We are about to climb into our cars, board planes, or open our homes to family members and friends to celebrate an American tradition: coming together at the Thanksgiving Day meal, tossing around the ball for a friendly game of flag football, and figuring out how on earth we were ever comfortable sleeping on those tiny, double-sized twin beds.
This year has another special feature to integrate. How do we integrate or avoid arguing with people over conflicting views about the the new presidential administration and proposed changes? And what, if anything, does this have to do with your mental and emotional health?
You tell me. I mean, literally: you all have been telling me over the last two weeks. People are reporting that they are thinking about this challenge. People are asking me what to consider as they make plans to spend time with family, friends, and community members, as its citizens discuss their views of the future under a new president and administration.
And some are already changing plans, based on what is happening in their homes and friend’s home, with some of that decision having nothing to do with the election. They have long-standing conflict that has been lingering for years.
Read on for more tips to consider before you meet together.
“Of all the people I know, you have suffered so much in your life. I’d give you an excuse to bail out any day,” a male friend once said to me.
From his perspective, my long list of physical challenges — from kidney disease to Celiac Disease — gave me a lifelong excuse card that would make me exempt from attaining success.
My thought on his comment? Well, isn’t that nice?No, that isn’t helpful.Bleah. Yuck. Give me a moment to wipe that thought from my mind.
This kind of thinking, the Excuse Card, sounds surprisingly similar to the word, “Resistance,” which is the topic of a book a friend and presentation coach Dr. Michelle Mazur recommended me to read. The book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and the primary focus of the first section of the book is resistance. Resistance is that excuse card, the many various rhymes, reasons, and rationalizations we give to ourselves on a daily basis to keep us from engaging in the activities, dreams, and passionate work of our lives. Rather than doing that work, we often chase other activities which present less fear, superficial but acceptable gains, give us the illusion of busyness and productivity, yet distance us from our ultimate goals.
Pressfield’s book is a powerful “kick in the ass” for helping you overcome your personal resistances, so I’ll refer you to check out his book if you want to get the big picture on identifying key ways you allow resistance to keep you from attaining your deepest wants in life. For this post, I’d like to bring you in a little closer to my world by giving away my top five ways I deal with excuses in my life.
Do yourself a favor, and steal these. I give you permission.
During the last weekend of August, Mother Nature clearly let people in the Seattle area know that it is now Fall weather season! We had a windstorm with rain that knocked down trees, took out power, and claimed the lives of two people. It was quite a contrast to the unusually hot and dry weather we have had during the summer.
The Seattle area usually receives a bit of a more gentle nudge with the change in seasons as we near September — the morning air has a crispness to it, the evening light fades earlier, and Starbuck’s advertises its Pumpkin Spice Lattes in October (ha ha). Not this year! As I packed up my camping tent at 6 am in the middle of a downpour, I was laughing. A 50% chance of rain really means, “Yep, it’s gonna rain!” I could feel it in the air. Fall has arrived.
I can feel a lot of other things in the air too. The beginning of Fall, with the obvious signs of a change of season, is a fun-tastic time to assess how things are working or not working for you. As I was reading Tara Gentile’s Quiet Power Strategy on my solar-panel powered Kindle reader, the author quoted another author who is oft asking her clients something I have asked my clients each time they encounter a “stuck point” while using the same tactics, strategies, and mainstream solutions they have always used:
How’s that working for you?
When you hear yourself respond to this question with, “Not very well,” perhaps you are ready to change how you are looking at the challenge, problem, or frustration that you are currently facing. Why continue to throw the same solutions at the same problem, expecting a different result?
You are the one who knows when something isn’t working. Stop. Just stop. And then, clear your mind.
One of the ways I clear my head is to go for a trail run. There is something about being in nature, focusing on the technical trail with its rocks, roots, and shifting ground, and a higher level of exertion that makes me look at things differently after I’ve completed my run. I’m panting like a dog, my legs get covered with dirt, all I can hear is my breath and the sound of my soft footfalls on the ground.
The open trail, like the one pictured above, narrows into a single-track that requires my complete attention for the next couple of hours. Later, when I’m showered and dressed for the day, I find that my mind can wander back to the complex situations of my clients, as well as my own personal, professional, and creative challenges. I have then gained an ability to see the problems from multiple directions and pathways, mindfully aware of suspending judgment and setting aside fear.
Are you ready for Fall? Are you ready to go beyond your answers when you discover things aren’t working the way you had hoped or envisioned for yourself? Would you like to try another pathway to explore the possibility of a different outcome than the one you have come to expect?
At SDC, we welcome you to Fall, and we welcome you to explore the pathways you will discover through counseling with one of us. While you don’t need to become avid trail or road runners like we are, we recognize that there are many tools that help the mind and heart to enter a place of self-discovery, courage, grief, growth, and emotional/social intelligence.
In a few days, you’ll see my next post about the subject of ghosting [Edit: something came up and I will be delaying that post to make room for a more emergent topic]. My Fall challenge involves sharing with you about many difficult topics, such as death and dying (and elder care), ghosting, surviving a difficult breakup, handling unpleasant and painful memories, as well as complex skills many of us need to develop to thrive in the 21st century, such as pathways to building your Emotional Intelligence, and recovering from with workplace trauma.
All I know is this: to write about these things with any amount of vulnerability, candor, and thoughtfulness requires plenty of trail running!