Why Uncomfortable is The Place Where Things Happen

fork in the roadI’m a member of a writing group and every couple of weeks a small number of us get together and place our hearts on the table. It’s challenging, it’s scary, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s also one of the few things that pushes me to write consistently, and with more honesty.

I’ve been plagued with headaches my entire life. Even when they weren’t full-on migraines, they lingered above me like a warning, reminding me that they were always on the horizon. I’d gotten used to them and taking medication to relieve them. But then I learned more about the medicine I was taking, learned about the long-term effects, and became uncomfortable with the idea of taking this medication for the rest of my life. I consulted a nutritionist and with her help, adjusted my diet (more on that in a future post), eliminating foods that were triggers. Removing foods from my diet that I’d once thought were harmless (and in some cases healthy) was uncomfortable, and at times difficult, but we pinpointed my triggers and I’m happy to report that staying away from those foods have left me virtually headache free for longer than I can remember being anytime in the recent past.

In order to progress, we’ve got to leave our comfort zone behind us. Sometimes that takes the shape of a big, uncomfortable, scary-as-hell leap, and other times it’s in small increments, every single day.

Uncomfortable is the place where things happen because that tension, that discomfort, is what reminds us that we want and deserve more.

because I know no other way

Love’s been on my mind all week, and then my cousin posted this poem on her Facebook Page (you can follow her at Ask Jackie O’ Nappy) and I was all, “This, right here.”  You will find love, imperfections and all, because the heart knows no other way. Enjoy, and may the love you deserve find you wherever you are today.

Pablo Neruda

Great Expectations

Expectations - Women at Forty

I’m not talking about goals here (or the Charles Dickens novel). Not the things we want to accomplish by the end of the day or end of a project. No. Expectations are different, and for some of us, paralyzing. So what’s the difference?

Here’s an example that some of you might relate to you. If you’re a writer you may have a daily writing goal of 1,000 words and a final word count goal of 90,000 words. Great goals to have. Your expectation attached to those goals however are what often stymies you. With each keystroke you expect a New York Times bestseller that will change the world. Forever. But bestsellers aren’t necessarily written during first drafts – or first books. Talk about working in a pressure cooker.

See the difference between goals and expectations? And can you see how expectations can sometimes paralyze us with fear? We’re planning our outfit for our interview with Matt Lauer and panicking about stage fright and we’ve barely written 500 words.

It’s those damn expectations. And the analogy holds for just about anything you’re working on with your whole heart. You’re eating healthy and working out – which is a goal in and of itself – but then you begin to expect a six-pack like the woman at your gym, or a certain magic weekly weight loss number, or fill-in-th-blank,  and then one day you realize you’ve lost sight of your purpose – your main goal. Damn expectations.

Here’s the thing about expectations. They’re based on a belief that something should happen in the future. And that’s where we get into trouble – the should.

We allow our expectations of what should happen to rob of us of the joy of doing, being, and achieving in the present.  It’s human nature to expect certain things. But when we lose sight of the work we’re doing in the present to focus on what we think should happen in the end, we end up missing out on an awful lot. Let’s be clear – there’s nothing wrong with wanting six-pack abs, or wanting to be a bestselling author. In fact they’re great things to work toward if they have meaning and value to you. It’s when those things begin to hinder us that the problem arises.

Yesterday when I was outlining this post I saw this on Geneen Roth‘s Facebook page and it confirmed for me that this is something most of struggle with (and that I was writing the post at the right time):

 

The process is the goal. And this is always true. Otherwise, you get to where you believe the goal is, and you raise the proverbial bar. You make another goal. And then, you push to get to that one, that goal. And make another one. And in the meantime, you keep missing what you call your life. And then you wonder how it all went by so fast and where you were while it was happening. That’s how people get to the end of their lives and suddenly realize, they missed the gifts. The small moments. The ordinary moments, on the way to the Big Get. The Goal.

Today, while we’re going about meeting your goals let’s save the great expectations for Charles Dickens and Pip and just be great at whatever we’re doing in the moment. Hope – yes, set goals – yes, and work – work our butts off, but let’s not be so tied to the “should” that we lose site of what already is.

 

 

About Turning 40 – One Word: “Ma’am”

Molly Ringwald Pretty in PinkThose of you who follow me on Facebook may have already seen this hilarious post by fellow blogger, Amy Wruble on The Huffington Post. While we like to wax poetic about  the great things about turning 40, (wisdom, acceptance and self love for example) around here, there are often things  like that hair in the middle of your cheek and joints that pop like breakfast cereal, that just kinda suck.  Amy compiled a list she calls, 40 Effed Up Things About Being 40, and shared it with the HuffPo. Here are a few of my favorites from her list.

  1. Other than Teen Mom, I have no clue what’s on MTV
  2. If I strolled across a college campus, people would assume teacher, not student. (Upside: instant Ph.D!)
  3. Everything I wore in high school has been appropriated ironically by hipsters.
  4. I still think 21-year-old guys are hot. And they’re like, “Mom?”
  5. I say things like, “What’s the name of that actor, you know, he was in that thing?”
  6. Ages 31-39 are a total blur. I’m scared I’ll blink and be 200.
  7. One word: “Ma’am.”

To read Amy’s entire list, click here.

What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comment section or on the Women at Forty Facebook page.

Image: Molly Ringwald – Pretty in Pink

Something to Be Grateful For

Decide to be grateful - 2Today, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, stop and take a moment to be grateful.

I’ve always wondered about statements of gratitude that involve those less fortunate. You know the ones I’m talking about – “Somewhere someone is ill, or didn’t wake up this morning, or… so be grateful for what you have.” But being in a state of gratitude shouldn’t have anything to do with how much better off you are than someone less fortunate. There are so many people doing “better” than we are. They may be healthier, wiser, more financially secure. If we compared ourselves to them our feelings of gratitude might begin to diminish.

So let’s decide to be grateful today, not as a reflection of how we’re doing compared to anyone else, but because no matter what’s going on with us right now, we can find something or someone to be grateful for.

(Photo credit: Grace Wynter – outside the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France)