Wisdom from my favorite sociologist and life coach, Martha Beck (from her Compass Points email):
Wisdom from my favorite sociologist and life coach, Martha Beck (from her Compass Points email):
Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.
This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.
I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.
I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.
Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.
Have a great week!
I have started writing at different times of the day, to reflect the “rhythm” of my week as it ebbs and flows. I am trying to purge out the stuff that just needs to leave my head, and also make sense of changes in my consciousness I know that consistency is important, and that daily creative spark helps me to get energy for the rest of my day.
I am procrastinating on my coaching homework and deciding to put it off a bit more, so I am writing my blog instead.
Uh, why *am* I avoiding my coaching homework? I will use this space to examine the reasons. One of the assignments is to rewrite my career dream in a 1-year and a 5-year formats. But what is getting in the way of this is that I interviewed for a job at my current company last week that really excites me.
It is hard to write my 1-year dream in a way that is independent of my excitement for that role. I guess that’s okay. A year seems ultra-long when I consider my current role. But it seems like it could go by in a flash if I am doing something with full engagement and attention. But can I bring full engagement to it? Would I give up my blog for it? No, for sure not.
It is a fairly high profile role (Senior Program Manager) with visibility to the top executives and the CEO, but I think I could make some impact there. We could actually re-invent the way clinical data are used in health care. Whew! That could be amazing, right?
Of course, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, so I emailed them to the hiring manager as a follow up. I’m not sure if they will make me an offer, but I suspect I am their top candidate, given what HR has shared with me about their search.
Another BIG part of me was fantasizing about quitting this corporate thing in August and figure out how to make it on my own, doing consulting and writing, and perhaps coaching. I wanted to take a break from this “treadmill” to get some time and space to really pursue my writing goals in earnest.
The money thing crops up. By August, I am aiming to have 6 months of living expenses saved up for any kind of foolish job-quitting my soul beckons me to do. My hubby would prefer we use that money toward a down payment on a house, or maybe some land on the north shore of Lake Superior. That appeals to me too.
If I stay, I will have to work a lot harder this summer and fall. New jobs takes investment, focus and attention. I am not afraid to work hard. In talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about the job, she observed that she has not seen me so excited or energized about an opportunity in a while.
My massage therapist said the same thing, and she had a quote for me that popped into her head when I told her about my response to the interview: “Great things are done when man and mountain meet.” William Blake.
My friend asked me “what would hold you back from taking the job” and my response was: having to wear grown-up clothes and go to the office every day. What this means is that my introvert self would have less alone-time during the standard work day. I have gotten spoiled working from home (when I am not traveling) a couple of days a week.
But other than that? Maybe the fear that my current role has provided a comfort level (3 years in this manager role, 11 years in the department), and I know I will be living in the “discomfort zone” for a while. But that may be the growth edge that I seek.
When things are too calm in my life, I tend to make trouble. But maybe this is the kind of trouble that I need to invite in, because “wildly improbable goals” have a strangely motivating effect on me.
And therefore you will NOT melt if you walk or run in the rain.
This was what my husband just said to a friend of his, who asked for his help to to get in better shape by walking and possibly running, and taking care of himself. So he agreed to coach this young friend. He has taken a hiatus from running for a few years, and wants to get back to it, and possibly lose some weight as well.
Eight years ago when hubby and I met, we were both avid runners, but I was running 10-milers and half-marathons and he was training for a crazy number of marathons. For a couple years, we had a crazy streak of Half Fanatic and Marathon Maniac madness. I still run, and have done the Twin Cities 10-miler for about 8 out of the last 10 years (due to a connection to the sponsor).
Now that I know that yoga is a better path to body wisdom for me, I run a lot less, and I actually find it easier to maintain my weight. Cortisol and stress-generated hormones are probably the reason for that. Now that I understand how insulin resistance and stress-hormones work, I am able to follow an eating plan that makes it easier to keep weight off.
I used to joke to my husband that running kept me out of prison because it allowed me to deal with the frustrations of working with a boss (at the time) who was clueless and full of herself, without resorting to violence. This is a very tasteless and insensitive joke, I now realize. Workplace and school violence are no joke, and it breaks my heart that children must go through metal detectors to get to their classrooms these days.
Managing our emotions is a key part of emotional adulthood. Since our thoughts drive our emotions, and our emotions drive actions (or lack of action) and therefore our results, we must take the time to develop awareness of our thoughts. Since subconscious thoughts come from long-held beliefs, it can be hard to “tease out” those habitual patterns by ourselves.
I have found that coaching and therapy have been two incredible tools for dealing with anxiety and depression that are hallmarks of those struggling with a.d.d. or any kind of addiction issue. Also, family patterns and learned habits of dealing with stress can be hard to unravel. Knowing how all of those elements work together can help us move forward in our lives.
I realize it reflects a lot of privilege to be able to access therapy, and it is not available to everyone, which I believe is tragic. Yoga, meditation and running are wonderful tools to deal with stress. There is no shame in seeking help, whether through therapy, or a trusted friend or confidante that can compassionately witness our pain and sit with us through it.
No, you are not made of sugar. You will not melt. But there is no shame in getting shelter from the emotional storms that may batter us more than a gentle Spring rain.
Yesterday I took an opportunity during my monthly operations meeting to present to my team a concept I had discovered that intrigues me, from The One Thing by Gary Keller.
In preparing for the presentation, I realized that I can indulge my love for teaching and training in my current job. It was totally fun to prepare, and I enjoyed challenging my team with a new idea. It was a bit of a risk, and I had not discussed it with my director first. But he has been open to my creative streak, and when I finished (in about 20 minutes) he actually came up with the perfect picture to capture the idea of what we do now, versus what we might prefer to do.
What is perfect about the photo is that it showed empathy for the struggle of my teammates, and it illustrated the point I had made during the presentation.
The basic idea of the book is that we need to work on ONE thing at a time, sequentially rather than simultaneously to achieve extraordinary results. When we multi-task or spin in a list of to-do’s that has no main priority, we dilute the focus and the quality of our work. So the book has a number of suggestions for how we drill down from our “someday goal” to a 5-year, then one year, monthly, weekly and daily goal.
We are asked to use a focusing question: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
This can be applied to goals at work, in relationships, goals for your physical health, personal life, money and business. You use it both on a temporal level: “what’s the one thing this week, or today or in this moment…” Then you plan time blocks on a daily basis so you get your one thing done first, before you slide off into more shallow work, like answering emails, attending meetings and other tasks.
Nothing should distract you from your one thing until it is done. Those time blocks can be protected. This is similar to the concept of Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
After I concluded, I asked the team: How can we apply the concept of “The One Thing” to the work we do every day? A couple of them had some ideas, and one had a great example. One thought it would be very hard to do this in the world we live in now, which was when my boss pulled out that great photo. We often feel like “one man bands” in our group, serving so many business units.
I believe the concept has merit, and though we a.d.d.-oid folks struggle with doing just one thing at a time, and many need to have shorter “time blocks” than the average person, I know when I do it well, I generate amazing results. I like to think of my one thing right now as my morning writing practice. When I do it, I feel a nice surge of energy, and that makes the rest of my day more productive as well.
What’s your ONE THING? Or if you prefer a more focused question: What’s your One Thing today?
Happy Friday, amigos!
This is my 200th post on this blog!
I have been posting daily since last October after launching in September. It seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone while in Scottsdale Arizona to see two of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck at a Celebrate Your Life weekend event.
Friday evening a group of maybe 600-700 women attended a conversation with both of them in which they talked about the kind of magic that springs forth when we trust our true nature rather than culture. Martha spoke about the fact that we are participating in a shift in human consciousness. But it is a transformation that will involve joy and rest, not continuous striving.
To me, there were profoundly moving stories, and so much wisdom and lightness in the way they engaged the audience and engaged each other in a playful dialogue. They spoke about topics that were collected from cards submitted by their audience. I am recording a few take-away ideas from my notes.
–Transformation: this happens throughout our lives, not just once or twice.
–Trust: you must trust in the face of fear, and as you do this you become stronger and more resilient.
–Gratitude: There is no happiness without gratitude. But feel for this gratitude in your body, rather than “force-feeding it” to yourself.
–Soul-mates: you can have many soulmates throughout your life that are not necessarily lovers.
–Love: it is the relationship between yourself and the universal love around and within you that is most important.
–Motivation: Martha said to ask yourself “not just want to you want, but what do you yearn for?” Then make a pledge to keep working for what we year for, without letting the cultural models blind us to these yearnings.
–Purpose: this one struck me profoundly. Liz Gilbert said that the purpose of our lives is to know that we are loved. That’s all. Just to know we are loved, exactly the way we are. It is so profound, and it hit me as truth, in my body. Wow.
–Diversity: the final question was on this and Liz wanted to pass the mike because realizing the privilege of being part of a pair of white women made her want to give voice to another. The African American woman who came forward was Felicia and she said “diversity is being willing to open your heart with everyone, no matter their color, station in life or area of difference.” Beautiful.
On Saturday we are supposed to bring notebooks, sit next to people we do not know (easy, since I did not travel here in a group) and leave our phones behind. I’m really looking forward to the day! Morning workshop with Liz; afternoon workshop with Martha.
What a great privilege to hear from two wonderful authors that I “know” and love from reading so many of their books! Tremendous gratitude for this experience. Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.
This past Saturday I woke up very early in the morning again (2am), brain churning again. On Friday I had a coaching session and apparently my subconscious had been at work. I woke up restless and tossing around thoughts in my head about something that had gotten me riled up during my call.
I got up and tried writing in my journal for a while, getting it all out and spilling it onto the paper so I could stop the brain chatter. Then I tried reading for a while, since the writing just seemed to “stir” myself up more. After a couple hours I tried to come back to bed. But sleep wouldn’t come, and after half an hour I rose again.
I felt like I wanted to crawl outside my skin. I thought about going somewhere for coffee (it was now 5a.m.) and realized that I was trying to escape myself, some deep feeling inside. So I pulled out my journal again, and surprised myself when a torrent of grief, sadness and shame came tumbling out. I held myself as I cried, and I allowed myself to write and capture what was coming out at that moment.
I cried for almost an hour, and emptied the thoughts that were in my mind, grieving mostly for that 7-year-old girl inside me, who learned to eat her emotions instead of feeling them. I allowed myself to feel great compassion for her intentions, which were just to make others happy and not to “hurt others’ feelings.” I allowed myself to feel compassion and grief for my parents, who had both lost one parent that year to cancer.
After that outburst, which scared my husband a little (I reassured him I just had to let out some grief, I would be okay), my mind calmed and my immediate thought was: what is in the fridge that would make me feel better. Then I laughed at myself: ah, I see! That is indeed the pattern isn’t it? Food is comfort, food is there when I have nobody to compassionately witness the pain. But I did not eat anything this time. I’d made myself a cup of coffee during the grief-storm, because having a hot beverage can be comforting.
I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, relieved that this feeling of wanting to exit myself was now gone. When I woke up I wrote a post about “feeling your feelings” rather than eating them. The words poured out into a nearly 1300 word post. But reading it, I felt a sense of that raw pain that needs to settle a bit. I was not ready to post, even after the next day when I edited.
Feeling uncomfortable emotions is difficult. Whether grief, sadness, anger, loss, betrayal, disappointment, they are sometimes hard to process. There is a visceral and deep expression in your body when these feelings come up. Resisting these feelings leads to anxiety, depression and other kinds of problems. Numbing the emotions with food, alcohol or drugs can lead to weight gain, addiction, and many other problems.
But some of us were not taught as children that it is okay to feel those feelings, to let them move through us and complete themselves. Emotions are like physical vibrations in the body. They are not permanent, they tend to arrive and leave in waves. They can altered by our thinking, and many a person has tried “think happy thoughts” to push those emotions away.
Some of us were told (by a well-meaning adult): “don’t cry, honey” and given ice cream to soothe us. Or when the adults around us were not comfortable expressing their own feelings, as some generations were NOT encouraged to do, it can seem like a foreign world to allow yourself to do this.
But it can also open up a wellspring of joy within you, when you realize that emotions are neither good nor bad. They just ARE, they exist. They are part of being human, part of living a full and rich life. Some of them will be positive, and some will be negative. It is that difference that creates the contrast. If we were happy all the time, how would we KNOW we were happy?
So this post is to encourage you to explore your emotions, and allow them to come up, even the negative ones, as they come up. Don’t reach for the chocolate or the ice cream or the glass of wine. Just name them, feel them, and allow them to pass through you. They will not destroy you, and you can endure them. Numbing them out and staying “asleep” to your inner experience is what a majority of people do in our culture.
Being aware takes effort, patience, and great compassion, but it rewards you when you truly begin to know yourself. Believe me, it is totally worth it. You are worth knowing.
Have you ever had a realization about something in your life that was so obvious that you cannot believe you did not see it before?
This happened to me as I was preparing my coaching homework for this week. We had uncovered my “martyr” tendency in my last session 2 weeks ago. I was asked to pay attention to those times when the martyr’s voice came up, and what the voice sounds like. As it turns out, it was a combination of parental voices.
You know those voices?
They are the ones that you usually realize, maybe expressions your parents used to use, or things they used to say. I think parents of young children start to realize they have internalized the parental voice in their patterns and unconscious responses to their children. Some people who are really aware (and have perhaps been to therapy) realize this and say: oh goodness! I’m turning into my Dad! (or Mom).
When I considered where my Catholic-seeming inappropriate guilt came from, considering I was not raised Catholic, I realized that my name is Cristy. That means: follower of Christ. Oh dear. I was named after the ultimate martyr of the Catholic and Christian faith. Also named after my Mom who has a variation of that name.
Oh well. I come by the martyr complex honestly. My parents named me after all. I didn’t choose the name. I only chose to retain the behavior. To protect to privacy of the innocent, I leave it at that for now.
What is in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?
For me, as a feminist woman and someone who did not change my name in my first marriage or in my second (and final) recent marriage, I never even considered changing my name. I don’t like the tradition of treating a woman as an “owned” object – first belonging to her father and then belonging to her husband, with the label stuck on for each occasion.
Pardon me while I get out this little airplane barf bag…
Hopefully most women of my generation are past that kind of thing, right?
No offense if you didn’t like your name, and your husband’s name was more unique so you changed it. If you are a Smith or a Jones, perhaps changing the name was a good idea. I won’t judge. It’s your choice these days, after all. I have fantasized about having a name that is a symbol. I love it that Prince became “the artist formerly known as…” That is true innovation.
I want a symbol! What is a symbol for mexi-minnesotana? I’m gonna copyright it… any of you graphic artist out there want to design something for me? Maybe I’ll start a contest. I have been thinking about how to brand my site, but I digress.
My Mexican last name has become more a part of my professional trademark in the past decade. I work for a division of the company that serves patients in Latin America. Even though my pale Swedish ancestor skin hides part of my heritage, when people see my last name, they become aware of the possible Latina origin. When they hear my Spanish, they are usually confused. Good accent. Questionable grammar. Where the heck are you from?
In any case, it was a big light bulb going on to realize I don’t need “crucify myself” or taken on a savior/rescuer role my whole life. I may need to adopt a different name or at least a different voice from Mary the Martyr. She has good intentions, but I need to evolve her behavior for a bit.
The cosmic joke has not been lost on me. Now that I am aware of it, at least I can reign the martyr complex in a little more deliberately.
Happy Friday, peeps! Hope my U.S. friends have adjusted to the time change by now, and all of you, have a fabulous weekend!