Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

I wrote this post nearly three months ago, when I had recently come back from a month-long trip to the East Coast.  I never managed to push the Publish button…I’m not sure why.  Too busy?

This article in the NY Times really resonated with me.  The author, Tim Kreider, starts out:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.”

I was already cringing by that point, hearing myself say those words.  And then he goes into something I’ve written about in this blog, and also thought a lot about.  Choice.  Busyness is not a choice for everyone, but for many people it is.

It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

We create the circumstances that make us busy.  I sometimes think I’m a slacker because I actively try not to be too busy.  I hate being too busy!  I’m not at my best when I’m running in ten directions at once.  There is no time to think.

Writing this blog gives me time to think.  If I see it that way it doesn’t feel like something that makes me busier, but instead something that makes my life richer.  So, if you’re still hanging in there with me, please expect more.  Soon.

How busy are you?

P.S.  A friend wrote me this morning and reminded me of the great ending to the article…for those of you who don’t read it, here it is.

I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

I was looking through some old notes from my coach training and came across something that feels relevant to me in many parts of my life.  Relevant in the sense that it’s good to remember that learning and changing (for myself and others) is a process.

The idea is that there are four fundamental stages in learning…and I’m saying in changing too because changing is learning a new behavior or way of being, right?  Anyway, these are the stages:

Step 1:  Unconscious incompetence.  You don’t even know that there is something you can’t do…ignorance is bliss!   Think of all the things that babies and small children learn.  I think it’s because they can stay in this step and not let their consciousness get in the way.  It’s like they get to skip steps 2 and 3, and move straight to step 4!

Step 2:  Conscious incompetence.  This is the really frustrating one, and the one where I suspect many of us (me included) stop.  This is where you become aware, sometimes painfully, that you can’t do something.  The feeling at this point is often that the “can’t” is an unchanging fact when really it’s just temporary (if you keep trying, that is).   I sometimes find myself making a mental list of all the things I don’t know and decide right then and there that it’s better turn around.

Step 3:  Conscious competence.  This is where is gets a bit easier, but you still have to work really hard.  You have control again!

Step 4:  Unconscious competence.  Finally flow!  This is a great place to be if you’re doing something you love.  It’s the point where you can play and experiment and follow your intuition.

For whatever reason, I find this information comforting.  My first instinct was to just think about all the ways that I’m in the conscious incompetence phase (many!), but I then considered where I have moved past that phase and surprise, surprise, I am very competent…consciously and unconsciously!  And nothing is static, not even these phases.  The minute I think I’ve reached unconscious competence in being a coach or parent or friend, something happens to remind me that, shit, I’m right back to conscious incompetence!

Good thing I’ve become consciously competent at reminding myself that everything changes and that flailing sometimes gives me broader competence in the end.

I picked up an Eckhart Tolle book, A New Earth, that I have been reading very very slowly and sporadically.  It’s extremely dense and if I’m not in just the right mood, I can’t wrap my mind around anything he’s saying.  But today I thought I’d try again.  At first it felt like a slog, but then I decided to just open to a random page and see what was there.  The section heading, The Duck with a Human Mind caught my eye.  I thought I could handle that.

And I could.  Tolle explains the idea of moving on or being in the moment incredibly succinctly by describing what ducks do after a fight; they separate and float off in opposite directions.

Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight.  After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.

In my mind’s eye, I can see that excess energy getting pushed out, and I get a sensation of relief.  Tolle then goes on to explain how a duck with a human mind would keep the encounter alive by thinking about it, going over it, expecting the next encounter and so on and so on.  Even though the physical fight would be over, the mind would keep the battle alive and the duck would have physical responses (like stress, anger, dread) to those thoughts.

Reading that made me so badly want to be able to flap my wings and move on!   All the thinking can be so exhausting.  I can’t even imagine being able to let go so completely, but it is very appealing.  I know I’ll no sooner start quacking than I will be able to glide away to the opposite side of the pond in a state of peace after a conflict.  But I can remind myself of that duck.  And I can imagine flapping my proverbial wings and moving on.  And that’s a first step.

***WARNING*** This blog post is about song lyrics.  If that is too cheesy for you, please wait for my next post!

Every once in a while I feel particularly moved or inspired by song lyrics or they make me think in a different way.  I consider writing about them, but I always decide that what moves each of us is so particular to us and to the moment that I should stay away from it.  So I have a rule not to write about song lyrics.  But I’m breaking that rule once.  The song came on yesterday as I was jogging, and although I usually skip over slower songs when I run I felt compelled to leave it on.  As I ran and breathed and thought it became clear to me why this time it was okay.  So here goes.

I was taking a walk a couple months ago listening to music and half paying attention/half letting my mind wander.  I had recently put a bunch of new music on my iPod, so there was some stuff I hadn’t heard yet.  I remember sort of liking a new song and feeling somehow connected, but still not really paying close attention.  And then the last line of the song played and it struck me:  “And there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re 13…right now. “

Wait a minute, I thought.  I’m not 13 right now!  And I think it’s precisely the “right now” that gets to me.  I’m not 13…I’m 44!  Why was I relating to a song that is all about a 13-year-old’s emotions?!  The song is Tell Yourself by Natalie Merchant.   Since then I have listened again and again, and yeah, it resonates.

So what I’ve come up with is how much it reminds me that my 13-year-old, 10-year-old, 18-year-old selves still reside in me.  No, that’s not quite right.  I know they’re there, but certain lines in the song made me reconsider my 13-year-old assumptions and feelings from a more compassionate place.  I’m not 13 now, and just as Natalie Merchant has an older person’s perspective, so do I.   So while it’s comfortable to tell myself certain things…mostly because I’ve been telling them to myself for so long, maybe it’s time to stop.  Maybe my 44-year-old self needs to step in with some perspective and support.  Maybe that would be good for both of us.  And so that’s what I’ve been doing in small ways and it feels really good.

What have you always told yourself?  What would it be like to change the story?

If you’re curious to hear the song, click here.    It’s attached to a video on YouTube with scenes from an Ingmar Bergman movie.  Personally, I would just listen and not watch…didn’t make much sense to me.