loving life

Not Getting What You Need? That Used to Be Me.

A client reminded me today of the story of my last birthday.  It was a good day, but not for the reasons you might suspect.  I was not spoiled.  I didn’t get that one gift I’ve always secretly wished for, but never requested.  The weather wasn’t even that great.

 

The amazing thing (to me, at least) is that it was a good day DESPITE the fact that my celebration was decidedly underwhelming.  Neither of my sons (who, I should say are usually pretty good at this sort of thing) got me even so much as a card.  And my husband got me a mug.  A nice mug, from one of the best coffee shops in the world Blue Bottle (and mug that I had admired – which he’d noticed,) but still, not exactly a trip to Tahiti! 

 

There was no special dinner, no special dessert planned. But when I told my family (some of whom we’re feeling bad when they realized what was happening) that I really was FINE.  I wasn’t just saying it.  I really was fine.  In fact, I was quite happy.  I was in a place I’d chosen to be in, with my parents and my kids and my husband.  It was enough.  It was good. 

 

Mind you I was not always this Zen about underwhelming celebrations of me.  But I am now, more often than not, because I have learned to do the two things I’m going to suggest to you.

 

1)    I’ve learned to ask for what I need and want.

 

2)    I’ve learned to regularly get for myself what I need and want regardless of what my amazing loved ones do or do not do.  In other words, I take responsibility. 

 

If you’re already great at asking for what you want and taking responsibility for getting what you need on a regular basis, that’s awesome!  You probably don’t need to keep reading.

 

But if it’s hard for you, as it was for me—for decades—then read on.  I’ve got a couple thoughts about how to overcome some common barriers to getting started.

Do You Ever Have Trouble Figuring Out What You Want?

It’s funny, isn’t it? How hard it can be for some of us to figure out what we want?  I find this to be an especially common problem for dedicated moms and educators.  Why?  Because we’ve been taught that being UN-selfish is what makes us so amazing. 

 

Wanting something JUST FOR OURSELVES (or God Forbid actually seeking to get it!) can seem selfish.  So we get out of practice with even knowing what we want. 

 

Another contributing factor in our culture is that we’re taught to spend most of our time in our head.  Emotions are viewed as suspect.  Intuition is not to be trusted and the body is viewed primarily as a necessary container for living.  None of above are seen as dependable sources of wisdom.  (And I might add that this perspective leans a bit towards favoring masculine ways of knowing as opposed to feminine, but I digress.)

 

There's science to back up the importance of these alternative ways of knowing.  I'm learning more about it all, but what I can say for sure already is that my life is WAY better now that I listen to all the parts of me, not just my (very overactive) rational mind. 

 

Rational minds are good, but they can’t make good decisions without accurate information.  And they miss a lot.

 

Because our bodies and the right side of the brain take in way more information per second than the logical, linguistic left side of our brain, the “logical thought only” perspective leaves us missing out on a whole lot of information that can help us figure out what we want, which is one of the first steps in moving towards a life we’ll really love—a life with meaningful purpose and a whole lot of delight on the side.  Learning how to listen to my body’s wisdom is one of the best skills I’ve learned in the past few years. 

3 Steps to Having it All

This morning I had a moment when I realized that despite some challenging circumstances “nothing that truly matters is lacking.”**  It was like an infusion of hydration when I was parched with thirst, or an IV of nutrients when my body was functioning on just enough nourishment to keep me alive, but no more.  It was an experience of abundance.

 

Have you ever had a moment like that?  When you realized that your perception of what was lacking in your life was more fiction than truth?  When you felt the deep sense of calm in the metaphorical midst of the storm, or the famine, when you knew that everything that matters is already here? That you are not alone?  That there is no real lack in this moment?

 

I don’t mean AT ALL that we are supposed to pretend that we don’t feel pain or disappointment or loss. 

 

And I CERTAINLY don’t think it’s our job to tell suffering people that they should just “focus on the bright side.”  Empathy is usually a better path in those moments.  Empathy and companionship.

 

But I do know that living with a deep sense of “enoughness” is way better than living with the conviction that the world is mostly about lack, about not having enough, about needing to be perfect to get enough, or needing to fight for, or manipulate other people to get it.  And we can easily make a case for either version of life in pretty much any moment – whether the “enough” we’re looking for is enough money, or enough time or enough love, whatever.  

5 Tips to Keep You Moving Towards a Life You Love (from a 5k Finisher!)

I did it!  On Sunday, Feb. 26, at the age of 49 (and a half!), I finished the Screenland USA 5K—a event celebrating  the Centennial Anniversary of my new hometown, Culver City, CA—and when I did, I also finished my first athletic event ever of any kind (outside of P.E. and the annual “Field Day” torture that came with it.)  

Mostly the race itself was pretty fun and I’m kinda hooked on the idea of doing another one before I fall back out of shape, but in the meantime I want to take full advantage of my first opportunity to use a sports metaphor for life.

So, without further ado, here are my 5 “Keep-Moving-Towards-a-Life-You-Love” Tips:

 

When You’re New to Something, the First Mile Can Be the Hardest.

 

When I first started running as an adult a couple summers ago, my only goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping. Now that I can run 3 miles pretty consistently I’ve noticed that I generally still feel terrible for that first mile.

My experience with running seems to me to mirror a lot of new starts in life.  Often it’s the getting started part that’s the hardest, and once you get “in the groove” it’s not so bad.  The problem is that often we quit before we get to experience the still-challenging-but-not-so-excruciatingly-hard part that’s just beyond the end of that metaphorical first mile.

Tip #1:  When the path to your best life is tough, change your thoughts.

When you’re trying to establish a new habit or start a new project that you’re pretty sure is a path towards a life you’ll love and it’s also seriously HARD, rather than buying into thoughts such as, “This is too hard.  I’m too old/young.  I’m never going to make it!” assume that you’re in the “first mile” and it will get better down the road.  Approach the challenge with curiosity and some hope instead of fear and doom. Make your new mantra, “It’s just the first mile.  It’s just the first mile.  It will get better if I just keep going.”

Tip #2: Set up incentives—to help you to keep going just a bit farther. 

One of my favorite tools for this practice is a timer.  When you think you can’t go any farther on a project (or can’t possibly start because you’retoo tired/angry/hungry/short etc.) take a tip I learned from Anna Kunnecke (and the folks who recommend breaking down tasks into Pomodoros) and set a timer — for 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 25 minutes.  Whatever time your most rebellious or depressed self can agree to.  You just might find that your timer gets you past your “first mile” and (surprise!) you feel able to keep going just a bit farther.