NEW

Dear Strong Woman,

Old ways won’t open new doors.

I’ve been working on a new entry for weeks.  It’s about how I wore shoes that were both cute and too small and how the pain I experienced in my feet is similar to the ways our souls feel pain when we shrink ourselves down for the sake of appearances in relationships.  (Takes a breath.) . It was witty and heartfelt and vulnerable…and laced with self-judgment for the way it’s gone for me in that arena.

So I scrapped it.  I scrapped it because I’m done with that past-based, back-door “I should’ve known better” trap.  Looking to the past to assess patterns in an effort to interrupt them moving forward?  I’m all for it.  But going back there to dig up all of the evidence as to why I am a silly, naive girl who never learns?

I’m not available for that anymore.   

I believe I took a step in breaking up that pattern by choosing to share this here thing I wrote in seven minutes versus the story I’ve been writing for almost two weeks.  It wasn’t hard.  It wasn’t emotional.  It was simply a choice.

Maybe there are more spur-of-the-moment shares like this to come from me.  Maybe more spontaneous decisions in general.  

A voice in my head says, “Yeah, and maybe more living, too.”

I’m not sure where to end this so I’ll end it there.  I’m also not sure if you got anything out of this, and yet I’m more present to what I got of this right now.  I suppose the gift of writing is found more in the process than the final product. 

(There.  You can pull an “enjoy the journey” zinger from that.  My work here is done.)

FACTS

Dear Strong Woman,

Focus on the facts.

I had frustrating pool session this week. (Quick catch-up: I’ve been taking swimming lessons the past few weeks.  I signed up to do a triathlon with my Strong Man this September and I really don’t want to drown.  I also really want to keep dating him, which is why I’m having someone other than him teach me.)

Nothing was working.  I forgot everything I’d learned.  I was clunky in the water.  My breathing was out of wack.  I wanted to quit.  I considered cancelling my upcoming lesson due to my regress rather than progress.  The thought of actually completing the (open-water Atlantic Ocean) swim part of this race became more and more of a pipe dream in my head.

And then it hit me.

OF COURSE this swim was a shit show: I hadn’t been in the pool in five days.

I do this all the time…expect performance without putting in the practice. Last night we split a tray of Grand’s biscuits for dinner, and I still got pissed when I saw the scale moved in the opposite direction this morning.  What is that?!

I think as humans it’s natural for us to let our emotions drive the bus.  That’s why we often don’t do the work that’ll get us closer toward our goals – we don’t feel like it!  And when we don’t see any signs of progress, we let emotion make it a big friggin’ deal. 

It’s too hard.
I’ve just got a lot going on right now. 
Easy for YOU to say.
I’m just not wired that way. 
Those things don’t ever work for me. 

You don’t know me!

But if we focus only on the facts, on what IS rather than what we’re letting it all mean, it deflates that drama cloud.  We go from OH MY GOD LIFE IS SO HARD to Hmmm. How about that.

Shift the way you look at things and the things you look at change, right? Pinterest has a point, friends.

Our best decisions are often what we choose not to get involved with…like our own bullshit stories. 😉

Practice, practice, practice.

PROGRESS

Dear Strong Woman,
 
Perfectionism is blinding.
 
I have a project deadline coming up that has been my driving force this week. Something I thought would take me x hours to complete has proven to be more involved, and with a looming deadline, I gave myself permission to put the rest of my projects on hold. Despite this, the weight of the other things I know I should be doing has stayed with me, leaving me feeling all kinds of not-enough.
 
For example: I have a project around healthy weight loss, and part of my plan includes a daily 30-minute workout that leaves me a sweaty mess. For me that’s either a run or one of the at-home workouts I used to do all the time.
 
I got one and only one run in this week, and that run was the first time I’d worked out in three weeks.
 
Same goes for my book project. I’ve yet to submit a chapter that was due a week ago, and I’ve skipped my two morning writing sessions this week.
 
I was sharing all of this with my coach yesterday, hoping she’d call me out on my bullshit there’s-not-enough-time story. After all, a workout is only 30 minutes! And that chapter is so close to being done!
 
She didn’t. She didn’t give me that c’mon girl, you’ve got this pep talk I wanted. Instead, she asked me questions regarding what forward progress would look like for me this week in all areas, to which perfectionism responded: “It’d look like completing the things I said I’d complete.”
 
This revealed my blind spot. Her question to me was about progress, but all I was focused on were my end goals and the way in which I was straying from plan. Anything outside of my plan meant I wasn’t progressing, resulting in all those weighted shoulds feeling hella heavy.
 
Because I was so focused on the how, I was blind to the ways in which I was progressing on those projects. Sure, I may not have been a sweaty mess this week, but I quadrupled my step count from the week before, and my FitBit registered heart rates high enough during my walks to count them as exercise. Sure, I may not have committed to my scheduled writing sessions, but I did start every day with some journaling.
 
A win is a win, even if it’s not the win you had in mind.
 
 
The breakthrough here is similar to the one I wrote about in last week’s post, and I share that to point out that change takes time. The ways in which we’re wired comes from years and years of doing things a certain way. Undoing that isn’t the result of a flipped switch, but more so an untangling.
 
So patience, my dear. Everything in time. In the meantime, if you’re going to fret over what you haven’t done, be sure to also celebrate what you have done, okay?
 
Progress is progress.
 
Period.

STAY

Dear Strong Woman,

Stay in it.

I’ve come to equate the journey through an intense season of change to a deep tissue massage. You know the experience will be worth it, but as it’s happening I sometimes find that pain almost too uncomfortable to bear.

At first it always feels good, but inevitably the masseuse finds my trouble spots and sets up camp there for a bit. Tapping, kneading, applying pressure. Working out the mess and the tension, what I refer to as “the crunchies” that have built up over time. (Funny, I call the crumble cookie layer on a Dairy Queen ice cream cake this same name.  Though I have a much different relationship with that indulgence.) I have to keep reminding myself to breathe through these moments, telling myself to hold on a little longer, that it’ll all be over soon and I’ll be happy I stayed in it.

Change is like this, too.

I’ve been interviewing recently for a new job, in particular one that would afford me the time and energy to dedicate to my growing coaching practice.  Time with loved ones is important to me, as is my own self-care, and both have been the first to go as I’ve been working a side-hustle on top of a full-time job.  (Perhaps it’s a similar story for you?)  So I made a list: my conditions of satisfaction for whatever came along next.  If what was presented didn’t align with them, then it was a pass. Period.  

And yet, with bills to pay and time ticking away, I could feel the crunchies starting to form.

I interviewed with an organization I really admire.  I feel in alignment with their business model and in good vibration with their people.  But the structure of the position they were looking to fill didn’t match my conditions.  It wasn’t immediate – as courage doesn’t always roar, my friends! – but I found to gumption to risk what was on the table for what I was committed to, for the way I want to do life.  They wanted full-time. I asked for part-time.  They wanted someone for the long haul.  I let them know my goal of running a coaching practice full time in six months.

Doing so left me feeling the same way I do after one of those massages – a little sick. My fears of being able to pay my bills and falling back into debt grew into a giant, crunchy knot in my chest. But I stayed in it, and as I heard myself stating what was necessary for me for me to remain inside the commitment I made, I found myself telling myself the same things: Hold on.  Just a little bit longer.  You’ll be happy you did.

In the end, they still offered me the job! How rewarding it was to take a stand for what I am worth,  what I am creating, and be validated! Finally.

I’m not saying it will always be like this.  In the past, asking for what I needed got me scoffed at, outcasted, and dumped.  As you make a change, this happens.  People will react in this way.  Just remember that these are not your people.  Their opinions of you have no bearing on your self worth.  Sure, they may shake their heads and wonder why, but keep going, dear.  Soon they’ll be wondering how.

The last thing I want to point out is this:  there is fear present in every choice you make. There is a fear that comes with risking what you have, and there’s also a fear of risking what could be.   You just have to decide which is the greater risk.

Just please keep in mind…

No pressure. No diamond.

FIX

Dear Strong Woman,

How many promises to yourself have you broken?

I’ve set a few goals for myself.  I’m talking the serious from x to y by when, reversely-engineered, this-IS-happening kind of goals. I have specific action steps, scheduled time to take action on said steps, and a compelling vision driving it all.

And yet, I’m slacking.

Not stalling.  Not backsliding. Just…taking…a little more time…than originally planned.

While I sit here and remind myself  that “baby steps are still steps” and “slow progress is better than no progress”…I can’t tell if I’m giving myself grace or giving in to excuses.

How do you know when to call bullshit on yourself?

Most of the time, my gut tells me exactly when that is.  I know the answer by a feeling, before I can even put words to that feeling.  It’s that still small voice.  That tugged upon heart-string.  That potential ping of regret.

But what if you feel none of that?  What if your go-to bullshit meter isn’t sounding the alarm here?  Is it broken?

Or does the lack of alarm set off a bigger siren?

Example #1:
While I’ve scheduled in time on my calendar to work towards these goals, your girl is t-i-r-e-d.  I set alarms.  I read my vision statements at night.  I tell myself all the “I AM” statements to get me pumped about taking an action other than pressing snooze. But when the time comes for me to wake up and turn those dreams into reality, I often pull a solid Rosa Parks:

“Nah.”

I literally just don’t feel like it. This results in the back-and-forth finger-shaking in my head where things like “Discipline is showing up even when you don’t feel like it” and “Listen to your body. Learn to rest, not to quit” try to duke it out for which is the right mantra in this moment…and I’m pretty much over the Pinterest Quote war going on in my head.

I mean, which is it?

Example #2:
Yesterday.  Intention was to workout before work due to an evening work event.  Reality was waking up so late that I had to forego hair washing. (As one does.) But, upside! I find out I don’t have to stay for the entire work event, leaving me time to actually get that missed workout in.  Intention was to do just that.  Reality was getting invited to watch Anders serve as a test patient for his brother’s upcoming physical exam evaluation.  To be crystal clear: big brother agreed to let little brother poke and prod him for an hour.  Can you not see the opportunity for childhood retribution here?  Can you see why I didn’t decline the opportunity to observe? How often to moments like this happen? (Hopefully once more since I failed to make popcorn.)

Time spent with family is worth every second, right?  Was this merely a perfectly opportune excuse, or an appropriate hall pass for me to skip doing the thing I said I was going to do?

This constant battle over what’s right or wrong…I think I finally came up with an answer.

I. Don’t. Know.

I don’t know…and that’s okay.

I don’t need to know the answer.

“But wait! Yes, you do! How else are you going to figure out what’s wrong?”  Perhaps that’s your question. It was the question a previous me not only asked, but clung to like those spiderwebs you accidentally walk through.

I needed to know so that I would know what to fix.

But friends, I ask you:
What if there is nothing to fix?

What if instead of focusing on getting this whole thing “right” we focused on making the next right move in the moment at hand?

A plan is GREAT.  (I’ve got all the planners to prove it!) Make them. Follow them. They’ll keep you facing due north.

But don’t be so focused on getting to your destination that you fail to take in your surroundings.  Embrace the journey, even if it isn’t the most efficient path.  Take the scenic route.  Lean into the curves of the pavement.

It’s the winding backroads where our strength story is born.