Choose Discomfort



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This quote (one of my favorites) is all about avoidance and procrastination. Avoidance and procrastination, the twin demons of my psyche, generate anxiety and guilt. Dr. Brown offers the antidote to anxiety driven by guilt in her concise, direct way. If I were a tattoo kind of girl I’d tattoo that quote into the palm of my hand so I could see it everyday.  Choose discomfort over resentment.

“But I don’t want to be uncomfortable!” I whine. Uncomfortable sucks. Is it really better than resentment?

Yeah. I’m afraid so. Discomfort is a moment to work through. Resentment is forever. Discomfort is like a sleepless night before confronting a task at work or presenting a report to the boss or picking up the phone to say “No” to the latest request from a friend, the kids’ school, a cause you really believe in. Oh my God, my heart is beating faster just imaging this! Does yours?

When we push through the guilt and nerves, we make the phone call and keep our promise to ourselves to say “No”, we feel relief, maybe even pride. No resentment; anxiety gone. What’s left is an eye blinking moment when we admit to ourselves that that wasn’t so bad. We sleep like babies.

What if the stakes are higher? Starting a new business, taking the first step in breaking up a relationship, facing those monstrous obstacles that get in the way of our happiness… The higher the stakes the greater the discomfort and the potential resentment.

We all know people who have “If only” syndrome. “If only I did this when I was younger,” or “if only I did that when I had the chance.” If we’re lucky we know a few people who did choose discomfort over resentment. They say, “Yup, I quit that soul sucking job, one of hardest things I ever did, and then I did something I’d been wanting to do all my life.” Or…”When I finally left him I was scared to death, but here I am free to make my own way and I’m so excited for the adventure of it all.” Often they are the same person, which can be very cool.

The Explore What’s Next logo represents a hill which itself represents a well-loved metaphor about confronting anxiety. The thing we avoid is at the top of the hill. The hardest part is putting one foot in front of the other, believing in your worthiness and strength  even when every cell in our body wants to turn around and run back down. Therapy is often about learning that you’ve got what it takes to lean into that discomfort, get to the top of the hill and enjoy the view.

When Life Becomes A Competition



Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

“Playing House” – Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

One night I was out running and thinking about how my wedding engagement set off an intense ripple effect in our friend group. Girlfriends started pressuring their boyfriends about wedding rings and houses. All of a sudden we had four weddings to attend before our own! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to be proud of these things and to share it with people you love, but was it just me or did everything start to feel like a competition all of a sudden?

With this on my mind, I became aware of the neighborhood I was running through. It was a new development with expensive houses, white picket fences, two new cars in the driveways, kids toys on the lawns, swing sets in the backyards. They all looked the same and reinforced even more that sense of completion.

We start to feel pressured around our 20’s and 30’s to have that ticky-tacky lifestyle. Somehow we are made to feel as if there’s something wrong with us if we don’t get into the competition.

I’m not immune to the competition stress. Even though, I am married I still don’t have the house, two nice cars or kids. Should I feel bad about that? Was I doing something wrong? The pressure was getting to me.

Being sucked into this race didn’t feel like me, but there I was. I struggled to remind myself to stay present and focused on what I have instead of what I don’t have yet. As much as I might wish I had more control, few things in life can be forced; things, especially the important things, tend to unfold in its own time, when the conditions are right. My timeline doesn’t look like everyone else’s. Just like other people’s timeline doesn’t look like mine. That doesn’t make it wrong or make me or anyone else a failure at adulting. Learning to be comfortable, patient and confident while we find our own path is a process, like so much of life.

What helps me is to stay mindful, aware and present in the moment. I try to remind myself:

“I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

I hope this helps you, too. If you can relate to any of this or have your own ways that help you deal with this “life competition”, please leave me a comment! I would love to hear your story.

What Is Your Creative Process?



14590299218_85315ca008_zA while ago I was having a wee meltdown, a “what the hell was I thinking?!” moment. This was at the tail end of working my butt off getting my new office location ready for operation, bringing in two new associates to the practice, playing Whack A Mole with all the little headaches that are part of any expansion.

Reaching out to my daughter, I told her I was freaking out. In response she said sweetly, “That’s OK, Mom. That’s your process.”

“I have a process?”

“Sure you do. You work, nose to the grindstone, doing what has to be done to fulfill your dream. Your dream comes true and you get overwhelmed. Then you sleep on it, give it time, let it sink in, and you’re good.”

“I have a process!”

Yesterday I was at the Albright Knox Art Gallery at a presentation with artists and curators of the current exhibition, Screen Play. One of the curators asked a young artist what his process was for conceiving and implementing a huge animation installation the AK just acquired. He smiled and said, “I sit with my thoughts. My mind is pretty fascinating if I just take the time to observe it. An idea comes into view but it needs time to develop. Then I play video games. I love video games.” The audience, sophisticated people, most of whom grew up in a pre-digital world, appeared a bit perplexed by this. Video games as part of an artistic creative process?

But I was thinking, “He has a process! Just like me! Ha!” Which led me to think that doing anything creative has a process and that is so cool. We are all creators, not just artists. In big ways and small, the entrepreneur, teacher, medical professional, attorney, student, mother, father, we all evolve, develop and grow. It’s when our process stops that we stagnate and risk burn out.

We may not call it A Process. We may call it our weird obsessive compulsive need to light a candle and pray to the muse every time we sit down to write. Whatever our process is, it’s our unique way of loosening up the pathways that allow us to be creative, to grow. That wondrous thing within us wants to come out to meet the world. To do that we need a way to get around anxiety, doubt, comparing ourselves to others, those huge boulders in the path of creativity. Our process is what we do to get out of Creativity’s way.

Ever since my daughter, (let’s call her Sofia, since that’s, you know, her name) ever since Sofia pointed out my process I’ve caught myself getting anxious in other new situations. Before the nasty feeling over-takes me I remember this is a stage of my creative process.

Then I can let myself observe the overwhelmed feeling instead of being completely carried away by it. I can ride it like a surfer over a mighty wave until I get to the solid ground of the beach. That gives me space to be patient, breathe, to get to the realization that it’s all OK. It’s all good.

What is your process? Are you aware of what it is? Is it simple? Complicated? Do you use little rituals? Talk with a particular person who gets it? Play video games? Play with your dog? Please share your thoughts. Click the button under and to the right of the title to leave a comment!

A New EWN Group: Women Empowering Women In A Changing World!



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“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

Don’t you love that quote? I don’t know how many women I’ve met who say this quote is an all time favorite. Why does it speak to us?

Because change is scary. Because it takes a lot of guts to face the change instead of avoiding it, to take charge of our own story instead of handing it over to someone else to tell for us, to take center stage and be the star of our show instead of sitting on the side lines!

Yup, it’s all risky. ‘Cause who can tell us how it’s all going to turn out?

We have fooled ourselves into thinking we can handle it all! Society and our own perfectionistic-y egos tell us we should be able to handle it all! Yet despite all our resources we begin to get frayed around the edges. Exhaustion, sleep troubles, emotional eating, irritability…

We become the frog in the pot, cooking ourselves slowly into shadows of our former selves.

During times of transition we can all use a little help from our friends to remind us how awesome we are!

That’s where our new Explore What’s Next group comes in!

Why go it alone? Transition can be overwhelming! It’s OK to think that, even say it out loud. Coping with aging parents and children’s needs, empty nesting, illness, changes at work or in a relationship and more – sometimes all at once!

Our new group is designed to give you support on your path of change. Our goal is for you to grow out of Overwhelmed and into Empowered! We provide a safe, comfy place where you can just be you, inspired by new ideas and perspectives, validated and encouraged.

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5 Ways to Break Out of Winter Into Spring!



5970115488_583f929819Editor’s Note: Today we lost an hour! That would be totally  unacceptable except that going into Daylight Savings mode is a sign that Spring and Summer are just around the corner despite the crazy weather. After this endless winter, especially for those of us in the Deep North, I can really use Kate’s post on how to break out of those bad winter habits!

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This morning I woke up to chirping of the birds and I thought “we are almost there.” The past week I have really been noticing the days seem longer which has showed me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This winter has really left me feeling sluggish and I am ready to make some changes. Here are a few ways that have worked for me!

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Nelson Mandela: What happens when we lose a father?



“Who will be my role model now that my role model is gone?” ~Paul Simon

From what I’ve read and heard through the media, I don’t think Nelson Mandela would expect or want to be deified. Some of the posts, interviews and articles about him since his death make him sound like he sprung from his mother’s womb fully the tolerant, brilliant politician and peacemaker he became in later life. But that can’t be so. It wasn’t so.

Like Nelson Mandela, my father lived a long life. He died in his sleep at eighty-eight years old. We are very lucky when we are able to know our parents as adults. It gives us chance to get to truly know them, not as the two dimensional icons of our childhood, but as the three dimensional human beings they really are. More like us.

Sometimes that’s a painful transition. As a child and into early adulthood, I worshiped my father. I thought he was the most intelligent, the most cultured, the coolest guy around. A combination of Jack Kennedy, Einstein and Freud. I had him on an impossible pedestal.

When it turned out he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, that he could be, and often was, wrong, I had to grieve the loss of the superman I had created.

Then I got to learn all over again who this man really was; his frustrations, failures, in addition to his accomplishments. I realized he had clay feet as well as strengths. I had to let myself be angry that he wasn’t perfect. That he had “let me down”. Then I could forgive him in my heart and accept that he did the best he could. This was a long process and took not a few hours of therapy! It turned out that even with his faults my Dad was pretty cool after all. And, more importantly, he was a real human being.

Ultimately, when we are able to embrace our role models as good yet flawed, we can incorporate them into who we are and love them and ourselves that much more deeply for it. Who is our role model now that our role model is gone? They are never gone, as long as we carry the best of who they were inside our hearts.

The NPR Program, Tell Me More, had a wonderful conversation which emphasized the evolution and complexity, of who Nelson Mandela, the father of his country, really was. Of all the tributes I’ve heard and read over the last few days, this one stood out for me. To help us remember Nelson Mandela well, here are some of his most cherished words. Is your favorite here? If not, please share it in the comments:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“Let your greatness bloom.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Photo via Andrew Johnson

Beauty in a Dark Sky



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Even in a dark sky there is light and beauty. Sometimes it’s easy to see. Sometimes we need patience, time and breath to see it.

Photo courtesy of Steve O’ Bryan of SmackSmog

 

 

The Reward of Just Sitting Still



DSC00661My friend Amy Jo Lauber has the most gentle way of inspiring a person.

My summer morning ritual includes taking a walk around the neighborhood. I love moving through the cool early morning air, greeting other early birds out with their dogs or just stretching their legs. After reading her post, Sharing Our Gifts, Passing the Baton and the Link to Abundance, Amy Jo’s ritual sounded so sweet I decided to try it this morning. After my usual walk I took the time to sit down on my patio with my coffee. And was rewarded.

I was sitting very still, breathing, waiting for the Universe to whisper her wisdom to me when a hummingbird flew up. He stared at me for a milli-second and then flew over to my hummingbird feeder, hovered there, sipped up nectar and flew off from where it came.

Doesn’t sound like much but let me explain. I’ve been waiting all summer for the hummingbirds to find my feeder. I’ve researched how to attract them, tried different formula’s of nectar, different feeders and locations for the feeder. The hummingbirds alluded me.

So this little guy appearing like that out of the stillness of the morning made my heart leap with joy! That is reward enough. Perhaps there’s another message from the Universe in this gift. Something about patience, the wisdom of sitting still in a busy, busy world, if you build it they will come… I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that.

For now I thank Amy Jo for sharing her abundance!

To learn about what a hummingbird symbolizes click here. 

Stressed? Give Yourself the Present!



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Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, EWN psychotherapist.

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.

Do you find yourself living in the past possibly asking “How could I have handled that better?”

Or maybe you find yourself in the future: “I need to… call the cable company, pick the kids up from daycare, make sure I drop off dinner to grandma, go to the gym…

Often times we get caught up in life and stressed out about what has been and what is coming our way.

If your wondering where the time went and what needs to be done, are you paying attention to what’s happening now? Are you noticing the cinnamon flavor in your coffee or the smile on your partner’s face when you walk in the door? If you are anything like me, then probably not.

If this is the case, then it’s time to become Present! Mindfulness is the key to being present, enjoying the moment, reducing stress and regaining your balance. I personally live by the concept of being fully present and have reaped the benefits! This means that you are spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing at the present moment as you move about your daily life.

For me, I ask myself, “What do I see, hear, smell, taste and feel?” as I experience different situations. More importantly to me is the concept of peace and equanimity. This means not ebbing and flowing with life’s highs and lows. When I feel myself getting caught in the tide, I ground myself. This can be done as easily as grounding my feet to the floor and deep breathing.

If you like the sound of a peaceful mind, body and soul, read on about the key concepts in this great article I found “Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness: Learn how to say ‘Yes’ to the present moment” by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D.

You could also come in for a visit to learn how you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere! Contact me anytime. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of tobym via Flickr

 

Seven Rules for Living Well With Chronic Illness!



Let’s Talk! A Chat With Dr Aletta.websiteAletta011

Thursday, July 18th
7:00-8:30PM
 
At the Explore What’s Next Offices*
1416 Sweet Home Road, Suite 3
Amherst, NY 14228

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This talk is for you, a friend, a caregiver, anyone touched with illness that won’t go away.

This won’t be a lecture. Instead, I hope to lead a lively, inspiring conversation about how we all can manage to live well emotionally despite the ups and downs of chronic illness.

I will share my story, resources and the Seven Rules that I’ve learned along the way that help me get through.

There will be no charge for this event!

RSVP:  Let me know that you plan to be there either by calling me at 716.308.6683 or emailing me at draletta@explorewhatsnext.com by July 16th. I want to be sure I have enough chairs for everybody.

Learn more about Dr. Aletta click here!

*We are wheelchair accessible!

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