Who’s to say what is right for you? I am learning that all of these lessons we learn along the way are simply ingredients to a classic recipe that we bake to represent our lives. The brands that work for us. The regimens that give us wellness. The jobs that bring satisfaction and reward. The friends that give as much as they take. Respect for our wants, likes, and dislikes is a way to define our lives.
With so many “rules for life” on the shelves and in our ears it is important to remember that what works for us is simply that “about us”. All of those “rules”, recommendations and regimes are not a “one size fits all” and it is our attention to pay to bring with us what works and leave the rest.
As relative as the choice is the time in making those decisions. Time is inevitably what we cannot get back. Time is ticking and wasted in every “second” thought. When you know what works, work it. Don’t contemplate it. Don’t do “it” again and again and again to simply return to the place where you knew it all along. Don’t let others’ contemplation of the “thing” you have already resolved to pressure you into re-contemplation. It steals away the time you should be practicing what you know or learning something entirely new.
Equally important is before starting something new make sure you have gotten everything out of the current effort with full resolve. We start new when the current path is taking too long or seems too hard, knowing that we will have to return to it. That path now looms over us as unfinished business taking the joy away from the new venture, path, or effort. Resolve it, don’t return to it.
What are your mid-year resolutions? Are you resolving to finish your New Years Resolutions? What is the unfinished business and what has already been deemed as “resolved”? Define it and allow those decisions that need to be made to be given the focus deserved by saving time on all that has already been decided. Resolve to leave resolved the decisions already made; that is true respect of your time.
How do we stop the chase? We start it almost from birth. We are motivated to chase development as we enter this world, benchmarked against other babies, toddlers and children until our physicality has reached its peak. The chase then changes lanes to the mental capacity of knowledge as we learn and are tested via “standardized” benchmarks to determine where we sit amongst the pack and which then determines where we head to next; job, tech school, or college. For what? All to steep us for the chase that will begin when standing on our own two feet. The chase to be like others our age or better and long for what others want; regardless of our ability or means.
This dreadmill of the chase goes on for years; through our twenties, thirties, and into our forties before we are faced with fifty. To most, we hope that it is midlife, but we cannot know. We look at where we are in this moment after 50 years of chasing and find ourselves stopped, facing our new reality and wondering what is next and worse than wondering is why we should, could, or would do anything more.
This leaves us pondering the state of being versus doing. After all, once you consider stopping the chase there is no more doing. So where does that leave us? To be or not to be…that is the next question! The chase exhausts us yet when we stop we do not recover we reconsider. We feel guilty for not chasing. We feel lost on a path so worn that the path is now a hole we have dug ourselves into and you cannot chase if you don’t climb, if you don’t climb does this become the end?
The real deal is that we spend so many years chasing, climbing ladders, and proving the ground we stand on that when it is time to stop and enjoy the view we can’t see straight. At what point have we put in the time to be absolved of the work and enjoy the reward. There is no sign that appears that says you have now “Arrived”. Arrival is where the chase ends.
Ironic as it may be the chase ends at the start line of a new beginning. It does not require training because the work has been done and now the cruise control can be “set”. The funny thing about cruising is that it does not require anything more than what you have already learned and now have the resources to do; which is to be. You don’t apply the gas and yet you don’t put on the brakes. You cruise.
So here we sit, those of us at the FINISH LINE of a race well done, trained for, and accomplished. We may have a few medals around our neck even if just for participation. Now is the time to sit back and relish in the reward of all that was accomplished along the way. The learnings, the failures, and most of all the wins only made greater by the embellishment of storytelling. For here is where wisdom begins. We have earned the right of wisdom by stopping the chase. Regardless of the lessons learned, wisdom is all of ours to share for at this point in life there are no benchmarks, tests, or ladders to climb.
Overwhelmed without a plan to decide everything! Here is how I am overcoming “overwhelmed”.
Wow, I pulled up this my treasured blog and realizing that it has been two months since I wrote anything and then realized that the final blog post was on my mom’s anniversary of her passing, more than two months ago. Isn’t that profound. Yet again another ending. But it is not. Here I am back writing. Back to making the time to explore the creative outlet that I embrace as a passion, secretly and yet through my medium publicly here for the world to read or disregard.
As I start writing today I asked myself “Where have you been?” Busy? Distracted? Overwhelmed? Yes, that last word…overwhelmed! I have used this word more times in the last week than I have ever. I have literally buried myself in To Do’s, deadlines, pressures, and commitments that have all but taken over my life. And before the assumption can be made I am reminded that it is not all from my work/career. There are as many personal To Do’s, deadlines, and pressures in my “personal life” than in my “work-life”. What I am realizing in hindsight is that those routines, those things that I was doing to keep it all in check got abandoned in the last two months because I was “too busy” not realizing that the sheer abandonment of those things would be my undoing. Overwhelmed is a state of being when my life has taken me, prisoner, because I have relinquished control. I allow all of the outside pressures to creep in so far that they determine my sleep schedule, take away my time to write or read, and ultimately take over. I fool myself into believing that I don’t have time…when in reality I have the same time I had two months ago, I am just spending it differently.
Realization is key here because it was the moment that I was realizing that I gave up this control that everything became overwhelming. And it was in that realization that I got up and decided to take control back. How? Through deciding. Deciding what I will do when I will do it and with who and how. Boom. I have preached so many times in my life to others the power to decide and that ultimately YOU DECIDE always what is yours. Regardless of how it manifests or plays out in front of you; that you are “there” is your decision. These are lessons I have always known and yet forget to deploy when the going gets tough.
Time Blocking — Schedule in the non-negotiables to see what time is left in your day
The first place to take it back was in first divvying up my time. Time is the factor, time is where I am losing the fight. I took the time to sit down and look at a blank calendar, of one 7-day week. I then started dividing it up into those non-negotiables and crossed out the time allotted for work and the time allotted for sleep. Okay, now what is left. WHOA!!! The big realization here is why I feel overwhelmed! On any given weekday I only have four hours that are unidentified; two before work and two after work. Those four hours are the same four I need to get ready to start and end my day. That became the first real perspective in the exercise I was taking on. It is no wonder I am overwhelmed because what I am trying to accomplish in four hours cannot be done in eight! It is unrealistic. So I continued to fill-in my calendar with time to read, write, get ready, make dinner, workout, etc. Perspective was key here as I could feel a weight lifting in realizing that I was not overwhelmed I was overcommitted. I then moved into the weekend where time is more forgiving and made sure to play out those things that are key to my quality of life (aka sanity) so that the lack of routine on a weekend did not derail me. Voila, here I am back reading, writing, and enjoying a peaceful morning…two months later.
Routines — Create Auto-Pilot Decisions to allow room for the “real” decisions to be made
The second place I had to go to shake the “overwhelm” off was in my decisions. Ironically after working to “right-side” this world of mine, I read an article on Medium that summed it all up, “These Micro-Habits Gave me 1 Hour per Day Back” by Tim Denning. It was a reiteration of everything I had done that day and this next piece which was “auto-deciding”. Tim calls it “Create Auto-Pilot Decisions” in the article. There have to be things that you can put on auto-pilot in your life so everything does not require a decision because decisions take effort and energy. For me, I have put my schedule on auto-pilot after writing it out and it now directs me on where I need to be and when without me having to give the energy of thought or decision. I also put my meal plan on auto-pilot, because like most humans, I eat the same thing daily. Not having to come up with a new meal plan every day or at the moment leaves one less decision. I recall hearing that Steve Jobs, Simon Cowell, and Mark Zuckerberg also put on auto-pilot their wardrobes. They found a look that works for them and that is what they wore every single day. Not having to make that decision every morning left energy to be used in a place that could be more productive and likely in their cases more defining.
Be flexible and realistic — Nothing ever goes as planned
Now that the structure has been laid out it is time to simply follow it, or is it really that simple. I love the quote “We plan and God laughs” because nothing is more true. A plan is a great way to architect your life however as our days unfold and priorities shift so must our “plan”. Don’t allow your plan to be yet another stressor and don’t abandon the plan because of unforeseen stressors. Simply following the plan when things are “on track” will give you the “room” or energy needed when things go off-plan. Being flexible and realistic is what makes it work not to be able to stay on the plan stringently. This week I stayed close to the plan but not tied to it. The fact that I had a plan gave me the structure and forgiveness in those things that took me off course to remember that they are one-offs and not the norm. Sometimes just realizing that one-offs are just that…one-off…is all the resolve we need as we are more forgiving of the distraction.
Last and most important now is just doing it. You can set the greatest plan in motion however if you never execute it is simply a plan. Plans don’t define us, they don’t amount to anything more than an intention or a great idea. When you put a plan in motion, well now you are moving in a direction. Right, wrong, or indifferent is irrelevant! The fact that you are “in motion” is enough.
I have the most overactive brain of anyone that I know. I am thinking all the time constantly going over and over every conversation, every emotion, every thought, every relationship, every bite of every food, everything!!! Nothing goes on without me overthinking the crap out of it!!! I am not certain where this comes from as I come from two human beings that never thought about what they were doing on the forefront let alone ever thought about it again.
I credit my overactive thought process for much of the success in my life and maybe for a bit of the failure. As I do I was sitting here thinking about my thoughts; if that is not an oxymoron I am not sure what is…but I digress. The first thought that came to mind was the question, “Is everything that happens in our life because of our parents?” The answer comes quickly that this cannot be the case as many people grow up without parents. Is the question then “Is everything that happens in our life formed by childhood?” If that is the case at what point do you own the responsibility?
I think about my spending habits and are quick to blame them on my Dad because my Mom was the most frugal person I have ever known. In reality, when I test this theory I realize that while I am “giving” like my Dad I am far more frivolous…maybe. Ha! Overthought but ultimately I own it. I love to spend money…guilty as charged.
I think about my children and watching them live out their lives and feel a bit of karma coming back on me as I see their choices and know they were not defined by their parents! That is not to say that they cannot place blame on us as their perception of where their character traits come from is theirs to decide…I guess?!
Ultimately I am not over-defining life I am overthinking it. Two very different things. Blaming my spending habits on my Dad is defining not thought-provoking. The overactive thought process has more to do with a constant dialogue in my brain that questions every move I make. I am rethinking conversations, wondering if I said enough or too much. For goodness sake, while I am in the conversation I am thinking about whether to stay silent, speak up or interrupt and then immediately as I take that action, I am rethinking if I should have…? Exhausting? Yes!
My actions are thought-provoking as well. Do it or don’t, should I or shouldn’t…decision made…regrets?? Nothing is done accidentally or maybe it is. Ha!! Made you dizzy yet? This is my brain, not on crack but cracking up, certifiably CRAZY.
When I came out with my first prompt journal, Seeking Normal, I sent my Dad a copy. I was proud to have published something even if it was a series of prompts and self-published (not diminishing, just stating facts) and wanted him to have it in hand. When he saw it the first thing he said was “you think too much”…what…wait…this is your “take” on my craft, hobby, seemingly greatest accomplishment outside of my career…what the heck? I think too much!!!, that is all you have for me? In defense I came back with “Maybe you don’t think enough”…but then again I already know that about him. Ha!! In defense of my Dad he is not the first nor the last to say this to me as I have heard it from my children and husband many times before and again in all cases, I am fine with it. I don’t wear it as the badge of shame that it is intended but instead as the badge of honor that I do. It is who I am for goodness sake.
While this topic can be quite comical it has its tragedy. The entire addiction that I suffer from in food is cemented in overthought. It is through the overwhelming processes I have put upon myself in overthinking every single bite, drink, and workout that manifested itself into enormous dysfunction. It is only of late that I am finally getting to a place where I can distinguish the need to eat by true cues from my body and not from my mind that is on overdrive on when, where, and how I eat.
In most areas of my life, the overactive thought process does not hold me back or hinder me as I am decisive and active in my approach however the backlash of those thoughts can be exhausting. It elicits a “do” approach rather than a “be” and in that I find my thoughts to be relentless. Again as all things in life, this can be both good and bad however in being both, it is exhausting.
My favorite “game” to play with my husband is to randomly ask at any moment in time “What are you thinking about right now?”…and his inevitable response always being “Nothing”. I envy the idea that nothing can or could be on his mind at any time. How is that possible?? I can’t drive down the road without thinking about what is in the woods beside the road, if the road is bumpy and why it is so; and he thinks of nothing?!?! What must that sound like…quiet, peace, or an enormous void? Dang…give me a minute of that any day. Funny enough he rarely asks me the same question! I think he likely does not want to know what I am thinking…and I cannot blame him. What is ironic is that when he does ask, I typically cannot articulate it in those moments. It is the look on my face that elicits those moments that he asks…smart man…he knows I am perplexed and won’t be able to explain it.
In all fairness and in conclusion, I remedy this overthought by starting every single day with journaling anything and everything on my mind, as a way of clearing my mind. I learned this from a previous therapist and most recently from author Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artists Way”. You just write, anything that comes to mind without re-reading, just write. It works for me. It is far more effective than meditation as you cannot imagine the civil war in trying to meditate with an overactive brain!!! If you have an overactive mind, welcome to the club and if you are blessed with silence then embrace it. For me, it is who I am and all I know to be. I will continue to think on it relentlessly! 🙂
Silence. The word elicits a response regardless of the emotion. When said out loud in exclamation it will quiet a room. When said in a whisper it will quiet the brain. It is something we long for and in other times something we run from. It is a word, a state of being, an emotion, it is powerful.
I have been longing for silence in its many forms for years. I long for it in my brain that is overactive and relentless at times. I long for it in my day to simply get away from the chatter of life. I long for it in my demeanor to provide restraint in my personality and sometimes I long for it after too much has been said.
The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.
The quote from Paulo Coelho sums it up. Be what you want the world to see. Don’t state it, don’t talk about it, just be. If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be successful, succeed. Stop talking about it, do it. In my case, I aim to stop talking. Not in the literal sense but I find that my conversations tend to be on repeat. I say the same things I said before, I state the same goals, themes, opinions…yes opinions…but why? Am I convincing myself or others? I feel confined in these conversations that are on repeat and offer little in the drive to move forward, or even sit still, they hold me back and keep me in a place that is meant to be left behind.
By practicing silence we can resolve those things that nag at us, define us, and create angst. By practicing silence we get the gift of taking in more around us; hearing, listening, and simply being. It is when we stop announcing what we will do that we actually become.
No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.
Agnes De Mille
When I think back to the most impactful times of my life they were decisions that were made internally. They needed no external support. When I think about it, it rings so true, it is only those things that you are not resolved in that you put out for the world to weigh-in on. Those things that you KNOW and do not question you DO without applause, accolades, or validation. When I made the decision to change my life or better said every time I have made the decision to change my life, I did not ask, I did not state it, I just did it. I did it because I did not want anyone to thwart my efforts or convince me otherwise. There is not one of those life-changing decisions that I regret. This is to say there is great resolve in silence.
A close friend of mine once told me that she learned the most about silence from a mentor who when in the Boardroom would say very little, however when he spoke, the room would hush and all ears would be on him. Everyone knew that when he chose to speak, he would bring value, he would bring wisdom, and that power in his silence spoke volumes in his contemplation that was as loud as his voice. I long to be this man.
As I fall silent on this blog, I think about how to put this into practice as it is not as simple as just not speaking, that is not silence, that is something else entirely. The silence I hope to explore is what I believe it is to be wise. To allow others to share their experiences without you adding on. To allow others to try it their way if you know it will create the same result or better yet if it will cause no harm and instead stands to serve as a lesson.
The silence I hope to create for myself is to find my own resolve that will lead to contentment. The silence I hope to create will make me MORE not less; allowing me to shut down one “sense” to peak the others. The silence I hope to create will allow me to accept more, resist less, and resolve.
Iyanla Vinzant states, “There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of your that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.”
What emotions does this statement evoke? What feels normal to you?
This is a very fair question as we all know people that need to stay “in it”. Those people do not want a solution, they do not want to be saved they want to be the victim of whatever holds them down as that also defines their lives. We all know someone that despite being given solutions decides to stay in a bad situation. Hopefully we are not that person but upon further thought I guess we all are in some regard. I think of the things that I tolerate in my world that others would not and how my life could be better if I would only require change in those areas.
What feels normal is always finding solutions for others and then becoming resentful when they won’t accept that solution. This does not make those people right or wrong it simply explains the angst that I cause myself and the realization that I need to solve for myself, for my life and leave the rest behind. This is always easier to state than to do. It means I have to get uncomfortable with the things that require my effort or push those around me. Instead I find myself making excuses for myself and those around me to explain why we don’t do better or expect more.
Well there is the truth. Straight from my thoughts on to paper, unedited. It is not a “realization” for me as I have always known it. I know what I do, I know what my excuses are, I know what I need to do and I do still make a choice on what I will and won’t direct in my own life. What are those things that do not serve you well that you don’t change? Why?
How do you change your normal? Experiences? Role Models? Do you want to change it? Do you need to?
How can you know these will change your normal for the better?
Was there a time you sought or made a change that you realized was NOT for the better?
I change my normal by researching or observing a normal that I admire and want to replicate. I search out those experiences that I can immerse myself in to go as deep as I choose to dive-in. I attempt to replicate those role models that I identify in my life as inspiration. Sometimes that inspiration is something I choose to hold high and admire rather than replicate and knowing the difference is only mine to decide.
Asking if I want to change and if I need to is about exploring if it makes a change for the better that is worth the effort. I have struggled with this most with my diet and exercise programs where I am always likely to go too deep. When I am longing for results and discipline I set rules and expectations of myself that are stringent however when I have to live by those rules I realize that that this is not the normal that I envisioned.
I think we have proven through this pandemic that enforcing a new normal is a much greater effort mentally than physically. We have been forced to change our ways physically; do not touch, stay away from each other, stay home, don’t go to work…all physical limitations however the effect of the physical has been a mental toll that is challenging.
While we will not change for the future those things that did not offer value we will be challenged to embrace those that did. I am reminded of the times during the hurricanes when without electricity our family came together to play games and read together. While we appreciated the togetherness when the lights came back on, we went back to our individual corners of life.
What will you change? Why will you change it? More importantly what part of “normal” that was will you be happy to return to in the future??
We perceive “normal” in the context of our own experiences. Someone who grew up with domestic abuse thinks that’s normal until someone who experienced a life without abuse shows you that the state you are in is not “normal”.
What about your normal have you come to realize isn’t or wasn’t “normal”?
This prompt is too similar to ones before identifying the fact that normal for everyone of us is about our current condition, state or environment. What one calls normal another calls strange. The real-deal is living the life you want to live, how you want to live it and owning it. That does not mean that you are subscribing to norms or defined by anyone else’s normal it means that you ultimately decide what you want, how you want it and go get it.
It is our human experience and sharing those experiences that can create new norms for each other. It is sharing what we “know better” to those suffering unnecessary circumstances to help pull each other, not only out of a situation but one entire step up in your own life and others.
It doesn’t always have to be a tragic event. In my case I am finding a writer inside of me that years ago I did not know existed and then when exploring this new passion and coming to know other writers that make me realize that writing and being a writer is a norm for others. This realization means that it can also be a norm for me. I just have to give it the time.
Every single blog post has one common theme and denominator; YOU DECIDE. Every single cell in our bodies and moment in our lives exists because of a decision we made to eat, exercise or not, go to the party or not, welcome a new friend or not…it is all about decisions that we make along the way. If you are accepting a normal that is not serving you, you are deciding to live in that unfortunate state and likewise you can decide to change it. You decide.
T.D. Jakes notes, “If what you see modeled in front of you is in any way deformed or deranged your concept of normalcy is defined by what you see. It is hard to be what you have not seen.”
If you believe this then how can you change your normal? Can you rise above a level-set of normal that is not modeled but dreamt of?
I lived this but so did everyone else because our normal, as defined in our lives, was all we knew and it was only when there was something to compare against that you would be able to know something different. I lived this and have chosen a completely different path than what I knew. The start of what I changed was based on what I was able to identify as in-reach but as I have moved into different paths I have hindsight on what it could have been. While I cannot go backwards I am taking that new information to shape the world of my children and grandchildren.
The first recollection of a variation of normal for me was the idea of college. Both of my parents had attended a community college but never finished and ultimately were not in jobs that were the benefit of a formal education. My mom was a secretary and my dad a construction worker. The irony of my story is that in hindsight I think that I have benefited greatly from their careers as I have insane organization skills, learned by my mother who was the assistant to a CEO for years. As for my father, he is a dreamer which makes him a successful builder, able to bring a customer’s vision to life. It was in that learn of dreaming big that I have been able to manifest a life that I could only dream of one day and realized as a surprise once achieved.
Back to the point of college, it was not something talked about in my home or actively pursued as I was moving through high school. I only learned that it might be a consideration as I saw my high school friends considering their options. Back to the point of “normal”, my circle of friends, that would again define my normal, were in similar families and never did I recall conversations about going away to college. Our options after high school, as I recall, were finding a good job or going to our local community college. Ultimately we have all ended up in great careers however none of it through traditional norms. In some ways, I feel greater pride as our efforts were greater and therefore intentional.
This is a great thought-provoking prompt. I am still learning from other people’s norms and through the internet learning how to employ disciplines and practices into my own life. I am a life-long learner and thrive on learning new things and succeed in making those my own reality. What kind of normal defines your original knowledge of normal versus what you have since created in your own life?
Gary Kiel (my super-handsome spouse) says normal is whatever is the middle in the group of people you are with at that moment. Normal resides in the middle of two extremes and can change based on the group dynamic.
What group best defines your normal?
This is a great prompt and so very true. I have had so many variations of normal in my life and most, it not all, were based on the group of people that I surrounded myself with in that moment. When I am with my work colleagues we share a normal based on the common denominator of the company we work for and in that “normal” is defined as the shared experiences we have within that company. Other industry colleagues might have similar experiences but are different than our normal based on company cultures.
It is interesting as well when we join new groups and are introduced to new norms that we are not familiar. When I joined OrangeTheory a couple of years ago I was surprised at the normal as defined by many of the patrons that would go every single day. That was an admirable normal,as my body was too sore to go every single day, but those that were doing it were handsomely rewarded in the results.
Now is the time, before we “go back” to whatever we considered normal before the pandemic to determine if that is the normal you want to live in or if there is a “new” normal that you have decided to relate to in the future. In my case, I have slipped back into some of the “old” norms that did not serve me well in a previous life and as I sit here this morning I vow to leave those “old” norms behind and get back into those “new” norms that have served me well in the last five years.