wine glasses

Choosing Not to Numb

Over the past 30 years, I have been working to improve myself. For 10 years, I have shared this growth, ideas, and hopefully support through these posts. My self-growth focus started out around making work better. How do I make work less stressful? How do I find work-life balance? How do I learn what I really want and release what I think is expected of me? As I learned to manage my work better, I began to uncover and explore more deeply the seat and cause of my pain. How did my thinking and expectations cause me pain? Where else should I focus to find relief and happiness? How is the desire to be perfect hurting not helping me?

As I lost layers of perfectionism and workaholism, I realized they were not the problem. My expectation I should be perfect and my using work to create my self-worth were tools. I used these tools to avoid my feelings. I used them to avoid being hurt. As I released these tools, it made me vulnerable. Without the safety net of perfectionism and focusing on work, I felt fear, insecurity, and sadness at levels I had never before. And I couldn’t handle it. I unconsciously reached for new tools – Candy Crush, tacos, and cucumber jalapeño margaritas – to once again numb the intensity of these feelings.

I’m not alone in having a desire to numb vulnerability. Brené Brown shares how as a society, “we are the most addicted, the most medicated, obese and in debt adult cohort in human history.” Life can be difficult, and it is understandable to reach for something to take the pain away. What Brené Brown has found though, is that we can not choose what we numb. We can’t just numb the bad things, the pain, the worry, the sadness, the fear. When we numb those things, we also numb our experience of joy, love, and all the beauty life has to offer.

I decided if I was going to truly practice what I believe, I had to live fully with the good and the bad. If I was going to truly live, I needed to embrace vulnerability. The first step was to release my numbing tools. I cut down on social media and mindless electronic games. I learned how to eat when I was hungry, not when I was sad. I stopped drinking alcohol and this July it will be one year without an adult beverage. Giving up drinking was an interesting experience. I had not realized how much I had depended on alcohol as a crutch. A long day at work? A glass of wine will help me relax. Feeling alone because my husband is working late? I can always make a friend at the local bar. Anxious about the next storm? Mix up a batch of margaritas for a hurricane party!  In becoming sober, I learned that alcohol was not giving me what I wanted. All it was doing was numbing my emotions and keeping me from living fully.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Without these numbing tools, I had to find a new way to live. I reached back to inspirational books and daily reflections. I brought meditation back as a daily practice. I focused on gratitude throughout the day. I found others to serve and be supported by. And I stopped hiding from emotions. Instead of ignoring or numbing them, I explored them. Why were they there? Where they true or a construct of my mind? Were they serving me? This phase of my journey has not always been easy. Masking the pain was the easy way out. Facing my beliefs and emotions has not always been pretty or joyful, but it has been very rewarding.

I feel a freedom I have not in years, if ever. In honesty and vulnerability, I have deepened relationships with others and myself. I have found courage to address conflicts instead of hiding from them. And I am embracing life to the fullest. By stopping numbing the bad, I can fully feel the good.

What tools do you use to numb? What are you hiding from? What would your life be like if you embraced the totality of life?

embracing the journey

The Journey

Lately I find myself yet again being consumed by responsibilities. My day job. Writing blogs. Trying to write a second book. Supporting my husband’s business. Rental property issues. Supporting others. My checklist has grown, and my happiness has diminished. I am not complaining. I have chosen to be involved with everything on my plate and, for the most part, I enjoy the things to which I have committed.  My challenge is that when the “doing” is first, foremost and only, the rest of my life begins to fade away. It is not the work that is the issue. It is making the work a priority over living which is the cause of my unhappiness.

I wake up early in the morning, not because I excited for a new day, but because a litany of problems to solve and things to do replay in my mind. I am not truly connecting with those I love, because I am distracted by trying to solve an issue. I am not in the moment because I am planning what I need to do next. I am not stopping to smell the flowers because I feel compelled to complete the next task. I am not enjoying connection with others because I am focused on the project, not their feelings. And I am unhappy.

As usual, the things I am concerned about have not happened yet, may not need to be resolved, or may not need to be resolved by me. Yet I am taking myself out of my life and concentrating on issues that are either not really issues or are not really important in the scheme of things. Somewhere, somehow I learned and believe that life is about responsibilities, accomplishments, making things happen. Over the years, I have been trying to accept and embrace a new belief.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I am coming to believe and fully embrace that life is just about experiencing. Learning to accept life on life’s terms. Releasing any meaning, judgment and expectations I have. To just truly be. To release my desires and simply experience what comes to me. To see an experience for what it is, not what I interpret it to mean or what I would have preferred it to be.

Alan Watts shares this as the Chinese concept of purposelessness. Purposelessness is not a negative. Purposelessness is just being. Purposeless removes the meaning. Purposelessness removes the focus on the outcome. Purposeless is simply being. It is The Power of Now that Eckhardt Tolle talks about. It is the enlightenment Michael A. Singer writes about in The Untethered Soul. My friend Dave Werhane sums it up well, “When I accept that my life is truly a journey, then there is no reason to do anything solely as a means to an end.” Let’s stop looking for the meaning, for the result, for the conclusion. Let’s stop worrying about results, fixing things, trying to accomplish things. Let’s stop labeling things, judging them, trying to uncover their meaning.

Instead let’s be, truly – deeply – solely be, in each and every moment. Let’s experience. Let’s let colors and sounds and tastes and touch wash over us. Let’s do what we are driven to do, not what we think we have to or should do. Let’s create to create. Let’s get out of our minds and be fully in the moment experiencing with all our senses. The deepest sense of peace, well-being, and love have always been experienced when I let go of my mental monkey chatter and allow my full consciousness to be in the moment.  

When do you feel most trapped? When do you experience unhappiness? If you are like me, it is when you are trapped in your mind replaying the past or worrying about the future. Try to find time each day to be in the moment without your thoughts. Remove your regret or anger of what happened. Stop playing mental scenarios of what could be. Be. Here. Now. Enjoy the journey!

cat in the house

Stop Chasing the Cat

My husband and I have been adopted by a street cat lovingly called Blanca. We now leave her food and water as she demands. For the most part, she sits adorably on the front porch until I serve her the “right” breakfast. She is very sweet and would love to become a house cat, but my allergies will not allow it. Blanca does not quite understand this and often sneaks into the house every chance she gets.

This week I was bringing in two water cooler jugs as Blanca sat patiently on the front porch amused by the little gringa struggling with the large blue containers. Then she spotted her opportunity and darted into the house and down the stairs. I followed her and closed all the bedroom doors to keep her range of access to a minimum and then went upstairs to store the water jugs.

I could have chased Blanca around the house to try to get her out. In the past, I tried this. The result is she finds the smallest, lowest, tightest space she can and barricades herself in there. No way to reach her. No way to get her out. Frustration and anxiety all around.

Blanca en la casa

Now, I leave her be. I go about my business and ignore her. Eventually she finds a nice space to lie down, usually in the open and near me. I can then pet her and say soothing words, then scoop her up and remove her from the house. Angrily chasing her around the house does not remove her. Accepting then lovingly approaching her does.

So it is with our crazy monkey mind. If we are triggered and immediately run headlong into our story, it grows, fights back, hides, and makes us frustrated that we can not remove it. If we quietly notice, “oh, there it goes again,” accept that we are feeling an emotion but don’t feed it, the power of the crazy mind diminishes, and we can lovingly remove it.

This week I was triggered. I had a long day at work. I love my work but due to the intense emotional nature of it, I can only do so many hours. In addition, I spoke with my manager about a new procedure to review our work. “New” and “review” can be terrifying words even if we know our work is positive. Then I learned that the invoices I put into the Mexican government database were wrong and I’d have to redo them, in Spanish and on a confusing non-user-friendly website. And now because my day job went long, I wasn’t prepared for a talk I was to give that evening. Monkey mind ensued.

Stress kicked in. My mind got fuzzy. I was focusing on the pain and anxiety of these issues not the solution to them. I was uncertain what to do next about the invoices and the talk. I was chasing the cat. I was trying to make the pain of the emotion go away which just made the pain of the emotion grow.

Thankfully, I stopped. I gave myself a time out. I meditated best I could. I went to the talk and instead of having a polished presentation, I spoke from the heart about my experience that day. Later I took a walk to clear my head. The result is that the emotional pain was removed, and I could think more clearly and act more efficiently.

Where and when do you “chase the cat”? What would it look and feel like if you stepped away from the emotion, anxiety and fear for just a little bit? How do you feel about letting go to gain control?

dancing

Lead with the Yes

Almost every day, I discuss an upcoming interview with a client. Often the job seeker is concerned they don’t have the skills or experience the employer is looking for and because of this concern, they lead with a negative in their answers. When asked if they have Lotus Notes experience, the candidate might say, “No I don’t.” It really doesn’t matter what they say afterwards because the interviewer has heard “no” and has probably written them off. A better response is, “I have extensive Excel experience which is very close to the Lotus Notes program.” When candidates lead with the no, “I don’t have X” or “it has been a long time since I used Y” employers hear no and move on. What I coach them to do is lead with the “yes.” I help them find the positive truthful statement they can start with to make the “no” a little less impactful.

If you listen to politicians, they are well skilled at this. If the politician doesn’t have a positive response to a question, they are usually very adept at deflecting a question. They will answer with what they want to say or an adjacent positive, before (if ever) addressing the initial question. Over the years, I have become pretty good at coaching others how to lead with the positive because I spent years doing marketing copy. If consumers want what is not the strength of the product, I can spin the marketing copy to promote and focus on what the product can do. I think the first time I learned to deflect and focus on the positive was in the first and only musical I was in. I was supposed to be behind the scenes at a summer stock theatre, but they needed more people in the cast. Choreographed dancing is not my thing. What I learned was to have a huge smile, so the audience was drawn to my face and not my feet.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

What I notice with many job-seeking and other clients, is a tendency to put themselves down. They are focused on the negative; focused on what they don’t have. Focused on where they are lacking. Because they don’t have self-confidence, because they are concerned about their abilities, they can’t see the good and what they bring to the table. In job interviews, this is detrimental because if we can’t speak about how we can help a company, how will the potential employer know? In life, if we only focus on those things we don’t like about ourselves or think are lacking, where is our joy and our drive?

I used to be the queen of self-depreciating humor. I am not sure if it came about because I did not approve of myself or because I didn’t want the attention, but I would jump at the chance to put myself down. The result is that I never felt good about myself and other people never learned about the amazing things that I can do. Leading with the yes, sharing your gifts is not about putting yourself above someone else. It is about keeping you from degrading yourself and your abilities. It is not prideful boasting. It is simply reporting the truth.

As you go about your day, notice where you degrade yourself. Where do you put yourself down? How do you keep from sharing your light from others? How would your day and experience change if you simply accepted and reported how wonderful you are? Can you lead with the yes?

Emotions and Health

In my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop Doing Life and Start Living It, I share how I found relief to chronic physical issues, by uncovering and rectifying mental and emotional issues. In my early 30’s, I experienced various physical issues from constant pain and tension to low immune functions and digestion issues. I thought I had some undiagnosable illness. What I discovered was the root of the illness did not occur in my body, but in my mind. It was my being in the wrong profession with the wrong goals for life that were the triggers for the physical symptoms I experienced.

During this time, I learned about Louise Hay who wrote the book, You Can Heal Your Life. I found this book to be eye-opening and the companion book, Heal Your Body A-Z, to be a go-to resource. Ms. Hay’s premise is that “What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by our thoughts and our feelings. The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.” Two notes here.

First, I do not share this to blame or shame you into thinking you are responsible for all the bad in your life. I like to look at the other side of the equation. You have the power to create what you want in your life. If you find that things are not as you desire, make a change in your thinking and your actions to encourage a better result.

Second, the only thing I believe in 100% is that I don’t believe in anything 100%. I have studied and used Ms. Hay’s work for long enough to see a correlation in what she has found and the reality that I see with myself, my family, my friends, and my clients. And that does not mean that everything is the direct result of our thoughts. It may be, but at this point I see a correlation not necessarily a tried and true law. Even so, I see enough correlation in the mind-body connection to give it credit and use it in my own life.

Photo by Luke Braswell on Unsplash

A few years back, after many years of good health, I found myself having issues again. Being human, I first looked to my diet, movement, and age to see if any were at fault. Although probable influencers, I could not see a direct reason for why I felt like I did. Next step, I looked at my life. At the time, I was in a situation which was not positive. I believe we always have three choices when we are in difficult situations: A) We can try to change the situation. B) We can accept the situation. C) We can leave. In this circumstance, I had to choose option B as I had no power to change the situation and at the time, no ability to leave. The result was my poor health.

According to Louise Hay, my physical symptoms related to fear, anger and frustration – which very well described my reaction to the situation. I chose to use the affirmations recommended in the Hay books, take care of my mind, emotions, and body – focusing on them instead of the frustrating situation, and make strategic plans to leave the situation sooner than later. My physical symptoms lessoned under this plan and were removed completely after I was out of the situation.

Have you ever noticed a correlation between your emotions and your body? Have you tried shifting your mindset to resolve physical pain? Share with us here.

Corazonada

For over six months now I have been dedicated to studying Spanish. My ability to read, comprehend and speak has greatly improved. Since, however, I don’t have a natural aptitude, my six-year-old nephew speaks better than me, but heck, at least I’m trying. I do love the language though. It is interesting to explore how different cultures decide how to express themselves and how the way we speak can change how we see and experience the world.

The Spanish language uses a lot of suffixes. Add “-ito” or “-ita” to the end of a world and it means little or dear. For example, the cat or gato that often sneaks into my house becomes a “gatito.” Add “-udo” or “-uda” to the end of the word and it means a lot of. Mi gatito es peludo. Pelo meaning hair becomes peludo meaning hairy or furry (or leaving blankets of white fur in my house when it sneaks into my home).

Another suffix which is used is “-ada.” This suffix can be used to mean the result of use. For example, cuchillo or knife means stab wound when -ada is added, cuchillada. It can also mean a large quantity of, so spoon, cuchara, becomes spoonful, cucharada. It can also mean the act of carrying out a verb. Llamar or to call becomes una llamada or a call, and nevar or to snow becomes nevada or snowfall.  The other day, I saw -ada added to corazón.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Corazón means the heart. When -ada is added to it, “corazonada” literally means the act of heart, full of heart, or to act with heart. The translation of corazonada is a feeling, a hunch, or a sudden impulse to act. Across cultures and languages, we have tied our intuition, our instinctual knowledge to our heart. We are not acting from our knowledge or reason, but acting from a deeper knowledge which comes from the heart.

I love my mind. It helps me write these posts in mostly perfect grammar. It usually helps me with math problems. It can help me reason out different options to a problem. And, more times than I like to admit, my mind can also mislead me. It can keep me up at night playing through again and again what I did wrong, what I could have done differently, or what I prefer to have happened. My mind sometimes thinks it is right and correct, even when the world is pointing to something different. My mind can make me think I am better than or worse than others.

That is why I have been trying to have more balance between my heart and my mind. The HeartMath Institute has been studying and teaching for years the importance of our connection with our hearts. What has been known in the scientific community for some time, is that our heart sends as much if not more information to our brains than the other way around. It is our heart, not our minds which are running the show. In this informative video, the HeartMath Institute outlines how we can regulate our stress and ability to think under stress, by working to smooth our heartrate and help our hearts and minds connect. It is not just the brain or not just the heart, but getting these two to play together which can make a difference in our lives.

When you get angry or anxious, do you feel your heartbeat increase? Have you ever used meditation to calm your heart which in turn helps calm your mind? What are your thoughts on living more corazonada?