In the past eight weeks I’ve spoken at conferences in six states, slept in ten different beds, flown four different airlines, negotiated three different time zones, and lived in two different homes.
Yes, it happened. We finally moved into our new home…
…and a new, multi-generational living arrangement.
For over a year I’ve managed to fit the build project into my schedule. But starting two months ago (unnoticed by me at first) things rapidly morphed into something much bigger
A Perfect Storm of Distractions
It was like I was playing on the beach for two years, and one day the sea calmed and became still. I thought, “everything’s going according to plan.” What I forgot is that just before a tsunami arrives the waters recede, then BAM — you get hit hard and fast and all your attention shifts to staying above water while it just keeps smacking you around.
This metaphor should in no way indicate the move was a disaster–on the contrary, it is a long-anticipated and positive change in my life. But it is a BIG change and a huge distraction. I moved homes, offices, and lifestyle, and I fantastically underestimated the degree and duration of the disruption to my routines in every domain.
Add to that the travel and I was thrown completely off balance by a perfect storm of personal and professional events, and as a result, I have been missing commitments left and right.
Including this newsletter. Thus you’re reading September’s essay in October. Maybe I’m finally catching up!
Forgiveness is hard; and it’s the First Step Forward
My inner Gremlin had a great time beating me up over missed deadlines and broken promises. Then one of my coaches helped me to remember that I am only Human, and I was/am probably judging myself far more harshly than anyone else would!
So I shifted to a place of love and appreciation to notice all that I HAVE accomplished in the past eight weeks. I’ve worked to forgive myself for missing commitments, and now I ask you, my clients, friends, and tribe members, for forgiveness as well. (Thank you in advance.)
22 Ways to Choose Love When Life Comes At You Like a Tsunami
- Get a different perspective. When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, your attention becomes laser focused on the “problem.” Other people have a much wider lens and can help you pull out of your judgment-filled head.
- Forgive yourself. You know that Gremlin that’s always saying “You Idiot?! What were you thinking?” Yes, that’s your own voice, serving as judge and jury to convict you of a ‘crime.’ Geez. Let it go and move forward. Acceptance is a powerful healing emotion.
- Remember that nobody cares about you. No, not like that — it’s just that everyone else is in his or her own head, thinking about her/himself. Most likely, 90% of the “issue” that you’re making of your overwhelm other people don’t even notice.
- Take responsibility, but don’t take the fall. There’s a huge difference between saying “I did/did not do this, I’m sorry” versus “I did this. I am such a horrible/unworthy person!” Distinguish between what you did versus who you are.
- Meet the commitments you can, and challenge the ones you can’t. Ask yourself, “Do I really have to do <this> or am I feeling burdened by it simply because it’s on my list?” Sometimes things fall away once you realize that you’re the only one who knows it needs to be done.
- Renegotiate promises with your self. In what ways might you shrink or shift the deliverable (e.g. 80% is probably good enough)? Does it need to be done Now, or could Later work? To whom might you delegate some/all of it? Who might you ask for help?
- Renegotiate your promises to others. A promise is based on the Conditions of Satisfaction you discussed when the promise was made. Unless they are carved in actual stone tablets, a reasonable partner will re-open the discussion about those conditions — if you ask.
- Pick one thing at a time. If you suffer from Shiny Ball Syndrome (SOS) like I do, you sometimes feel like an over-caffeinated squirrel at a nut festival. Over there! Over there! No, over there! Just stop. Pick. One. Thing. Use a 20-minute timer to keep focus.
- Get help prioritizing. If your task list has expanded into multiple post-it notes and napkin scraps, it’s a sign the SOS is winning. Find a friend or coworker who will give you 15 minutes in exchange for a cup of tea, and talk thru your priorities aloud. Even if your partner says nothing, you’ll end up more organized simply because you had to review your thinking in front of a witness.
- Revisit your gratitude practice. Remember Happiness Principle #9: Pay Attention. When we are on autopilot, life just happens around us. Look. Listen. Notice. The sunset in your own backyard is just as wondrous as the one at the beach. Even when you feel underwater, there is much to be grateful for as long as you still have air in your lungs.
- Focus on what you accomplish versus your task list. If you only go outside at midnight, you might eventually believe there is no sun. But there is, sweet pea — it’s still shining, every day.
- Take a break/step away. I’ve long conducted a short exercise in my stress talks: Pick up an object and hold it at arm’s length. How much does it weigh? A few ounces, maybe? OK, keep holding it up. <…> What do you notice? It gets heavier and heavier the longer you hold it. The learning? When you set it down and rest for a short time, the object returns to its original weight. Same with emotional and intellectual burdens. This is why the gods invented vacations and long weekends – because it will be there when you return, but lighter.
- Remind yourself of this: even if you fail, YOU are not a failure. I’ve coached countless people who were unable to look in a mirror and say, “I love and accept you, unconditionally.” If that describes you, practice standing by the mirror in a grounded, confident body and start with “I like you.”
- Apologize but don’t Catastrophize. What happened; it doesn’t make you an evil or incompetent. Confess that you forgot or got distracted or got overwhelmed, and move on. Other people, you will find, are often far more forgiving than you expect.
- Remember that everything is temporary. This, too, shall pass.
- Keep taking your own oxygen. Exercise your body. Eat food that fuels you. Take time outs. Breathe on Purpose. Read an escapist story. Take a TV break. Or a hot soak in the tub or lunch with a friend or time with a toddler.
- Just be Present. Anxiety only exists in the future. Focus on what you can do in THIS moment or at most the next 20 minutes. You will find at least some of your overwhelm drops away at temporarily and in that space, you can flow rather than fear.
- Get grounded. Stands tall, breathe deeply, and smile. Shifting your body will shift your emotional space.
- Reach out and help someone else with their own challenge. It may not do anything to address what’s on your list, but for a time you can get out of your own story and into a more positive emotional space where you can believe you can make a difference in the world.
- Dance with it. Put on your favorite music work standing up. Or just dance. Really.
- Use the skill of Yes, And. Embrace what comes at you, saying Yes!, then seek ways to build on it. (one example: even as I’ve been living through my most stressed time in 12 years, I’ve been keeping notes — this will make a great essay one day!)
- Choose Love. It’s worth saying this twice. Remember that you are not broken, not a “project” that needs to be fixed. You are whole, creative, wise, capable, and fabulous. Regardless what you do or do not do, you matter to The Universe.
Final note: Happy people are not happy all the time. EVERY emotion has value to help you connect with others, move you forward or keep you from harm, so enjoy them all. The goal is less about constant positivity than it is about knowing HOW TO GET THERE when you need it.
Remember that resilience is a skill. Some people may be born with a bit more of it to start, yet everyone—I’m looking at you!— can learn how to strengthen your resilience muscles by practicing any of the above at any time in your life so that when life really kick your butt, you have the skill set to bounce back.
So that’s my story and my learning to share this month.
Butt: Kicked. Bounce back: In Process.
What’s YOUR Story?