real work I needed to do was, above all, on myself.

So I learned to pay closer attention to my sense of control in various situations. Below are some of the things I do to regain control when I am on the verge of losing it or have already lost it. See if any of these make sense to you:

1. I go exercise.
If I can get out on my own, an extended walk helps me re-establish some degree of equilibrium. Just moving, thinking and being outside works wonders. If I don’t have the luxury of going solo, I just get into a space and do some sit-ups, push-ups or sun salutes. The point is, it doesn’t have to be much. I don’t need to change clothes. Simply straining myself a little shifts the energy in my body from overpowered to empowered.

2. I do a little housework.
My husband is an excellent housekeeper and does a lot of the stuff that I tend to avoid. Tackling a small duty, however, makes a positive difference. Folding and storing a load of laundry, sweeping the floor, or washing some dishes by hand. These are all tasks where I can see the results and I feel responsible.

3. I do my hair.
This may sound funny but it works. Doing my hair involves some effort. While I am fond of my naturally wavy-kinky tresses and the versatility of style I enjoy, washing, combing and styling my hair – typically in some form of braid or twist – takes some time and a bit of forearm strength and finger dexterity. Left to its own devices, my hair is wild and dense. Taming it on its own terms into neat side twists or multiple playful braids without the aid of a chemical relaxer becomes a source of stubborn pride and nice visual metaphor for the order I am striving to create and maintain.

4. I prepare myself a healthy meal.
A couple of years ago I undertook the Metabolic Balance program to work on improving my overall nutrition. Strict adherence in the beginning brought great results but after about a half year of seriously disciplined eating habits, I gradually let up and some of my less favorable habits snuck back in. Nevertheless, the basic principles (moderate portions of protein and veggies, minimal carbs, plus a daily apple) are still with me and have had a positive influence on my food intake. So when I prepare one such meal, I usually steam chicken with broccoli seasoned with some ginger, lemon, salt and pepper and then add a couple of cherry tomatoes for color. A tall glass of water to wash it all down and I feel like I have just won the discipline trophy of the year.

5. I write.
Journaling more than two or three times per month is often just enough to remind me that I have a valuable outlet that I may be neglecting. Giving my funk a name, address and telephone number lets me take ownership of my situation in a different and more balanced way. My journal doesn’t argue with me the way my head does. That makes writing a gift that keeps on giving. The more regularly I write, the more familiar I become with my mental and emotional neighborhood, the better I can cope with all manner of crises in my neighborhood and beyond.

Not quite 6. Time out.
I would love to be able to say that I find a quiet corner and go meditate but that is not the reality. When push comes to shove, I may have to leave the room quickly and go sulk for a time. While it may seem childish, it is also sometimes what I need to do before I can attempt a course correction. This type of time out is the ultimate signal that unless I claim that time and space for myself right then and there, the results are likely to be worse rather than better.

This last point is the one I waffled about including. It is not the strategy I am proud of or would recommend. Nevertheless, it is one of the things that I do when it feels like the battle for control is lost, if only briefly.

My primary finding here is that one of the best tools we have for recognizing control is understanding how we feel and behave when it is missing. Identifying these six ways I try to restore or boost my sense of self-control moves me that much closer to growing a resource which can quickly become scarce when the pressure is on and I need it most.

What do you do to manage and negotiate your sense of control? Please share. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Deciding to #Thrive

Here’s how it happened: some weeks ago a retweet directed me to an animated short of Ariana Huffington describing her recent book of redefining success: Thrive. At my next book shopping venture ( in a real bookstore), I decided to take this new self-help tome home with me.
A couple of weeks later I’m in the middle of it and much of it makes sense: get more sleep, unplug more often and for longer, practice mindfulness, stop and smell the roses… You get the idea. So I have been experimenting with going to bed earlier and yes, I do notice that there are all sorts of positive physical and emotional benefits. Great!

Okay, so I decide it may be worth writing a short post about it. So I look for that short on YouTube and can’t find it. What I do find is the Third Metric website and on another note, a fairly realistic review on Slate.
Viewing the Third Metric website is like encountering everything I resist in my day to day existence: airbrushed celebrity as the source of some great new life-changing truth. The Slate article provides some relief by putting the whole Ariana Huffington phenomenon into context. Nevertheless, I feel let down, even duped. These messages which make sense and are at turns both useful and applicable lose their whole thunder for me when the “expert” voices and “thought leaders” who purport to lead the way are almost exclusively white and representative of a decidedly eclectic elite. Call me small-minded and self oppressing, but suddenly it feels as if I dialed the wrong number and the message on the other end is not truly intended for me.

So I suppose I will finish the book and I may make use of some of its points. And I also come away from the experience knowing that the world is not lacking celebrity self-help which automatically sells. The world does need more everyday, run of the mill individuals who dare to speak, write, paint and sing their truths even when there’s no media crew to pick up on it. More sleep will do us all some good and our thriving will make a world of difference to the people around use who matter most, regardless of whether we read the book or not.

20140517-173540.jpg Wearing PJs to work was fun but I didn’t get more sleep.