Changes & Transitions

The Power of Right Now

I've been embracing a mental shift lately and I have to tell you, it's really changing the way I do things. I've been thinking about power. The power to change. The power to improve. The power to achieve. The power to continue. There is an inherent strength in the word power, but how do you access it?

Many women I know seem to operate under this assumption that power is something that they have to get or build up like a muscle. Like it's something that is housed "somewhere else" and that it requires a lot of effort to go and get it. 

But here's what I've learned. Everyone has power. It's inside them. It always has been. It's not about finding it or building it, it's about accessing it. 

And the only time you can access it is right now. This very moment. Whatever moment it is for you, you can only access power now. I mean, think about it. Can you access power tomorrow? Possibly. But you won't know until tomorrow becomes right now. I know, it's kind of messing with my head, too. 

So, like I said, this has been on my mind lately and it's changing things for me little by little. I don't need to wait until I feel strong, or confident, or ready. I can do it now. Whatever the "it" is, I can. That's a lot of freedom. And a whole lot of permission that you can receive if you want it. 

You want to run a marathon? You can start right now. You want to write a novel? You can start right now. You want to launch your own business? You can start right now. You want to fall in love again and have your heart healed? You can start right now.

That's crazy right? Whatever starting looks like for you is perfectly fine. Maybe it's brainstorming a lead character in a screenplay you've always wanted to write. Maybe it's searching online for houses in that perfect neighborhood you want to live in. Maybe it's dusting off your running shoes and putting them by the door instead of hiding them under your bed. Whatever it is, do it. Because all you have is right now. You can't do it yesterday and tomorrow is always a day away. But you have right now. 

That's a whole lot of power. 

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The Blank Slate Syndrome

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I am a big fan of the New Year. The planning, the goal setting, the dreaming, the journaling... I get giddy just thinking about it.

But quickly on the heels of all that mind mapping and list making and goal stretching comes another feeling that I know all too well in the month of January - complete and utter overwhelm.

How am I going to get all of this done?

I didn't do even half of this stuff last year - what makes me think that this year is going to be any different?

This is totally realistic - as long as I do not sleep for the next six months.

Can I get an Amen?

The past couple years have been better because I'm approaching goals and 2017 dreams in a different manner. Instead of saying "this is what I want to do this year", I'm saying "This is how I want to feel this year." I'm choosing four core emotions that I want to be BFFs with this year and then asking "What can I do that will help me FEEL this way?"

This approach is courtesy of the Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte and has been revolutionary to my every day life not to mention my goals and approach to where I want to be. Instead of saying "I will write that novel in 2017", I'm saying "I want to be playful this year. What can I do today to experience a feeling of playfulness? Will this add to that experience or detract from it?"

So, here's some notes from my own reflection on what I want out of 2017.

Principle: Playful

  • Laugh more, worry less
  • Be in the moment
  • Seek out adventure
  • Learn new things
  • Get outside and move
  • Play games
  • Don't take life so seriously
  • Find the fun
  • Connect with friends

Principle: Assured

  • Be physically comfortable
  • Do your homework
  • Let routines do the work
  • Ask for help
  • Communicate effectively
  • Focus on strengths
  • Ask the right questions
  • Be intentional

Principle: Structured

  • Schedule it, make it ingrained
  • Routines are rituals
  • Everything can use a system
  • Even when I don't feel like it
  • Be organized
  • When you're done, put it away

Principle: Energized

  • Nutrition in, energy out
  • More water, less sugar
  • Avoid the negatives, focus on the positives
  • Be intentional with the energy you have
  • The body craves exercise - show the body some love

The blank slate can be exciting - and overwhelming, depending on how you approach it. I'm a big believer in the principle that how you start something is indicative of how you'll finish something. I want the New Year to be inspiring, not daunting. It should be full of possibility, not problems. This method has been great for me to frame up the year with a positive and realistic mindset.

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Do Failed Transitions Actually Exist?

failed transitionsHave you ever had a transition that failed? A period in your life that you were convinced was going in one way but ended up going somewhere else and it was not at all what you wanted? We've all had times like that when something didn't work out, a project sputtered or a relationship ended. But does that mean that the transition failed?

I argue no.

Transitions are necessary, but their purpose is often misunderstood. People think that a transition is supposed to get us from here to there (wherever here and there might be). But transitions are all about an internal change, an adjustment of the heart, mind and soul so that regardless of where you end up you can handle what is happening around you with a clear head and with grace.

We think that if our goals don't work out like we expected them to, then the whole experiment was for nothing.

Sorry to pull out a cliché quote but Thomas Edison summed it up beautifully:

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

The first time I heard this was when I was in high school and a boyfriend and I had just broken up. I was upset about the whole situation and I was talking to my dad about it who patiently listened. When I was done with whatever teenage rant I had embarked on, he smiled and told me the quote from Edison then said, "See? You didn't fail at this. You just successfully found that he wasn't the right guy for you."

This time last year I thought I had a good grip on where I was going. I was going to get remarried, move to a new city and set up a life that was going to be incredible. Instead, that relationship ended and I had to move again in this new city where to be totally honest I don't feel like I belong and start again. With three kids in tow. I was in that critical phase of a transition where things are settling down and I was getting into a routine and finally, FINALLY, starting to feel like I was adjusting and BAM.

Time to transition again.

Does that make those months (years, really) a waste? Absolutely not. I learned so much about me, about love and life, family and courage, what I want and don't want. It was painful and it was bumpy but I've grown and matured and changed. I successfully found that the life I was working toward wasn't the ultimate life for me.

So, I'm on the hunt again. And things are good. So the transition itself didn't fail. The transition made me who I am today. Because of that transition I am braver today than I was. I'm taking chances with some major decisions in my life. Scared? You bet. But they don't call it courage if you're not afraid. It's courage when you're scared and you do it anyway.

Have you had an experience like this? Share it with us in the comments below.

The Purpose of a Transition

purpose of transitionFor the past, I don't know, 34 (almost 35) years, I feel like I have been in a constant state of transition. I didn't feel like I was settled regardless of where I was or what I was doing or who I thought I was. Admittedly, for the first 21 years this was largely self-induced. I couldn't just be happy where I was. I was always looking for the next thing, the next milestone, the next problem to complain about... let me tell you, I was a hoot to be around. But I had a major transition a few months before my 22nd birthday and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) changed. I watched my family go through health issues and transitions of their own and I was amazed at their bravery and their resilience. Then, suddenly I was faced with being at a place in life where things just weren't right. I wasn't right. I didn't want to live like that anymore.

So I entered a transition phase (eventually as a willing participant) and I learned a lot about me, what I wanted and where I was going or at least where I hoped I was going.

But this phase of my life left more questions asked than answered and I had to get to a point where I was ok with unanswered questions. That's not my style. I'm a "questions answered" kind of girl so this was a real test of my emotions not to mention my sanity.

But here I am. I'm still here. And I firmly believe that every step I have taken to get to this point has helped direct me here.

Here is pretty good. But I didn't get here without going through some transitions. Some small and some life-changing-over-night kind of transitions.

Transitions are painful, scary and often times confusing. There's a lot of "why me" and "why now" kind of stuff happening between the ears and it screws with you. It really does. But I promise it's necessary.

So many people would love to skip the transformation process and go right to the end result.

We want the healthy body without suffering the withdrawal from not eating crap all the time.

We want to get the marathon medal without having to put a ridiculous amount of miles on our new running shoes.

We want to perform on stage before an adoring crowd without having to heal the blisters on your fingers from practicing guitar for hours.

We want the promotion, the recognition, the notoriety but we'd rather skip the whole work really hard and make missteps along the way part.

That's not how it works. We actually need transitions.

I firmly believe that if I went from where I was as a scared, messed up 21 year old college senior to the (semi) sane and responsible woman I am now my head would have exploded.

And it would not have been pretty. Not at all guys.

The transition time allowed me to grow. The changes happen DURING the transition. Not at the end of it. I have a good friend that loves to remind me of this when I'm complaining (hell yeah I complain... I'm not perfect) about someone or something that is just. Driving. Me. Crazy.

He smiles and he says, "It sounds like an excellent opportunity for spiritual growth, Angela."

After the impulse to punch him subsides, I know he is right. The transitions are not just to get us to where we want to go; they are, in fact, responsible for making us who we are when we get there. Like Michelangelo trying to find David in the slab of stone, life is rubbing off our rough edges and shaping us, molding us, discovering our hidden talents and voila! We are a piece of art work.

Yes, you read that right. You are a piece of art. Every inch of you. Does that surprise you?

That's why I call it Unexpected Art.

What transition are you in right now? Share it below and get some support in the comments.

Being Prepared for the Next Funk

be prepared for next funkSo, we've talked about fighting the funks and also how to know when one is coming your way. But you can't always ward them off right? So what do you do when the inevitable happens? Most of the time (if we're honest) we give up, freak out or implode. But what if you were prepared, not to keep the funk from happening, but to deal with the funk when it rears its ugly head? I've said it before and I'll say it again: no one is exactly the same so what works for me won't work necessarily work for you. But, my experience may be able to clue you in to what you need to do to help yourself. When you're in a funk, it's a lot of work to just function let alone fight off a funk and get back to normal. But the easier you make things on yourself, the easier it will be for you to deal with the funk and ultimately move past it.

Instead of a step by step list of "here's what to have on hand and how to be ready", I've divided my thoughts into categories so that you can figure out what might work for you personally.

Personal Health

The first thing that slips is, not surprisingly, physically health. Making sure that good, wholesome foods are on hand and easily accessible is one way to help curb the unhealthy tendencies that generally pop up during a funk. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is also important as is physical exercise. The more you can get into a routine with sleep and exercise when things are good, the easier it will be to keep those habits when the crap hits the fan. Yes, it will be hard and it will be rough. But it will be worth it.

Put Good Stuff In, Get Good Stuff Out

Just like with physical health, your mind requires "nutrition" to be able to be at its peak potential. We are absolutely bombarded with messages on a regular basis, many of which we have no control over when and how often we see them. But there are moments when you do choose what your brain consumes. Moments like listening to music in the car, relaxing on the couch at the end of the day or how you occupy your time while waiting in line or at a doctor's office.

Make sure you always have positive options at your fingertips. For me, this means having specific playlists on Spotify for various moods, a number of motivational books on my kindle and even uplifting quotes or images on my phone and as my wallpaper. A friend of mine, Angela Mager, talked about this in one of her latest posts and how you can strategically place motivational items around your house to keep you focused on goals and contribute to a healthy environment for yourself. The more good stuff you put into your head, the more good stuff will come out of your thoughts (and then your words, emotions, and actions).

Getting Your Pity Party Crashers on Speed Dial

I have some wonderful friends and family in my life and let's be honest: I know who to call when I want to indulge in a bad mood and those that will pull my head out of my ass and get me back on the path where I should be. I intentionally put my friends who love me enough to tell me the truth and hurt my feelings at the top of my favorite list in my iPhone because they need to be the first ones I call. Otherwise, I'll just be spinning my wheels. Again.

Know Thyself

I can't stress how important it is to pay attention to your moods, thoughts, patterns and behaviors. If you don't, then your funks will always surprise you and you'll never see them coming. Trust me, that's not the way to live. It is a good way to drive yourself crazy.

There are a ridiculously infinite number of ways to get to know yourself, but the first step is just to pay attention. Most people go through the day and never give a thought to what they're doing or why they're doing it. Even if once or twice a day you stop and ask yourself why you're doing something or really investigate how you feel, you're going to be ahead of the game.

What are some things that you do that help you prepare for the funks?

6 Ways to Tell When You Are Heading for a Funk

heading for a funkRecently, I talked about how I was in a funk but managed to get out of it fairly quickly. We all know the best medicine is prevention, right? That's not a surprise and to be honest it shouldn't be. Want to be healthy? Then don't get sick. The true is for your emotions. I am not a psychologist nor professional therapist and I certainly don't pretend to be one. I also am not a big fan of the term "expert" because I believe that implies that you know pretty much everything there is to know on a given topic and I am a self-proclaimed life-long learner.

But I do know me, at least to a certain extent. I am constantly learning more about myself as time goes on and that's because I've become more and more proficient at paying attention to what's happening. You and I are not exactly alike, nor should we be. Everyone is different. But I have found a stunning number of similarities between myself and the women that are constantly placed in my path.

So, let's get back on topic, shall we? When it comes to fighting the funk, the best thing you can do is not get into one at all. Boy, that would be great, wouldn't it? It's not exactly realistic because no one is in complete control of their emotions. (But imagine that for a second: what if you could control your emotions and feel what you want to feel when you want to feel it all the time? Mind = Blown)

So if you can't be in control of your emotions, the next best thing is to recognize what's happening with you so that you can be aware of it and take the appropriate actions necessary to bounce back. When I am heading to a funk, it's something I can feel. But undoubtedly, there are a number of tell-tale signs that pop up in the days leading up to the fall that can clue me in. Here are my big six:

  1. My eating / sleeping habits change - Most often, I notice that it's harder for me to wake up in the morning. I feel more sluggish and more inclined to hit the snooze button. When this persists, it's my top indicator that something is coming that I'd rather not have happen. I've also noticed that I stop eating in my generally healthy manner. I don't get crazy about being healthy, but I do try and take care of myself. That starts to go out the window and it's always gradual. If it's abrupt, I'm dealing with  more than a funk.
  2. I hear myself say "I don't want to talk about it" more often - I don't share a lot of personal information with the people around me, but I do have a strong support network that I turn to when I need guidance or advice. There could be minor things going on like stupid issues at work, or an annoyance with an acquaintance and when someone asks me what's going on, instead of talking through it to find a sound solution, I start brushing it off. A lot. When I start consistently doing this, I am beginning the process of isolating which is very dangerous for me.
  3. I start dreading social obligations that I generally enjoy - I am not what many would consider to be an extrovert. I like my quiet time and professional networking events tend to leave me exhausted, even when I genuinely enjoy myself. But I do have an intimate group of friends that I like to spend time with and some hobbies and interests that I can really get lost in. When I start dreading an upcoming knitting class or get-together, that's a clue that something is a bit off-kilter. For me, the next phase would be to cancel those engagements for no good reason, so I have to watch that.
  4. I stop daydreaming - I am a dreamer. I have no problem admitting that openly. Envisioning an exciting future is an enjoyable pastime of mine and it can encompass my personal life or my professional aspirations. If I notice that I haven't been doing that or that the thought of doing that is overwhelming or exhausting, something is up.
  5. I feel different (physically) - I don't know about you, but my funks FEEL different. I feel weighed down, pressured, sometimes even deflated like a balloon. I feel sapped of energy even when I'm motivated to do something that I enjoy. It's hard to explain, to be honest, but I know it when I feel it.
  6. My choice in entertainment changes - My preferences for entertainment are widespread. I like television, movies, music, reading, knitting... and I frequently change what I'm looking at or doing depending on where I am mentally. But when a funk is coming, the music that I listen to is different as are the types of books and shows I watch. It's worth mentioning that I could be in a good mood and if I start listening to aggressive or "downer" music or watch a depressing or particularly intense show, that can impact my mood. But when the funk is coming, it is reflected in my entertainment choices.

So, there is my list. There are so many other signs out there, but these are the ones that I experience most frequently and consistently. What are your signs that tell you that you are heading for a slump? Have you ever paid attention to that before? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

 

Fighting The Funk

Yesterday was not a good day. At least not emotionally for me. It really started on Monday. I could feel it coming. I knew it was coming. I'm familiar with these kind of days. They just sort of happen. It's most likely a chemical thing for me because these are the days when life is truly good and nothing is really triggering it. But there it is: a down day. fighting funkI've been having "down days" for years. They come and they go. They usually only last a couple days at most and if it goes longer then it's something else and I have to deal with it. But yesterday was a down day. I had no motivation, no focus, no drive. I was just sad. And I had no reason to be sad which just made it even worse.

It took all my energy to NOT go back to bed. Like I said, it was just one of those days. Having depression and anxiety can do that to a person.

But today, I'm good. In fact, I was much better starting at about 6 pm last night. A lot of times, these funks can last a while and I have to really push through them to function, to do anything that shows forward movement. But not this time. This time I bounced back and I was good.

So what happened? I thought about what I would tell a friend or a client. And then I took my own advice. Here's what I did:

I acknowledged what was going on

I didn't try to fight the issue. I just let it happen. I accepted the fact that it was a down day. I took it a step further too. I told a couple people so they knew what was going on with me. There's nothing like crashing a pity party by inviting some friends over.

I got moving

I got out of my seat. I got showered and dressed. I packed my laptop and I got out of the house. I went to a coffee shop and I got to work. I made a list of things that needed to be done. I let the overwhelm hit me. And then I kept moving.

I transitioned with music

This is something new for me. Instead of playing "happy music" to try and instantly boost my mood, I started with something a little easier and let the boost happen on its own. I have several different playlists on Spotify for different moods or activities. I have a mellow(ish) playlist that I call "Writing Music" that includes artists like Muse, Death Cab for Cutie and Mutemath. I let that music pull me up a bit and then I could listen to "happier" music.

I accomplished something

I have a ridiculously long to-do list. But I don't hate it. I love to be busy. On the down days, that list can be incredibly overwhelming (like yesterday) but it gives me a focal point. And I attacked it. I crossed off a few things (I'm talking less than 10% of what was on the list) but damn did that feel good. They weren't huge projects. They weren't monster tasks. But they were accomplishments.

So, now I'm good. Things are back to even keel. Will this work every time? I have no idea. But it worked this time. And that is what truly matters.

The Magical Act of Being Enough

being enoughHave you ever sat back and watched someone who had an amazing level of self-confidence? How they move through a room with ease and assurance? How they speak to other people, holding their gaze and not fidgeting during the conversation? Have you noticed how they can laugh off their mistakes? And still try new things even when they completely screw up? Have you seen them go about their day as though they don't have a care in the world and have complete self-awareness that so many other people lack?

Have you felt the energy around them? How they make other people feel? It's almost as if they can transfer the state of being enough to others just by standing there and talking to them.

It's damn near magical.

And I have a secret for you: you have it too.

Oh trust me, it's there. It might be buried under years of scrutiny, self-criticism, doubt, fear and other emotional sabotage, but it exists. And it's waiting for you to call it up to the surface.

Have you listened to it recently? You probably have. It came out in the form of a new idea, a bold decision, a crazy theory about life... and you probably shouted it down.

I can't do that.

Everyone will think I'm crazy.

I have no time or expertise for that.

This pain will never go away to allow me to do that.

That's for other people. Not me.

What will people think?

Let it shout back. Let it tell your insecurities off. To go bug someone else. Because you're too busy dreaming big dreams to let self-doubt and pain rule your life.

Take a step. Move forward.

And see what happens.

Because you can do this. You are enough. You can live this truth.

And it will be magical.

The Three Simple Words We All Long To Hear

enoughLately, I have been playing a little game with myself. I have been saying to myself (either with my eyes closed and imagining that I'm standing across from myself or in front of the mirror... hang in there with me, for a minute ok?) a very simple phrase and then gauging my reaction. "You are enough."

That's it. Three simple words.

You are enough.

Then I sit back and watch. My internal, and often external, reaction to this phrase will vary depending on the day, time, circumstances, or whatever else is going on around me. Not surprising since, hey, I'm human. At times the overwhelming urge to laugh will rise up in me, as if to say "who do you think you're kidding?" Other times, there will a deep longing that pulls at my heart. Oh, if only that were true... Sometimes, and these are my favorite, it is relief that washes over me. Finally, I can let go of the imperfections and just be... me.

More often than not, though, there is a need to fill in a blank. It's almost like an emotional asterisk. And it sounds like this:

"You are enough..."

WHEN

  • ... this situation is resolved
  • ... you've lost all the weight
  • ... you're not so neurotic
  • ... he / she accepts you
  • ... they tell you that you are
  • ... this project is complete

Need I go on?

This whole exercise has been incredibly enlightening for me. I've been monitoring my reactions and doing my best not to judge them, but just take them at face value. Basically it's been an adventure in emotional meditation.

While I have more to say on this (to be continued as they say), I'm curious as to where you are with this. Do this simple exercise. Stand in front of a mirror and say out loud "{your name}, you are enough."

What happens? Do you laugh? Do you cry? Do you roll your eyes? Are you rolling your eyes just reading this?

Try this exercise once a day for a few days and observe how you react. No judgment, no need for change. Just observation.

Just sit with this and be.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

You Are Not Alone. Really.

How often have you been stuck in a situation and you think, "God if someone could just understand what I'm going through then things would at least feel better"? What about that moment when you're struggling with something and you're completely embarrassed by it so you keep it inside? Then, one day, you hear someone else talking about the fact that they've struggled with the EXACT SAME THING and you start to cry because oh-my-God-I'm-not-alone.

I have a little secret for you: you are not experiencing anything that someone, somewhere, somehow has not already experienced. Seriously. No matter how unique you think your situation is, someone knows how you feel. But you'll never know that if you keep everything inside.

When my first husband committed suicide and I was pregnant with my third child and 31 years old, I felt completely alone innot alone the world. I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through.

It was awful.

Then I opened up. A little bit here. A little bit there.

I joined a social network specifically for widows and found other survivors of suicide. They understood.

I met other pregnant widows. They understood.

I met other young widows. They understood.

I met another young widow of suicide who was pregnant when her husband died. She really understood.

I transferred this to my children and went out of my way to show them that they were not the only kids to go through something like this. That others understood.

That they didn't have to feel alone.

It was an amazing experience and the women that I have connected with just through that outreach are now wonderful friends and companions as I continue my journey.

This was not my first experience with learning to relate to others. I've been in similar situations (both in receiving and giving understanding) for a long time now and I've always valued the art of connecting with others. And it is an art.

But the pain during this time in my life was so great that I convinced myself that no one could fathom it. No one would get it. No one would want to talk about it even if they did get it.

That couldn't have been further from the truth. Women who go through something hard, something traumatic, something gut-wrenching don't survive it by keeping quiet. Perhaps they continue to exist, but they aren't the same. The ones who flourish and grow and thrive are the ones that share their pain, their knowledge, and their heart with others. Because when you share that burden, it's suddenly lighter. And they get that.

But it starts with the idea that the world will continue to spin. That time has not stopped. That there are others who can give them wisdom and who need them to share their own.

That they are not alone.

And neither are you.