The Grind

grinder-hitachi-power-tool-flexible-162529I am writing this on a Monday morning and once in a while on Mondays I’ll sort of float the thought: “back to the grind,” in solidarity with everyone returning to work. But I don’t really think that at all and in fact, it is so far off the mark that it often makes me giggle a little. I never feel like I’m going back to the grind on Mondays.

This is not to say that I don’t sometimes find my job exceedingly difficult. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that are chock full, one thing to the next, a little frenzied. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that are all about massive productivity, sort of grinding things out, but it never feels like a grind and on the surface, I think that’s because I LOVE my work.

I have had many jobs. I come from a crew of multiple career folks; it seems to be in our genes to make major shifts more often than most, and I did my fair share of that. And it is tempting to say that NOW I found it. It certainly feels like that’s true now, and maybe it is true forever. Maybe this job is THE JOB, but I think my happiness with my work is more complicated than that and I think that complication might be useful to those of you for whom Monday really is a grind.

You see I had no intention of choosing this work. When I first began trying to make a decision about what to do for work after my kids went to school, I fully intended to go back to the classroom and things only got difficult when that idea started making me want to throw up. I think that’s a step beyond “the grind,” but maybe I’m just being dramatic.

At any rate, when I was trying to sort out what to do, I just kept looking at my options and their trade-offs and benefits. I kept sorting through the logic of all of it. And I kept bumping up against really old ideas about what I could and should do. “I couldn’t possibly… I HAVE to… What if I fail?” But that bumping was so old and practiced I didn’t even notice it any more. I just hit that imaginary ceiling, my self-imposed limit, and stopped, convinced I had laid all of the options on the table and I now needed to choose the one that was the best of the awful. And that made me want to throw up, as choosing the best of the awful is likely to do.

So I worked at all of that. I figured out where those limits were. I dug down to see what kinds of stories I was telling myself and there were quite a few there. Some of them sounded like my parents (although an old, more stressed out and judgy version of my parents). Some of them sounded like my siblings. And some of them sounded like the meanest version of myself. And I went through the process of unwinding it all.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd when I did that it was like opening a door. No, it was better than that. It was like suddenly removing the top of the building so I could see the sky (in a non-dangerous, totally non-creepy way). It was like looking up and seeing space and openness, limitlessness and freedom rather than seeing all of the reasons I couldn’t change things and THAT, that feeling changed everything.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had been able to do that work WHILE I was still in the classroom. It’s not regret or self-abuse; it really is just a wondering. I don’t know that I would have stayed in teaching, but I know I would have felt differently. I know I would have experienced the difficulties of the job differently – and I’d say that about any of the jobs I’ve had. I would have been different in them if I had been able to free myself from the mental baggage that was weighing me down, chaining me to whatever desk I occupied. I would have been free and felt more like I was choosing, and freedom and choosing – they don’t feel the grind the same way. Freedom and choosing find opportunities for growth. Freedom and choosing feel like power. Freedom and choosing are possible, but may require that deep internal work to find. And that deep internal work can work wonders on moving toward freedom and choice in the larger world. Liberation from the grind is a two step process. I suggest you lead with your mind. If you need a guide, I’d love to help. If you’d like to work on changing those thoughts on your own, I’d like to recommend my mini book, How to Rewrite Your Story.

So much love,

julia

Better Mornings Guaranteed

I’ve noticed something.

Every time I don’t get enough sleep I greet the day with the same thought: “I have SO much to do.”

It’s not the mother of all negative thoughts to be sure, but it is not a good way to start the day.

I’ve talked about the way this one affects me before, but for those of you who are new to my little corner of the universe, I’ll give you the short version.

startup-photos-5When I think “I have SO much to do,” I get anxious. I feel nervous and flustered and nothing has really even happened yet. Then I get grumpy about some of the normal everyday person stuff I have to do that is keeping me from getting to the looming list. The next bit can go a couple of ways, I can grump at people or I can kind of spin, not really being productive and just feeling generally overwhelmed. There is usually some digital time wasting in there too – not sure exactly how that happens, but I suspect it’s just my attempt to buffer the discomfort of the anxiety or the self-judgment at my grumpiness.

Yep, it can get complicated up in here.

So when I don’t get enough sleep, this is how my day starts. And I’ve noticed this because of a practice that I do in the mornings.

coffee-cup-desk-penI got this particular tool from Brooke Castillo, but other folks (including Julia Cameron) recommend similar practices. When I’ve gotten a cup of coffee or tea and have made sure the young people are tended to, I sit down and do what Brooke calls a “thought download.” It’s a free-write. I just write whatever is in my head for let’s say 10 minutes. I use a nice clean sheet of paper and a pen that feels comfortable (arthritis in the hands makes tool choice important) and I just write down whatever is going on in my head. I just transcribe it. I don’t try to make it pretty. I don’t choose my words carefully. I don’t repeat phrases for emphasis. (See what I did there?)

The immediate impact of those actions is that I feel a little relief if there’s something going on up there that is negative or not helpful. And I chalk that up to the fact that I am listening. The internal chatter, even when it is stupid and ill-informed, really wants to be heard and it will get louder and more urgent if we don’t attend. So writing it all down is a form of listening: listening to my most primitive self, listening to my least mature self, listening to the really bratty sometimes angry sometimes sad part of myself. Being heard allows the message to soften. As I’m writing I sometimes laugh a little because it seems so ridiculous as I actually give voice to all of it. And the laugh isn’t one of judgment; it’s not sarcastic and nasty. It’s more of the kind of laugh when a child has done something totally predictable and silly that you KNOW they will grow out of soon. A little shake of the head: “Of course you’re thinking that.”

The secondary impact of taking a few minutes to write down what’s going on in there is that I get to see what thoughts are rumbling around in there and when I find ones that are really giving me trouble, I can challenge them. “Is that really true? Is it absolutely true? Does it make me feel terrible? Is there something I could believe that feels better and is just as true or truer? What do I want to believe to have this day be what I want it to be?” It sounds like a lot, but when you do it over and over, it really isn’t. And it works. It creates the space where you can make some choices about what you are thinking so you can decide what kind of day (or at least the next half hour) you are going to have.

The long-term impact of this practice? You get to see patterns. You get to notice what your go-to crappy thoughts are and you get to notice what makes them pop up. Seeing the pattern of bad sleep/anxious thoughts allows me some space from it. It reminds me to get better sleep for one thing, which is something I can always use, but it also creates some perspective, some distance from those icky anxious thoughts. “Oh, that’s just that thing that happens when I don’t get enough sleep.” I see you tired brain. I see you bumbling around and making a mess, throwing a really clumsy tantrum. I see you.

When we know what some of our go to icky thoughts are they become so much easier to manage. They’re like irritating old friends. “Yep, here you are again. I figured you would show up. Man, you are really persistent.” It’s much easier to think something different when you see a thought that way instead of thinking that it is THE TRUTH.

What thoughts are getting in the way of your good mornings? What would change for you if you just wrote them all down? If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Don’t think. Look.

“Don’t think, but look.”

A quote by Ludwig Wittegenstein, my Dad’s favorite philosopher. I recognize that not everyone’s Dad has a favorite philosopher, but mine did. Dad was a philosophy student as an undergrad at Dartmouth, despite the ribbing he got from the electricians he worked with over the summers who asked if he was going to open a philosophy store. My father went on to Yale seminary where he got to study more philosophy before he left in favor of employment that would better provide for his growing family.

bible-old-bible-historically-christianity-159688When I brought my now husband (and current seminarian – yes I see the echoes and prefer not think about it too much) to meet my Dad, they quickly discovered their common undergraduate pursuit and began the “who’s your favorite philosopher” conversation. I quickly went from being nervous about the meeting to being a little annoyed that they were getting along so well and everyone had lost interest in me, because it is all about me after all.

At any rate, the point isn’t that moment, although I appreciate your indulging me in sharing it. It is one of my favorite memories of the two of them. All of this to say that when I hear the name Wittgenstein, my antenna are up. I am listening, which ironically is exactly what I think Wittgenstein would want. I stop thinking about whether or not I have a favorite philosopher, and pay attention.

Not many philosophers start with: “Don’t think,” but this is where Wittgenstein starts.

And having grown up as I did, in a household where rationality was very highly prized, the command to not think makes me uneasy. The irony of my Dad favoring this particular philosopher is startling to me. In times where the world and the people on it seem to need some serious attention, the command to not think feels almost irresponsible, until you consider the rest of the quote.

Look.

It’s not just don’t think. It is LOOK.

I can’t say that I know what Wittgenstein was trying to say because I was NOT a philosophy student, but here’s what I’m picking up from what he was laying down, my life coach spin on the whole idea.

When we think first, we rely on everything we already know, everything we assume, all of the decisions, suppositions, and assumptions we’ve already made. What this does is that it narrows our vision.

Because this is how the brain works friends. Our brains prefer efficiency. There is SO MUCH information available to us. Our brains have had to develop ways to filter all of that information. It’s a lot like the internet, right? I occasionally remind my husband when he is deeply engrossed online in a way that promises to last into the wee hours that he is not going to get to the end of the internet. There is no way to see it all.

Social media sites know that there’s no way to even see everything all of our friends and acquaintances post, so they filter it for us. They develop algorithms (formulas) to filter what we see. These are based on our preferences, the information they have about us. And this is exactly how our brains work.

We think, we have an idea about something. And then our brains, when faced with all of the information in the world, filter that information based on our idea. We don’t SEE everything. We see the things that support what we already believe, what we assume, what we know. It doesn’t matter whether we’re right or not. We see evidence that helps us be sure that we are. This is called confirmation bias. It’s a real thing. Google it if you don’t believe me. When faced with a situation, when we think first (and bring in all of our old thoughts and assumptions), what we see is limited.

girl-sea-binoculars-vacation-160514The suggestion not to think is not a suggestion to stop thinking for all time, but to prevent that filtering from happening and look. Look to see what is in the world. Notice what is happening. See it with fresh eyes and take in the facts. See the situation as others might see it. See the situation the way nobody has seen it yet because everyone is burdened by the ideas they showed up with.

And THEN, after you’ve seen, after you’ve given the situation fresh eyes, THEN you think again. You use that new information. You access new feelings based on what you saw. And then you think about all of that. You make adjustments. You chart a course. You make demands. You act based on what is actually happening rather than a limited view of reality based on your brain’s attempts to make life easier for you.

Don’t think, but look.

Who knows what you will see?

Where Does Your Energy Go?

I can’t even put a number on how often people tell me that they are tired. It’s almost like this is the assumed first part of the answer to how they are doing, and then we get to the rest. We are a nation of exhausted people (I’m speaking of the U.S., although I’m fairly certain we are not alone here). I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

First and foremost so many of us don’t get enough sleep. If you’re about to argue with me, ask yourself if you’re feeling argumentative because you’re tired, and then google sleep deprivation or sleep deficit and you will find all of the research you need to accept the reality that a huge number of Americans simply don’t get enough sleep. This is something I struggle with.

pexels-photo-269141-2My husband is a night owl. We have children. I need quiet time. These three circumstances don’t always play nicely together with the idea that more sleep is good. I HAVE, over the course of the last couple of years, taken the time to notice my own sleep patterns. My conclusions: the amount of sleep I usually get is not enough – period. How do I know this? When I have the opportunity (and an eye mask and ear plugs, yes I am high maintenance), I will sleep longer than my usual allotted time by at least an hour. I also know because I feel tired a lot. That’s a pretty good indicator.

Now, I have a lot to say about why I don’t get more sleep. Some of it is cultural, some of it is micro-cultural (my family), and some of it (probably the most important part, duh) is what’s going on in my own head, the messages I send myself, the stories I tell myself about my priorities and how I should be using my time. And those messages don’t just impact how much sleep I get. They also set me (dare I say “us”) up for fatigue in other ways.

There are other bits that are making us so very tired. I was reminded of the rest of this equation when I was reading an article that mentioned James Clawson’s book Powered by Feel. The premise of the book is that we spend a lot of time doing things that actually make us feel drained, tired, just plain BAD.

What?! Who would do that?

I do. Yep, I do. When I’m not paying attention I most certainly do. Extended time on Facebook makes me feel bad. Certain television shows (well, whole categories of television shows) make me feel terrible. PTA functions… yep, you guessed it.

How did I figure this out? After all, it’s not like these things make me feel straight up sick. For the most part the impact is more subtle, but cumulative. It all piles up to one big lethargic ache. So what would it look like to figure out what activities are draining the life out of us?

It would look like checking in on how you feel as you go through your day.

As you finish activities, take 5 seconds to notice how you feel. Keep it basic; are you sad, mad, glad, tired, frustrated, energized? Check in on the body and the heart. Take 2 more seconds and make a note of it.

Why all of this data collection? Because the way you feel is telling you something. It’s begging you to consider how you are spending your time. When you actually notice for a few days or for a week, you can sit down and really see where your energy is going. You can really see what your choices about how you spend your time are getting you.

Can you eliminate all of the stuff that doesn’t make you feel amazing? I don’t know. Maybe not. And so often that’s where the conversation ends, right? Well, adults just have to do ___________. Yeah, maybe. But do YOU have to do all of those things? What is flagging itself as purely obligation without payoff? What is making itself known as an activity that makes you feel crappy and yet you continue to do it? Is that time you are spending helping you feel the way you want to feel? When you are honest with yourself, you have the power to make some adjustments. When you are honest with yourself, you can tweak pexels-photo-595747things without tipping the whole adult responsibility apple cart. When you are honest with yourself, you can actually address the choices you are making that are draining you of your precious energy. When you are honest with yourself, you can pursue the feelings you WANT to feel.
What’s the use in that? Some of that is pretty obvious, but there is another layer (I love layers). When you choose and pursue activities based on the feeling you get, the outcome – your ability to win, score, be the best – becomes less important. Life really does become more about the journey, the moment you are in, your connection to everything that makes you undeniably, inimitably YOU. And THAT feels amazing.

Valentine’s Day is an Inside Job

This year, at 9:38 a.m., I am already having the best Valentine’s Day ever. No, don’t run away. If you are not in a relationship and are SO over hearing about Valentine’s Day, I get it, but I promise this is for you too.

pexels-photo-326612I should start off by saying that Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite, at least not since it came with a bag full of notes and candy at school – although there was (in my day) always the looming threat of not receiving notes from your classmates or not receiving them from the classmates you most wanted them from. Since that time I’ve always been a bit of a Valentine’s Day Grinch – is there a word for that? Do we have a character that represents that? I’m not sure I really want an answer to that question. At any rate, I grumbled about the Hallmark manufactured holiday in years when I was single as well as in years when I was not. I still did the things mind you. I bought cards. I delivered chocolate, but there really wasn’t a lot of joy in it. My heart wasn’t in it.

And I think that’s because my heart wasn’t in a lot of things. My giving in times past has often come from a place of obligation. Not that there is no affection there, but there was always something in the way of these outward and sort of fountain-like expressions of romance and gooeyness. And I think what was in the way was not, as I’d always assumed, just a character trait, a preference, a part of the larger picture of WHO I AM AND WHO I WILL ALWAYS BE. I think what was in the way was the thing that keeps so many of us from fully engaging in just about everything: a lack of serious self-love. And I know I’m onto something here because as I write this, I am both excited and uncomfortable, a sensation my friend Bev Barnes dubbed “scare-cited.”

My continuous disdain of myself took many forms: disapproval of my body, judgment and second guessing of every decision (large or small), continually replaying the tape of conversations I’d had to be sure I had handled it all well or said the right things (searching for signs that I had screwed it up), failure to forgive myself for mistakes and errors in judgment, lack of compassion for pain and sorrow… I could go on here, but it’s starting to bum me out.

The point that I am trying to make is that outward expressions of love and my ability to accept them is an inside job. It starts with acceptance of everything I am and the tiniest speck of appreciation for the unique magic that I bring to the world. I know that last sentence makes it sound so easy. And I know if you are not there, in that place of self-acceptance or at least on the path, that that last sentence sounds completely ridiculous.

pexels-photo-207962And so I want to ask you today: what would feel like love? What could you do that would actually make you feel loved? Our answers to this sometimes come cheap and easy. We slide into the comfort of distraction and simple pleasure (sugar, booze, movies). I am asking you to dig a little deeper on this day of love. What would nourish your soul? Can you do that, even if it’s just for a few minutes? I’m asking because every time you do those things, those things that nourish your soul, you are sending yourself a valentine. You are sending your body, your heart and your mind a love note and that message is received. The message that you are worth taking care of; that you are worth nourishing; that the things that are special about you deserve your time, energy and nurturing care – that message gets received. And the message creates a space for hope, for faith, and for real love.

My heart is with you today friends. And my heart is with me – in joy, acceptance, and wildly exciting freedom.

XO,

julia

When Not Having a Choice is Better

pexels-photo-568027-2Years ago I was in a dark place. I had had a miscarriage and had nearly died in the process. My body and my spirit felt pretty broken and I couldn’t seem to see a way out.

Friends tried, in different ways, to help out. Some checked in. Some just sat with me. And one, in a moment of divine inspiration, found just the right thing to say – a goal I don’t really recommend as it is so easy to go wrong.

This particular friend is one of my closest and oldest friends. We’ve known each other since 7th grade. He worked from home at the time and I was a full-time graduate student. He called and asked if I wanted to join him at the dog park with my pooches.

As our canines played (well, and mine caused trouble), I described the difficulty I was having in following my usual routines. I didn’t want to go to class. I didn’t want to do the mountains of required reading. Writing papers seemed completely out of the question. I didn’t even really want to walk my dogs, a flashing neon signal that things were not right with me. He listened, really the best thing folks can do when someone has had a trauma, and during a pause he said: “What if you stopped seeing all of these things as a choice? What if they were just things you HAVE to do?”

Before I go further in, I want to assure you that I am not suggesting that the answer to anybody’s depression is just getting back to work. And I can honestly say that had my state of mind continued much longer, I likely would have benefited from medication to help my brain find it’s healthier pathways again. But in that moment, my friend’s words DID work for me.

Looking back on it now I recognize what was going on. He was reminding me that I had already made a commitment. I had already made a decision. And those commitments were to myself, to what I believed at the time was my highest good. Rather than asking myself: “Do I want to do this,” or “Do I feel up to that,” I might have just as easily asked myself if I was going to keep my commitment to myself that day. By allowing myself so much wiggle room, I was failing myself, and piling self-judgment about that failure onto my aching heart and soul.

It is so much easier to see this now, when I am self-employed and SO MUCH of my day relies on my ability to keep my commitments to myself. I could choose, at any time, to skip writing a blog post or skip creating a new PDF for folks. I could choose to skip networking lunches. I could choose to make bigger chunks of my schedule unavailable to clients. I could EASILY make myself  busy with the domestic demands of having high standards and children in the same physical space. I could do all of those things (and some days I would like to do that), but then I would not be keeping my commitments to myself.

The trouble with not keeping our commitments to ourselves is pretty deep trouble indeed. There is the initial trouble of allowing every action item to become a decision, which is TORTURE. We don’t do this with all of our action items, right? We don’t decide every morning whether or not we are going to brush our teeth. We just do it. We are committed to keeping our teeth clean. I, personally, am committed to not hearing a dentist’s drill any more often than absolutely necessary. So I don’t rethink this decision every day. I just do it. When it comes to our bigger commitments to ourselves, or to ones that we are not trained to do as children, we act like it’s reasonable to recheck our decisions whenever we’re not feeling fantastic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve got news for you. A big part of life is not feeling fantastic. Yep. And there are things you can do about that, but truth is no matter how good you get at managing your mind, you will not feel fantastic all of the time, so there will be days you won’t feel like it, whatever IT is. What can keep you going on a day like that? Sometimes for me it’s just relying on that decision by my yesterday self. SHE, who felt a little better and spent some time making decisions about what to do when, can be trusted and SHE needs me to follow-through, even when I don’t feel my best.

The other tricky bit about not keeping our commitments to ourselves is that we train our brains to distract us. When we so readily desert our plans in favor of whatever is shiny (or on FB or Netflix or even laundry), we are telling our brains that they should divert us in other ways. The message is clear: “I can be interrupted. I can be stopped.” And our brains love to hear that “I can be stopped” message because our most primitive selves, they really aren’t interested in all of this deeply satisfying forward motion. They are interested in keeping things the same. So when you reward the urge to be distracted, when you reward the urge to go off plan, you give that primitive brain encouragement to continue to distract you and tell you why your whole commitment idea really stinks anyway.

I know I’m sounding like a little bit of a hardass this morning, and it may be that I’m just talking to myself because it is rainy and miserable and cold here and it seems like a perfect day to ditch ALL of the plans. And there are times to do that. And there are reasons to not. For me, here in the dark, cold, wet gloom of Maryland February I felt the call of EVERYTHING ELSE. So I checked myself. What are my commitments to myself today? What did my earlier motivated planning self say we should do today if the field trip I was supposed to chaperone got canceled, because you KNOW that bossy bitch had a backup plan. Yes, she did. And it was even pretty nice. Just a couple of required items and then maybe a movie and a game with the kids. She planned it. I’m doing it, because sometimes it’s better not to have a choice.

Asking for Help – It’s Good for Them Too

pexels-photo-242148-2I was sitting in choir at church this past Sunday and one of the littles out in the seats started itching around a bit, chatting loudly, stirring things up – normal 5 year old stuff. I saw her Mom, another choir member, getting agitated and worried and JUST as she got up to go take care of it, two older girls (say 11 and 12) buzzed in, took the little one and her pal in hand and took them out of service to engage them elsewhere. They signaled Mom: “We’ve got it,” and it made my heart full in so many ways. It is always good to see a Mom of a little one get a break, but it also made my heart full watching those girls take charge of the situation, and be trusted by the adults.

Mom could have insisted on taking care of it, and likely missed out on her chance to sing with us. She could have insisted on being the one to attend to whatever the need was, but she didn’t. She chose to allow the help, and those girls did a great job. And the pride showed on their faces later.

As I think about myself and my husband, I acknowledge that we don’t ask for help as often as we perhaps could. It seems easier sometimes to just push through than to figure out precisely what you need and then ask the right person, etc, etc, etc. But really, asking for help doesn’t just do good for the person receiving the help. It does good for the helper and most assuredly for the relationship between the two.

If you don’t believe me, think about a toddler. They are SO eager to help. Sometimes they are so eager to help that they make a right mess of things (ALL of the clothes in the basket: dirty and clean frolicking together), diaper cream ALL over instead of on the rash, cookie dough everywhere instead of just on the pan. They so want to help.

We imagine that it changes as kids grow older, but I still find that when we pose something to my kids (twin 11 year olds) as a problem that we need help with rather than say as a failure on their part to do their share (which would likely be both fair and accurate), the willingness goes up dramatically. What is it about being asked to help that does this?

I think there are messages inherent for plea for help:

  1. I trust you to help me,
  2. you are capable (grown enough) to help me,
  3. I also need help sometimes (a great equalizer),
  4. I feel safe showing you where I’m not perfect,
  5. everybody needs help sometimes,
  6. you are good at things, and
  7. you are a contributor to this world we share.

Too often I see parents, Moms especially – sorry, doing everything because it’s easier to just do it or they want their kids to have free time in a world that is dominated by schedules or they know that a child’s help might mean a different outcome than what they are going for. But what messages are we sending when we never ask for help?

  1. I don’t trust you to do this right,
  2. you are incapable of helping me,
  3. I don’t need anybody’s help because I’m grown up,
  4. I can’t admit when I need help
  5. grownups shouldn’t need help,
  6. you aren’t really good at things I need done, and pexels-photo-461049
  7. you can’t contribute here.

Yuck.

I’m sure there are other reasons we don’t ask for help. Stories we’ve written for ourselves about what parenting is about, what help means, what vulnerability costs, what it means to be an adult. And wrestling with those stories can take time.

So for some of you, maybe it’s easier to start by understanding that asking for help is helping your child, your partner, your friend or your sibling write a better story about themselves and about what it means to need help. How much easier would it all be if we could just learn to ask and to offer help and feel good about it? How good would it feel to nurture and learn to trust interdependence?

That Time I Forgot to Have Fun

It’s been a rough time for me the last couple of months. We hit the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, the holidays (which I still haven’t pared down to where I need them to be, but I’m making progress), and then my husband’s month long trip to Chicago for January term. I thought I had a handle on it. I lowered my expectations for work a little (at least in my planner if not in my head, which would have been a really important extra step to take), despite my sense that January is a REALLY important month for life coaches. I called in some backup with the kids so I could have a little adult time. I hired a neighbor girl to watch my kids on choir practice nights. On paper it looked pretty good.

pexels-photo-366063And now my hubby is home, which is nice. But I’ve been really grouchy. I’ve been whipping out old and reliable complaints to argue about. I’ve been feminist ranting in my house while I tidy up. I’ve been snarky and sarcastic and generally less pleasant than I could be. I’ve also been SO unbelievably tired, some of which makes perfect sense, but it didn’t seem to be letting up. My body was speaking to me, but I was paying more attention to the angry story in my head.

And it finally overwhelmed me, that angry story. So I reached out to a coach friend. And she questioned. She gently prodded. She questioned some more. And as we talked, I felt my old angry arguments step to the side like the distraction that they are (they matter but weren’t the point). As we talked, I found the hurt under the anger. And then we talked about the hurt, because that’s what a great coach can do for you.

And what came out is that with all of this work: my business, my parenting, my husband’s seminary, I just haven’t been having very much fun. I’m not saying I haven’t had any, I’m just saying I’m not having much and given the difficulty of the last few months, I could have maybe benefitted from a little MORE fun than average rather than less. She laughed and said she was picturing that moment in The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy….” Yeah. Seriously. HERE’S Julia!!! If you don’t understand the reference, Youtube that scene so you know what really not having fun and listening to angry creepy stories can do to you. My lovely coach friend and I talked about a way out. We figured out exactly what I was thinking, how it made me feel, and created a path for something new. I am so grateful to her.

pexels-photo-341520-2I talked to my seminarian about our fun-less time and he agreed. We’ve sort of lost track of planning fun as a couple and neither of us take much time for fun for ourselves. It is draining. It is wearing. It feels like a grind and I KNOW the life that I’m building doesn’t need to feel like a grind. I’m in love with the things I’m doing, but no matter how much you like your job, sometimes you just need to be completely immersed in the fun zone with the people you love the best.

So I’m putting my creative thinking cap on to come up with some options and later today my seminarian and I are going to put some things on our new shared digital calendar so we can make sure we’re making time for that. We will honor our calendar. We will honor our fun and we will both be better for it.

How’s it going for you? Are you remembering to have fun? If you’re not, what are you going to do about it?

When Change Feels Scary

Every time I write here I am suggesting that you consider changing: growing, learning, experimenting, risking. And I mean it. I want all of those things for you – even if your life is already amazing because I believe growing, learning, experimenting and risking will help you continue to build YOUR life, on purpose. With all of that said, however, I’m not completely unaware of the risks involved with ALL of that.

pexels-photo-789555When we change, grow, learn, experiment and risk things can get pretty uncomfortable. They can get uncomfortable for us personally and they can also get pretty uncomfortable for people around us. In fact, the people we spend the most time are the ones MOST likely to get uncomfortable when we change. They have expectations. We have patterns of interaction. There is history. All of that is presumed background at this point and when we change, we disrupt the background, we shake the ground a little, sometimes we even threaten the system.

It is tempting, especially at the system level to just say: “So WHAT?” And I have a good bit of that in my head. If my getting stronger makes it harder to fit me into some system of oppression that someone else is enjoying, so what? Really! I also know, however, that on the more personal level, anticipating how people will react to our change, growth, experimenting and risking can REALLY throw a wrench in our personal development, and oftentimes that wrench is getting thrown because we’re making up a story about what the consequences will be.

Let me make this all a little more concrete. A few years ago I was trying to figure out what my next career move was going to be. I had stayed home with my twins for several years and the more I thought about it, the less reasonable returning to my old job seemed. It kind of made me want to throw up thinking about it, which I usually take as a sign of a bad idea. But THAT had been the plan. I would return to the classroom, with a predictable (if woefully inadequate) salary and summers off so I could take care of the kids. Easy peasy. Except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t easy peasy and it wasn’t right at all. So I knew I had to change. I told my therapist that I couldn’t make a big change like that right now. I couldn’t reconsider my career options. And I meant it – like I really could not, off the table, forget it.

She wisely asked why and I explained that my husband was in the middle of training to make a career shift and therefore I couldn’t do the same right now. “It would be too much change at once” I told her, like this is a commonly known limit – the too much change cap. She gently guided me through that thought and out the other side. I enrolled in life coach training within a month.

heartsickness-lover-s-grief-lovesickness-coupe-50592What I think is interesting is that I had been so busy anticipating that my changing would be a problem, that I didn’t even get specific. It wasn’t until later that I felt out my fears about telling everyone about my decision. It wasn’t until later that I worried about the financial implications of being a brand new entrepreneur. It wasn’t until later that I realized there would have to be some serious domestic rebalancing. And I got afraid of EACH of those pieces. And you know what? NONE of those pieces have actually caused me a real problem. Everything is fine. Nobody judged me (and if they did they kept it to themselves, which I welcome in this day and age). Our household didn’t implode. We’re not starving and the kids are doing fine. None of my stories that kept me standing still in a place that made me want to throw up were true. None of them.

A super smart friend told me that family can be the most difficult place to practice your spiritual awakening. And I think this is true for any change (whether you consider it spiritual or not). We want to belong. We want to be loved. We want to fulfill the roles we’ve been playing because rocking the boat is scary and exhausting. In my experience, most of that trouble – not all, but most – comes from what I’m imagining will happen. The rest of the trouble, well that’s just none of my business.

If you’re looking to rewrite some of your story, change who you are SUPPOSED to be, or combat some of those shoulds, I’ve got a mini book that just might help. How to Rewrite Your Story includes some of my most powerful material on how to change the story that’s in your head so you can change the results you get in the world. Get your free copy and let me know how it’s going.

xo,

julia