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Archive for the ‘change’ Category

I’ve been a quiet potato for a long time. April was really busy—work stuff, vacation, work stuff, life. I still had lots of thoughts in my head I wanted to get on paper—it just never happened as quickly as I wanted it to. Once May started I recommitted to setting aside more time to put cyber pen to cyber paper.

Clearly that didn’t happen.

May and June were really, REALLY tough coaching months. And since the stuff I work on with Coach Jim typically motivates much of my writing, I turned into a quiet potato.

If you’ve read much of my blog at all you’ll know that I almost ALWAYS write about how hard this coaching stuff is for me. How challenged I am. How rewarding it is while at the same time being one of the most difficult things I’ve done. And through all of that I keep writing about it. ‘Cause writing helps. 🙂

May and June were different. It was tough in a different way.

I didn’t recognize the difference at first. Jim has been coaching me though some self-esteem stuff. And that’s a gi-normous area of struggle for me. So when I first began noticing differences I assumed it was related to the subject matter. As time marched on I began to question that assumption. Just what was going on?

In a “typical” conversation with Jim I’ll laugh, cry (or at least get a little bleary-eyed), roll my eyes at something, and occasionally think “what planet is this guy from?!” I’m used to all of those reactions and understand most of them are some form of defense that I want to move beyond. So I try to see them, acknowledge them (silently), and move on. I found the conversations in May and June were different.

I found myself not looking forward to the calls at all. Maybe that could have been an early clue—previously no matter how difficult the subject matter I’d always looked forward to the calls. I found myself fighting frustrations before the conversations even started. I felt as though I wanted to resist everything Jim said. I wanted to “correct” everything he said. I found myself with really strong desires to swear profusely during the conversations. And not just the “light” words. Typically a “hell” or “d@mn” is as far as I go. In May and June I found myself frequently wanting to drop f bombs.

Whoa! Where the heck were those coming from?

Finally (better late than never!) I realized there was something else going on. Something bigger than the topic at hand was bothering me. So I sat down and thought about it. And looked back through my notes.

Aha! There was something bothering me! Jim had done something a little different in one of our conversations. He’d used a technique that gave him the exact result he was looking for at the time, but really stuck in my craw. (Does anyone use that expression anymore? LOL!) And I hadn’t realized how much it was bothering me.

Hmmmmmm….obviously I needed to clear the air. So I sent Jim an e-mail saying something like, “Hey next time we talk I want to spend some time talking about X. It’s getting in the way of our conversations and I’d like to address it.”
Being the excellent coach that he is, Jim readily agreed. “Sure Spudsie. We’ll make it the first thing on our agenda.”

Cool.

I had some fears and concerns going into this conversation with Jim. I had no idea how he’d react or respond. I had no idea if I’d be able to express myself in a way that made sense to Jim. I didn’t know if I would be able to explain where my frustration was coming from. Or why it was bothering me so much. But even with these fears and concerns I noticed I didn’t have any of that active nervous energy I frequently get before going into new situations. Cool! I impressed myself!

What I had assumed would take only a portion (15 to 20 minutes maybe?) of our time ended up taking longer than we were scheduled to talk. (Apologies for running over the allotted Mrs. Coach Jim!!!) And I ended up feeling more frustrated thinking back on our conversation than I did before we talked.

Uh oh. That’s never good.

My “greatest” fear (or as I told Mr. Spuds my most “rational” fear lol) was not being able to explain myself. Not being able to articulate what I was feeling in a way that would make sense to Jim. I had talked about it with Mr. Spuds and he understood what I meant and why I was upset. So I thought explaining it to Jim would be doable—not easy, but at least possible. ‘Cause Mr. Spuds often looks at me as tho I’m speaking a foreign language when I talk about coaching stuff. If he understood me, Jim would surely understand me. Right?

Yeah…….ummmm……maybe not.

At the end of the call I felt I hadn’t been able to explain myself at all. (Bang head here.) How the heck did that happen???? Grrrrrr…… Jim made a suggestion of something else to try—another way of trying to put the pieces together. I agreed to try. That was Monday evening.

All day Tuesday I would think about it if I had a minute or two free. I’d roll it over in my mind and see what resonated. See how I felt. See what thoughts and feelings came pouring out of me. And I got wave after wave after wave after wave of frustration. And not much else.

Well….that’s not entirely true. I also got a headache.

I tried everything I could to get rid of the headache. Used all of the tools in my toolbelt. Breathe deeply. Tons and tons of water. Correct posture. Correct foods. Nothing worked. And I got hit with the worst migraine I’ve had in a year Tuesday night around 11 PM. I gotta tell ya…..I can’t think of many things worse than being curled up on the bathroom floor, crying uncontrollably—even though you know crying makes the head pain even worse—and having wave after wave of feeling like a failure hit you. Migraines are awful. Especially when they are completely stress induced.

Mr. Spuds helped me through it. He handed me Kleenex and listened. And even offered, “Do you want me to talk to Jim? “ Awwwww…how sweet. 🙂 He finally bundled me into bed and I managed to pass out more than fall asleep. Either way—I managed to get a few hours of rest.

On Wednesday I e-mailed Jim. “I’m a mess. This isn’t working. Let me try to say this one more time.”

A-ha! Evidently whatever words I used in the “I’m a mess” e-mail made sense. Yay! 🙂 Jim called me and said, “I think I understand. Is this what you are saying…..”

High fives all around! Yep—that’s it!

Truth be told, that follow-up conversation is pretty fuzzy in my memory. I was still in huge amounts of migraine pain. What I do remember is thinking, “Yes! You’ve got it!” And working to set some new ground-rules or expectations on both sides. Phew! That was more like what I had expected our Monday conversation to be like.

And now I’m back to looking forward to coaching conversations. I’m looking forward to crying, laughing, rolling my eyes, and somehow through it all making progress with someone who I know is on my side, someone who has my best interest in mind. Yay!! The good stuff!!!

So why write this since it all turned out so well? Good question.
Jim absolutely ROCKS as a coach!! (He also totally rocks as a Summer Reading List putter-togatherer…but that’s an entirely different blog post. ;-)) Working with him is one of the best things I’ve ever done—hands down. He constantly amazes me with his suggestions, with his patience, with his listening skills, with his creativity in working with me. The mind boggles! I hope some of that comes through in my blog stuff.

All of those things are knowns. They are givens. I don’t question them at all.

Maybe that’s why it was so difficult for me to recognize that something he had done wasn’t working for me. I’d never considered that I might know me better than Jim knows me. Well…duh! Stopping to think about it that makes perfect sense. I’m the one living in my skin, in my head, in my heart, in my spirit. Who else besides me is going to know when something doesn’t work??

I wanted to write about this as a reminder to myself that I have the right and the responsibility to speak up when I’m upset. When something has hurt me. When something isn’t working. Just like I did this time. No game playing. No pouting. No waiting to see if someone else notices I’m not the same. Just like I did this time—speak up as soon as I can articulate what’s bugging me. Kudos to me for doing that this time. And kudos to me for becoming aware of what to look out for in the future.

I also wanted to write about this for anyone who wonders what it’s like working with a coach. Conflict (on some level) is inevitable. (Migraines are optional. ;-)) If you have the right coach (and it’s abundantly clear I have the right coach for me!) working through the conflict may take several tries, but in the end it’s totally worth it.

Totally.

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(With thanks and apologies to Tina Turner for the title.  J)

The last couple of coaching conversations with Coach Jim have centered around revisiting/revamping/revising/reworking my goals.

When I started a year or so ago I had three goals originally and fairly quickly added a fourth.

The first three were pretty basic—one relates to my health, one relates to being more of an optimist (though I don’t really use the word optimist to describe myself—I told Jim it felt a little like calling myself a Republican—it just felt like something that would never be true!  ;-)), the third one relates to my emotions.

As it had been many moons since I had really looked at my goals they were probably over-due for some revisions.  I’ve made a number of changes in the past year and have progressed to the point where the goals as written weren’t really “big” enough for what I now want to do.

It was nice being able to go in and tweak them as needed!  It helped me see I have indeed made progress.  Who knew??  (Well…..I suppose everyone close to me knew…..I was probably the only one holding onto an old picture of myself.  LOL!)

The fourth goal kinda stumped me.  It originally read:

“I perceive myself as positively as others see me.  I am comfortable with myself and my emotions.  I allow myself to be vulnerable when appropriate and allow others to serve me or take care of me when necessary.”

A year ago it was a huge struggle for me to put even that much into writing.  It felt like a huge leap. 

I see it from a different perspective now.  It seems overly restrictive.  It seems somehow limiting.  It seems….well…it seems small.

While I haven’t achieved (for lack of a better word) this goal—oh heck no, I’m still far from it — I want more.  I’m not satisfied with that as my goal—I want something more all encompassing.

You know how from Einstein forward physicists (or at least some physicists) have been working to develop a unified field theory?  (You don’t?  Well check this out.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/everything.html)  They are searching for a single theory to tie two incredibly diverse fields/areas/whatevers of physics together.  They are searching for something bigger.  (Which, if you believe string theory may be an answer, ironically turns out to be something super small.  J)

I found myself wanting something similar.  No….not a string!  One unifying goal.  One goal for the big picture.  One goal that the other, more specific, goals fall under.  Something to tie everything together with a nice bright piece of ribbon—or string if you care to stay with the physics analogy.  Grin!

And I couldn’t quite come up with anything.  Actively thinking about it didn’t give me visible progress.  Letting it “stew” in the back of my mind was equally unproductive.  Trying to write about it produced lots of blank space on the page.

Hey!  I know!  I’ll talk with Coach Jim about it!  Cool…….maybe an actual out-loud conversation will help my brain find what I’m looking for. 

So I did.

Almost two weeks later I still don’t have my fourth goal fully developed.  AND I’m perfectly okay with that.  Talking with Jim helped me find the direction I want to go with my “unifying” goal.

As you can probably see from the original fourth goal, I don’t feel like I have an accurate view of myself.  I can tell you 3.2 million things I do wrong, or areas that “need” improvement.  But ask me something I do that I’m proud of?  Something I do well?  Yeah……not much material for those questions.  My vision of myself, my perception, is skewed.  I know that and it doesn’t sit well with me.

So originally I wanted to see myself as I am.  Flaws and all.

And now I realize that isn’t quite enough.  I want more.

I want to be comfortable with who I am.  I want to accept myself.

And that still isn’t quite enough.  I still want more.  The “unifying” goal is bigger than that.

So as I talked with Jim about all of this our conversation kept taking twists and turns…..which is normal and really cool!  It felt like the more I talked the more I realized that what I was saying wasn’t big enough.  It wasn’t hitting home. 

I talked about wanting to be kind to myself.

That wasn’t quite right.  So Jim kept asking, what else?  What other words?  What is bigger?

Hmmmmm….okay….I dunno….gentleness?  I want to be gentle with myself?

While that is true (I typically am harsher on myself than anyone else would ever be….long stories there….I’ll spare you the details.), it still wasn’t resonating with me.  Kind I felt I could claim—I could put that into a goal.  It wasn’t what I was looking for though.  I wanted more.  Gentleness didn’t sit well.  That seemed to feel like I wouldn’t hold myself accountable—that I would let myself “get away” with too much.  That wasn’t working.

Jim kept asking, what else?  What is bigger?

Hmmmmmmmmm……I don’t have a clue Jim!  Okay Spudise….keep going…..keep searching….keep tossing the nets wide and into new waters…..

Think.  Think.  Think. 

 

Pooh thinking

 

 

 

 

Okay….what encompasses kindness and aspects of gentleness and still allows me to hold myself accountable for the stuff I need to be accountable.  There’s got to be a word.  There’s got to be a concept.  Keep working your way through this.  Keep going.  What does that unknown concept look like in others?  What allows you to extend grace and at the same time hold other people accountable?

Whomp.  (How’s that for onomatopoeia???  ;-))  Right upside the head.  It hit me.

And it scared the livin daylight out of me!  Seriously.  It scared me.  I knew if I didn’t start talking immediately I’d chicken out.  So I started talking.    

“Blah…blah…blah….blah…I can’t even believe I’m about to say this Jim….it’s love.  Love is bigger than kindness and gentleness.  Love.  That’s what I’m looking for.  I want to be able to say ‘I love me.’ and not burst into tears at the thought.  Blah….blah….blah….”

(The “blah…”part is me stalling by the way.  J)

If this caught Jim a fraction as off-guard as it caught me he probably fell over and hit his head.  Seriously.  Self-love is NOT a topic I have ever wanted to discuss.  The mere mention of it a year ago had me in tears.  Jim asked me at one point if I could say “I love me.” which caused me to promptly burst into tears.

Could I speak the words?  Sure I could.  Speaking the words is easy.  Speaking them and meaning them?  Nope.  Couldn’t do that.  And speaking them without meaning them felt wrong—it felt like cheating—it felt like it was going against everything I had committed to when I decided to work with Jim.  I had committed to being honest.  I had committed to being open and not hiding.  And saying “I love me” when I clearly didn’t “love me” would be lying.  And I wasn’t about to lie.  I could NOT say the words and have any sincerity behind them.  I could not say them and have any truth in the statement.  So I chose not to say them.

The tears didn’t come from a physical inability to speak simple words.  The tears and drama (not that I would EVER admit to being even slightly dramatic ;-)) came from knowing and feeling that I couldn’t honestly say them. 

And here we are…..a scant year later….and I’m the one bringing it back into the conversation.  How bizarre is that?!

“Do you know what you just said Spudsie?”  Jim asked.

“Yeah…..blah…blah…blah…” Desperately trying to avoid talking about it.  Maybe if I just keep talking he’ll let me off the hook. 

Snort!  Fat chance with that Spudsie!  J

Jim kept talking about what a huge change that was from a year ago.  The more he talked the more I wanted to get away from it.  I just wasn’t ready to dive into it.  It’s still a brand new thought.  I didn’t want to think about the implications just yet.  Fortunately Jim’s really, really , REALLY terrific at saying things in a gentle way so that I can hear them for at least a fraction of a second.

Frankly I don’t really remember much of the coaching conversation after that point.  And we ended early because Jim could clearly tell I wasn’t really able to move forward at that point. That I’d hit my “maximum progress” point for the day.

So we talked about books for a few minutes.  And I LOVE talking about books!!  LOL!

Where am I now?  In terms of having a “formal” goal on paper….I’m no further than I was 2 weeks ago.  And that’s okay for now.  I’m still trying to be comfortable with the thought.  (And please, no Yoda quotes about “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  Grin!) 

So my starting point for my “unifying” goal is “I love me.”  I want to give it more definition…I want to give it measurableness (is that even a word??? Spell-check certainly doesn’t think so!)  I want to be able to define a little more what that looks like.  Okay…okay… I want to be able to begin to define what that looks like.  When you have nothing I suppose defining it “a little more” isn’t very precise.  LOL.

Goal number four.  The unifying goal.  I love me.

Can I do it?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  I think so.

And that’s a good place to begin.

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I’m borrowing liberally from Coach Jim’s blog today.  This past week he wrote a GREAT entry about attitude. 

Okay….it’s about waaaaay more than attitude.  In fact it’s probably more about perspective than attitude.  Just bear with me and keep reading.  Hopefully it will become clearer.

First things first.  Here’s a link to Jim’s blog entry. http://www.lifewithhappiness.com/2009/04/nothing-is-good-or-bad/  It’s worth the couple of minutes it will take to read the entire thing.  (And he’s much more concise with his writing than I am.  J) 

Here’s the introduction to his blog.

“…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Hamlet, Act II Scene 2

This quote from Shakespeare is one of my all-time favorites… and defines a foundational element of my coaching practice and life philosophy.

Events are just events.  Stuff happens.  That’s it.

THEN…we create a story to explain that event.  In our “story” we interpret what happened and make up reasons why it happened, and that story evokes an emotional response from us… and suddenly an event is labeled: good, bad, ugly.  And we feel sadness, optimism, fear, anger, appreciation, frustration, concern, etc

Not from the event, but from our thinking about the event.”

I love that!!!  And it’s soooooooo true!

When I see others “over-reacting” (granted, that’s an assessment on my part…..I think you know what I mean regardless …)it’s super easy for me to see that it’s the story they are telling themselves about the event, rather than the event, that is causing them stress, anxiety, etc.

I mean really, when someone doesn’t use their turn signal (or their “directional” as I often say) it’s not because they intentionally want to cause you to swear at them.  They aren’t doing it to intentionally aggravate you.  I’m nearly positive they aren’t thinking about you at all.  They are simply doing what’s easiest for them.  And ignoring the traffic laws.  Ahem.  How freakin’ hard is it to use a turn signal anyway?!?!

What?  Oh.  Sorry.  I’m off track already.  (Sheepish grin!)

Regardless of my lack of focus, this seems to be the perfect example.

If I’m the passenger in a car and the driver gets upset because someone else didn’t use a turn signal, it’s easy for me to see that the driver is reacting to the story they are telling themselves rather than the actual event.

When I’m driving the car and someone doesn’t use a turn signal, and it causes me to lose 30 seconds of time I’ll never get back…..well….that’s an entirely different story.  Grin!  Or perhaps it’s the exact same story….I’m simply telling it to myself rather than seeing someone else doing it.

It’s challenging to pull back from the story and look at the event for what it is.  And the more emotionally involved in the situation I am the more difficult it is for me to see the possibility of any story other than the one I tell myself.  After all, I am the sun and the universe revolves around me, right?????

No?  Are you sure?  😉

Once I’ve recognized I’m in the middle of reacting to my story rather than the event it’s usually fairly easy to coach myself through, “What other reason(s) might explain this?” type conversations.  And I can calm myself down and remind myself that the world does NOT revolve around me.  I can look at the situation from a different perspective and react in a different manner. 

While it’s seldom easy, I find it do-able in most situations.

Where I really struggle is in recognizing I’m reacting to my story rather than to the situation.  I’m typically so wrapped up in “this is awful, how could anyone do this to me, poor potato, doesn’t anyone ever think about me, why is everyone so mean, why are they trying to ruin my plans…” that I don’t realize it’s my own personal story I’m reacting to.  So I’ve been working on that.  On trying to realize that when I feel like I want to scream at someone it’s very likely because of how I’m interpreting the events—rather than the events themselves.

Some days I’m more successful than others.

Today is a day full of challenges.

My birthday is coming up in a couple of days.  I’ve learned (over the past 15 plus years) to be very specific with Mr. Spuds when letting him know what I’d like to do to celebrate my birthday.  (Remind me to share the bowling alley birthday story at some point.  😉  It’s a classic!)  Some years I don’t really want to do much of anything, some years I want to have a bunch of people over, some years I just want to do odd stuff.

This is an “odd stuff” year.  When talking to Mr. Spuds a few weeks ago about what I wanted to do, I asked if he would consider taking me to Nordstrom’s to shop the Saturday afternoon before my birthday.  He said that sounded like fun.  (And yes, there is a limit to what I can spend.  LOL!)  Cool!  So I’ve been looking forward to this ever since. 

Making plans can often cause more stress for me than I’d like.  I’m a total capital J (MBIT) and a bit of a struggling-to-let-go-of-the-need-to-pretend-I-have-control-of-anything control freak.  What can I say?  It’s where I am and it’s a struggle.  I’ve managed to relax some over the years.  In fact just a few weeks ago someone who’s only known me for a year or so called me “laid back.”  Whoa!  Anyway, making plans can cause stress because I have pictured in my mind exactly how everything will happen, will fall into place, will go according to plan.

And we all know how often things go according to plan.  Never!

Back to shopping.

I’d been looking forward to shopping today for a while.  Good weather or bad didn’t matter.  I’d prefer sunny and warm-ish—but whatever.  It’s indoors so no big deal.  I’d sleep in.  Get up and get ready.  Read a little.  Do the odd chore around the house.  Some point mid afternoon we’d head out.  And maybe grab some dinner on the way back.  Or if it was still too early to eat we could always stop at a book store, right!  (No comments about how many books I already have to read please Jim.  You’re just as addicted as I am!  LOL!  ;-))  Just a laid back kinda day.  One thing to do, not really planned.

I could picture it perfectly in my mind.  Ahhhhh.  What fun!

Being able to picture it perfectly in my mind might have been my first clue that I had “planned” it far more than I was admitting.  Sigh.

Mr. Spuds came home last night and told me about some guys from work who were getting together to celebrate a birthday.  They were getting together Saturday night—it sounded like fun to him.  Did I want to go?  Cool!  Yeah, let’s do it.  They are a great group of people.  We can stop by for a drink or two or dessert.  Yeah.

Okay.  We can go from Nordstrom’s to meet them.  They are getting together around 7PM.

What?  Ummmm….that’s not exactly what I had pictured.  Okay Spudsie….compromise.  It isn’t really that big of a deal.  It’s not like Mr. Spuds is trying to “ruin my plans” for the day.  Deep breath.  Okay.  He’s simply trying to work out the timing of 2 things we both want to do.  Okay.  This can work.  I can adjust the picture in my head.  I can push it back a couple of hours.  Okay.  Adjustment made with relative ease.  The irritation is gone.  This will be fun!

I didn’t sleep well last night and woke up feeling a little under the weather.  With very little energy.

Grrrr…..that’s not how I wanted to feel today! 

Okay Spuds…just go with it.  Relax.  Let Mr. Spuds make the bank-run by himself.  It will be fine.  Stay in bed later.  Take a long shower.  Relax.  Okay.  Adjustment made again.  Still gonna be an awesome day.

Go downstairs.  What?!  Mr. Spuds is still here?  I thought he’d left for the bank a long time ago?  What are you still doing here?  Oh.  You thought I wanted to go with you.  Sorry!  My bad.  I don’t feel well, could you go without me?  Okay.  Back upstairs.

What?!  You still haven’t left?  Now what?  Oh.  You can’t find your keys.  Sigh.  No I haven’t seen them.  Why don’t you take mine?  Okay.  Keep looking.  I’m sure they will turn up.

Hey Spuds…..it’s not like he intentionally misunderstood your desire to go to the bank with him.  And he certainly didn’t lose his keys on purpose.  Okay.  Deep breath.  This doesn’t impact you day at all.  Let it go.  No need to react to you story that the fates are conspiring against you today.  J

Eat lunch.  Read more of “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.”  Listen to the birds.  Watch the squirrels (sorry Maggie Mae….I mean the tree rats!) steal the bird seed.  Ahhhhh….fluffy tailed rodents who think they are birds.  What fun!  I may not feel good, but at least I can enjoy the wildlife.

Mr. Spuds decides he wants to make a major grocery shopping run.  What?  Today?  WHA?!?!  It’s already after lunch.  You’ll never get the shopping done and get back in time to head out shopping when I wanted to.  Just when did you think we’d leave?  HOW LATE?!  I wanted to be out of the house no later than 4PM.  ??!!?!?!

Okay.  Another few minutes of deep breathing.  I can adjust again.  It’s not that big a deal.  Let go of your story Spudsie.  There’s still enough time to get everything done.  We’ll just push it back a little later than you had planned.  No big deal.  An easy adjustment to make right?  Okay.  In fact, you can use the time Mr. Spuds is at the grocery store to write.  You’ll be guaranteed no interruptions.  Yeah.  Way to spin it into a positive Spudsie!!  You go!

What?!  You’re still here?  I thought you left 15 minutes ago.  What?  Seriously?  You can’t find your keys AGAIN?!  Okay.  Okay.  Sorry for the tone.  Did you have them when you came home from the bank?  Yes.  Okay.  Did you have anything else in your hands?  Can we re-trace your steps?  Was the garage door open?

(Perhaps I should mention here….Mr. Spuds losing his keys brings back memories of when our house was broken into.  It happened overnight and we didn’t realize we had been robbed until the next morning when Mr. Spuds was ready to leave for work and couldn’t find his keys.  That was our first sign something was wrong.  I still tend to flash back to that moment when Mr. Spuds says he can’t find his keys.  My story immediately flashes to “We’ve been robbed again!”)

Okay.  We’ll find them later.  Here are mine.

Okay.  I’m sure the keys weren’t stolen Spudsie.  He just mis-placed them.  They will turn up.  Deep breath.  Okay.  Let’s write!

45 minutes later I hear the garage door open.

What?!  45 minutes is NOT enough time for a major grocery shopping trip.  Is that Mr. Spuds?  Or did someone else manage to open the garage door and walk into the house.  “Hello?”  “Hello?”

(Evidently 2 instances of Mr. Spuds mis-placing his keys in one day sends my sub-conscious mind to “someone will break into your house again” mode.  Sigh.)

Mr. Spuds?  What are you doing here?  You forgot your list?  Seriously? 

I’m sure the irritation was obvious in my face and in my voice.  I fought to control it but I’m not sure how much good it did. 

As Mr. Spuds left again I found myself really irritated.  My story?  I’m not sure what it was.  Something along the lines of , “Nothing EVER goes the way I want it to.  I can NEVER plan anything without it falling apart.  All I wanted was to be at Nordstrom’s right now.  What is that so flippin hard?!  Doesn’t anyone ever LISTEN to me when I talk?  When I tell them what I want to do?  One afternoon.  That’s all I wanted.  One afternoon!”

Whoa there potato-woman!  Calm the heck down!  That’s a temper tantrum worthy of a two year old!

You know what?  It’s not that important.  Really.  You will still go shopping.  And you’ll meet Mr. Spuds’ co-workers after shopping.  It’s not on the exact time frame you imagined, and you’ve had to re-assure yourself three times that no-one has broken into your house.  And you know what, that’s all okay.  You were able to get some chores around the house completed.  You were able to write for a while.  You were able to take it easy and try to feel better.  You got some reading done.  It’s a beautiful day.  Why the heck are you getting so stressed at a story you are telling yourself that isn’t even accurate?

C’mon potato-woman.  Deep breath.  Change the story.  Quit being irritated.  It’s not even Mr. Spuds that has you irritated.  It’s the thieves who broke into your house that have you on edge.  Why give them so much power?  It’s your own un-communicated expectations that aren’t being met.  No one can read minds.  And plans can always be changed.  Different does NOT mean less.  It simply means different.

Okay.  Letting it go.  No more frustration.  Only happiness.  And optimism.  And joy.  And enthusiasm.  And relaxation.  And peace.  And calm.

Hmmmm….that’s a pretty tasty emotional stew!  J

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Let me start by saying I hope Coach Jim doesn’t sue me for plagiarism!  ‘Cause “happiness is a decision” is featured pretty predominately on all his stuff.  If I pause to think about it I bet he’ll choose to be happy I “stole” his line….fingers crossed!  😉  (Please don’t sue the potato….please don’t sue the potato….please don’t sue the potato…)

In all seriousness, happiness as a decision (rather than an event) is something I’m becoming more and more comfortable with.  I love the concept and have since I first heard it from Jim a few years ago.  I was instantly drawn to it.  Putting it into practice?  Well….that’s another story.  It takes a lot of work.  It doesn’t come natural.

Or at least it hasn’t in the past.

Two things in the past month helped me realize how much I’ve changed—even within the past six months.  How much I’ve really started to integrate that philosophy, that belief, that truth into my life.  It’s pretty cool!

A couple of months ago our church started talking about “Dinners of 8.”  What on earth is a “dinner of eight???” I asked myself.  It turns out it is a dinner for eight people.  Well…..whodathunk?  LOL.  Literally dinners of eight.  They ask for couples to host a dinner (pitch-in style) for six other people.  They recommend you try to find a group of people you don’t know and sign up for a dinner with them.  Dinner with six total strangers.

Oh yeah.  Tons of fun for an introvert who prefers books to just about anything else.  That sounds as appealing as eating a bowl full of green beans!  (Have I ever told my green bean story?  Probably not.  Suffice it to say that green beans and this potato do NOT get along.  I’ll spare you the details.)

Despite my “I’d-really-rather-not-do-this” internal attitude Mr. Spuds and I signed up for a group.  We knew none of the people on the list.  Didn’t recognize a single name.  This could be kinda fun!

What?!?!  Fun?!?!  Did I really just have that thought???  That’s odd…..that seems fairly out of character for me.  Hmmmmm…..

Yep.  Sure enough I found myself looking forward to the dinner with a positive attitude and a great deal of curiosity.  Wonder who we’ll meet?  More curiosity than nerves.  In fact there were no nerves involved at all.  That surprised me.

As we were getting ready to leave Mr. Spuds commented on felling a tiny-bit nervous about going into such an intimate setting with 6 people we don’t know.  He said something like, “If I’m feeling like this I can only imagine how you are feeling!” 

That stopped me in my tracks.  Not because of what he said, but because I realized I didn’t have any feelings of nervousness at all.  None.  Zip.  Nadda.  Zilch.  Nothing.  I felt calm.  Peaceful.  Curious.  And it all came naturally—automatically.  I didn’t have to talk/breathe/stand myself into the feeling.  It was already there.  No butterflies.  No anxiousness about what I would say.  Would I remember everyone’s name?  Would I say something stupid?  Would I put my foot in my mouth?  None of those thoughts were running through my head.  I was in a totally calm, peaceful, curious place.

Wow.

Really! Wow!

Totally different response than I’ve ever had to meeting a new group of people.  I like it!!!

So that was my first hint that I was making some pretty big progress.  It didn’t really sink in though.

Thursday was haircut day for the Spuds family.  It was also “let’s-add-some-color-to-the-normal-brunette-tinged-with-grey” day.  Yup.  A potato who colors her hair.  Grin!

I totally trust my hairdresser.  She knows how to make my hair look good—and keep it super easy for me to take care of.  She’s terrific!  She’ll always ask if I want something specific done.  If I do she does her best to match what my hair will actually do with what I ask for.  If I don’t have a specific request I’ll just tell her, “Nope.  Just do whatever you want.  It’ll look great!”

When she asked me about what hi-lighting I wanted done I told her to do whatever she wanted.  Typically she adds some really cool “caramel” highlights in that look neat-o.  (Yeah….I need to expand my adjective vocabulary a little..lol)  So I wasn’t expecting anything too different.  I noticed she was mixing two different colors instead of the normal one.  “Hey Chris, what’s that?”  Turns out she wanted to do two different colors.  One caramel-ish and one one reddish.  Okay.  I can live with that.  “Nothing that will make me look like Ronald McDonald,right?”  Nope.  No worries there.  Great!  Go for it!

An hour or so later I’m looking at the finished product.  Hmmm….the sunlight is really streaming into the room.  Can’t really tell….but the color looks really, REALLY red.  Hmmm….okay.  Whatever.  I’ll get home and see what it really looks like.  Thanks Chris!

Jump in the car and pull down the visor mirror.  Ummmm…..hmmmmm.  This is interesting.

The “reddish” hi-lights?  Yeah.  “Reddish” my ……ahem…sorry.

Do y’all know what a brand new, shiny, uncirculated penny looks like?  Yeah.  Copper.  That’s the color of my “reddish” highlights.  Copper.   Bright copper.  Think new copper flashing on a new home.  Brand new copper wire.  Yup.  That’s one of my highlight colors.

I’d say it was a color that doesn’t occur in nature…but…well…it’s copper.  So it clearly exists in nature.  Grin!

It’s not a color I would ever have requested.  It’s not a color I would have said, “Great!  Let’s try that one!” if asked ahead of time.  It’s clearly not a color that naturally grows from my scalp.

And ya know what?  It’s okay.  In fact, it’s better than okay.

I got home and as soon as Mr. Spuds saw it said, “You’ve got red in your hair!”  “You’ve got A LOT of red in your hair!  Let me see.  Wow.  That’s a great Vegas color!”  Laughter.  “Probably not a conservative, financial office color…”

Ummmmmmm…that doesn’t exactly inspire comfortable-ness with the un-natural color there hun.  LOL!

Anyway…..I found myself almost automatically making the decision to be happy with the color.  To be excited about it.  To want to “rock” the new color palette! 

Normally I have a day or so of “Oh. My. Word.  What was I thinking adding in BLONDE hi-lights?” when I have the caramel-ish color added.  It lightens my hair enough that it catches me off guard every time.  Once a week or so has passed I always end up loving it.  It’s simply the initial shock that sends me into the “what was I thinking” mode.

This time?  Even though the color was more extreme, I didn’t feel any of that.  No momentary panic.  No “what was I thinking” or “I wonder if this can be fixed” type of hyper-ventilating.  None of it.  I simply found myself thinking, “I can make this fun!  I can be happy with this.  It isn’t what I expected.  It isn’t something I would have asked for.  AND I am going to be happy with it.  I’m gonna ROCK this color!”

Wow.

That’s a lot of change for me. 

Happiness is a decision…..not an event.

I think I’m finally beginning to “get” that and live it Jim.  Cool!!  And thank you!!!

"Natural" hair color?

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Yes.  You read that correctly.  Cricket made me cry.

No, not “a” cricket.  Just Cricket.  Not an insect (are they insects?  Hang on a second I need to Google this.  Ah….they are indeed insects.  Closely related to katydids.  Who knew??)  Not the sport.  Just Cricket.

Cricket is a moniker used by someone who posts on an internet bulletin board on which I frequently lurk.  (RMSJr if you’re reading you’ll know the board and moniker I’m talking about.)  Cricket’s not her real name (No!  Really Spudsie??  LOL!) .  Her frequent posts help balance out my infrequent ones.  Over the years I’ve come to really respect what she has to say and look forward to reading her views on political and social topics.  Her views frequently mirror my own (sorry RMSJr….I know that probably pains you….you love me anyway right?  ;-))  and she’s able to articulate things better than I could.

The main thing that has impressed me about Cricket is her willingness to state her point of view and not care what anyone else thinks.  (Or at least that’s how it seems from my perspective.)  She’ll let everyone know where she stands and engage in dialogue regarding just about any topic regardless of the online insults hurled by “anons” or even known posters.  Her beliefs are her beliefs and she’s not afraid to let anyone know.

That’s sooooo far from where I am.  I suspect my beliefs and views are just as strong and deeply held as Cricket’s.  I tend to keep them to myself.  I recently told a friend of mine that I’m a democrat and she was really surprised.  The circles I tend to “run” in are largely republican—make that vocally republican.  And I’ve learned over the years just to keep quiet on most political topics.  It’s a habit I’m slowly trying to un-learn. 

(Yes, I know.  I’m not really “un-learning” a habit.  I’m changing the way I interact with people.  I’m choosing to speak up.  I’m choosing to be authentically “me”—whoever that is.  It’s just easier—and shorter—to write that I’m un-learning.  Grin!)

So I really admire Cricket for being herself and for being willing to freely state what she believes.

There was a thread started recently about Jim Wallis and the subject of social justice.  It hit a nerve with me when someone called Jim Wallis a Socialist.  While I cannot claim to have read everything written by Jim Wallis, I have read a fair bit of it.  And it seems crystal clear to me that he is NOT a Socialist.  Period.  So I jumped into the thread and gave my opinion.  And somehow Cricket and I ended up posting a few things back and forth to each other. 

Now I’ve “known” of Cricket and actively followed her postings for a while.  But given the infrequent nature of my own posts I’m positive she had never noticed me before.  Since we seemed to share similar views on the topic and had similar experiences from other Christians when discussing the topic I made a bold move.  Well…..bold for me anyway.  LOL!  I posted an e-mail address and invited her to drop me a line to continue the conversation off the board if she’d like.  And she did!!  Cool beans!  J

She sent me an e-mail with some more of her thoughts on social justice, a little of her back ground, a little bit about her views on different stuff, and an invitation to share my own thoughts.  So I did.  I replied with an overly long e-mail (some of you who have received similar e-mails from me can commiserate with Cricket….LOL!) about a little bit of my history and my thoughts on social justice.

Describing what “social justice” means to me is challenging.  I feel very inarticulate.  I feel as though I stumble and fumble my way through it.  It’s something I FEEL rather than THINK.  And goodness knows I have problems identifying emotions and feelings, much less using them to explain a bigger concept.  When I hit “send” and watched my e-mail disappear into cyberspace I wondered if my words made any sense.  Was there anything of worth in them?  How many typos did I have?  LOL!

Evidently it made a lot of sense to Cricket.  She replied with an e-mail today that made me cry.

Good tears.

She shared a few stories from her life, some of her early exposure to the concept of social justice—before she knew what it was called or knew that not everyone viewed it the same way.  She shared some of her frustration with “church people” (my words—not hers) and their frequent opposition to social justice. 

It was really cool learning that about her.

That wasn’t what made me cry. 

What made me cry was what she said about me. 

Recently I’ve been praying that God would show me what he wants from me in a very clear way.  In a way that I CANNOT miss or misinterpret.  I’ve been praying that in the context of trying to find a life direction.  (See previous blog entries for more about that.  J)  “Hey God, I’m gonna need some major help.  Could you show me what you want from me, where you want me to go in such an obvious way that I cannot miss it.  In a way that I will feel in my soul that it’s where I can start.  Even if the direction changes along the way, even if you have something different in mind for further down the road, could you simply show me where to start.  Make it resonate in the core of my being.  Make it energize me in a way I’ve forgotten I can be energized.  Please open my eyes, my heart, my mind.”

I trust God will help me as I continue my search.  There hasn’t been handwriting on the wall (yet!) or anything like that—and there may never be exactly what I am praying for.  And that’s okay because I know he’s got my back!  And when the creator of the universe has your back, it’s probably best to just let him do his thing.  He’ll come up with a way of guiding me that will be more impactful, more effective than anything I could imagine.  (You rock God!!)

I think in my prayers he’s heard something else.  Something I didn’t really articulate.  (He’s really good at reading between the lines.)  He’s heard my desire to try to see myself differently.  He’s heard my frustrations at not understanding why people say the good things about me that they occasionally say.  He’s heard me say, “What do they see that I don’t see?  Why can’t I see that in myself?”  And he’s sending people to me to help me see ME more clearly.

And this is where Cricket’s e-mail made me cry.

She started her reply to me by calling me a beautiful soul.  I kid you not.  It caught me completely off guard.  I wasn’t expecting anything remotely like that!  I mean, really, the only thing she knows about me is what she read in one e-mail (albeit a lengthy one…).  That’s it.  One e-mail in which I felt I didn’t express myself very well.  Wow.

And she didn’t stop there.  She went on for three paragraphs to say the most heart-felt things about me.  In one e-mail she was able to see things that I haven’t been able to see in thirty-cough-some years.  Not only did she see them, she told me about them.  She told me about me.  And since I wasn’t expecting it ALL of my defenses were down.  I felt the full impact of it deeply.  It actually resonated with me.  Wow.

As Yoda would say, “Unexpected this is.”

I love it when God answers a prayer I didn’t even realize I prayed!

So today has been a good day.  Cricket made me cry.

And see myself a little differently.

Thanks God!

Thanks Cricket!

Cricket

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What environment best nurtures potatoes?  Specifically this potato.  What does Spudsie need to grow, develop, stretch and be the best potato she can be?

(There’s probably some deep psychological reason I frequently talk about myself in a potato-sense rather than as {insert my real name here}.  Whatever.  It suits my needs at the moment.  It sets me apart from the vast majority of the blog-o-sphere—seriously, who else refers to themselves as a potato???  And it’s a lot of fun!!  It helps me stay light-hearted.  So I’m sticking with it.  J) 

As I’ve been thinking about a general direction for me life, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about what I want.

All too often (or is that an over-used, trite phrase according to James Kilpatrick?), I find myself thinking about what I don’t want.  I don’t want conflict.  I don’t want to have to wear a suit.  (Ever seen a potato in a suit??  Yeah…go ahead and try to Google that.  I’ll wait……)  I don’t want to take time away from Mr. Spuds.  Etc.

Whenever I’ve found myself thinking those things I’ve tried to stop and turn them around.  Yeah….enough about what I don’t want.  What is it that I do want?  Rephrase it as a positive thing.  I want a peaceful working environment.  I want a casual dress atmosphere.  I want to be able to leave work at the office. 

I’ve talked/written about this a little before in previous posts.  As I’ve continued to think about it I’ve come up with more.  Here are some random thoughts in no particular order.  Over the past couple of weeks they’ve come into a pretty clear focus.

·         I want to be surrounded with people who value integrity.  Who have integrity as a core value.  People I can trust.

·         I want to work with people who truly value diversity.  Cultural, religious, political, social-economic, gender, race, creed, and all the others I’ve momentarily forgotten.  People who want to hear viewpoints other than their own.  An atmosphere where people learn from each other.  Where you are allowed to hold views different from others.  Where you aren’t berated, ridiculed and mocked for your beliefs…..whoops!  There I go again with the negative.  Ahem.  A place where diversity of all types is valued.

·         I want to be respected for who I am and what I can do.  I want to feel that respect daily.  I want to hear it in the way I’m talked to and with.  I want to sense it in the way I’m talked about to others.  I want to know it because my opinion is sought out on matters I may have knowledge about or that may impact me. 

·         I want to feel my value to a company, to people in more than simply monetary ways.  Don’t get me wrong—money is nice!!  I like money!  J  (As do all of the shoe stores I frequent.  And amazon.com.)  If there’s a discrepancy between my value in the form of a paycheck and my value in the form of feedback, praise, and general interactions with TPTB I want my paycheck to be on the short end.  (Less money, more non-monetary currency.)  I want the Todd Fitz exclamation-point currency.   (Mr. Spuds will understand what that means!)

·         I want to spend my time someplace where I can be myself.  (See diversity above.) 

·         I want to work where my integrity is not questioned.  Where I am trusted.  Where it is assumed my intentions are good and honest.  “Hey Spudsie I noticed you did X.  That seems really out of character for you.  Can you tell me what happened?”

·         I want to work someplace that challenges me.  That keeps me on my toes.  That keeps me learning and wanting to learn more.

Casual dress. Work hours.  Commute time.  Power.  Corporate vs. small business.  For profit vs. not-for-profit.  Public vs. private.  None of those things matter nearly as much as the things I just listed.  At the right place, with the right work, in the right atmosphere—the rest of it is negotiable.  Casual dress is cool.  And so are business suits with an awesome pair of pumps!  Work hours?  If I’m totally engrossed in and energized by what I’m doing or who I’m doing it for, I might not even notice the hours.  It’s not the typical “check-list” type items I’m craving.  It’s the more intangible stuff.

They are the things I want.  The things I crave.  The things I deserve.  The things I think will help me grow.

 Growing Potato

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Forgiveness

This post will probably end up being part rant, part vent, part self-administered therapy, and part question.  Confusing enough for ya?  LOL!

I had something happen today that is causing me to think about forgiveness.  What it means.  What it looks like in practice.  Is it ever complete?  If you change the way you act towards/think about/or feel about a person have you really forgiven them?

Without getting into too much detail (odd for me, I know!), someone I know broke their commitment to me today.  It’s going to cost me.  Literally.  Cost me $$$$.  $1,000 I wasn’t expecting to spend.  And an ongoing expense I hadn’t anticipated incurring until later.

And I’m angry.  I’m frustrated with and disappointed at the person who chose not to honor their word.

I’m not naïve.  I know these are incredibly difficult financial times for everyone.  I really do.  And knowing we are in difficult times I asked this person (let’s call them Q) back in January if we needed to make any changes. 

“Nope,” said Q.  “No changes are needed.  No problems.”

“Cool,” said the Spudster.

Flash forward to today.  “Spuds I need you to pick up that expense beginning back in January,” said the Q.

?!?!?!?!?!?

Since I’m electing to leave most of the detail out on this post I don’t know how much sense this will make.  From my perspective I had asked if we needed to make any changes to the arrangement and they said we didn’t.  It would be one thing to say “Hey, going forward we need to re-work this.”  But to flat out say, “Pay me back for everything back to January 1” when I had already asked about it makes me want to ask them what the hell they are thinking.

Like I said.  I’m angry.  And frustrated.  And disappointed.

And at the same time I’m not altogether surprised.

This person has a history of not keeping their word.  Of lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth—or to say nothing at all.  (You know….the type of person who will, without you even asking, show you their new designer handbag and tell you how they only paid $85.  And then the receipt falls on the floor and you see they actually paid $1,000.  That type of thing) 

They’ve lied to me in the past.  They’ve broken promises.  Broken commitments.  “Forgotten” commitments.  You name it, they’ve done it.  Not all of the time.  Not every time.  Just often enough that it could probably be classified mathematically as a pattern.

So Mr. Spuds and I had actually put money aside for this expense.  Assuming we’d eventually end up forking over the cash, but hoping against hope we wouldn’t have to.

So it’s not the money that has me angry.  That part only annoys me a little.  I find myself pretty happy that we thought far enough ahead to set it aside.  (Sometimes being a capital J pays off—literally!  ;-))

I’m not angry about the money.  I’m angry that once again this person has put their own self interests in front of mine and gone back on their word.  Has broken a commitment.  With no remorse and no regret.  And no visible consequences.

(And before you ask, no—this isn’t a friend.  It isn’t an acquaintance that I can avoid in the future.  It’s someone who, for the moment, cannot be avoided.  Long story.)

Integrity is important to me.  It’s one of my core values.  It’s one of my top core values.  (Hey Jim- is there such a thing as a low-ranking core value???  LOL!)  And I try to surround myself with people of integrity.  Even if you are an obnoxious boorish oaf, if you have integrity I’m a lot more likely to spend time with you than if you are a surface-level gentlemen with no integrity.  (Please note the deliberate use of “surface level” there.  True gentlemen have integrity IMHO.)  Integrity is important to me.  And that’s a big part of the reason I’m angry with Q. 

They broke their commitment to me.  They deliberately chose to do so.  I’m in a position to see other choices they make with their money.  (Again, I don’t want to give details.  And because of that it will be easy for you reading this to say, “Spudsie you can’t possibly know where the money is coming from.”  Please take me at my word on this.  I see very clearly other choices they make with their money.)  It is very easy to see they simply decided they would not keep their word.  And knew I was in no position to “fight” them on it. 

I’d probably be a lot less angry if they said, “Hey Spudsie, I know I said I would do this.  But I can’t.  I need you to pay for it.”  Or even, “Hey Spuds you are in no position to argue.  So I’m sticking you with this expense.”  At least that would be honest!  J

Okay.  Working through the anger.  Feel it.  Let it flow through me.  Out my fingertips.  Moving on.

Frustration and disappointment.  There they are.  Ah yes.  Less intense than the anger.  Still pretty durned negative.  Flowing through.  Out the fingertips.  Wait!  Come back!  I want to hang on to y’all and nurse you some more.  Kidding!!  Just kidding!!  Frustration and disappointment moving along.  Out of my system. 

I feel a calm front moving in.  J 

So what does all of this have to do with forgiveness?  I’m so glad you asked.

Q has done this type of thing to me before.  I’ve lived it a number of times in the past decade or so.  Q says things and I’ve learned that I cannot depend on them to follow through—or even remember they have said them.  (Or if they remember, they don’t act like they remember them.)  They turn things back on me.  I must be remembering wrong.  (HA! Said in my best Chris Matthews voice.  Fat chance of that!  Mr. Spuds says I have the memory of an elephant.  LOL!)  It must be my fault somehow.

And for a while I believed that.  I probably did remember wrong.  I’m sure it was my fault somehow.  Over the years I’ve learned that’s just not true.  Q is lying.  Plain and simple.  Lying.  There’s really no way to sugar coat it or call it something nicer.  (Unless you consider “prevaricating” nicer.  Grin!) 

So I’ve learned my lesson with Q.  I cannot depend on Q to keep their word.  I have to trust that I’ll be able to come up with a good Plan B when they decide to change their mind and blame me for it.  So if it involves money I’ve learned to either not count on it, or to set extra aside. 

I’ve also learned over the years that forgiveness means letting go of what you think someone owes you.  (An oversimplification, but it works for the purpose of this rambling.)  Letting go of your right to seek retribution.  Or vengeance.  Or money.  Or whatever.  Just letting it go.  It doesn’t mean what the other person did was okay, or right, or acceptable.  It simply means you let go of needing to get something from them so you can devote that time, energy and emotion to more positive helpful things.

So I’ve forgiven Q.  Q does not owe me anything.  I’m not seeking anything from Q.

And at the same time I treat them differently.  I act differently around them.  I’m still me.  I just don’t believe them.  I have no confidence in what they tell me.  I file it away as something that might happen, but just as easily might not.  Based on past experiences I’ve learned to question most things they tell me.  I take them all with a grain or eight of salt.

How can I have forgiven them if I feel this way?  Based on past experiences I’d be foolish to blindly trust them.  I feel like it’s not quite “real” forgiveness if I act differently.  If I expect them to lie to me.  If I don’t believe them.  Q doesn’t owe me anything.  I’m not after anything.  I simply don’t trust them.

And part of me feels like that’s a reasonable response.  That I’m protecting myself.  And the other part of me feels selfish and judgmental—and not in a healthy way.  I keep checking my motives in hesitating to believe Q.  Is the problem with me?  Have I not truly forgiven Q?

No answers here.  Just questions. 

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