Last week was unusually busy with meetings. I had a high number of client meetings, a couple of appointments, and two church committee meetings. I was also getting ready for the visit of my brother and niece, who timed their visit to be here for my son’s 16th birthday. So, I had to prepare the house for guests, prepare for the birthday, and prepare to take this week off from working. The only thing I didn’t get done was this blog post.
I thought I was keeping it together, thought I could just shake off the disappointment of dropping that particular ball. But I noticed that I was holding my breath, clenching my jaw, and generally impatient. When I notice those signs, I pay attention. They tell me I’m fooling myself if I think I’m alright. I’m not, and it’s no use pretending otherwise. The most efficient thing to do – and also the kindest, to myself and those I live with – is to acknowledge that I’m stressed out and deal with it.
How to Deal with It
I write about my own experiences for a couple of reasons.
First, because they are common to everyone, but most people go around thinking, “It’s just me. My dysfunctions and disappointments are unique.” No. It isn’t just you. It’s all of us. We’re all in this together.
Second, because a life devoted to personal growth, as mine is, is, even so, not a happy-all-the-time life. As the R.E.M. song goes, everybody hurts. What all this coaching has given me is ways to soothe those hurts, get faster at healing, and grow more resilient over time.
Here are my steps to dealing with hurt (stress’s tender name).
1. Notice. You’re not dealing with pain as well as you think or hope if your body shows signs of stress: muscular tension, held breath, and reactive moods, such irritability, impatience, or withdrawing.
2. Ask, “What’s Going On?” Practice right now saying these words with curiosity, compassion, and not an ounce of accusation. The first response may be, “I don’t know.” But wait a beat, it’ll come.
In my case, the answer was, “Interruptions.”
3. Ask, “Is it true?” As soon as the answer comes, ask if it is true.
Is it true I’m being interrupted? I recognize at once that this is an old belief of mine, one I thought I had put to rest. I used to think that way about my husband, when I was in graduate school and he would want to spend time with me, but I had so much reading and writing to do. And about my children, who seemed to need something every two and a half minutes, and I had housework to do or a coaching business to build. I became a lot happier when I stopped believing in interruptions and started thinking of everything as just life.
When I see that it isn’t true that I’m being interrupted, my husband’s “interruption” becomes: A man who loves me and whom I love wants to spend time with me? Woohoo!
My kids’ “interruption” becomes: Not one but two objectively adorable small children want me? Yes, please!
A blog post “interrupted” becomes: Beloved family are flying across the country to spend time with me? For my baby’s 16th birthday? And I have so many clients and so many people wanting me to serve on their committees that I don’t have time to write a blog post this one, single week? Score! Those are actually exactly the problems I have always wanted to have!
Dropping the concept of interruptions does not mean I stop caring about the fact that I still have to write a blog post. It puts it in perspective. From the stand-out demerit, it becomes one in a pile, frankly, of blessings. Tension loosens. I sigh and breathe normally again.
In this new state of mind, a wave of trust – in life, in myself – washes over me. I haven’t had to be perfect to have a wonderful life. Things have a way of working out – even when they haven’t worked out the way I’d hoped, I’ve been okay.
It’s Not an Interruption, It’s Just Life
Lo and behold, my brother’s visit was “interrupted” by an old friend of his, who called him up and took him and my niece out for a long lunch. Which meant I was able to write this blog post after all.
I invite you to stop believing in interruptions and experiment with trusting life. What happens?