OCC

Sometimes I have a problem looking past something annoying to the beauty beyond. This can happen both mentally and physically. These days instead of looking at my fabulous view of trees and sky out the front picture window it’s the two-inch beetle clinging to the outside glass that catches my eye, not unlike a fishing hook on a windy day. His tiny body is all I can see and when I manage to look past his little grey-black shell my eye always rolls back to him. Instead of thinking ahhh at the pink and blue clouds chasing each other across the sky I think ewww there’s another coming to meet him.

It doesn’t have to be a bug, another window had bird poop coiled like a baby albino tape worm at the top of the windowpane for four months. I finally had to drop the blinds an extra two inches so as not to see it when I looked out. But then, I noticed how the trajectory of rainwater altered direction down that window channeling rivets parted and rejoined mid pane, reminding me of the poop stationed above my gaze. What is wrong with me? Why do I fixate on such things? It is a constant wrestling of my focus back from the annoying, weird, or ugly to see the big picture over and over. And wrestle it I do, every time I catch myself fixated on the ick, or minuscule amount of what is not working, instead of all the things that are going really well and are beautiful.

I am an optimist, generally looking at the bright side of things and expect good things to happen even by chance. When I lived in San Diego sometimes, I would check my back steps just to see if someone left me a present. This was not on my birthday or anything I just thought… well you never know.  So, I’m not sure where this hyper-focus on the icky comes from exactly, but I am familiar with the neighborhood it resides. I told my sister years ago that my mind is like a bad neighborhood: I can’t spend too much time there alone.

Frank described me years ago as hyper vigilant. The amazing and insightful Frank is a psychiatrist who worked with scores of Apple employee’s like me. We passed around his contact information faster than the details of a good noodle restaurant. My hypervigilance at that time caused me to build, script and maintain a plan, A, B, C, D, E and F for any situation complete with dialogue for everyone involved. This was so no matter what went awry I was ready with a solution. These days I only have a plan A and half of a plan B, after that it’s up to the Universe, God, the Great Space Monkey whoever is up at bat at that moment.

I have learned through tough times that being prepared is great, but spending my life preparing for 90% of things that never happen is a waste of life force. The things that took me down, brought me to my knees I never saw coming and I still managed to do just fine. My skills and ability to problem solve, find resources and support was all I ever really needed.

That being said, I am still a preparedness person, a planner and a woman who loves a list.  I have to be watchful of my stress level and my predilection to hyper-fixate on tiny bugs and bird poop as mentioned above. I can release this laser focus, but only after recognizing I have slipped down the rabbit hole just a scooch and then procced to have a wrestling session with my brain. That ability to recognize how tightly wrapped I am is tricky. Getting tightly wrapped or hyper focused is a gradual change from when I go into ticking things off a list and plowing through work to tweaking the shit out of my life without taking a break, stepping away to play or taking care of myself in general.

In talking to a friend about his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) diagnosis, I realized my hyper fixation can be seen through this lens as well.  When stressed and over functioning it feels like I go past obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCB) but not quite into OCD a disorder level. When super stressed my tendencies run to upping my aesthetic: straightening, checking doors at night, adjust my canned goods with the labels facing out, tweaking towels to be an even length… everything is just a little more in order. I needed a term to describe this level, not a proper diagnosis level of life derailing but between OCB and OCD there should be a midpoint. Which we know in the alphabet is C, so was born OCC. It’s where I am when I am spinning a little too fast that is the wrong amount of extra.

What the C stands for in Obsessive Compulsive C….. I have not decided but it’s the perfect middle ground. Whether C turns out to be Continued, Circuitous, Circling, Concentrated, Controller, Cyclone, Cyclops because my single hyper fixated vision, I don’t know. I do know it sends off an alarm in my chest and gut to redirect my bossy, busy brain to pull back and emulate The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

I have learned ways to unhook from the spinning whether that be my eye, my heart or the biggest repeat offender my head. I do small Scarlet O’Hara exercises in distract and denial to interrupt the spinning, the what if’s, the mental gymnastics and rants. These exercises may be taking a walk where I can only think about my five senses: what I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch in that moment. There is no jumping forward or backward in my head. I have to stay right there. It’s a walking meditation of sorts forcing me into the moment.

Other times a conversation with someone who makes me laugh, a good book, as well as any kind of yoga, creativity, or something I can get lost in pulls me out of the spin. Even writing is a great way to exercise these demons and find humor in the ick, dark or stupid rattling around my brain.  I look through my bag of tricks for something or someone to help me break the spinning and break the cycle of negative fixation, the OCC, bugs and bird poop. Taking these steps is like doing a factory reset to my calmer, happy, Zen self but of course not before I write it down so I can pass along these images to you for maybe a laugh and then maybe you’ll think ick too.

Cheers- Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

To read more of my writing go to Quirkandcircumstances.com

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Sasquatch, Jesus and a Pink Bike on a Tree

I used to live in San Diego, and I loved it. Until I didn’t. This happens with jobs, men, desert island food picks and homes, everything really over time. They just stop fitting anymore. I think that is true for all of us.

I am however, wired for pleasure to extract as much joy and fun from my day as possible. Reading that sounds like I am a hedonist. I am.  In a very structured, semi-logical, OCD kind of way. Think Doctor Doolittle’s two headed Push me-Pull me creature where one head is Dorothy Parker and the other is Hermione from Harry Potter. Whether you ascribe to Push-me-Pull-me, balance, Yin & Yang the duality of what we want versus what we are told we should want it’s all the same.

I enjoy tweaking my life in small ways to extract that better experience, more fun. The same holds true with larger changes and jumps leading to a better fit. I think of it as curating my life to me, to celebrate my strengths and accommodate my quirks with kindness instead of derision. A tee shirt is never one size fits all, ever, no matter what it says. So why would my life or yours be that way?

It’s not, but marketing on social media tells us differently which is bullshit. Why would we want all matchy matchy to someone else’s fictional life? It’s not like what is on Instagram or Tick-Tok is real, it is just content, not life.

I loved San Diego and loved South Park, where I lived, enormously. The sun, the walkability, the festive walkabouts celebrating each season and the neighborhood. There were beautiful houses, unique restaurants, classic dive bars, cool shops. It was fabulous. The world was so close, convenient and buzzing with life. I lived there for 13 years and loved it for 10-11 of them.

To get to my place you had to go down 30th street from North Park through Switzer Canyon with a view of downtown. When you get to the stop sign at Juniper at Mazara’s restaurant, 30th takes a jog to the right, then a quick left and after the next stop sign you are back on 30th. Go down past the Shepard Fairey mural on the yellow brick building on the right and I was in the terra cotta four-plex on the next block. That is how you found me in San Diego.

My markers for my life, accessible, beautiful, sunny, a community close to everything were the markers to where I lived. Not just directions, but these components were things that stuck out to me and reflected my world. That is where I was.

Being able to recognize that I am in the beginning of needing a change is tricky at first. It looks a lot like crankiness. The components of my daily life start causing friction for me, my psyche, my soul. What used to feel good and fit slips over the line to starting to chafe, to be uncomfortable, to cause pain. I don’t notice this at first, it comes out as impatience, annoyance, and of course cranky.

“It’s too hot- 90 degrees in October?!”

“It’s sunny all the time, what I’d give for a cloudy day or some rain for a change.”

“It is so noisy, I can hear everyone and their fucking dogs, all the time!”

Drip, drip, drip…  What no long works started to wear, to rub like a cheap shoe going from annoying, to uncomfortable to painful. It’s a process we experience all the time that mostly goes unnoticed. What we like at 10, 25, 40 or 65 is not always the same. Yes, some things stay consistent. For me that has been pizza, and reading, two loves still.

Very little lasts though all my incarnations. I grow and change like all living things; I can’t say these changes are easy or neat. They are not, they are wrought with worry, an unseemly level of messiness, second guessing, and overall, it sucks. But unfortunately, these are the circumstances attached with drawing a breath and being a living thing.

It was a late 2018 early 2019 when I first thought about moving in a serious way. I waffled. Letting go of my all but rent controlled apartment in a posh part of town. Letting go of my easy commute and jobs I enjoyed at SDSU. On the other hand, I was getting frustrated with the red tape and politics, the crowds, the noise, and the heat. I knew I had three years to make it into the CalPers retirement system in California, so I believed any big life changes were on hold. I was okay with that but not thrilled. I was finding everyday life slowly rubbing me the wrong way.

I thought I could look around on vacations and sus out a good next jump. I was missing some more varied weather, distinct seasons, lush green, little to no snow. A smaller town near a bigger town, a bit rural in nature. I needed to be out of the city and the noise of neighbors above me inexpertly juggling bowling balls, incessant barking dogs 30 feet from my desk while I attempted to work all the while spiking my blood pressure and swearing like a newly minted rapper. I needed to get away from the drivers on 30th street revving their engines and racing from stop sign to stop sign 12 feet from my living room.

I needed away from the new neighbors who treated our shared small walkway as their personal porch and held long, loud, in-depth conversations between the walkway and deep into their apartment about coffee and the minutia of life. There also were more than a few sightings of a 65-year-old butt crack in board shorts six feet from my desk as I tried to focus on work instead of my large picture window framing ass and the racket happening outside. If you are going to be loud and intrusive at least be interesting. If they were gossiping outrageously about a friend who petitioned to marry their hedgehog and were wearing bolero’s and clown shoes I might not have minded so much.

COVID came six months later and six months after that my contract for full time employment at SDSU was not renewed do to downsizing. It was just like working at Apple again with yearly lay-offs, only without the six-figure salary. I still had my part time teaching gig with SDSU and clients but was no longer tethered to San Diego or California thanks to a remote life. I lost the chance at retirement in the California system and my reason to stay was up in smoke. I was angry and frustrated but within 24 hours I acknowledged the hard shove from the Universe to move down the road to whatever was next.

A vaccine allowed a search for a new home and subsequent move. God knows there are stories there to be told but for now the summary word for those experiences is arduous, to say the least.

So now instead of being in a beautiful city with too many people, too much noise, too hot and too close to people I am in very rural, very green spot in Oregon. The runner up state for my 2008 move to San Diego. I am no longer down 30th, past Switzer Canyon, a jog to the right at Mazara’s on Juniper and a left on 30th, past Shepard Fairey’s mural on the yellow brick building in a terra cotta four plex on the next block.

Where I am now? I hadn’t really thought about it in those San Diego life defining terms until I had to give directions to my friend Erika who was trekking up to see me from Sacramento. I live in a small unincorporated town of about 1,200 people, southwest of Roseburg a bit. It’s a 5-acre parcel with a little blue house, surrounded by trees, deer, turkeys. It’s very quiet, so dark at night you see a crazy number of stars and it has a woodstove. There is no landline access, ok cell reception but only provided by two carriers and I have fiber optic to the house…go figure. It’s 20-23 minutes to a small town for essentials and 35 to Roseburg. Most of the time I love it though the bugs are many and large and too enthusiastic for my liking. I like nature to stay outside, not inside, and it doesn’t always cooperate.

I work remotely, still teaching part -time for SDSU and with my coaching clients. This gives me time to write and think about this next chapter in between bug drama. It’s a huge change but I lived like this 30 years ago. I am getting good at skills I had not used since then like stacking a cord or two of firewood, making a fire in a wood stove, dealing with the distance for getting help and resources in common sense ways. Sometimes I have to wait to go up to Eugene, “the city” to get what I need from a Trader Joe’s, Target or visit any clothing store that doesn’t carry barnyard wear. Which I like but does not meet all my fashion needs.

I am getting better at being uncomfortable in a new place, with new people, finding new ways to solve old problems. I have to remind myself this is my new normal and that is why it feels weird, until one day I don’t notice and my new normal is just normal.

Where do I live now? Well, I tell you what I told Erika. You take a right off Hwy 42 onto Upper Camas Road. Camas twists and turns for about 2-3 miles. You know you are getting close to my road when you see a turquoise house with Sasquatch in the side yard, go down about 500 feet bearing to the left and you will see a good-sized Jesus sign on the side of a house. Directly after that around the bend on the right is a pink bike mounted to a tree halfway up the trunk and that is where you turn left.

These are the markers to where I live. Not just directions, but these components are things that stick out to me and reflect my world. That is where I am. That’s right, I’m right past Sasquatch, Jesus and a pink bike on a tree living in a mythical, magical adventure land with really giant bugs.

Cheers…

To read more of my work go to quirkandcircumstances.com

To learn more about my Coaching practice go to trueroadtraveler.com

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Celebrate, Play, Rest, Repeat

Whether you celebrate the holidays or simply try to make it through them, there are ways to make this busy time better. It is easy to overextend ourselves in trying to do it all. We can get caught up in what others are doing and compare our lives to theirs especially on social media. This is like going into your neighbor’s house putting on their clothes and shoes then walking around and wondering why you are so uncomfortable. Make your life yours, curate it with what drives you, your aesthetic, your interests, and if you have a family let everyone bring their full selves to the table as well. Create your own rituals and focus on celebrating the good stuff however small. Reward comes when we dive deep into Celebrating life, using the tool of Play then Rest, this cycle is reparative. Most of all keep it simple, joy is not bought it is uncovered from deep inside and bubbles out given the opportunity.

Celebrate has become a dirty word in some circles. It has become an event, an extravaganza or branding. WTF no, no that is not celebrating that is marketing. Celebrating is being grateful for a moment and taking in all the goodness. That can be a small win, a success, the happy pause between smelling the first cup of coffee and that sip. A good life allows for that pause and a small celebration of something good. Life can be filled with celebrating things like a new job, or holding a plank for 30 seconds, a rough draft of a story, the first snow day. Celebrate something you did that was scary and faced anyway. Appreciate your work, your action despite the fear. Celebrate being alive, the journey of your wild and weird little path that landed you wherever you are and the adventure of wherever you choose to go next.

How to celebrate is personal, it could be a nap, it could be opening a nice bottle of wine you have been saving. Celebrating can be done solo, in groups, or with someone special.  It just means noticing the good stuff, the risks taken, and taking a pause and appreciating how you got there or even the happenstance of something random and wonderful that occurred. Make it yours and build celebrations into your life with rituals, in remembering what you have done and your hard work. Celebrating invites us to savor our lives in the moment. Slow down, pause, feel good and deepening that feeling.

Play is an integral part of a well lived life. My friends tease me that I have a PhD in play. What does that mean? It means that wherever I am, whoever I am with I am interested in having fun, exploring, laughing, trying something new.  I am a curious girl by nature and that opens the door to what if…and play. I think when folks grow into adults they forget to play and how good play feels as it grounds and balances us. Play is also important for brain function, allowing abstract connections to be made and explored, giving way to creative problem solving.  It creates a space for action, physical movement, artistic expression and more. Play invites us to explore, to take a break and take advantage of unstructured time. It is about injecting pleasure, adventure, connection with others and self in a way that informs us about the world and ourselves.

Play is the tool of learning, of releasing stress, building new things in our lives, it invites in freedom to explore the uncharted parts of our beliefs and fully extend ourselves in ways we don’t think about daily and should. What does that mean? It means that we can become robots in getting ready, going to work, acting appropriately in each social interaction. Our thinking becomes systematic in routines and we are lulled into going through the actions and not being fully present. Injecting play is about paying attention to what is happening in the moment, like improv and building on it. It is about being present, open and playful to what can happen. There should be play time built into every day but especially the holiday season where we are more apt to jump off our daily grind of the gerbil wheel. Break out, find a partner in crime and do something fun, something you enjoyed as a kid, something you have always wanted to do or just look for opportunities to take the lighter, laughter filled road.

  The act of Resting is shamed in our culture. We celebrate people who sleep four hours a night for being efficient when biologically that is a very bad thing to do. Sleep is important for the human body to rejuvenate, to process, to rebuild, refresh and prepare for the next day. Rest is not always sleep, it can also look like being still, watching the birds out the window or the fire in the woodstove. Rest can be journaling, reading a book, it can be snuggling up and watching a comfort movie with someone who loves it like you do. Rest too, like Play, should have less structure to it. Less “have to’s” or rules. It helps to realize that Rest is not lazy, nor is self-care, selfish. Simply put Rest is part of maintenance for our mind, body and spirit. Like winter‘s role in the seasons, we too have cycles for growth, promoting balance and rest is one of them.

Holidays have expectations that are unrealistic, crazy hard and include things we don’t always want to do. Building some Rest between events and socializing can enhance the pleasure of the times we are with people. Having that Rest, a break, a pause to enjoy will help us maintain some balance in what might be otherwise incredibly hectic and stressful. Remember it is your holiday too and No is a complete sentence. Practice saying, things like “thank you for thinking of me”, “let me check my schedule and I will let you know tomorrow morning”. Sleep on it and then decide if you can add the obligation and enjoy it or will it stress you out. Then answer appropriately based on how you feel. Build Rest into the schedule literally, put it down on your google calendar, or however you track your days. It is easier to defend it then to squeeze it in later when you are spent and there are no more hours left for you.

These things Celebrating, Playing and Resting are where we create the life we love and need. They are important components along with creating, pushing past fear, achieving, caretaking, showing up…. Balance comes when you add all this together and recognize the value of each one as the care and maintenance of being a healthy, happy human. Taking the time to care for yourself and others in celebration, in play and in rest is a deep way to connect. Remember to step back, be thoughtful and present in a time that has a reputation for us bustling about to our determent. Build into your holidays and days to come with the practice of making time to celebrate, to play and to rest and of course repeat.

Posted in celebrate, curiosity, foundation of change, Fun, Gratitude, Happiness, Health and Wellness, holidays, humor, Learning, Play, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Benefit of Giving and Receiving Thanks

This time of year, just before Thanksgiving, I am always thinking about writing thank you cards to those I love and appreciate. I think about writing a blog about giving thanks or gratitude but alas I am generally still in a sugar coma from Halloween which we know is the beginning of candy season. So, until now those ideas had lain among the Junior Mints and Jujuy Fruit boxes.

Giving thanks, showing appreciation, sending love and being truly grateful for the people and things that make life worth living is a powerful tool. Not just for the receiver but also for the giver. For the receiver getting thanked when the thanks are heartfelt and genuine is lovely and even sometimes overwhelming. I am not talking about oblatory thanks we do out of guilt or to be liked. But rather being thanked in a wholehearted way, this is something we feel in our chest not just hear. It is a visceral experience.

 A thank you is hard to hear sometimes, to let someone thank us. I have been terrible at receiving those lovely thank you’s over the years. My MO was to deflect, make a joke, move on quickly. That was disservice to those who were loving and genuine because I was awkward and embarrassed. I have become better at just saying you’re welcome, making eye contact with the person instead of my shoes and being in the moment. These same rules hold true of being complimented as well.

It dawned on me a few years ago that I like complimenting people and thanking folks for their help, support etc. It was important to me that they knew I appreciated them and their contributions to my life. So why should I deprive others of the same experience I enjoyed, by being a bad receiver. Just because in those days I was socially the equivalent to a badger, the least congenial of the weasel family, not like the otter a real charmer. This being said I worked on my receiving skills practicing being present and just listening and soaking it in. Soaking that love in helps for the bad days when I feel defeated and lost.

If soaking in the love of thanks and appreciation is good for the receiver it is as good or better for the giver. When we show gratitude, give thanks the love is a boomerang that comes right back to us. We rarely tell those closest to us what they mean to us, even in small ways or gestures. Doing this more regularly grows trust, deepens bonds and strengthens the relationship. This is true for co-workers, neighbors as well as friends and family. It helps us see more of the good in people, in situations in giving thanks and being grateful for all that we do have. Being happy for what we have, being grateful is the fertile soil of a good life.

Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

If you aren’t good at thanking people, it just takes practice and just a little vulnerability. Tell them specifically what they did you are grateful for, how it made you feel and say, “thank you”. That’s it. Giving thanks, showing gratitude is like love: it needs to be shared. It doesn’t have to be a big production either, a kind heart felt comment, a small note. Whether it is the giver or receiver everyone needs to be in the moment, make eye contact feel what they feel and hold on to the good stuff. I encourage you all to, in the next week or two, consider adopting a practice of gratitude, of giving thanks. Think of at least two people who you are grateful for and thank them. Then practice doing it again with other people the next week and the one after that. Before long, it becomes a habit, and it is just a part of who you are. Just another happy grateful person.

Posted in Being Open, candy, foundation of change, Giving Thanks, Gratitude, Happiness, Health and Wellness, Learning, mind shifts, Uncategorized, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Floundering

Progress feels a lot like floundering. For those of you who don’t know what floundering means it is to struggle, to lose footing and show confusion. Think of pulling a fish out of water, perhaps a flounder, and it flops about in search of water, gasping and lost. That for me sometimes is what progress feels like. Ugly, gasping, confusion and second-guessing steps in trying to obtain any type of footing. Floundering is what transition feels like, what progress feels like… it feels awful.

Every transition in my life whether it be career, moving to a new state, starting a business or even a serious relationship is herky jerky, fraught with anxiety and worrying pauses between action. It is humbling. We can chalk it all up to learning. Learning something new is rough on our ego. We feel like we are out of our depth, stupid, inadequate, like a loser. These feelings are true and real and live in the second stage of learning something new. New meaning, something foreign to our current knowledge, experience or understanding. That new can be how to register your car in a new state, how to do a new job, what to do when the fire alarm goes off when you make crepes in a cooking class at the mall. 

There are four stages to learning. The first is that we are unconsciously incompetent. We are unaware of our lack of knowledge, we don’t know, what we don’t know. This is called happy.

We then face change, whether it was something we embarked on or that was thrust upon us we start down a path. Progress, a transition, moving forward into the unknown. We are now trying to do something new, whether it is leaning a new skill, being single again, struggling as a new parent, etc. We have now entered the floundering zone.

Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International, developed the Conscious Competence Ladder. His model calls the floundering phase being consciously incompetent. We are acutely aware we do not know what we are doing or what is expected of us. The expect of us can be that of others or more frequently the bossy inner voice with unrealistic expectations and might have a German accent.

Being consciously incompetent is the danger zone. This is where may people give up because it is difficult, we feel terrible and if you are learning guitar your fingers hurt like hell. We crave normal, something easier, something we know and that makes us feel competent. The hard part is that those somethings of our past in reality didn’t fit and caused us to stumble up the road in search of new. Going back is a lot like trying to fit into your favorite outfit from 7th grade. It was wonderful in the time, but we have outgrown it. Trying to make ourselves fit no matter the reason is never the answer.

Staying with the foundering is painful, it’s an awkward dance of “I got it, I got it… oh hell I don’t got it.” It is one step forward and two back. It is not even being sure if the step you just took was in the right direction, because we don’t even know what the “right” direction is.

The right direction, however, is anything that our gut, our deep-down selves that got us into this journey pushes us to do. Frequently that direction and intuitive step is also terrifying. We are pushed to pursue things that are scary, seem daunting and might even be. But so was everything we have done prior to this. All the previous struggles we have mastered and pushed through to success and mastery.  Afterward we think back and wonder what the big deal was as we rush on down the road. Many times, we don’t even think about our prior fears and struggles we just push on forgetting our previous learning, with our eyes focused on what is next.

So, what can we do when we are floundering, and feel awful? How do we trust in the forward motion while being in the dark?

Here are some ideas:

-The first thing is to remind yourself you have been in the unknown before and learned your way. You have been successful. You might want to look at a journal or talk to someone who supported you then and look for the tools you used that helped.

-Recognize that you are uncomfortable and remember that discomfort in learning something new is normal and it will pass given time and effort.

-Focus on the next small step, then after that is completed the following small step. Don’t look up or out at where you are going, just celebrate, take a breath and take another small step.

-Be very kind to yourself. Try to catch that bossy voice in your head that is preaching about timelines, underachieving, blah, blah more mean stuff. Shut that voice down to a whisper.

-Find things that you feel good about and do them. Whether that is fishing, yoga or reading mysteries. Find things that comfort you or support you in your journey. Now double that for effort in finding people to do the same thing for you.

-Remember we don’t own the timeline; it takes as long as it takes so let go of expectations. You might have to remind yourself this about 10,000 times a day.

-Even when we get to the other side we are in a new normal, or consciously competent so things still feel kind of shaky.

We eventually get to unconsciously competent. That looks like when we have driven home after work and it was so automatic, we didn’t even remember the drive. Very different from the first time you got behind the wheel of a car or even when you started to master it but were still careful and present as you drove.

The unconsciously competent stage is then our new normal. This is what mastery looks like. Progress is transition after transition. This cycle over and over. Growth, awkward growth in all arenas of our lives. Remembering this cycle when we are floundering and flopping about can help in understanding there is an end in sight, that we have done this before and will again. Each time being kinder, gentler with ourselves and others as they flounder. I believe that grace is born from this transition over and over. So, a better way to see our floundering is our transition into grace. 

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How We Drown, Float or Swim

A client recently sent me a note telling me they were drowning. I knew they had a lot of responsibilities, many balls in air to juggle. I offered them an option, perhaps they could consider flipping over on their back and floating. What does this mean? It means that the ability to recognize when we are, (drowning, floating or swimming) might help us either sustain if we are swimming or flip over to float if we are indeed drowning. This analogy is where we find ourselves daily, hourly and sometimes minute to minute. 

Below are some tips meant as a triage to help you identify where you are and where you want to go. 

Drowning: When I feel like I am drowning a couple of things may be occurring; I am trying to do too much and or I have unrealistic expectations of what I or others can do in the moment. 

  • Stop, take a breath and name what I am feeling, overwhelmed, drowning, exhausted. Being able to identify what phase I am in helps to address it and put it in perspective. 
  • Prioritize 2-3 needs and let the rest go. Let go of expectations on what I think should matter or get done.
  • Do something physical to in order to help letting go, a short walk, yoga, cleaning out a drawer… do some small act that will allow a mental shift or restart.
  • Flip over and float with the sole purpose of keeping my head above water and just do the top 2-3 priorities until I feel ready for more. 

Floating: Here I am maintaining and catching my breath. I am not making headway or progress in areas. I have prioritized wellness, quality of work, and life over unrealistic expectations from myself or others in this moment. 

  • Take deep belly breaths in order to unlock all of my brain from the fight, flight or freeze mode. I make better decisions and choices when calm and thoughtful.
  • Maintain keeping my head above water and assess where I am and what really is important. What are my wants and needs? Be clear on the differences between them. 
  • Rest, replenish and plan when is a good time to test the waters and swim for small distances building endurance. Then try it, always returning to float to rest and replenish. 

Swim: This is when I am moving in a direction I desire; I am making gradual progress toward a goal. I feel stable and competent in my direction and the ability to right myself when things go wrong.  

  • Focus on what I have control over even if it is my reaction to the world around me. I am responsible for my actions and words, so by taking time to consider them thoughtfully is important. 
  • Pace myself in a realistic way by assessing the external and internal conditions that are present. Take control of my direction, action, choices and speed.     
  • Understand what is mine to fix and what is someone else’s. Enabling others undermines them. We all have our own individual course and each of us has choice to act or not. Know that not choosing is also a choice.   

Remembering to check-in with ourselves all day, every day on where we are allows us agency over our lives through conscious choice. Putting our head down and plowing through our days, months or years invites dysfunction. In doing that we chance making ourselves ill, damaging valued relationships and our reputation. If we don’t pay attention to where and how we are, we can’t get to where we want to go. Changing a small thing can net big results, you know this to be true if you have ever tried to go to sleep with a mosquito in your bedroom. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Health and Wellness, humor, intent, Learning, mind shifts, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Note to Self…

Dear Kyra,

You are forgetting some things these days, important things.  Things that cost you blood, sweat and tears to learn. I know you are stressed and it’s looking a lot like the end of the world. There are those dark, nuclear winter orange skies in the daytime. There’s unemployment, a global pandemic, really the list goes on and on.

First up; it’s not the end of the world, really, it just feels like it.  In fact, you are forgetting that just because you think something doesn’t make it true, even if it feels true. You just thought it is all. Without a closer look using your curiosity and discovery, and maybe even data it’s just an idea, something you thought. A story you are telling yourself. Okay wait, this is not the best delivery system for you, you like lists. I know myself; I just forget it sometimes is all…

  1. Trust yourself. You can do this; it never has mattered what this is… you always figure it out. I know the learning curve is a bitch and you hate her, but she teaches us grace, humility and patience. Plus, she gives you something to write about.

2. Champagne is good any night of the week, it goes with everything.

3.  Kindness is king, not just for others but for yourself. If you are not kind to yourself you will burn out, crank out, if you don’t live from the inside out when it comes to kindness.

4.  Napping is essential for creativity, as is “goofing off”, daydreaming, wandering and playing. Answers come when you let go of the problem. It’s hard but unclench your fucking fists, just sometimes… okay? How else can you receive without open hands?

5.  Eat healthy, move daily, laugh a lot, try to sleep. These were the basic operating instructions you got when you showed up to this rodeo. If you don’t take care of the equipment, game over. So, prioritize it, do it, do your best. It really matters and so do you.

6.  It’s not a big deal that you can never remember how to spell their, or is it thier, or then or than, don’t get me started on effect and affect. You are dyslexic and that is what Google is for. You can use mellifluous and tintinnabulate in a sentence. Relax. Just because you think you “should” know something doesn’t mean that’s true. We all know different things, important things, and that is that.

7.  Slow down, pay attention, notice the changes and see where you fit in the future, not the past that is burning down. What do you want to help with, create, build… focus more on solutions not just problems.

8.  It’s not a big deal, not everyone can wear corduroy pants…

9 . Remember life is like driving at night. You can only see the next 150 ft, but you can get anywhere you need only seeing 150 ft at a time. Focus on the next three small steps that move you forward, and then do it again and again. This is not a race so try to remember to enjoy the ride.

10. Send more cards, it’s nice to get something besides a bill or flyers in the mail. People forget you are thinking about them and that they are loved. Small thoughtful gestures can change a life, a community, the world.

11. It’s okay to feel, I know you hate that shit, but you are human, and they feel things. Stuffing those feelings is like trying to hold a pool noodle underwater all day, sooner or later it pops up and hits you in the face and water goes up your nose and you cry anyway.

12. You are loved, nuff said

13. Looking at art, listening to music, and laughing changes your brain chemistry for the better. These things heal. Remember to find beauty every day, it’s good medicine.

14. Trouble is a lot like Pizza Hut, don’t go looking for it, it delivers.

15. You are going to make mistakes, all kinds of them. Avoiding them makes for a smaller life. Get comfortable with being lost, getting confused and go make a great big mess. Try things, be brave and look like an idiot sometimes, okay maybe lots of times. The payoff is huge. Flaws are where the beauty lives. Appreciate all your quirk, your struggle and your triumphs, then get up and do it again. Amen!

Note: I wrote this in a whirl after a particular hectic day. It helped to remind me of what I know but somehow, in the crazy days, I sometimes forget. I invite you to try to write your own “Note to Self”. To remind you of what you already know.  – Deep Breaths, Kyra

 

Posted in celebrate, Change, Creativity, curiosity, Faith, Fear, foundation of change, Gratitude, Health and Wellness, mind shifts, Play, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Professionalism vs Fun

In texting with a friend today she revealed that during the pandemic she was trying to add more fun during her days which made her think of me. She shared that being with her daughter between work assignments forced her to start playing more. She also shared that going back and forth from play mode to “being a professional” was tricky all day. This made me think, not that thinking is a stretch for me, but some days it’s a sketchy proposition at best. I never thought that my options were being a professional or having fun. For me it was always an And not an Or choice. Here’s the thing, I am fun. I am fun to work with, I bring it, I pack it along like I would my Chapstick, my keys and my phone. It is a tool that elevates everything, work, learning, creating, everything in life is better when fun or levity is introduced. Think of laughter as the language of God.

I can understand my friend’s conundrum. We are trained, most especially women, to be serious so we are taken seriously at work. We all are taught that work was serious business and we needed to focus, produce and excel. Those are all good things, but all done better with humor and fun. Here’s an example where I injected a small dose of fun into a small thing that netted a great result:

I taught Career Readiness workshops.  As students came into our center, they were checked in and went into the classroom for the start of the session. I asked the front desk staff if they wanted to bet on how many students would come to the session. There was no wager, the fun was purely in the guessing, estimating and teasing that went with this small tweak of competition. It was playful, created laughter and the level of delight we exuded as we greeted everyone who walked through our door for those 15 minutes, exuberant. Not that we didn’t always give folks a great reception, but now they got a group of delighted faces as if they were celebrities coming down the red carpet. That small game became part of our culture and a common experience that bonded us in a different way than we had before, we bonded in play and laughter.

This was small and silly, but it created a bond and common experience that elevated a simple task into play. It made everyone’s experience in that 15 minutes better than it would have been, and that energy moved them on through other work in the day. Play shifts us to look at what is possible, it opens us up to new ways of thinking, doing and being. I think that being good at what you do should not be tied to being serious. As an example, in operating rooms they play great music to set the mood and create an environment of positivity. That does not in any way undermine the tasks at hand but rather enhance teamwork and energy.

Fun and play have a reputation of being frivolous, however, this runs contrary to what science and nature show us. Animals teach their young how to hunt, to survive, through play. All great learning happens during play. Cancer patients are frequently told to watch comedies as laughter changes our chemistry for the better. Endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin are all released during play, laughter and closeness. Why wouldn’t these same things make us better teams, workers, thinkers, creators and people?

So how does one start to introduce play and fun in all aspects of their lives? Here’s a simple list of steps to try and see what happens.

  1. Notice where does play or fun live currently in your life, at work, home, relationships. Start to notice those moments in small conversations with co-workers that are playful or fun, see how that can be deepened if only in your enthusiasm or appreciation. Know this person is now a coconspirator to fun in the future. It also makes you notice folks who may not be open just yet to this way of thinking.

 

  1. Opportunity comes after you have noticed where play currently lives and where it can be expanded. You now know who is open and you can create your own moment or instigate one. That can be meeting at the coffee truck first thing to share a moment of laughter. In these virtual days, a drop-in lunchroom where folks can chat and share their lives. Noticing leads us to finding opportunities for play and fun.

 

  1. Practice gives us mastery of a tool. A well placed and appropriate joke in a meeting can cause a small bout of laughter and that extra oxygen gives everyone a boost. It builds teams and goodwill. It can also break tension and help find a way to be better able to focus on solutions not just problems.

 

I will make a note of caution here- play and the introduction thereof can make you vulnerable and sometimes a target. Always start small, know you audience, never make anyone the butt of a joke and keep inclusivity and kindness in your sense of play. We know humor or play is also the weapon of a bully. It has been pervasive in many work cultures that are toxic. The play I proscribe is out of generosity, kindness and love…In this practice, I am, if anyone, the only one who is vulnerable in that moment. These are crucial points to make note of when going forward.

Start small if this is new or scary to you, start at home, with your family, your partners even your pets. Bust out that tiara, that ridiculous hat you were bullied into buying on vacation or even a fake accent and try them all on as a surprise at the dinner table. Could that turn into Friday night dress up dinner? Maybe. The worst thing that could happen is people don’t laugh. On the flip side, you may have a great story of your silliness and a cherished memory is born. The practice of gratitude is shown to improve our lives and well-being. I believe a practice of play will do the same thing. Give it a whirl and share the fun… cheers. – Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, fellowship, Fun, Happiness, Health and Wellness, humor, Learning, mind shifts, Play, Professional, Prosessionalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Steps to Help you Navigate Change

We are being pushed to change in ways we never imagined. Changes to how we live, how we work, our schooling, socializing- everything has changed quickly. It was sudden, like a tidal wave. Our old lives were swept away, and we are now figuring out our new lives stumble by stumble.

These are the circumstances of living through a pandemic. The key here, is to live, not just survive, even perhaps to aim for thriving. We have an opportunity to consider other options and ways of living. Maybe get away from old ways of being, thinking and doing. Circumstances are pushing us to do that anyway.

Here’s the thing, change happens with or without us. I would rather be in the driver’s seat of that change, than in the backseat complaining about it. By being in the backseat, or in denial about change, is to be without any influence or agency on the direction your life is taking.

Here are some ways start a conversation with your new friend: Change

1. Name it. Address how you feel about whatever change is in front of you. If you are anxious, excited, angry… name your feelings. This allows you to work with what is and where you are. Denying our feelings make them stronger. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire instead of water. Pain and fear don’t dissipate until they are seen and are acknowledged.

2. Be Kind. Be kind to yourself and be patient in looking at where you are and how you are feeling about it. This is not a time to judge ourselves but simply notice with compassion. As an example: I am angry that my hours were cut and frightened I can’t pay my bills. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. You would not berate a friend in hard times so don’t do it to yourself.

3. Be Curious and Creative. These go hand in hand here. Being curious invites us to look at our limits in a creative way. We get curious about the nature of that limit, what about that limit do we control? Curiosity is the best way to approach change and adversity to see your way out. Being creative brings us to problem solving, looking for resources, thinking outside the box of possibilities. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. The more the better. Evaluation comes later but just filling a page of ideas and possible solutions is freeing and opens you up to new ways of thinking, being and doing.

4. Explore it. Here is the stage of talking to trusted friends, experts and colleagues, researching, evaluating, and finding resources that can help move you from brainstorming to action. Then making a list prioritizing the best 2 or 3 options to move you in a better direction. Don’t spend too much time here or it can turn into analysis paralysis.

5. Test it. Time to try some options. In the above example of lost hours, maybe one solution would be to do a remote side hustle online in customer service or consulting or with Instacart to tide you over in the bills department until you find something more sustainable. Maybe it is to invite in a roommate, cut out some media services, or get less take-out. Small changes add up just reducing the times a week you order out from 4 to 2 at say 10 a meal adds up. Instead of spending $2,008 a year on takeout you would be spending $1,004. Small changes over time net large results in our life.

We humans hate change, I get that. I am a Professional Life Coach who shepherds’ folks through the process of big and small life changes daily. It is hard, it is messy and fraught with uncertainty- but the rewards are immense. The reward is living a life with passion and purpose- Cheers Kyra

For more information about my coaching go to Trueroadtraveler.com.

 

Posted in Change, choices, curiosity, Faith, Fear, humor, Learning, Stress, Stressed Out, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stressed Out

We live in a crazy, busy, and chaotic world. We also live in an abundant, nurturing and rich world. What we expect to see, is what we see. If we expect to see something different, we then see that. All of these world conditions exist, and many we can create. What do I mean? That our lives are a combination of what happens around us, which we have no control over, and what our reactions are, which we do have control over. Think of a traffic jam: there is the traffic jam, then how we react to that traffic jam. Being able to manage parts of our lives to invite calm, joy and lightness can be done.

We know that high levels of stress can contribute to most major illnesses and risk factors for them, like heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, sleeplessness, and the list goes on. We also know stress is a naturally occurring phenomenon for protection in our DNA. When a caveman met up with any unknown it was generally life or death. Very little of our unknowns are life or death: the darkness has no saber tooth tigers waiting for us. We are still surrounded by unknowns and they still can trigger anxiety and stress, but we have to evolve to manage the triggers differently if we don’t want to live with chronic stress, burnout and depression.

Being able to stop and identify what is going on in our bodies when we do not feel well is our first step of finding what triggered our stress. I notice where stress articulates itself in my body: is my stomach flippy, am I wearing my shoulders like earrings? Turns out walking around looking like Nixon with my shoulders around my ears is a sign I am stressed. We all carry stress in different places: some folks clench their fists, while others have lower back pain. I always find it interesting how our bodies are reflective in poetic ways of what we feel. Those whose shoulders jack up to their ears might feel like the weight of the world or their world is on them. Those with stomach problems feel gutted or carved out, lower back pain can be someone who feels unsupported, balling our fists means we are readying for a fight. Our mental state is connected to our physical state: always the somatic ties of body to mind and soul.

Once we have identified the first signs of stress in our bodies we can trace it back to the triggers. What caused my reaction? What just happened in the last minute, hour, or day that I can trace back to the person, the feeling, the situation that started me feeling stressed? This is about pulling that thread of conversation, of action that brought us from feeling okey-dokey to uh-oh. As an example, I am in a hurry and I hit a traffic jam, my blood pressure goes up, I am feeling my stomach go wonky and my shoulders are at ear level. I take notice of what I am feeling; I identify those feelings as feeling overwhelmed and powerless in that moment. I make note of what I’m feeling and then later I can reflect back to other times I was stressed: were these themes there? Or were there other themes? Do I see patterns to what triggers my stress? Do I see patterns to how I react to the stress? I start to think like a researcher, like an anthropologist studying me. I try to be neutral and curious and look at what is happening without judgment.

Knowledge is power. The act of identifying our patterns and triggers, then maybe the whys of those feelings, help us to look for ways to minimize our stress. Minimizing our stress comes in many forms but the root of each lives within our locus of control. Going back to the traffic jam example, I start with the knowledge that traffic tends to make me feel overwhelmed and powerless. Then I begin with solving the lowest and simplest form of the physical problem here. Can I remove myself from this stimulus, the traffic? Can I be flexible with my schedule to minimize the times I am in traffic jams? That can lead me to tweak my schedule, the route I take, public transportation, etc. If I cannot remove myself from this traffic, can I come at this problem another way? If I am stuck with the traffic, how can I make it better? If I am struck in the car for commutes, what can I do to make that trip more enjoyable? I then can look at how I am seeing this “stuck” time in the car and take my feelings of powerlessness and create some choices for myself. Can I make my trip better with audio books, music, pod casts, ride sharing with others, learn a language, daydreaming etc.? I can choose to see this traffic jam as a time for me time, quiet time, learning time. I cannot control what happens outside of my car but my choices in my behavior and how I use my time I can control. Long-term I can find a different and more permanent solution perhaps if this is a huge part of the anxiety and stress in my life.

I step-by-step problem-solve by thinking critically about the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of my stress triggers, and I can also bring in friends who do this well and chat over wine, coffee or tequila. I can also pull apart the mental aspects of what stresses me. For example what expectations I had for this event, person, job, that were not met. Stress from expectations we had for something or someone is a huge stressor. Having expectations can be the building blocks for stress if we are not careful. Being flexible with what we expect helps as does communicating our expectations. Knowing our expectations are just our thoughts about what we would like to happen or what we see happening doesn’t make it so. It just makes us frustrated nobody is following what we scripted in our head. Crazy is as crazy does, especially if we have not shared that script. When those expectations are communicated and create real-life feedback and data, they are built on reality. Sometimes we need to invite in friends, counselors or life coaches to problem-solve some of these triggers and their roots. Asking for help is one sign of wisdom, so feel free to get your wisdom on.

The last place I go to in this process is what tools and practices can I use to invite in clarity, balance and wellness to my life? There is nothing I will tell you here you don’t already know. Things like taking me time, meditation, gratitude practices, journaling, exercise, healthy eating, and strong social network, doing things that we are passionate about. All of these and many other things work. The trick is you have to do them. You have to make it your wellness a priority in your life. A hammer is a tool made of a chunk of metal and wood or plastic, it does nothing. When we choose to pick it up and use it to hang a picture we have a result. If we choose to use it to build a tiny house in our backyard or make beautiful furniture we then start to master a tool through repeated use. We then derive pleasure from that tool and in our lives because of our mastery of it and what it brings to us. Picking one small tool, a practice, to help manage our daily stress though the above list moves us toward being an active agent of change in our life. We own how we spend our days, in what frame of mind we do that, and that in return ripples out and splashes back. What we think and do have resonance with not only our world but for everyone. The abundant, crazy, nurturing, busy, rich and chaotic world waits. What are you going to do about it?

Below is my list of questions that I use to help lead me to finding ways to reduce stress. They are by no means complete or foolproof but they are a start. I hope they help!

Steps to Identify and Manage Stress

Step 1- Questions I ask myself for identifying stress in my body

  • Think back to the last time I was stressed: How did my body feel?
  • Where in my body do I first feel unwell?
  • Where do I carry my stress in my body at the end of a busy day?
  • What do I notice is different in my body after a massage, walk on beach, relaxing day?

Step 2- Questions I ask myself to identify what triggers stress for me.

  • What events, situations, feelings do I see that triggers my stress?
  • Do I see patterns to my stress triggers?
  • I am most stressed when I feel _______________
  • ____________________ always stresses me out
  • The last time someone asked me if I was stressed where was I and what was I doing?

Step 3 – Questions I ask myself to eliminate or minimize my identified stress triggers

  • What resources can I identify to help me, e.g. therapist, friends, coaches, books?
  • How can I minimize my stress triggers I have identified with critical thinking skills, problem solving techniques and resources?
  • Can I remove the stress triggers?
  • If I cannot remove the stress triggers can I improve the situation to make it more bearable?
  • What three things can I do under my control to make this situation more bearable?
  • What part do I play in setting these triggers up?
  • Can I adjust my thinking and expectations around the triggers?
  • What two small things in my thinking or behavior can I adjust to make things better?
  • Is there something I need to let go of that does not serve me around this trigger?

Step 4 Questions I ask myself to invite in clarity, balance and wellness and the action items attached

  • What tools or practices can I bring in to invite in clarity, balance and wellness?
  • What resource do I have to help me create wellness?
  • Make a list of five to ten things that make me feel good and the date the last time I did it
  • What is one thing I can add monthly/weekly /daily to my schedule that makes me feel strong?
  • What is one thing I can remove from my life that drains me?
  • What is one thing I can do daily to make me feel calm?
  • What three practices in wellness do I most want to cultivate? e.g., exercise, mediation, me time,
  • What is one tiny step for one or all of these things I could do this week?
  • What class, app, coach, friend will help me with my journey to less stress?
  • In what ways do I show that my priority is my mental, physical and emotional wellness?
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